Joseph Smith’s Description of Paul

According to the website of Mormon Toni Thomas (DescriptionofPaul.pdf ), Joseph Smith once described Paul.  She supposes that his description of Paul could be based on William Hone’s edition of The Apocryphal New Testament (1820)–she recounts that Joseph Smith donated a copy of this book to the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute (founded 1844).  The description, appears in the notes of one of Smith’s recorders, William Clayton and now published in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), p. 59.  Here are the descriptions (first Smith then ActPaul III; Hone’s edition):

He is about 5 foot high; very dark hair; dark complexion, dark skin; large Roman nose; sharp face; small black eyes, penetrating as eternity; round shoulders; a whining voice, except when elevated and then it almost resembles the roaring of a lion. He was a good orator. [Smith]

At length they saw a man coming (namely Paul), of a low stature, bald (or shaved) on the head, crooked thighs, handsome legs, hollow eyed; had a crooked nose; full of grace; for sometimes he appeared as a man; sometimes he had the countenance of an angel. [Hone]

Ms. Thomas mentions the resemblances with the Acts of Paul description, the nose and the lack of tallness.  She points out that the term “paulus” in Latin means small.   I was tempted to suggest that the roaring lion may have been influenced by the Ephesian Episode, but then I remembered that that wasn’t discoverd until the 20th century (Papyrus Bodmer), though there was the summary given by Nicephorus, and Hone may have mentioned that.  There are lions in the Acts of Paul and Thecla too.  Ms. Thomas makes the suggestion that Smith, being a prophet, knew Paul as an angel personally, but that view will probably not convince the intended readers of this blog.


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