Thursday, January 10, 2008

No evidence for the Book of Mormon?

One favorite criticism of the anti-Mormons is that there are no evidences for the Book of Mormon. This is simply wrong. Let me here present some evidences I compiled in this paper I wrote a few years ago.




Internal Textual Evidences of the Veracity

of the Book of Mormon

All questions regarding things of a spiritual nature can ultimately only be answered by the Spirit of God. Jesus taught, “no man knoweth…the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). Accordingly, a person cannot come to know God except through revelation. Paul taught, “that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians 12:3). John proclaimed, “it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1 John 5:6). Jesus said, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost…shall teach you all things” (John 14:26). This doctrine is echoed in the Book of Mormon, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5). Simply put, it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost that anyone can come to a conviction of the existence of God, Jesus Christ, or any other spiritual thing. This, however, does not mean that logical or physical evidence for the existence of spiritual truths are useless or unnecessary, but it is always an insufficient guide without revelation from God.

There are many such evidences that support the veracity of the Book of Mormon. These evidences alone do not and cannot constitute a conclusive final test for its truthfulness—but they do lend logical credibility to the conclusion that can only be discerned spiritual. The greatest non-spiritual evidences for the Book of Mormon rest in the text itself, what I call “internal textual evidences.”

The Book of Mormon claims to be an ancient record that spans a history of 1000 years, written by Semitic peoples who migrated to somewhere on the American Continent c.a. 600 BCE. This group of people spoke Hebrew that evolved and was altered throughout their history (See Mormon 9:33). The Book of Mormon was written using the characters or hieroglyphics of “reformed Egyptian,” but the language was after the “learning of the Jews” (Mormon 9:32, 1 Nephi 1:2). This most likely means that the ancient authors of the book wrote in the Hebrew language using “reformed Egyptian” characters. This is not an uncommon practice in language. Even today, many foreign languages can be written using the Latin alphabet, although the langauge has its own script or alphabet. One overly simple example is the name of the Chinese city, “Hong Kong.” We can use Latin letters in place of Chinese characters although both indicate the same city and are said the same way.

Moroni explained that the Book of Mormon writers used reformed Egyptian to save writing space (Mormon 9:33). Since people who spoke a form of Hebrew wrote the Book of Mormon, and recorded it in Hebrew using reformed Egyptian characters, it would be reasonable to find evidences in the translated text of Hebrew names, grammar, culture and literary styles—Hebraisms. Indeed, the many such Hebraisms appear in the English Bible due to its Hebrew background. Do Hebraisms of any kind appear in the Book of Mormon? Yes, in astounding measure. The rest of this paper will survey a few such Hebraisms found in the Book of Mormon.

Parallelisms

Hebrew writers used parallelisms very extensively. Parallelisms are “words, phrases, or sentences which correspond, compare, or contrast one with another, or are found to be in repetition one with another.”[1] There are many kinds of Hebrew parallelisms including antithetical, climatic, alternate, synonymous, synthetic, and chiasmus. All of these kinds of Hebraic parallelisms appear in the Book of Mormon.[2]

Some parallelisms are very complex and require extremely careful writing techniques to compose. One of the most complicated forms of parallelisms is chiasmus. “Chiasmus is a term based on the Greek letter chi (x) which refers to an inverted parallelism or sequence of words or ideas in a phrase, sentence, or any larger literary unit.”[3] A simple chiasmus could consist of four parts, i.e., A-B-B’-A’. Chiasmus can be of great length and complexity, however. In Hebrew chiasmi, the middle and ends of the structure are usually the points of emphasis. Here is a very simple example from the New Testament of a chiasmus.

A) But many that are first

B) shall be last

B’) and the last

A’) shall be first. (Matt. 19:30)

Here first appear the words first/last and then they appear in the inverted order of last/first. Chiasmi were first studied in depth by scholarly circles in the second half of the 19th century. Prior to that time chiasmi received very little attention and were not widely known. Even today very few people have heard of chiasmus outside of academic circles.

A more complex example from the Bible is found in Isaiah 60:1-3:

A) Arise,

B) shine;

C) for thy light is come

D) and the glory

E) of the LORD is risen upon thee

F) For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,

F’) and gross darkness the people:

E’) but the LORD shall arise upon thee,

D’) and his glory shall be seen upon thee.

C’) And the Gentiles shall come to thy light

B’) and kings to the brightness

A’) of thy rising.

This kind of rich poetic parallelism is found extensively in the Book of Mormon. John Welch, in the 1960’s, first discovered a chiasmus in Alma 36 of the Book of Mormon while serving as a Church missionary. Since then, literary scholars have discovered over three hundred chiasmi in the Book of Mormon. Here is Alma 36 (Some sections have ellipses to save on space):

A) (1) My son, give ear to my words; for I swear unto you,

B) that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land.

C) (2) I would that ye should do as I have done, in

D) remembering the captivity of our fathers;

E) for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it was the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;

F) and surely did deliver them in their afflictions.

G) (3) And now, O my son Helaman….I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God

H) shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up in the last day.

I) (4) And I would not that ye think that I know of myself…but of God

J) (5) Now, behold, I say unto you, if I had not been born of God I should not have known these things;

K) but God has, by the mouth of his holy angel, made these things known unto me, not of any worthiness of myself;

L) Verses 6-9 describe what Alma and the sons of Mosiah were doing to destroy the Church.

M) (10) I could not open my mouth, neither had I the use of my limbs.

N) (14-15) the very thought of coming into the presence of my Godthe presence of my God

O) (16) And now, for three days and for three nights I was racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.


P) (17) …while I was harrowed up by the Memory of my many sins,

Q) behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one

R) Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. (18)Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart:


R’) O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

Q’) (19) And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more;

P’) yeah, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more .

O’) (20) And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as way my pain!

N’) (22) …Yea, methought I saw, even as our Father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yeah, and my soul did long to be there.

M’) But behold, my limbs did receive their strength again…

L’) Verses 24-25 explain what Alma did to strengthen the Church and to men the damage he caused previously.

K’) (26) For because of the word which he has imparted unto me,

J’) behold, I have been born of God, and have tasted as I have tasted, and have seen eye to eye as I have seen; therefore they do know of these things of which I have spoken, as I do know;

I’) and the knowledge which I have is of God.

H’) (27) And I have been supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, and in all manner of afflictions;

G’) yea, God has delivered me…and I do put my trust in him

F’) and he will still deliver me…

E’)(29) …he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day;

D’) and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to

retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity.

C’) (30) But behold, my won, this is not all; for ye out to know as I do know,

B’) that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut

off from his presence.

A’) Now this is according to his word.

This is a picture perfect example of a Hebraic chiasmus. The focal point in the center of the chiasmus is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Obviously, the center of Alma’s message is Jesus Christ. This is good Hebrew poetry.

There are many more examples of chiasmi in the Book of Mormon. As stated before, over three hundred have been found in the Book of Mormon. I will include here just a few more.

A) And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ,

B) must be called by some other name;

C) therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.

D) And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you

E) that never should be blotted out,

F) except it be through transgression; therefore,

F’) take heed that ye do not transgress

E’) that the name be not blotted out of your hearts,

D’) I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts.

C’) that ye are not found on the left hand of God,

B’) but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called,

A’) and also, the name by which he shall call you.

(Mosiah 5:10-12)

Perhaps the most remarkable of any chiasmus is found in Alma’s sermon recorded in Alma 12-13. Alma refers to entering into “the rest of the Lord” four times proceeding the Chiasmus, then refers to entering into “the rest of the Lord” at its central pinnacle point, and then concludes his sermon by repeating “the rest of the Lord” four more times after the conclusion of the chiasmus. (Its form is A-A-A-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-A-J-I-H-G-F-E-D-C-B-A-A-A-A) Obviously, the chiasmus is used as a rhetorical device to focus the reader/listener on entering into the rest of the Lord, and how that is accomplished. Further, the chiasmus is layered; it has at least one small chiasmus in verses 2-3 built inside of the larger structure. It is very beautiful and complex. Here is an outline of the larger structure.

A) (12:34) and these shall enter into my rest.

A) (12:35) And whosoever will do iniquity, behold, I swear…he shall not enter into my rest…

A) (12:36) if ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord

A) (12:37) let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word…

B) (13:1) I would cite your minds forward to the time when the Lord God gave these commandments unto his children…after the order of his Son, to teach these things unto the people.

C) (2) And those priests

D) were ordained after the order of his Son, in a manner that thereby the people might know in what manner to look forward to his Son for redemption.

E)(3) And this is the manner after which they were ordained—being called and prepared from the foundation of the world

F) according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of their exceeding faith….

G) yea, with that holy calling which was prepared with, and according to, a preparatory redemption for such…

H)(5) thus this holy calling being prepared from the foundation of the world for such as would not harden their hearts,

I) being in and through the atonement of the Only Begotten Son, who was prepared—

J) (6)And thus being called by this holy calling, and ordained unto the high priesthood of the holy order of God, to his commandments unto the children of men

A) that they also might enter into his rest

J’) (7) This high priesthood being after the order of

I’) his Son which order was

H’) from the foundation of the world; or in other words, being without beginning of days or end of years,

G’) being prepared from eternity to all eternity,

F’) according to his foreknowledge of all things—

D’) (8) Now they were ordained after this manner

E’) being called with a holy calling…

C’) (9) Thus they become high priests forever,

B’) after the order of the Son the Only Begotten of the Father, who is without beginning of days or end of years, who is full of grace, equity and true. And thus it is. Amen.

A) (12) …and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God.

A) (13) …bring forth fruit meet for repentance, that ye may also enter into that rest.

A) (16) …and this that they might look forward to him for a remission of their sins, that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.

A) (29) …that ye may be lifted up that the last day and enter into his rest.

Here is the small chiastic sub-structure found in verses 2-3.

A) And those priests were ordained

B) after the order of his Son,

C) in a manner that thereby

D) the people might know

C’) in what manner to look forward

B’) to his Son for redemption

A’) And this is the manner after which they were ordained.

I will list one more excellent example of a Book of Mormon chiasmus. It is found in Helaman 6:7-12. In order to form this chiasmus, the author and reader would have to have a basic understanding of Hebrew. In Hebrew names, such as Isaiah, Zedekiah, Uriah, etc the ending “iah” comes from the Hebrew term “yah.” “Yah” is a shortened version of the personal name of God, Jehovah or Yahweh, usually translated as “the LORD.” Isaiah means “The Lord has saved.” Zedekiah means “The right of the Lord.” Uriah means “The light of the Lord.” Now, here is the chiasmus.

A) And behold, there was peace in all the land…

B) Verses 7-8 describe trade and commerce between the Nephites and Lamanites

C) And it came to pass that they became exceedingly rich, both the Lamanites and the Nephites;

D) and they did have an exceeding plenty of gold, and of silver, and of all manner of precious metals, both in the land south and in the land north.

E) Now the land south was called

F) Lehi and

G) the land north was called

H) Mulek which was after the son of

I) Zedekiah (i.e., “The right of the Lord”)

I’) for the Lord did bring

H’) Mulek into

G’) the land north,

F’) and Lehi

E’) into the land south

D’) and behold, there was all manner of gold in both these lands, and of silver, and of precious ore of every kind; ….

C’) and thus they did become rich

B’) Verses 12-13 describe agriculture and business in both the lands between the Nephites and Lamanites

A’) …And thus the sixty and fourth year did pass away in peace.

In order to compose such a chiasmus as the one above, the author must have been thoroughly acquainted with Hebrew; otherwise, the author would not have thought to equate “Zedekiah” with “the Lord.”[4] Joseph Smith did not study Hebrew until the Kirtland Period, at least five years after the Book of Mormon was published. Keep that in mind, as we will discuss further Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon.

Climatic Hebrew parallelism has also been found in the Book of Mormon.

Climax occurs when, in successive clauses or sentences, the same word or words are

found at the end of one expression and at the beginning of the next. Climax is a form of staircase parallelism, because it demonstrates to the reader a gradual ascent through the recurrence of several identical words.[5]

Here is a simple climax found in the Bible.

In him was

LIFE; and the

LIFE was the

LIGHT of men. And the

LIGHT shineth in

DARKNESS; and the

DARKNESS comprehended it not.

(John 1:4-5)

The pattern is basically A-A’-B-B’-C-C’-etc. The word-sets act like a staircase leading up the point of highest significance, each other point building on the previous one. Here are a few examples from the Book of Mormon. Note not only the repetition but the staircase parallelism.

And the first fruits of repentance is

BAPTISM; and

BAPTISM cometh by faith unto

THE FULLFILLING OF THE COMMANDMENTS; and

THE FULLFILLING OF THE COMMANDMENTS bringeth

REMISSION OF SINS; and the

REMISSION OF SINS bringeth

MEEKNESS AND LOWLINESS OF HEART; and because of

MEEKNESS AND LOWLINESS OF HEART cometh the visitation of the

HOLY GHOST, which

COMFORTER filleth with hope, and perfect

LOVE, which

LOVE endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come when all the saints shall be with God. (Moroni 8:25-26)

Behold, he created

ADAM, and by

ADAM came

THE FALL OF MAN. And because of the

FALL OF MAN came

JESUS CHRIST, even the Father and the Son; and because of

JESUS CHRIST came the

REDEMPTION OF MAN. And because of the

REDEMPTION OF MAN, which came by Jesus Christ, they are brought back into the presence of the Lord.

(Mormon 9:12-13)

…and many generations after

THE MESSIAH shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fullness of the gospel of THE MESSIAH come unto

THE GENTILES and from

THE GENTILES unto

THE REMNANT OF OUR SEED—And at that day shall

THE REMNANT OF OUR SEED

KNOW that they are of the house of Israel, and that they are the covenant people of the Lord; and then shall they KNOW and come to

THE KNOWLEDGE of their forefathers, and also to

THE KNOWLEDGE of the gospel

OF THEIR REDEEMER, which was ministered unto their fathers by him; wherefore, they shall come to he knowledge OF THEIR REDEEMER and the very points of his doctrine… And then

AT THAT DAY will they not rejoice and give praise unto their everlasting God, their rock and their salvation? Yea, AT THAT DAY,

WILL THEY NOT receive the strength and nourishment from the true vine? Yea,

WILL THEY NOT come unto the true fold of God?

Behold, I say unto, Yea;

THEY SHALL BE remembered again among the house of Israel;

THEY SHALL BE grafted in, being a natural branch of the

OLIVE-TREE, into the true

OLIVE-TREE. And this is what our father

MEANETH; and he

MEANETH that it will not come to pass until after they are scattered by

THE GENTILES; and he meaneth that it shall come by way of

THE GENTILES, that the Lord may show his power unto

THE GENTILES, for the very cause that he shall be rejected of the Jews, or of

THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. Wherefore, our father hath not spoken of our seed alone, but also of all

THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL, pointing to the

COVENANT which should be fulfilled in the latter days; which

COVENANT the Lord made to our father Abraham… And it came to pass that I, Nephi,

SPAKE much unto them concerning these things; yea, I

SPAKE unto them concerning

THE RESTORATION OF THE JEWS in the latter days. And I did rehearse unto them the words of Isaiah, who spake concerning THE RESTORATION OF THE JEWS…

(1 Nephi 15:13-20)

A third type of parallelism found in the Book of Mormon is called extended alternate. Its basic pattern is A-B-C-A-B-C, although it can be any length. Here is a Biblical example.

A) Then the children of Ammon

B) were gathered together

C) and encamped in Gilead.

A) And the children of Israel

B) assembled themselves together

C) and encamped in Mizpeh.

(Judges 10:17)

Here are a just a few simple examples in the Book of Mormon of extended alternate:

Nevertheless, I have received a commandment of the Lord

A) that I should make these plates, for a special purpose that there should be an account engraven

B) of the ministry of my people.

C) Upon the other plates should be engraven

D) an account of the reign of the kings,

E) and the wars

F) and contentions of my people;

A) wherefore these plates

B) are for the more part of the ministry

C) and the other plates

D) are for the more part of the reign of the kings.

E) and the wars

F) and contentions of my people. (1 Nephi 9:3-4)

A) If ye will repent

B) and harden not your hearts,

C) then will I have mercy upon you,

D) through mine Only Begotten Son;

A) Therefore, whosoever repenteth,

B) and hardeneth not his heart,

C) he shall have claim on mercy

D) through mine Only Begotten Son

(Alma 12:33-34)

A) Behold, are ye stripped of pride?

B) I say unto you, if ye are not ye are not prepared to meet God.

C) Behold ye must prepare quickly;

D) for the kingdom of heaven is soon at hand,

E) and such an one hath not eternal life.

A) Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy?

B) I say unto you that such an one is not prepared;

C) and I would that he should prepare quickly,

D) for the hour is close at hand, and he knoweth not when the time shall come;

E) for such an one is not found guiltless

(Alma 5:28-29)

Finally, there is even an example in the Book of Mormon of a complex parallelism that contains a chiasmus, extended alternate, and climax all in one place. This is found in Alma’s sermon to his son Corianton. The CAPITALS are used to denote the climax, and the bold words show the chiasmus, and the italicized words show the extended alternate. Note that some words are used for more than one parallelism.

A) …the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again EVIL for EVIL, or CARNAL for CARNAL, or DEVILISH for DEVILISH—

B) GOOD for that which is GOOD;

C) RIGHTEOUS for that which is RIGHTEOUS;

D) JUST for that which is JUST;

E) MERCIFUL for that which is MERCIFUL

E’) Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren;

D’) deal justly,

C’) judge righteously

B’) and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward;

yea,

E’’) ye shall have mercy restored unto you again;

D’’) ye shall have justice restored unto you again;

C’’) ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again;

B’’) and ye shall have good rewarded you again.

A’) For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored; therefore the word restoration more fully condemneth the sinner, and justifieth him not at all.

(Alma 41:13-15)

Could anything so complex be just an accident? What is the likelihood that so many complexities could all exist in the same book by accident? What do parallelisms in the Book of Mormon prove? First of all, Chiasmi were not a matter of discussion anywhere on the American continent for decades after the Book of Mormon was published. It is a fact, which has been thoroughly demonstrated, that there are more than three hundred such chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. There are other literary devices in the Book of Mormon such as climax and extended alternate. In the example of Alma 41, a climax, extended alternate and a chiasmus appear together in the very same passage! All of these types of parallelisms fit perfectly into the culture the Book of Mormon claims for itself.

What is the most rational explanation? Did Joseph Smith independently discover chiasmi and other parallelisms in the Bible before he authored the Book of Mormon, and then work them into his Book of Mormon text? Did he have an understanding of Hebrew such as the meaning of “iah” as discussed above? Did you, who live in such a more enlightened age and have much more formal education than Joseph Smith, even know of such things? Obviously, Joseph Smith did not know either. Even if he did know, how could he be so brilliant as to discover these literary forms, include them in his text and yet be so foolish as to never even mention their existence as evidence for the book’s authenticity?

The critics of the Book of Mormon have the difficult task of providing logically sound answers to these questions. Otherwise, there is only one plausible answer—the very existence of such parallelisms in the Book of Mormon reinforce very strongly that the Book of Mormon is exactly what it purports to be: sacred, ancient, Hebrew scripture translated by the gift and power of God through the modern day prophet Joseph Smith. That is the most rational explanation.

Grammar

There are many examples of Hebrew grammar usage in the Book of Mormon. Many of such examples have been edited because they reflect bad English grammar. As a result we are forced to turn to the 1830 (first edition) of the Book of Mormon in order to more fully investigate this topic.

In English, we use the conditional phrase by saying “if… then…” The same is true in many other languages, such as in Spanish “Si….entonces…” (Identical grammatically to English). In Hebrew, however, the structure translates as “if…and…” In other words, in English we would say: “if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right (Genesis 13:9).” The Hebrew, however, actually reads, “if thou wilt take the left hand, and I will go to the right.” Although not correct in English, this Hebrew grammatical form was found in several places in the original edition of the Book of Mormon. Later, Joseph Smith removed many of these grammatical “mistakes” to make the Book of Mormon more readable and to reflect better English grammar. Here are a few examples from the 1830 Book of Mormon:

…yea, and if he say unto the earth, Move, and it is moved; yea, if he say unto the earth, Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours, and it is done. …And behold, also, ifand behold it is done….and if the Lord shall say, Be thou accursed, that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever and behold, no man getteth it henceforth and forever. And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man, Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be accursed forever and it shall be done. And if the Lord shall say, Because of thine iniquities, thou shalt be cut off from my presence, and he will cause that it shall be so. (1830 Book of Mormon, p. 440. he say unto this mountain, Be thou raised up, and come over and fall upon that city, that it be buried up Helaman 12:16-17, 19-21)

…and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, and he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. (1830 Book of Mormon p. 586, Moroni 10:4)

Ironically, these verses have been edited to reflect better English grammar, adding to the list of the “changes” to the Book of Mormon that the critics so often refer to. Of course, these changes themselves are strong evidence to Joseph Smith’s claim to have translated the Book of Mormon from an ancient record written according to the “learning of the Jews” (1 Nephi 1:2). Why would the critics be willing to overlook such facts?

For years, critics of the Book of Mormon have mocked what the 1830 Book of Mormon says on page 351.

And when Moroni has said these words, he went forth among the people, waving the rent of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent and crying with a loud voice…

Subsequent editions of the Book of Mormon added the word “part” behind “rent” so to make it read “the rent part” (Alma 46:19). Obviously, a person cannot write on “the rent” or wave “the rent” in the air! Critics have used this as evidence that Joseph Smith must have slipped up while composing the Book of Mormon. Ironically, once again, this grammatical “error” can be attributed directly to the Book of Mormon’s Hebraic source. Hebrew, in this instance, would use but one word, qera, which means rent. That is, a Hebrew writing/speaking person would refer to the part of his garment that was rent as qera or the rent instead of the rent part. This “error” reflects perfect Hebrew grammar and language. Later editions of the Book of Mormon have corrected it to say “the rent part” in accordance with English grammar. Here is another one of the critics’ changes that they use in an attempt to prove the Book of Mormon false but that in reality give more credibility to the Book’s claims.

Another example of Hebrew grammar in the Book of Mormon is the construct state, wherein two nouns are separated by “of” instead of using a regular adjective to amplify the noun. This happens frequently in the Book of Mormon. It is more natural in English to use an adjective to describe the noun instead of using two nouns separated by “of.” However, in Hebrew, you have to use two nouns as shown above. Here are some examples:

“mist of darkness” instead of “dark mist” (1 Nephi 8:23)

“state of probation” instead of “probationary state” (2 Nephi 2:21)

“words of plainness” instead of “plain words” (Jacob 4:14)

“plates of gold” instead of “gold plates” (Mosiah 28:11)

“night of darkness” instead of “dark night” (Alma 34:33)

“land of promise” instead of “promise land”(1 Nephi 2:20)

“rod of iron” instead of “iron rod” (1 Nephi 8:19)

“plates of brass” instead of “brass plates” (1 Nephi 3:12)

“bands of death” instead of “death’s bands” (Mosiah 15:8)

“chains of hell” instead of “hell’s chains” (Alma 5:7)

“voice of the people” instead of “the people’s voice” (Mosiah 7:9)

Also, there are very few adverbs in Hebrew. In Hebrew it is more common to produce an adverb with a preposition/noun structure. This is found throughout the Book of Mormon.

“with joy” instead of “joyfully” (1 Nephi 5:1)

“with patience” instead of “patiently” (Mosiah 24:15)

“with harshness” instead of “harshly”(1 Nephi 18:11)

“with gladness” instead of “gladly” (2 Nephi 2:21)

“with diligence” instead of “diligently” (1 Nephi 15:11)

“in abundance” instead of “abundantly” (2 Nephi 5:11)

“in righteousness” instead of “righteously” (1 Nephi 22:21)

In all of the instances above, why would Joseph Smith opt to use such awkward language if he were the author of the Book of Mormon? Perhaps you think he may have known Hebrew grammar and decided to write using such grammar in order to convince others that the book was legitimate. If so, you have to answer why he would intentionally put such grammar in the Book of Mormon to subsequently remove it in the next edition. [6]

Hebrew Names

At the end of the Book of Mormon there is a list of proper and personal names found in the Book of Mormon with the title “Pronouncing Guide.” A quick glance at the list of names brings up some questions. You may notice that there are no Nephite/Lamanites names that start with the letters D (“Desolation” is an English word, and “Deseret” is a Jaradite word), F, Q, V, W, X, or Y. These letters do not have corresponding sounds in Hebrew; therefore, there are no Book of Mormon names that start with those letters. If Joseph Smith were the creator of the Book of Mormon and all of the original names therein, was he just lucky in not originating any names that started with those letters? Did it happen by chance? Could it be that he already knew Hebrew and was careful not to create any new names that started with those letters? None of these explanations are likely or valid. It is much more likely that the Book of Mormon contains authentic Hebrew names, as will be shown.

In order to make something an “ite” (such as Lamanite) in Hebrew, an “i” sound is added at the end of a name. We have great examples of this in the Book of Mormon.

Lamoni (“Lamonite,” Alma 17:21)

Moroni (“Moronite,” someone from Moron, Alma 43:16, Ether 7:5-6)

Muloki (“Mulekite,” Mosiah 25:2).

Some other examples include Limhi (Mosiah 7:9, probably from the personal name “Lamah”), Amlici (Alma 2:1), and Himni (Mosiah 27:34). All of these names are unique to the Book of Mormon. Did Joseph Smith just get lucky in using authentic Hebrew grammar when applied to names?

Here are few good Hebrew names original to the Book of Mormon with their translations.

Sam: “name” in reference to the name of God.

Zarahemla: “seed of compassion”

Cumorah: “priesthood”

Nahom: “to comfort/moan/mourn” (Nahom is the place where Ishmael died, 1 Nephi 16:34)

Jershon: “land of inheritance” (Jershon was the land given to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi for their inheritance, Alma 27:22-26)

Here are a few names original to the Book of Mormon that have been found in other Hebrew writings after the Book of Mormon was published:

Alma: Found in fifth century BC papyri from Jewish Community in Elephantine, Egypt.

Abish: Corresponds to a Hebrew name found from pre-exilic times (before 587 B.C.) in the Hecht Museum in Haifa.

Aha: Hebrew for “brother.” Found inscribed in Canaanite letters of the eleventh and ninth centuries B.C.

Chemish: Divine name of an Ammonite god “Chemosh.” Also given as a common name and found on a seal of a man or woman currently in the Israel Museum.

Himni: Appears on two Israelite seals. The first from the eighth century B.C. was found at Megiddo in the Jeqreel Valley, the second is from the first half of the seventh century B.C.

Isabel: Found on a seal in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and is probably Phoenician in origin.

Jarom: Found in four Hebrew inscriptions including a seal of the seventh century B.C. found in Egypt, and three other items from the times of Lehi: a jug inscription, an ostracon, and a bulla.

Josh: Appears in three of the Lachish letters from the time of Lehi. Also is one of the names of four people mentioned in a fifth-century B.C. Jewish Aramaic papyrus from Elephantine, Egypt.

Luram: Found on a seal from about 720 BC during excavation at Hama in Syria. Also found on as graffiti on three bricks from the same level at Hama.

Mathoni: Appears on a seventh-century B.C. wine decanter, on six seals, and on seven bullae, most of them from the time of Lehi.

Muloki: Found on a bulla from Jerusalem dating from the time of Lehi.[7]

How could Joseph Smith invent these names, put them in the Book of Mormon, and then later all be vindicated by archeology and Hebrew studies? If Joseph Smith somehow had access to these things that were not yet discovered, knew Hebrew perfectly, and therefore put these names in the Book of Mormon to substantiate his fraudulent claims, why didn’t he point them out as evidence for the Book of Mormon? Joseph Smith did indeed translate these Hebrew names from the ancient text. Archeology and linguistics have come to be strong evidences of his claims.[8]

Conclusion

The Book of Mormon text is full of strong evidence of its ancient origins. The Book of Mormon is either (1) authentically ancient, or (2) a creation of Joseph Smith who was some sort of a linguistic literary genius with prophet-like foreknowledge that enabled him to compose chiasmus before anyone else knew of them and include undiscovered authentic Hebrew names, that would later be vindicated, in his text. If Joseph Smith was indeed so brilliant and careful and possessed such foreknowledge, then why would he be so careless as to never bring such things up as evidence for his Book? However, if the Book of Mormon is indeed an ancient record, then there is no need to try and explain all of the mounting textual evidence away. The Book of Mormon is its own greatest witness.



[1] Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted According to Parallelistic Patterns, i.

[2] This article will not go into great detail on all of the kinds parallelisms in the Book of Mormon. I will only discuss and give examples of a few. For an overview of all the known types of parallelisms and examples of each as they are found in the Book of Mormon, see The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted According to Parallelistic Patterns by Donald W. Parry.

[3] Nils Wilhelm Lund, Chiasmus in the New Testament, vii.

[4] As a side note, Mulek, a name that is unique to the Book of Mormon, is the Hebrew diminutive of Melek. Melek means king and Mulek therefore means little king. Significantly, the Book of Mormon states that Mulek was the only surviving son of King Zedekiah. Mulek was, indeed, a little king. Joseph Smith could not have possibly derived such information from the Bible.

[5] Donald W. Parry, The Book of Mormon Text Reformatted According to Parallelistic Patterns, ixviii.

[6] This is a very, short list of some of the grammatical Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon. For further research, see

John A. Tvedtnes, Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon: A Preliminary Survey (BYU Studies, 1970)

[7] This list is compiled from Tvedtnes, Gee, Roper, Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions FARMS Volume 9, Number 1, 2000

[8] I use the word “evidence” here loosely, as the term I should use is probably “proof.” I only do so because I belief that things of a spiritual nature cannot be proven or disproved by outside evidence. However, this is as close as such evidence gets to proof. Evidence of this nature would stand up in court in any other circumstance. It is absolutely certain that these names are authentically Hebrew and ancient.

6 comments:

Latter-Day James said...

Awesome, I have heard of these before. But I am glad you are spreading the word by posting it here.

Andrew Miller said...

Hey! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's good to now I'm not shouting to the wind. I'm heading over to check our your blog now.

NM said...

Hi Andrew,

I saw the link from Jeff's blog...

This is a great essay! =)

Allen said...

"The Book of Mormon text is full of strong evidence of its ancient origins."

Well, actually, the textual evidences you've given don't show that the Book of Mormon is of ancient origins. They only show that the English text that we have today was written by person(s) who had a knowledge of ancient texts.

Pops said...

Allen,

You're taking a leap. The textual evidences narrow the possibilities for the origins of the Book of Mormon, but do not prove any of them. One of the possibilities is, as you state, that the book was written by person(s) who had a knowledge of ancient texts. Another is that the book is what it purports to be. The latter seems more likely given the general ignorance of ancient texts when the translation occurred, and the specific ignorance of its translator.

Choosing between those two choices requires additional assumptions or evidences.

Latter-Day James said...

Allen

I don't get your point. The specific knowledge of these ancient forms of writing wasn't known yet.