Monday, September 07, 2009

Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon

Hebraisms are grammatical forms in a translation that make more sense in Hebrew than in English. The Book of Mormon contains many of them. How did Joseph Smith know to include them?

"And it Came to Pass"
"Wherever he found his speech growing too modern -- which was about every sentence or two -- he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. 'And it came to pass' was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet." -- Mark Twain

The present edition of the Book of Mormon contains the phrase "it came to pass" 1297 times. However, this phrase also occurs 457 times in the KJV of the Old Testament. The phrase is translated into English from a single Hebrew word, hâyâh, which means "now it happened." The Hebrew Old Testament has 1114 occurrences of the word hâyâh. Most of these have either been ignored or reduced to simply "and."

Chiasmus- In English when we transmit a thought we usually tend to open our thought with an introductory thesis statement, then we support the thesis with supporting arguments, and then we conclude restating the thesis. Therefore it can be said that when western writers write, we tell you what we are going to say, say what we are going to say, and then tell you again what we just just said.

Ancient Hebrew writers did not use the thesis, body, conclusion pattern. Ancient Hebrews conveyed ideas using a list of supporting arguments and then rewrote the same list of arguments in the exact reverse order [ABCCBA]. The focal point or thesis statement would be placed as the central argument in this poetic form. This form is known as chiasmus and The Book of Mormon is loaded with Chiasmus.

Examples of Chiasmus in the Bible: Isaiah 6:10, Isaiah 2:3-5, Psalms 124:7
Examples of Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: Mosiah 3:18-19, Mosiah 5:10-12, Alma 36, Alma 34:9.

Compound Prepositions: "from before": 3 Ne. 9: 5, 7-9, 11, 1 Ne. 4: 28, 30, 1 Ne. 11: 12, 29, Morm. 2: 24-25, Morm. 4: 20, 22, 1 Ne. 20: 19, 2 Ne. 9: 8, Mosiah 17: 4, Alma 2: 32, Alma 44: 12, 3 Ne. 4: 12, Ether 13: 22, Moro. 9: 15; "and also": 1 Nephi 8:3.

Colophon: Statement by the author at the beginning or the end of a piece stating that he is the author of the work. 1 Nephi 1:1, Enos 1:1, Jacob 7:26.

Construct State of Nouns vs. Possessives: River of Water, Rod of Iron, Works of Darkness, Name of the Lord, Kingdom of God, Sword of Laban, Plates of Brass, Temple of Solomon, Land of Promise, etc.

Repetition of the Definitive Article for each noun in a list: 2 Nephi 5:10.

Cognitive Accusative: work a marvelous work, judge righteous judgment, curse them with a sore cursing, dreamed a dream, yoketh them with a yoke, build buildings, tax with a tax, etc.

Many "ands": 1 Samuel 17:34-35 vs. Alma 46:12-13

"If", "and" Conditional Clauses vs. "if", "then": 1 Ne. 17:50 (corrected before publication in 1830), Moroni 10:4 (1830 ed.) Hel 12:13-21 (1830 ed.), 2 Nephi 31:20 (1830 ed.).

2 Nephi 31:20 Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: And ye shall have eternal life ("And" removed by Joseph Smith in 1837 ed.).

Simile Curses and Oaths: Associating a physical object with a curse or oath. Mosiah 12:3, Mosiah 12:11, Alma 46:22, 3 Nephi 4:28-29, Alma 44:12-15.

Poetic Parallelisms: Synonymous Parallelism:2 Nephi 25:2, Antithetic Parallelism: 1 Nephi 17:45, Repeated Alternate Parallelism: 1Nephi 19:10.

Prepositional Phrases vs. Adverbs: with harshness, with joy, with gladness, with patience, with diligence, in righteousness, in the spirit, of worth, of a surety.

Book of Mormon Names: Hebrew Names found in Elephantine Papyrus and Dead Sea Scrolls: Alma, Sariah, names with -iah endings and not -jahu. Other Hebrew Name: Mosiah = Redeeming Savior, Mulek = King. Phonetician (Greek) Names: Laconeus, Timothy, Jonus, Sidon, Egyptian Names: Nephi, Pahoran, Paanchi Pacumeni, Nahom, and Deseret = red crown of the honeybee.

FARMS Article on Book of Mormon Names.


Anonymous said...

Maybe Joseph just copied alot of stuff straight from the bible and that explains the similarities. Circular logic = The Bible is true, The BoM sounds like the Bible, The BoM is true.

BRoz said...

Until I read about chiasmus and simile oaths, I never knew they were there. So, if I was trying to copy the Bible, I probabaly would have missed incorporating them into my copy. Until I read about Hebraisms, I like everyone else just thought the Book of Mormon and the Bible grammer sounded unique but I couldn't tell you why until experts identified the differences between Hebrew and English grammer.

Anonymous said...

interestingly a break-off Mormon sect, the Strangite Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, has their own scripture that their leader "translated", the Book of the Law of the Lord. This also has chiasmus in it.

Chiasmus is not always evidence of Hebraic origin. In fact, it happens naturally in many speeches and essays with repetition.

BRoz said...

It is possible to come up with chiasus by accident, but the Book of Mormon has carefully crafted chiasmus in many places throughout the book. In other words, the chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is no accident.

Anonymous said...

how do we know the difference between chiasmus by accident and carefully crafted chiasmus? Is the chiasmus found in various texts during and before Joseph Smith's time accidental chiasmus or carefully crafted chiasmus, and do these all point to an ancient or Hebraic origin?

BRoz said...

The Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon are finely crafted and the work of a master. The example given in the post are wonderful examples.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe Joseph just copied alot of stuff straight from the bible and that explains the similarities"

Aside from chiasmus and simile oaths, the fact that there are entire passages copied from the NEW TESTAMENT should raise some questions!
Can anyone explain how the Book of Mormon authors were able to quote from books written after 600 B.C.
How could Joseph Smith have translated exact word for word quotes from "reformed Egyptian" into passages found in the NT in King James English??

"...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." Moroni 7:45

"...seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." 1 Corinthians 13:5-7

And this not the only time it happens. Please help me on this

Anonymous said...

The Strangite stuff has been debunked; even Strangite leaders admitted to forging this stuff. As for the NT parts in the Book of Mormon, the Book of Moroni was written well after Corinthians -- if the Lord wanted to get a message through to his children, and found a great way to say it, it'd only make sense that said wisdom would be shared liberally with other prophets.

Tyler said...

More info on Book of Mormon Chiasmus: