A More Responsible Critique

Review of Thomas J. Finley. “Does the Book of Mormon Reflect an Ancient Near Eastern Background?” and David J. Shepherd. “Rendering Fiction: Translation, Pseudotranslation, and the Book of Mormon.” In The New Mormon Challenge: Responding to the Latest Defenses of a Fast-Growing Movement, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owen, 337–95. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002. 535 pp., with glossary and indexes. $21.99.

A More Responsible Critique

Reviewed by Kevin L. Barney

In 1997, InterVarsity Press, a Christian publishing house, published the truly
groundbreaking How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation1
by Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson. This was a stunning achievement
in religious publishing: a respectful, honest, probing dialogue on matters of
ultimate religious significance between a member of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints and an evangelical Christian, both committed and knowledgeable.
This remarkable conversation spawned others, some in the same spirit, others
unfortunately not. A BYU Studies roundtable2 surveyed reactions to the book
and provided postmortem commentary (including contributions by both Blomberg
and Robinson themselves), and an entire issue of the FARMS Review of Books3
was given over to a lengthy consideration of the book and its arguments, including
an article of over one hundred pages written by Paul L. Owen and Carl A. Mosser.
Mosser and Owen had previously come to the attention of Latter-day Saint scholars
with their insightful and penetrating essay, “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics
and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?”4 This article
was a clarion call to the need (as they perceived it) for a greatly improved
evangelical response to Latter-day Saint scholarship. The New Mormon Challenge,
two chapters from which are the subject of this review, is among the resulting
firstfruits of that call. Mosser and Owen are joined by Francis J. Beckwith5
as general editors of this volume.

In keeping with the particular historical focus of the FARMS Review of Books
on material relating to the Book of Mormon, I will limit this review to the
two chapters that directly address that volume of scripture. Before I address
those particular chapters specifically, however, I would like to offer a couple
of general comments on the book as a whole. In particular, I wish to congratulate
the book’s editors, authors, and publisher. The overall tone of the book was,
I thought, very good. It was not perfect, and the editors have work to do if
they intend to produce follow-up volumes, but given the vast transformation
from traditional anti-Mormon treatments and the undoubted stiff resistance in
certain circles to any such change, this was an excellent first effort.

Is Mormonism Christian?

The only thing I found really annoying about the book was the continued insistence
that Latter-day Saints are in no sense Christian. This is most disappointing
since the idea that the Saints are generically Christian should not be that
difficult a concept to grasp. Although the wording varies a little from dictionary
to dictionary, a Christian is one who is a follower of Jesus Christ, “one who
professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”6 This meaning is suggested
by the Greek form from which the English derives: Christianos, the
-ianos ending conveying the sense of “partisan” of Christ (analogous forms being
Herodianos “Herodian” and Kaisarianos “Caesarian”).
This is the public meaning of the word—the way it is used in public discourse
and the way it is defined in dictionaries. Elsewhere Blomberg disparages this
meaning of the word, calling it “some very broad and relatively meaningless
sense by which every Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox church member, however
nominal or sectarian, would also be included.”7 Exactly! Blomberg or any other
evangelical is more than welcome to devise a private definition of the word
that will exclude Latter-day Saints, but when they do this they must immediately
articulate what that private definition is8 and acknowledge that they are not
using the word in its commonly understood sense. When they simply say Mormons
are not Christian (using an unarticulated private definition), their hearers
and readers understand them to say that Mormons do not believe in Jesus Christ
(using the public definition, since words are understood to be used in their
commonly defined senses unless another sense is indicated). Such evangelicals
therefore regularly misrepresent and even defame LDS belief. This is truly offensive
to Latter-day Saints such as myself, and I am puzzled as to why they cannot
see that.9

Blomberg attempts to exclude Mormons from even the “relatively meaningless”
public definition of Christian in his chapter entitled “Is Mormonism Christian?”
He correctly states that the Bible only uses the term three times and nowhere
offers a formal definition (p. 317). He then strives to exclude Mormons
from the normative definition by limiting who can be called a Christian, not
by articulating a proper lexical definition of the term, but by quoting the
World Book Encyclopedia article on “Christianity”: “Christianity is the religion
based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Most followers of Christianity,
called Christians, are members of one of three major groups—Roman Catholic,
Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox” (emphasis added). Blomberg then concludes,
“Based on this definition, Mormonism is clearly not Christian, nor has it ever
claimed to be so” (p. 317). While it is true that the Latter-day Saints
do not claim to be Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox, it is manifestly not the
case that they do not claim to be Christian. In the broad and commonly understood
sense of the word, the Saints have always considered themselves to be Christians.
I am mystified how a scholar of Blomberg’s evident intelligence, talent, and
sensitivity could so misread this encyclopedia text (which certainly does not
make the exclusionist claim Blomberg ascribes to it), or for that matter why
he would appeal to an encyclopedia rather than proper lexical materials to deal
with this question in the first place. This methodology is more in line with
sectarian propaganda than sound scholarship.10

I recently shared the following example with Blomberg in an e-mail correspondence
following the appearance of The New Mormon Challenge; I think it illustrates
well why simply calling Latter-day Saints non-Christian is inherently misleading.
A family with several young daughters used to live in my ward. This family was
friendly with a neighbor woman, who would often babysit the girls. As Christmas
was approaching, the woman gave each of the girls a Christmas gift, which turned
out to be a coloring book featuring Jesus Christ. The girls enjoyed the gift
and colored the pictures. Some time later this woman came to the family’s home,
ashen, and apologized profusely for having given their daughters such a gift.
It turns out that the woman had just learned at her church that Mormons are
not Christian, and therefore she of course assumed that she had committed a
grievous faux pas in giving the girls coloring books featuring a deity their
family did not believe in. Now in this story the woman understood the claim
that Latter-day Saints are not Christian the same way the vast majority of people
would, as meaning that they do not believe in Christ. This is because she naturally
applied the public definition to her pastor’s words.

We can see by this story the mischief that results from the semantic legerdemain
of calling Latter-day Saints non-Christian. The fact is, they are Christians
in the generic sense of the word, even if, from an evangelical point of view,
they are theologically in error and unsaved (i.e., being a Christian is not
necessarily tantamount to being right). I personally would have no difficulty
with certain shorthand distinctions that would make clear that Mormons neither
are nor claim to be historic, traditional, creedal, or orthodox Christians.
But to say they are not Christians at all without such a modifier is to fundamentally
misrepresent the nature of their beliefs. Since one of the goals of The New
Mormon Challenge
was to avoid such misrepresentations, I was sorely disappointed
that it took the position that Latter-day Saints are not Christian in any sense
at all. I view this as an intellectually indefensible position, and in my view
it severely undermines the credibility of the book.

Finley on the Ancient Near East

So much for my pique over being told I am not a Christian. Let us turn now
to Thomas Finley’s chapter, entitled “Does the Book of Mormon Reflect an Ancient
Near Eastern Background?” This chapter is divided into five parts: an introduction,
which articulates a number of limitations on the drawing of parallels, followed
by sections dealing with writing on metal plates, Hebraisms, names in the Book
of Mormon, and the geography of 1 Nephi.

Finley suggests five limitations on the drawing of parallels to establish
an ancient Near Eastern background for the Book of Mormon: (1) a parallel should
be specific enough that it cannot be explained by general human experience,
(2) a parallel should be something beyond what Joseph Smith could have derived
from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, including the Apocrypha, (3)
parallels must be thoroughly examined to see how they function in both contexts,
(4) parallels should not be explicable as merely accidental, and (5) anachronisms
are more important than parallels. In general I had no difficulty with these
statements, although I will address (2) and (5) further below. An extensive
literature in Latter-day Saint scholarship deals with the use and abuse of parallels.11
Methodological controls such as these cut both ways and limit not only the drawing
of ancient but also nineteenth-century parallels to the text, so it is in everyone’s
interest to be both fair and rigorous in setting forth such methodological
limitations on the use of parallels.12

I do have two general comments on Finley’s introduction. First, he is setting
up parameters for what it would take to prove that the Book of Mormon is an
ancient text. But Latter-day Saint scholars readily acknowledge that we cannot
prove the Book of Mormon to be true. I doubt that it will ever be possible to
prove that the Book of Mormon is of ancient origin.13 I suspect that God fully
intended for this to be a matter in which we must walk by faith. Proof and evidence
are not equivalent, however, and while we may be unable to prove the antiquity
of the Book of Mormon to a skeptic, substantial evidence is consistent with
the antiquity of that book. The issue then becomes how to evaluate the significance
of such evidence. I address this matter further in the context of Book of Mormon

Second, Finley asserts that anachronisms are necessarily more significant
than parallels. Here we see a subtle indication of his a priori assumptions.
If he were genuinely open to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is a translation
from an ancient source rather than a nineteenth-century composition, he would
have considered the possibility of translator anachronisms; as it is, he is
so convinced the book is a modern composition that this option never enters
his mind. Now I fully anticipated that Finley would approach the text with such
an a priori assumption. I just wish to make it clear to the reader that there
should be no pretense here of some sort of scholarly objectivity. Finley has
a predetermined point of view, and he intends to argue his case for that conclusion,
like a lawyer writing a brief. I freely acknowledge that I, too, approach the
text with certain a priori assumptions, so neither of us is being purely objective
in this discussion.

Writing on Metal

Finley’s section on writing on metal plates is, together with his introduction,
to some extent developed from a paper he originally delivered to the Society
for the Study of Alternative Religions in 1998.14 In my view, the treatment
of this theme in The New Mormon Challenge is a significant improvement over
the original paper. For one thing, I think it is preferable to broach the issue
directly rather than in the context of commentary on a single, somewhat dated
Nibley article. Also, I previously made note of a number of weaknesses in the
original paper,15 and I see that these items have now all been diligently addressed.
This is encouraging and reflects the way a legitimate scholar responds to criticism,
by improving and honing his work. I commend Finley for his improvements.

In the original paper, Finley argued that writing on metal in antiquity
was practically unknown. He now acknowledges that such practices did exist,
which is progress. He continues, however, to maintain that the extant examples
are not lengthy scriptural texts comparable to the Book of Mormon. So while
he now grants a parallel for the writing material, “the dissimilarities in usage
with the Book of Mormon outweigh the similarity of material” (p. 342).

I would like to respond in three areas: (1) what claims are made in the
Book of Mormon account itself, (2) internal evidence for writing materials
in the Old Testament, and (3) external (or archaeological) evidence for
writing materials in Old Testament times. Finley observes that many Book of
Mormon records are written on metal plates, and he sees this as a kind of theme
running through the book. I would concur. I do not, however, interpret this
to mean that metal plates were the dominant or even a common medium for writing
in Lehi’s Jerusalem. The large plates of Nephi, the small plates of Nephi, and
(whether directly or indirectly) the plates of Mormon were all fashioned after
the pattern of the brass plates. Therefore, it is only the brass plates that
must be viewed as being plausible in preexilic Judea. If the brass plates were
not sui generis, or at least relatively uncommon, then the narrative of 1 Nephi
would make little sense: why would Nephi and his brothers repeatedly risk their
lives to take the brass plates from Laban if comparable collections of scripture
on metal plates were available elsewhere?

When Finley says that papyrus and leather were the most common media for the
scriptures in preexilic Israel, he is guessing; in the absence of actual evidence
from that period, we cannot know for sure. His proposal is, however, an educated
and reasonable guess. Given that such materials would have been both easier
to work with and more economical, it probably was the case that the scriptures
were more often copied on papyrus or leather. As we have shown, however, that
position is not inconsistent with claims made by the Book of Mormon.

I also recognize the possibility of an element of divine providence at work
here, which Finley no doubt would deny, given his assumptions. Had Nephi training
as a conventional scribe and were he expert in the preparation of papyrus for
writing, what good would that knowledge have done him in the New World in the
absence of actual papyrus plants? A good argument has been made that Lehi and
his family were metalworkers;16 this was a technology that would have been transferable
to the New World. In addition, this record was intended to last a very long
time—therefore a preference for metal, which of course lasts longer than papyrus,
makes sense. For these reasons, Nephi’s decision to fashion his own record on
metal plates after the pattern of the brass plates appears deliberate.

Finley mentions some of the writing materials other than papyrus and leather
referred to in the Old Testament text, such as stone (as with the Ten Commandments)
and wood. He only mentions one allusion to writing on metal: “And thou shalt
make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet,
Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36 KJV). Of course, from a later period, 1 Maccabees
8:22 reads: “And this is a copy of the letter which they wrote in reply, on
bronze tablets, and sent to Jerusalem to remain with them there as a memorial
of peace and alliance.” This translation comes from the Revised Standard Version
(RSV); the annotation observes that “important documents were often inscribed
on bronze tablets.”17 But other possible allusions to writing on metal appear
in the Old Testament proper.

Isaiah 8:1 KJV reads: “Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll
[gillayon], and write in it with a man’s pen [becheret ‘enosh] concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” But the KJV has mistranslated
the key terms. A cheret is not a “pen” in the sense of an instrument that would
use ink but rather a stylus that engraves in a hard surface; Aaron fashioned
the golden calf with a cheret (Exodus 32:4). Similarly, a gillayon is not a
“roll” in the sense of a papyrus or leather scroll but rather a tablet of some
kind, whether of metal, stone, or wood. The word occurs only one other time
in the Old Testament, at Isaiah 3:23, where it means “tablets of polished
metal” (i.e., “mirrors”). 18 Therefore, the Lord most likely commanded Isaiah
to write on a large, polished, metal tablet. Although this does not represent
a lengthy text, it is yet another allusion to writing on metal in the Old Testament.

Job 19:23-24 KJV reads as follows:

Oh that my words were now written!

oh that they were printed [ weyuchaqu] in a book


That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the

rock for ever!

A contemporary reader might understand Job to be talking about printing a
book the way a modern press would, but, of course, at the time of writing the
printing press had not yet been invented. The verb chaqaq does not
mean “to print” but “to cut in, to inscribe, to engrave.” This is not a verb
one would expect to see used for writing with brush and ink on papyrus. Therefore,
a number of scholars have plausibly proposed19 that the word book here (
) does not refer to a scroll but to a bronze or copper tablet (based on
Akkadian siparru “bronze”).20 Accordingly, Edouard Dhorme renders:

Oh that my words might be written down!

Oh that they might be engraved on brass,

That with a tool of iron and lead

They should remain engraved in the rock for ever!21

An alternative interpretation, based on a Phoenician parallel, would be to
understand sepher here as meaning “inscription,”22 in which case the writing
would be the same as that in “the rock” of the next line. I personally think
the parallelism works much better by understanding the book as referring to
a bronze tablet, for that would then parallel the rock of the next line rather
than refer to it,23 and both the metal tablet and the rock would convey the
sense of a writing meant to last a long time, which the context of the passage
requires (KJV “for ever!”). Job is literarily referring to a hypothetical text
rather than an actual one, but the hypothetical allusion would not be intelligible
unless such texts (writings on bronze tablets) existed in the real world.

The significance of the word lead in the final line of the passage is uncertain.
A lead instrument would be useless on rock, and so the New International Version
(NIV) reads, “that they [i.e., ‘my words’] were inscribed with an iron
tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!” taking this as a reference to lead
plates inscribed by the iron stylus.24 Writing on lead plates in antiquity is
certainly attested.25 While this translation would further support my argument
as an additional allusion to writing on metal, I am inclined to reject the NIV
here, again largely for reasons of parallelism. Rather than referring to one
writing material only (the rock), as posited by Gehmann, or three writing materials,
as suggested by the NIV or the Anchor Bible,26 I would view the parallelism
of the passage as referring to two writing materials, bronze//rock, each of
which is indicative of a writing that is to last a long time.27

Isaiah 30:8 KJV reads as follows:

Now go, write it [kathebah] before them in a table [luach],

and note it [chuqqah] in a book [sepher],

that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever.

Finley correctly observes that the luach is probably a wooden writing board.
The same verb and noun combination as in the second line appears in Job 19:23
in a similar context of a writing intended to last a long time (KJV “for ever
and ever”). Therefore the allusion in Isaiah 30:8 may also be to a writing on
a bronze tablet,28 with the first writing (on wood) containing the headings
or a summary, and with the second writing (on metal) containing the full message
in permanent form.29 Alternatively, the parallelism of the passage may refer
to one writing only, with the reference to both wooden and metal writing tablets
simply being formulaic.

When we turn from biblical allusions to the archaeological record, it seems
to me that it takes a little chutzpah to deny the plausibility of the brass
plates when the entire universe of extant preexilic scripture is written on
metal (by which I mean the two silver plates dating from seventh century B.C.
Jerusalem containing a portion of the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24-26).30
This raises an interesting question: where is all the scripture that presumably
existed before the exile? Palestine is not as ideal a location as the sands
of Egypt for preserving papyrus and leather, and no doubt much of it simply
disintegrated with the ravages of time. But Palestine does have an arid climate,
and one can well imagine a biblical minimalist arguing that at least something
of that nature should have survived if it really ever existed.31

I suspect that part of Finley’s response to such a minimalist would be the
same as part of my response to him, and that is to point out the serendipitous
nature of archaeological discovery. If young Muhammad adh-Dhib (“the Wolf”)
had not slithered through a hole in the rock in the Judean desert more than
fifty years ago, it might well be that we still would not know of the existence
of the Dead Sea Scrolls. There may yet be samples of preexilic scripture in
existence, whether on papyrus, leather, metal, or some other medium; we cannot
conclude from the bare fact that we have not yet found them that they do not
now exist, much less that they never existed.

Consider another question: were scriptures ever written on clay tablets? We
have hundreds of thousands of such tablets dating from great antiquity, but
none of them contain any scripture. The only possible biblical allusion I am
aware of to writing on such a tablet is Ezekiel 4:1, in which Ezekiel is directed
to draw a plan of Jerusalem on a clay brick. Since less biblical support for
writing on clay exists than for writing on metal, presumably Finley would similarly
deny that scriptures were ever written on clay tablets. I wonder, then, what
he would make of the theory, put forth by D. J. Wiseman and elaborated
by R. K. Harrison,32 that the first thirty-six chapters of Genesis contain
material originally written in cuneiform on a series of clay tablets. The linchpin
to this theory is the repetition of the word toledoth “generations,”
which may have been used in the colophon to each successive tablet. Harrison
wrote as a conservative Christian scholar, and this theory is probably one of
the best possible alternatives to dealing with the data that gave rise to the
Documentary Hypothesis of the origins of the Pentateuch. I assume Finley as
an evangelical scholar has a commitment to biblical inerrancy, and the Documentary
Hypothesis is fundamentally at odds with a strictly inerrantist approach to
scripture. I therefore wonder whether Finley would find this theory to be plausible
in the face of a lack of hard evidence. If it is plausible that a scriptural
record was written on clay tablets—and I think that it is—it strikes me
as at least equally plausible that a scriptural record was written on bronze
tablets (i.e., the brass plates).


Turning now to linguistic issues, Finley correctly observes that we do not
have the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon derives, nor are we even
certain what language or languages the record was written in. This definitely
complicates any attempt to study the linguistic background of the book. The
Anthon transcript long held by the Whitmer family and now in the possession
of the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints) has not been deciphered and, absent the discovery
of some sort of Rosetta Stone, probably never will be deciphered, though not
for lack of trying. Any attempt to decipher the transcript is complicated by
at least three factors. First, many scholars have long believed that the Whitmer
transcript is actually a poorly drawn copy of the original transcript (notwithstanding
the belief of the Whitmer family that it possessed the original), as it does
not match the description of the transcript given by Professor Charles Anthon
of Columbia University.33 Second, the characters on the transcript most
likely came from Mormon’s abridgment of the book of Lehi at the beginning of
the plates of Mormon; this means that the script on the plates would have undergone
about a millennium of linguistic development from the time of Lehi, including
probable influence from New World languages. Third, the English translation
of this portion of the record was lost with the 116 manuscript pages Joseph
loaned to Martin Harris; therefore, the prospect of finding an English “translation
pony” to reverse engineer the transcript is very slim.34 For these reasons,
we can only study the original language of the plates by various indirect means.
Finley addresses two of these indirect approaches: the study of Book of Mormon
Hebraisms and the study of Book of Mormon names.

A Hebraism is an expression, grammatical form, or syntactical structure that
is characteristic of Hebrew but not characteristic of the language into which
it is translated. To illustrate, consider the Hebrew word liphne.
This word is formed by a combination of the preposition le “to, for” and
the noun paneh “countenance, face.” This particular noun only appears
in its plural form in Hebrew, panim, and the construct (or genitival)
form of the plural is yneP] pene “face of.” Most literally, liphne means “to
the face of,” which would be abominable English. If an expression such as liphne
were rendered into idiomatic English as “before David” or “in the presence
of David,” we might have no clue that this was a translation from Hebrew. If,
on the other hand, that expression were rendered more literally as “before the
face of David,” the pleonastic use of face (which is unnecessary in English)
would point to a translation from Hebrew or possibly to some other sort of Hebrew

To a certain extent Finley’s treatment of Hebraisms follows that of Ed Ashment35
although apparently Finley only learned of Ashment’s work relatively late in
the process of writing his chapter. Finley reacts specifically to the work of
John Tvedtnes on Book of Mormon Hebraisms,36 an understandable approach since
Tvedtnes’s work is the most recent and linguistically sophisticated survey of
the subject in general. Anyone wishing to deal with this subject comprehensively,
however, should be aware that an entire body of literature deals with Book of
Mormon Hebraisms, beginning early in the twentieth century and continuing to
the present.37

Latter-day Saint scholars have typically focused on establishing that parallels
with Hebrew characteristics exist. A significant number of such parallels have
been firmly established. I believe that knowledge concerning Hebraisms is useful
in helping us to understand the text in any event, quite apart from whatever
evidentiary value they may have. If, however, we wish to put this literature
forward as evidence for the antiquity of the Book of Mormon, then at some point
we need to ask in each case whether a given Hebraism is best explained as a
relic of an overliteral translation directly from the plates or is derivative
from the KJV or some other English source available to Joseph Smith in the nineteenth
century (and, in the case of the KJV, thereby an indirect reflection of a Hebraism
found in that English text). To illustrate this distinction by an analogy, a
Semitism in a New Testament text might point to the Greek being a translation
from an underlying Aramaic or Hebrew source, or it might point to the author
of the Greek composition simply being a Jew for whom Greek was a second language.
Trying to parse between these two possibilities can be very difficult and, given
the religious significance of New Testament texts, controversial. Notwithstanding
the easy assumptions of Ashment and Finley that all Book of Mormon Hebraisms
are indirect only, having been absorbed from the English of the KJV, I suspect
that trying to make these kinds of distinctions concerning Book of Mormon Hebraisms
will be no less difficult or controversial than in the case of the Greek New

Paul Hoskisson appropriately draws a distinction between Book of Mormon textual
evidences that are necessary and those that are sufficient.38 If the Book of
Mormon is an ancient text, then we should expect to find parallels with the
ancient world. Where such parallels are established, therefore, they count as
necessary evidence. To be truly sufficient as proof of the antiquity of the
Book of Mormon, however, plausible nineteenth-century sources need to be excluded
as the possible origin of the characteristic under study.

Hoskisson’s study provides us with a useful methodological starting point.
In the specific context of Hebraisms, however, I do not want to use the word
necessary because the existence of Hebraism evidence is in no sense necessary
to the Book of Mormon being a translation from a Hebrew language original. Hebraisms
by definition are relics of overliteral translation; it is quite possible for
a translation into strong idiomatic English to betray no hint whatsoever of
its Hebrew origins. Further, rather than working with only two categories of
positive evidence of the Book of Mormon, I would like to propose a broader six-point
scale for evaluating purported evidence from Hebraisms, with 1 being the weakest
positive evidence and 6 being the strongest. The following is a summary of my
proposed weighting paradigm:

1. Ancient Near East (ANE) + Joseph Smith’s pre-Book of Mormon
This would be a case in which a parallel with the ancient Near East
also appears in Joseph’s writings prior to the dictation of the Book of Mormon
text. In this case, whatever the English source, we would know definitively
that the characteristic at issue was part of Joseph’s English style. This category
is largely theoretical in nature, since we have precious little in the way of
writings from Joseph prior to the Book of Mormon.

2. ANE + KJV (Specific). This would be a case in which a parallel exists with
the ancient Near East, but the precise wording also exists in the English of
the KJV. The relationship of the KJV to the Book of Mormon text is a big and
complicated issue concerning which more work needs to be done, but the presumption
is that Joseph Smith had pre-Book of Mormon access to the KJV and that
the KJV is therefore a possible English source for the Book of Mormon. Finley
gives four examples that would fit under this category in a table on p. 344.
Since the KJV wording does not precisely match the Book of Mormon wording in
these examples, I would characterize them as high 2s (or as a 2+).

3. ANE + KJV (General). This would be a case in which a parallel with the
ancient Near East exists, and that characteristic is also generally present
in the KJV, but with different wording. The KJV is a literal translation, so
it reflects Hebraisms in its English. To illustrate, while we have numerous
examples of the construct state in the Book of Mormon (such as “sword of Laban”
in lieu of “Laban’s sword”), such examples also generally exist in the KJV (such
as “children of Israel”). In each such case, the reader has a fundamental decision
to make: is it more likely that the Book of Mormon usage reflects a literal
translation from the plates, or did Joseph “absorb” this usage from the KJV
and make it his own in his Book of Mormon dictation? If one approaches the text
with the a priori assumption that it is a nineteenth-century composition, as
Finley does, then the latter alternative will always be selected. Conversely,
I am sure some Book of Mormon believers would always select the former alternative
by assumption. If one is truly open to either possibility in the case of any
given Hebraism (such as the “sword of Laban”), however, then the question is
not so simple. Some purported Hebraisms might go one way, and others another;
each must be evaluated on its own merits, often taking other considerations
into account, as we shall illustrate below. This is inherently a subjective
and individual judgment.

4. ANE + Joseph Smith’s post-Book of Mormon Writings. If the KJV is
a possible source tainting the validity of Book of Mormon Hebraisms, it
is also true that the Book of Mormon is a possible source for supposed Hebraisms
in Joseph’s post-Book of Mormon writings. Ashment selected the 1833 Book
of Commandments to use as a control text, and I would agree that this is probably
the best such text from Joseph’s writings available: it is in a scriptural style,
it was published (or at least prepared for publication) only a few years after
the appearance of the Book of Mormon, it is a decent-sized corpus, and it was
subject to less editing than the later Doctrine and Covenants. Nevertheless,
John Gee is absolutely correct when he points out that most of the Book of Commandments
was written after the Book of Mormon, and thus is tainted as a control text,
since Joseph’s later usage could just as easily have been influenced by his
intense work in preparing the Book of Mormon for publication as from the KJV
or other English sources.39 In my view, to deny this strong possibility is merely
to beg the question, to assume the truth of the proposition which one wishes
to demonstrate. I think it is worth looking at Joseph’s later writings for this
purpose, but the fact that they are post-Book of Mormon suggests that
this evidence should be assigned a lesser weight than evidence from the KJV,
which we know preexisted the Book of Mormon.40

5. ANE + Other English. This would be a case where a parallel exists with
the ancient Near East and is attested neither in the KJV nor in Joseph’s other
writings but is attested elsewhere in pre-1830 English. Evidence in this category
will vary in weight with the probability or improbability that Joseph could
have had access to the posited English source. For instance, in a couple of
places Finley alludes to rare, archaic English usages he found in the Oxford
English Dictionary.
Since these usages are attested in English, they belong
in category 5, but given the low probability of Joseph’s access to them, they
would count as being high on the 5 scale.

6. ANE Only. This would be a case where a parallel exists with the ancient
Near East and is otherwise unattested in pre-1830 English.

This weighting paradigm is subject to the following qualifications:

• It is tentative. The amount of pre-1830 literature written in the
English language is staggering. If we cannot find an English parallel to some
characteristic, that does not necessarily mean that one did not exist and that
it will not be found with more searching. Therefore, a category 6 Hebraism is
always at risk of becoming a category 5.

•The various categories are not necessarily equidistant from one another;
they simply reflect a relative probity.

•While this is a tool meant to assist us in evaluating posited Hebraisms,
the ultimate determination of whether a characteristic derives from the Hebrew
of the plates or from KJV usage remains very subjective.

•This paradigm in and of itself is not dispositive. In general, I
would view a 1 or 2 as weak evidence, a 5 or 6 as strong evidence, and a 3 or
4 as possible evidence that generally requires further evaluation based on other
factors. But it remains possible that a 1 or 2 reflects a genuine ancient Near
Eastern parallel, and conversely that a 5 or 6 does not. Further, as Hoskisson
noted, the elaborate chiasm at Alma 36, which would be necessary evidence in
Hoskisson’s scheme or analogous to a 3 in mine (since chiastic forms are attested
in the KJV), might well be more persuasive than some trifle that counts as sufficient
evidence in Hoskisson’s scheme or a 6 in mine.

Having articulated this paradigm, I would like to run through a brief example
of how to apply it. I have selected one case that Finley mentions but does not
discuss (p. 343): “Hearken, O ye house of Israel, and hear the words of
a prophet of the Lord” (Jacob 5:2). First, we must establish that the ancient
Near Eastern parallel exists. The Hebrew word for “word” is dabar. The
plural form would be debarim, and the plural construct, “words
of,” would be dibre. The plural construct with the first person singular
pronominal suffix would be debaray. This very literally means “words
of me,” which of course is not standard English; we would say “my words.”

The parallel thus being established, we can apply the paradigm. The specific
expression words of me does not appear in either Joseph’s pre–Book of
Mormon writing or the KJV. The Hebrew debaray does appear about fifty times
in the Old Testament, but it is always translated “my words.” Therefore, with
no specific KJV parallel, we must next ask if there is a general KJV parallel.
The form would be [noun] of [personal pronoun], used to show possession, where
normal English would be [possessive personal pronoun] + [noun]. While this construction
is quite rare in the KJV, I did find two examples, in the closing verses to
a couple of Paul’s epistles: “The salutation by the hand of me Paul” (Colossians
4:18) and “The salutation of me Paul” (1 Corinthians 16:21). The awkwardness
of the English is overcome in both places by the RSV, which renders the passages
as “I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand,” which is much better English.

I will also note that I did not find a comparable usage among Ashment’s listing
of examples from the Book of Commandments. Nevertheless, as this usage is attested
in the KJV, I would categorize it as a 3. For someone like Finley, this is all
that is needed to reject this example as sufficient proof of the antiquity of
the Book of Mormon. For someone like me, however, who is open to a conclusion
that any particular Book of Mormon idiom may be either a genuine Hebraism or
an adaptation of KJV usage, the inquiry continues. I am influenced by several
factors to consider this a legitimate Hebraism reflecting a translation from
a Hebrew source. First is the relative rarity and obscurity of the possible
KJV source. Second is the genuine awkwardness of the construction in English.
Third is the precision of the match between the English wording and the formation
of the Hebrew debaray. Fourth is the Book of Mormon context; these words appear
in a synonymous parallel structure, featuring an attested Hebrew formulaic word
pair (hearken//hear):41

Hearken, O ye house of Israel

and hear the words of me, a prophet of the Lord.

Indeed, this passage lends itself to an easy retroversion back into Hebrew:

shime’u beth Yisrael

weshime’u eth-debaray nabi’ YHWH.42

Such retroversions are of course highly speculative, but my point is simply
that I find this particular Hebraism more likely to be based on translation
than secondary KJV influence. Finley, of course, would disagree; that is why
making these kinds of judgments is ultimately a subjective endeavor.

The Book of Mormon reflects numerous occurrences of the formulaic word pair
heart//soul, as in 2 Nephi 4:17:

Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh;

my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.

This word pair also recurs a number of times in the English of the KJV, as
in Psalm 13:2:

How long shall I take counsel in my soul [nephesh]

having sorrow in my heart [lebab] daily?

I previously theorized that in at least some of the Book of Mormon recurrences
the word rendered “soul” may have been kabed, literally “liver,” rather
than nephesh. This usage is reflected several times in the Ras Shamra tablets,
as in UT,43 1 Aqht 34-35:

Pgt weeps in her heart [lb]

She sheds tears in the liver [kbd]

It is also reflected a number of times in the Old Testament (albeit in a way
that is hidden in the English of the KJV), such as in Psalm 16:9 KJV:

Therefore my heart [libbi] is glad,

and my glory [kebodi] rejoiceth

It is reasonably clear that the Masoretic Text kebodi was incorrectly pointed,
or voweled; it should be repointed as kebedi “my liver.” Although the
literal meaning of kabed is “liver,” as an internal organ used metaphorically
for the seat of feeling it would perhaps best be translated in English with
the word “soul,” as the RSV takes it in the Psalm 16:9 passage:

Therefore my heart is glad,

and my soul rejoices44

Hoskisson, working independently from me, also argued that some occurrences
of Book of Mormon soul may be a translation of Hebrew kabed “liver.” Hoskisson
notes that in Alma 5:9 we read “their souls did expand,” where the context suggests
a meaning such as “they became happy.” He further notes that soul is used with
the verb enlarge in Alma 32:28 and later in that chapter with the verb swell
(Alma 32:34). This is odd usage, since normally in English a soul does not “expand.”
If, however, “soul” here renders kabed “liver,” then this usage is right at
home in the ancient Near East, as demonstrated by another passage from the Ras
Shamra tablets at UT, Anath II:25-26:

Her liver [kbd] swells [gdd] with laughter

Her heart [lb] fills up with joy,

Anath’s liver exults.

This passage shows that a liver “swelling” was normal Ugaritic usage indicative
of joy.45

Hoskisson searched diligently for an English attestation of a soul “expanding,”
but he was unable to find one. He did find the phrase expand the soul in German,
however, so he concluded that this is necessary evidence only, not sufficient
evidence. I can appreciate his rigor, but I would look at this a little differently.
I would categorize this as a 6 on my scale. To me, the attestation in German
simply goes to the tentativeness of that categorization (perhaps we should designate
it a low 6 or a 6-). Since it would be years before Joseph would study any German,
a German occurrence does not work as a possible source for the Book of Mormon
idiom; only if and when the usage is found in English should we drop this evidence
from a 6 to a 5.

I mention these arguments about the presence of kabed “liver” in the Book
of Mormon to make a point about category 3 evidence. Where a Book of Mormon
Hebraism is generally attested in the KJV, that in and of itself does not reject
that Hebraism as evidence; it simply goes to the prima facie weighting of that
evidence. If one is open-minded about the possibility that the Book of Mormon
is an ancient text, the analysis should not stop there but should continue;
recall that Finley himself urged us to examine such putative parallels carefully.
The heart//soul word pair exists in the KJV, so its presence in the Book of
Mormon would qualify as category 3 evidence. If one wishes to reject that evidence,
however, the alternative should be considered: Joseph would have had to absorb
(whether consciously or subconsciously) the formulaic word pair phenomenon from
KJV English and reuse those word pairs as building blocks in different parallel
structures, just the way the prophets of Israel did—and all of this at least
a century before scholars would observe and begin to talk about the phenomenon
of repeating word pairs. Coupling this with other evidence, such as the distinctive
usage observed by Hoskisson, I think a persuasive (even compelling) case can
be made for the heart//soul word pair reflecting an authentic Hebrew usage.

I personally believe that the English of the KJV had some influence on Book
of Mormon language. I would therefore reject any notion that one can point to
a few strong examples of Hebraisms and conclude that all Book of Mormon Hebraisms
of necessity directly derive from a Hebrew translation. Conversely, however,
I would also reject any notion that one can point to a few weaker examples of
Hebraisms and draw the opposite conclusion across the board. In my view, every
purported Hebraism has to be examined carefully for probable authenticity, and
this not just by class. That is, one cannot study, say, a single cognate accusative
and conclude thereby that all cognate accusatives in the Book of Mormon are
either authentic or not, as the case may be. Finley’s approach is governed by
an all-or-none approach, black-or-white thinking, which seems to have been affected
by his inerrantist premises. I would reject such an all-or-none approach to
Book of Mormon Hebraisms. I believe our approach to the evidence should be appropriately
eclectic, and we must be open to the evidence, whichever way it points. If the
case has already been prejudged, then there is little point in proceeding, except
perhaps as some sort of rhetorical exercise.

Book of Mormon Names

Another indirect means of studying the language of the Book of Mormon is to
study its onomasticon, or list of names. In a few isolated cases, such as with
Bountiful, the names have been translated into English. In most cases, however,
the names have only been transliterated into English; such names therefore are
like fossilized little remnants of the original Book of Mormon languages. For
instance, at the beginning of the Book of Mormon account we encounter a family
and its patriarch, whose name is transliterated in the text as Lehi, a name
which is easily recognizable as the Hebrew word meaning “jaw.”

For Finley, the dominant theme of his metals section was the lack of long,
scriptural parallels to the brass plates, and the dominant theme of his Hebraisms
section was the attestation of Hebraisms in the KJV. The central argument of
his names section appears to be that, lacking the original text and dealing
with inherent ambiguities in how one transliterates from Hebrew into English,
we cannot be certain that the ancient parallels put forward for Book of Mormon
names really match with precision their Book of Mormon counterparts. This premise
is true, of course, but we must remember that we are working with translation
literature. On the other hand, the converse is also true, that Finley cannot
be certain that the ancient examples do not match their Book of Mormon counterparts.
When dealing with ancient attestations of Book of Mormon names, the appropriate
standard is not one of absolute demonstration, but of plausibility.

Since Finley is in large measure responding to a specific study of Book of
Mormon names46 and since two of the authors of that study have prepared their
own review of Finley’s chapter,47 I will make only a couple of brief comments.
First, Finley objects to the argument made by Latter-day Saint scholars that
the -ihah element of a number of Book of Mormon names is a reflection of the
-yahu (or -yah) theophoric element that was common in preexilic Jerusalem. For
instance, the name of Lehi’s contemporary Jeremiah would be more accurately
transliterated as Yiremeyah or Yirmeyahu, just as the name of Isaiah would be
more accurately rendered Yesha’yahu. And yet Finley has no difficulty recognizing
the KJV transliteration of the -yahu or -yah element with -iah. Book of Mormon
-ihah works very well as an alternate transliteration of that theophoric element.
Should we demand modern scientific precision (perhaps even complete with diacritics)
in the lettering of transliterations in the Book of Mormon? Given the extraordinary
nature of the translation, I for one would not. If the suffix -yahu (or -yah)
can acceptably be transliterated as -iah, I do not see why it could not also
be transliterated as -ihah. Further, Finley describes how the -yahu ending underwent
different pronunciation shifts in different locations over time;48 does he then
imagine that the language of the Nephites was static and frozen in its late
seventh century B.C. origins, impervious to linguistic development?

The second comment I wish to make has to do with Finley’s discussion of the
name Alma. Finley makes three points concerning this name: (1) he begins
with his common theme that we cannot know for certain whether the initial a
in Alma represents the Hebrew ayin or aleph; (2) he resurrects the old
notion that Joseph derived the name from the Latin phrase alma mater (“fostering
mother”) and was simply ignorant that alma would be a feminine term and therefore
inappropriate for a man’s name; and (3) he suggests that Joseph may have
picked up the word from a preacher’s sermon on Isaiah 7:14, where KJV “virgin”
is a rendering of the Hebrew word ‘almah.49

Finley is more than welcome to make the hoary alma mater argument, and I wish
him luck with it. Either that argument or the notion that Joseph picked up Hebrew
‘almah from a preacher’s sermon will work only if we can posit that he was
ignorant of the feminine form of the name. It seems to me that such ignorance
is a difficult position to maintain in the case of alma mater because the Latin
had entered English as a common enough woman’s given name, Alma, and because
in the case of Hebrew ‘almah any preacher who mentioned that Hebrew word
surely would have done so in the midst of commenting on the virginity of the
young woman of Isaiah 7:14. Indeed, a critic must exercise some caution in pressing
such arguments, for if Joseph begins to look too ignorant, that begins to interfere
with the picture demanded by the environmental theory of Book of Mormon origins,
which requires a young man of some intelligence and talent to be able to author
the book in the first place.

Finley’s comments on the Hebrew here suggest to me that he must have been
unfamiliar with Paul Hoskisson’s article on the subject.50 Hoskisson notes that
the initial letter of the name Alma as given in the Bar Kochba letters is an
aleph but that the name probably derives from the root *’LM, with its initial
ayin. As Hoskisson observes, “In the final centuries B.C. and the first centuries
A.D., in the spoken language among the Jews the consonants aleph and ayin began
to run together. As a result the letters representing those sounds tended to
become interchangeable as well.”51 The root *’LM conveys the basic sense
of one who has come to sexual maturity; a segholate noun derived from this root,
‘elem, meaning “young man, youth, lad,” occurs a couple of times
in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 17:56 and 20:22). The Hebrew word Finley
mentions from Isaiah 7:14, ‘almah, is simply the feminine form of this noun
and means “young woman.” Hoskisson theorizes that Alma is a hypocoristic (or
shortened) form from the full theophoric form of the name. To spell this out
a little more specifically than Hoskisson did in his article:

Verbal root *’LM [conveys the basic concept of having reached sexual maturity]

Noun (segholate) ‘elem [lad]

Plene theophoric form ‘Almi’el [lad of El]

Hypocoristic form ‘Alma’ [lad of El (hypocoristic)]

When the suffix is added to the segholate noun, the first vowel reverts to
its original a and the second drops out, as can be seen in an analogous segholate
noun used in a theophoric form: from melek “king” to the name Malkiel, “El is
my king.” The aleph at the end of the name Alma is a trace vowel deriving from
the presumed ‘el (or yahu or yah) of the theophoric element. In the Bar Kochba
letters the name appears twice, with slightly different spellings: ‘lm’
and ‘lmh. The final he’ of the second example is clearly not a feminine
ending; rather, it appears to be a variant mater to the aleph, each of which
reflects the presence of an a vowel.

What I find interesting here is Finley’s suggestion that the Book of Mormon
name Alma might have had an initial ayin rather than aleph, for that is Hoskisson’s
very argument; further, Finley mentions Hebrew ‘almah, which is indeed probably
a related form to the name Alma. So in his haste to throw water on the significance
of the attestation of Alma as a masculine name in the Bar Kochba letters, Finley
ends up actually underscoring the strength of Hoskisson’s argument.52

Hoskisson identified the name Alma as an example of sufficient evidence as
he defined it.53 Rather than a 6 in my scheme, however, I would categorize it
as a 5, not because of alma mater or any such argument, but because the name
Alma, though rare, is attested as a male given name in New England and elsewhere
prior to the appearance of the Book of Mormon, as the following examples show:54

Alma Smith

Gender: M

Christening: 27 May 1798, First Church of Christ, Northampton, Hampshire,

Alma Smith

Gender: M

Birth: 1799, Danby, Rutland, Vermont

Alma Smith

Gender: M

Birth: About 1811, Providence, Rhode Island

Alma A. Smith

Gender: M

Birth: 1823, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Although it is not a 6, I am tremendously impressed by the post-Book
of Mormon appearance of Alma as a male Semitic name, and I personally view it
in that light.


Finley next addresses the geography of 1 Nephi. I frankly found his argument
here to be rather odd. The conventional understanding of Latter-day Saints is
that Lehi and his family traveled from Jerusalem south “into the wilderness,”
veering to the east of the Gulf of Aqaba, heading south-southeast along or near
the Frankincense Trail and the eastern shores of the Red Sea, turning eastward
at or shortly after Nahom, and then alighting at Bountiful on the coast of the
Arabian Sea, from which they departed by boat. Finley notes that the geographic
indications in the text are somewhat sketchy, and he correctly observes that
the “south south-east” direction indication only applies once the family reaches
the Red Sea and does not necessarily convey their direction of travel as they
leave Jerusalem. So Finley would have the family leave the city veering west
south-west and coming to the eastern shore of the Gulf of Suez in the Sinai
peninsula, so that as they travel “south south-east” they are doing so along
the Gulf of Suez in the western Sinai rather than along the Red Sea in Arabia.

What I found odd about Finley’s argument is that he makes no attempt to describe
his alternate route as an implausibility that would argue against a possible
historical basis to the Book of Mormon account. Indeed, as a believing Christian
he could scarcely do so without also casting serious doubt on the historicity
of much of the material in the biblical book of Numbers. So why does he want
to place the family in the Sinai rather than in Arabia if that alternate scenario
would not advance his cause? Here I believe the cynicism of his argument becomes
apparent, as he is aware that Latter-day Saint scholars have painted a highly
plausible picture of the journey of Lehi and his family through Arabia to the
Sea, and so he wants to place them in a different location.

The implausibility of Finley’s scenario is made manifest simply by looking
at a map and considering the “eastern turn.” If I am understanding his argument
correctly, he would have Lehi and company go far out of their way to the west,
go down the eastern shore of the Gulf of Suez in the western Sinai, then turn
back to the east, with their Bountiful located on the western shore of the Gulf
of Aqaba in the eastern Sinai. Notice that Finley has the group going almost
in a full circle. Why would they go so far out of their way when they could
simply have gone down the western side of the Gulf of Aqaba to get to the same
spot? Finley realizes this is a glaring weakness in his proposal and therefore
suggests that perhaps the Lehites wanted to reenact a portion of the exodus.
It is certainly true that a profound exodus symbolism is present in the story,
but that symbolism is typological, not literal. Their “Egypt” was the wicked
Jerusalem that was on the verge of falling to Babylon; their Canaanite “promised
land” was the New World to which they were heading. Yes, they endured a period
of “wandering in the wilderness,” but this part of the typology did not literally
have to be in the Sinai.

To make his case, Finley tries to portray the “three days in the wilderness”
of 1 Nephi 2:6 as describing the journey from Jerusalem, rather than three
days of travel after they had arrived at the Red Sea, as Eugene England takes
it. I think Finley is almost certainly wrong. To appreciate why England’s reading
is correct, we need to read the verse in context with the previous verse:

And he came down by the borders near the shore of the Red Sea; and he traveled
in the wilderness in the borders which are nearer the Red Sea; and he did travel
in the wilderness with his family which consisted of my mother, Sariah, and
my elder brothers, who were Laman, Lemuel, and Sam.

And it came to pass that when he had traveled three days in the wilderness,
he pitched his tent in a valley by the side of a river of water. (1 Nephi

It is true that Lehi and his family went from Jerusalem into the “wilderness,”
and the pluperfect “had” of verse 6 could conceivably refer to their initial
travel from the city. I find this to be a highly doubtful reading, however.
In verse 5 they have already arrived at the Red Sea, and they travel “in the
wilderness” near the Red Sea. “In the wilderness” is repeated twice in verse
5, both to inform us that the wilderness was near the Red Sea and to state that
Lehi was traveling with his family there. It seems quite clear to me, therefore,
that the three days of travel “in the wilderness” of verse 6 refers to the same
wilderness as has just been emphasized in the preceding verse, that which is
near the Red Sea.

Finley’s back-up argument is that even if Lehi and his family traveled in
Arabia, there is nothing about the geography of that region that Joseph could
not have known. Finley’s discussion of this topic is seriously flawed because
he displays no knowledge of recent research on the subject. In particular, he
discusses Nahom without being aware of two finely carved incense altars that
were discovered by a German archaeological team in ancient Marib, near Jebel
(“Mount”) Nihm in Yemen. One of these altars has been dated to the seventh or
sixth century B.C., making it roughly contemporaneous with the presence of Lehi
and his group. This altar contains an inscription indicating that it was dedicated
by a certain man named Bi’athar of the tribe of Nihm. The now firmly attested
presence of the Semitic root *NHM in the right place and at the right time is
dramatic new evidence for the Book of Mormon account. Since knowledge of this
discovery is widespread in Latter-day Saint scholarly circles and even in popular
venues like Internet message boards,55 Finley’s editors failed him in not apprising
him of it. As a result, Finley’s entire discussion of Nahom is simply wrong,
and it is instructive to see how very much he gets wrong when we actually have
a way to verify his arguments.56 If Finley really wants to pursue this line
of reasoning, he is going to have to start over in another venue, as his discussion
in this volume is fatally flawed.

Shepherd on Pseudotranslation

Let us now turn to the other contribution in The New Mormon Challenge relating
to the Book of Mormon, David J. Shepherd’s chapter entitled “Rendering Fiction:
Translation, Pseudotranslation, and the Book of Mormon” (pp. 367-95).
Between the two chapters under review, I preferred this one; indeed, together
with the essay by Craig J. Hazen, “The Apologetic Impulse in Early Mormonism:
The Historical Roots of the New Mormon Challenge” (pp. 31-57), I
thought Shepherd’s chapter was one of the strongest contributions to the
book. Whereas Finley’s approach struck me as more of a hasty reaction, with
his dismissing every possible evidence favoring the Latter-day Saint position,
I found Shepherd’s effort a more thoughtful, more legitimate attempt to create
meaningful dialogue.

Shepherd begins his chapter with a lucid discussion of various translation
phenomena, describing different senses in which the word translation might be
used. An interlingual translation is translation in the sense we usually think
of it, conveying thoughts from one language directly into another. An indirect
translation is a translation that does not come directly from the original source
but from some intermediate language. An example of an indirect translation would
be an English rendering of the Vulgate, which is in turn a Latin rendering of
the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible. A translation of, say, Genesis directly
from Hebrew to English would be interlingual; a translation of Genesis from
Hebrew into Latin, and then from Latin into English, would be indirect. An intralingual
translation is a rendering of a text in the same language as the source—what
we might otherwise call a paraphrase. For example, a couple of intralingual
translations of the Book of Mormon itself have been made, whose purpose is to
restrict the lexicon and simplify the syntax of the English for the benefit
of those with learning disabilities.57 The final category Shepherd mentions
is pseudotranslation, which would be a work purporting to be a translation from
another language, but which really is not. An example of a pseudotranslation
would be the Living Bible. Originally, its publishers made no effort to conceal
the fact that the Living Bible is a paraphrase from an English rendering of
the Bible rather than an independent translation from the original languages.
As such, the Living Bible was an intralingual translation, and perhaps also
in some sense an indirect translation, since it was paraphrasing a text that
was itself a translation. Over time, however, the publishers began to try to
conceal the nature of the text and put it forward as if it were a genuine translation
from the biblical languages. To the extent this claim is made and accepted,
the text is a pseudotranslation or “fictitious” translation.

How does one go about differentiating a pseudotranslation from a genuine one?
Such differentiation is not always possible. One might look to external evidence.
One type of such evidence would be a confession of the author, which Shepherd
illustrates with an example. Another might be the appearance of a source text.
As Shepherd explains, a source text can cut either way. For instance, Jerome
claimed to have translated the Vulgate version of Tobit from an Aramaic original,
but for a long, long time no such original was known, and the text was therefore
believed by many to have been originally composed in Greek. With the appearance
of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now have Semitic (Hebrew and Aramaic) texts of Tobit
that make it clear that the Greek text is itself a translation, not an original
composition. The appearance of a source text can therefore work to verify the
bona fides of a translation. Conversely, if a source text in the same language
as the purported translation appears, and if dependence on the source can be
demonstrated, then it can be concluded that the purported translation is not
truly a translation from another language.

Since external evidence will often be lacking, one might also look to internal
evidence, meaning clues within the text itself as to its own likely origins.
A prominent type of such evidence involves the search for anachronistic concepts
or ideas. Shepherd appropriately cautions, however, that our knowledge of the
ancient world is fragmentary at best, and that such knowledge must always be
open to revision in light of new discoveries. Ultimately, distinguishing between
genuine translation and pseudotranslation hinges on whether a linguistic transfer
from one language to another has taken place and on how this transaction has
been represented.

Shepherd then begins to address the question of whether the Book of Mormon
is a pseudotranslation. He notes that from the beginning of its existence
it has been dogged by accusations of pseudotranslation and fraudulent composition
(albeit not necessarily in those terms), which is certainly true. Shepherd writes
a little about various attempts to paint the Book of Mormon as a pseudotranslation
based on internal evidence. He freely acknowledges, however, the “astonishing”
effort on the part of Latter-day Saint scholars to counter this type of evidence
and portray the Book of Mormon as in fact a genuine translation. As he notes,
“it seems unlikely that early critics could have imagined the volume of research
that Mormons have, for example, recently devoted to squaring the cultural picture
portrayed in the Book of Mormon with that revealed by Mesoamerican archaeology
and anthropology” (pp. 383-84).

As an example of such internal evidence, Shepherd points to the question of
whether the metallurgy apparently represented in the Book of Mormon is compatible
with the Mesoamerican archaeological record. As Shepherd points out, John Sorenson’s
response to this issue has been to emphasize the incomplete and contingent nature
of the archaeological record. Shepherd quotes Sorenson as writing: “Be a little
more patient. Recognize the selectivity of the ‘archaeological record.’
Only a fraction of the total record has been, or likely ever will be, dug up”
(p. 502 n. 61). Compare this statement from Sorenson with the following

For those who find such newspaper reports [describing a lack of evidence for
the biblical exodus] disturbing, Hoffmeier and Kitchen urge patience. “The
biblical record, when you give it a fair test, fits its world and the world
fits it,” says Kitchen. “When scholars say such things as ‘We have no
evidence,’ that merely means we do not know. Negative evidence is no evidence.
It only takes one fool with a spade to dig up a new inscription and, whoosh!,
that ‘no evidence’ disappears. I’m just amazed over the 40 years I’ve
been in this business how we keep blundering into things you didn’t expect that
tie in with the Scriptures. If something doesn’t seem to fit, the answer is
to wait and see, not out of cowardice, not out of escapism, but just to see
what happens when you have fuller evidence.”58

This paragraph concludes an article in Christianity Today responding to claims
of a lack of evidence for the biblical exodus. Its similarity to the statement
Shepherd quotes from Sorenson is palpable. This illustrates that a theistic
critic of the Book of Mormon has to tread very carefully when it comes to that
book, for his own arguments could easily be turned against that which he himself
regards as scripture. Although Shepherd finds Sorenson’s defense tenuous at
best, to his credit he does recognize that arguments based on internal evidence
“on the basis of anachronism will always be susceptible to counterarguments
that legitimately recognize our incomplete knowledge of the past” (p. 384).

Ultimately, the distinction between genuine and pseudotranslation is
largely a linguistic matter. Shepherd acknowledges the evidence that has been
put forward for Book of Mormon Hebraisms. Like Finley, he too observes that
many such Hebraisms occur in the KJV, so he finds the argument from Hebraism
evidence “less than compelling,” but he also acknowledges that “it is impossible
to decide with complete certainty whether the Hebraized English undeniably present
in the Book of Mormon reflects reliance on existing traditions of Hebraized
English (e.g., AV [= KJV]) or an actual Hebrew text” (p. 385).

If internal evidence will not settle the matter definitively, what about the
possible appearance of a source text? Shepherd rightly notes that the gold plates
are not available, and all sides can agree that they will not be forthcoming
—believers because the plates have been returned to the care of Moroni and
critics because they never existed in the first place (p. 385).59 Several
source texts have been suggested over the years. As Shepherd explains, the dominant
critical theory of Book of Mormon origins throughout the nineteenth century
was the notion that the real source for the book was a manuscript written by
Solomon Spaulding (p. 386). Remarkably, even today that theory continues
to have its few adherents, but Shepherd intelligently dismisses it. Shepherd
also discusses Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews (pp. 386-87). Again,
I thought his discussion of this as a possible source text was intelligently
handled. While he no doubt grants more plausibility to this than I do, he acknowledges
that the parallels are a “suggestive but shaky” piece of external evidence for
a source text of the Book of Mormon. Even if Joseph drew some elements from
that source, Shepherd rightly recognizes that existing parallels could not begin
to explain the English text of the Book of Mormon as a whole.

This discussion inexorably leads to the real substance of Shepherd’s
paper, which is to point to the KJV Bible as a source text for the Book of Mormon.
In particular, Shepherd focuses on the book of Isaiah, appropriately so because
of its prominence in the Book of Mormon text. Shepherd briefly mentions variants
in the Book of Mormon from Isaiah KJV and references David P. Wright’s article
on the subject60 to suggest that the variants do not reflect a transference
from a Hebrew language source but rather are secondary developments from the
English KJV. As an example, Shepherd notes that the Book of Mormon includes
the conjunction and at a number of places where it is not present in the Masoretic
Text of Hebrew Isaiah, but where it is present in the Great Isaiah Scroll, the
Septuagint, the Syriac Peshitta, or other ancient versions. He argues that the
addition, substitution, or omission of conjunctions is often necessary to transform
biblical Hebrew into acceptable, idiomatic versions in other languages such
as Greek or Syriac, as well as English, for that matter. The same cannot be
said for the Great Isaiah Scroll, it is true, since it too is written in Hebrew,
but Shepherd heavily discounts the value of that scroll as a witness to the
text of Isaiah. Shepherd therefore concludes that “the parallels are simply
a function of a partial but explicable overlap in the conjunctional concerns
of Joseph Smith and an anonymous Hebrew scribe” (p. 388).

While one might possibly reach this conclusion, I sense a couple of problems
here. First, I object to the presumption that we can resolve these conjunctional
modifications on a global basis. Each change has to be evaluated individually
and considered on its own merits. On a related note, I would further object
to the easy rejection of the Great Isaiah Scroll as a witness to the text. I
do of course agree that we should not simply roll over and accept its readings
simply because of its relatively ancient date and fortunate preservation, but
labeling it “an inferior, late, and popular version of Isaiah, modified in light
of a Hebrew-Aramaic hybrid” (p. 388) in no way excuses us from considering
its readings seriously as possible witnesses to the text in any individual instance.
If the Great Isaiah Scroll is inferior, late,61 or popular, that must be demonstrated
in each individual case and cannot be assumed on a universal basis throughout
the text. Shepherd seems to be encouraging a massive, even shocking application
of the bad-witness fallacy62 to what should be an important possible witness
to the text of Isaiah. A fundamental principle of good textual criticism is
eclecticism, and each reading must be examined on its own merits.

Second, Shepherd seems to envision only two possibilities: either a Book of
Mormon variant reflects the original text of Isaiah or it is necessarily an
intralingual adjustment to the KJV English made by Joseph. But other possibilities
exist. For instance, the Book of Mormon Isaiah was not the original text but
rather a developed version that had undergone a textual transmission from the
time of Isaiah no less than other copies of that book. Therefore, if other Hebrew
copies and ancient versions of Isaiah reflected conjunctional modification from
the original, it may well be that the Book of Mormon version did as well, and
for similar reasons.

Shepherd goes on to point out that the Book of Mormon version of Isaiah passages
is verbatim the same as the KJV for long stretches; variations often center
around italicized passages in the KJV; and variations sometimes appear to be
based more on polysemy in the English text rather than on anything that is going
on in the Hebrew. He then comes to the substantive point he really wishes to
make and which forms the centerpiece of his article. Some Latter-day Saint scholars
have suggested, he says, that the Book of Mormon only followed the KJV when
it adequately represented the Hebrew; where the KJV diverges from a proper understanding
of the Hebrew, however, variants were often introduced into the text. Shepherd
then spends several pages demonstrating that translation errors do exist in
the KJV of Isaiah, in passages that were quoted in the Book of Mormon without
revision. Inasmuch as the KJV would appear to be the source for these passages
and since the Book of Mormon is portrayed as a translation from an ancient language,
the Book of Mormon—at least in relation to the Isaiah passages—is a pseudotranslation
as defined by Shepherd. He then subtly suggests that we can extrapolate from
this conclusion with respect to the Isaiah material a similar conclusion with
respect to the book as a whole.

I agree with Shepherd that translation errors appear in the KJV and that some
of these are reflected in the Book of Mormon. For example, Isaiah 2:4 KJV and
2 Nephi 12:4 agree in reading in part:

And he shall judge among the nations

and shall rebuke [hokiach] many people.

Shepherd points out that while the Hebrew verb hokiach does appear with the
sense of “rebuke, reprove, chide” elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible (such as at
Proverbs 9:7-8; 15:12; and 19:25), modern scholars agree that because
of the parallelism both here and at Isaiah 11:3 in this passage the verb means
“to decide, judge.” Modern translations therefore render it “settle disputes”
(NIV), “render decisions” (NASB), or “arbitrate” (NRSV). Donald Parry, a conservative
Latter-day Saint scholar, renders it thus:

Thus he will judge among the nations,

And he will settle the case for many people.63

Parry would also agree with some, though not all, of Shepherd’s other examples.
So where Isaiah 3:2-3 KJV and 2 Nephi 13:2-3 render the terms
qosem and nebon lachash as “the prudent”
and “eloquent orator,” respectively, these terms in reality should be rendered
something like “diviner” and “expert enchanter,” respectively, which is indeed
the way Parry renders them.64 At Isaiah 3:24 KJV and 2 Nephi 13:24, the
word niqpah is rendered as “a rent” (i.e., a tear), but in reality the
word should be rendered “a rope,” which is again the way Parry renders the word.65
Although we could multiply examples, this should be sufficient to make the point.

Further, I would agree with Shepherd that some of the introduced variants
in the Book of Mormon seem to cluster around italicized words in the KJV and
also that some variants seem to depend more on polysemy in English than on anything
in the Hebrew text. I think it is correct to say that elements of intralingual
translation occur in some Book of Mormon Isaiah passages.

Latter-day Saint scholars of course do not all agree among themselves on these
matters, and they sometimes take different views concerning just what the Book
of Mormon represents. Royal Skousen introduced these issues by writing about
various evidences for “tight” versus “loose” control over the translation.66
In other words, he explores to what extent the translation is direct and literal,
as opposed to a paraphrase or restatement in Joseph’s own words of ideas that
came into his mind during the translation process. Suggestive of a “tight” control
over the language of the translation are (1) a number of witness statements
that suggest Joseph would put his face in a hat to exclude outside light and
then would see the wording of the translation, given a sentence at a time as
he dictated it; (2) evidence that proper names were not just pronounced
but actually spelled out; and (3) Semitic textual evidence such as Hebraisms,
names, or structural elements (such as chiasmus). Suggestive of a “loose” control
are (1) the poor grammar of the English text as it was first dictated;
(2) the explanation of Doctrine and Covenants 9:8 that Joseph was to “study
it out in his mind” and then ask the Lord if it were right; (3) the possibility
that Joseph used a King James Version in the production of the text (which bears
directly on our issue and to which we shall return); and (4) the reality
that Joseph permitted and even participated in the editing of the text. Skousen
made it clear that he preferred a tight control model of the translation. My
own approach is to apply the eclecticism of a textual critic to these categories.
I acknowledge these various types of evidence spelled out by Skousen, and so
I simply do not prejudge the case. I try to keep an open mind about whether
a given passage might be on the tighter or looser end of the spectrum. I accept
various types of Semitic textual evidence, which does point to tight control,
but I also believe that Joseph’s role in the translation involved more than
simply reading the English text from a divine teleprompter. Most of the Book
of Mormon is a redacted text, and if we read very carefully we can sometimes
discern the hand of the redactor (Mormon) in the text. But the Book of Mormon
is also a translated text, and I believe that at times we can also discern the
hand of the translator. Since I accept Joseph as a prophet in his own right,
I see the incorporation of occasional interpretations, explanations, and commentary
on the ancient text by the modern prophet as a positive characteristic of the
text as we have it.67

I think Shepherd, without realizing it, gives the model for how we should
look at the Book of Mormon in general as translation literature. In his conclusion
he states: “Although it will be faint praise indeed for defenders of Smith’s
‘translation’ work, it seems clear to the present author that the Book
of Mormon is the most complex, ambitious, and influential pseudotranslation
that the world has ever seen or is, indeed, ever likely to see” (p. 395).
Now, look again at some explanatory text Shepherd wrote near the beginning of
his essay:

One example of such complexity [i.e., between the distinctions “author” and
“translator” or “original composition” and “translation”] has been identified
by Rita Copeland in the Ovide Moralise, medieval texts in which translation
and commentary/original composition are freely interspersed without any demarcation
or delineation between them to alert the reader. Early Bible translation shows
the same blurring of distinctions: Jewish Aramaic translations or “targums”
often integrate supplementary material drawn from earlier traditions seamlessly
into their usually quite literal renderings of the Hebrew Bible. (p. 369)

I do not view the Book of Mormon as a pseudotranslation because, unlike Shepherd,
I believe there has been a linguistic transfer from the record of the plates.
But it does not necessarily follow that every word of the Book of Mormon is
a translation in precisely the sense of, say, Richmond Lattimore’s translation
of Homer’s Odyssey into English. I like the analogy of the Targums, which are
a mixture of interlingual translation and explanatory materials and commentary,
often interwoven in such a way that without access to the original source text
it would be quite difficult to tell precisely where the translation stopped
and the explanatory comments began. I would therefore proffer an addition to
the lexicon; I would characterize the Book of Mormon not as a pseudotranslation,
but as a complex translation, much like a Targum.

Returning to the use of Isaiah KJV in the Book of Mormon, I see at least three
issues.68 First, why does the Book of Mormon reproduce long stretches of Isaiah
KJV rather than presenting a completely fresh translation of whatever was on
the plates? I think the key to understanding this is to be found in Doctrine
and Covenants 128:18. There Joseph has just quoted Malachi 4:5-6 KJV verbatim,
and he then says, “I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but
it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands.” Similarly, quotation
of the KJV in the Book of Mormon is no guarantee that such KJV text is without
error or is a precise match to what was on the plates, only that it is “sufficiently
plain” to communicate the message to be conveyed. We live in an era when you
can walk into a bookstore and find the Bible printed in dozens of translations,
but in Joseph Smith’s era the Bible and the KJV were virtually synonymous. It
made sense to present biblical quotations in the language of the commonly accepted
version, the KJV. Therefore, much of the Isaiah material in the Book of Mormon
may be a sufficiently close representation of the original as opposed to a new
and specific translation of that material.

Second, how was this use of the KJV mechanically accomplished? The short answer
is that we do not know. The witness statements indicate that Joseph had no books
present, and since he dictated with his face covered to exclude light, it is
difficult to see how Joseph could simultaneously be reading from a printed KJV.
Perhaps the witness statements are from different periods in the translation;
most of the Isaiah quotation would have come near the end of the translation
sequence, in 2 Nephi (assuming the priority of Mosiah). Maybe Joseph memorized
the text; while this is possible, to memorize so many chapters of Isaiah KJV
near verbatim would be a prodigious feat indeed. Maybe the Lord or an angel
dictated the text to Joseph, as suggested in the “divine teleprompter” theory.69
All we can be certain of is that, no matter how it was done, the KJV was used
as the basic source for the Isaiah passages, since the characteristics of the
Book of Mormon text make such reliance quite clear.

Third, what are we to make of the variants from Isaiah KJV in the Book of
Mormon? I address this issue in this number of the Review.70 Contra Shepherd,
I do believe that some of the variants reflect textual restorations or alternate
translations and therefore are interlingual in nature. Nevertheless, I also
believe that some of the variants address issues present in the KJV English
and therefore are intralingual in nature. I see the variants as working in a
variety of ways to accomplish a number of different things.

As I have already indicated, I would reject the label of pseudotranslation
for the Book of Mormon as a whole; I would prefer the term complex translation,
which reflects my belief that a linguistic transfer has taken place but also
my openness to viewing Joseph Smith as an active participant in the translation
process rather than as a mere passive conduit for divinely dictated words. With
respect to the Isaiah passages in particular, I do not think that anyone is
operating under the illusion that Joseph specifically translated the words on
the plates and just happened to reproduce the English of the KJV. The KJV is
an obvious source for these sections, one we make no effort to hide, nor could
we hide it even if we were so inclined. The KJV was used as a readily available,
accepted, and sufficiently close representation of the actual Isaiah text that
was on the plates, which may have varied at points from the simple Isaiah KJV
presentation. So the issue really boils down to whether the plates existed and
whether they in fact contained Isaianic material. At this point, the reader
will likely return to his or her a priori assumptions, some to the position
that the plates existed and others to the position that they did not.

Is there any sense in which the Book of Mormon could be called a pseudotranslation?
Some elements of pseudotranslation as defined by Shepherd may be present. I
would nevertheless object to the use of the term for the following reasons.
First, I think the term would be inappropriately applied to isolated elements
only, as opposed to a translation as a whole. If someone misunderstood a Targum
to be in toto a tight, literal rendering of its source, that would not change
the fact that a fundamental interlingual transfer had indeed taken place. Second,
the term translation itself (derived from Latin transferre, “to carry across”)
as used with respect to Joseph’s revealed scriptures is—or at least should
be—already understood in a very broad sense. Third, unlike interlingual, indirect,
and intralingual translation, the notion of pseudotranslation is not an objective
status that inheres in the text itself but is rather a subjective status that
depends entirely on the knowledge and understanding or lack thereof of a particular
reader. If I understand portions of the Isaiah KJV to be representational in
nature, if I understand some of the Isaiah variants to be intralingual translations,
if I acknowledge the presence of a midrashic element in the text, and if my
understanding is correct, then as far as I am concerned the text contains no
pseudotranslation whatsoever. And I am unwilling to use the term vis-a-vis
the way others understand the text because that presumes that my understanding
is necessarily correct, whereas in fact I might be the one who is wrong. Fourth,
it is well known that the prefix pseudo- means “false,” and given the historic
polemical abuse of such terms as cult and Christian I am quite confident that
it would not be long before a carefully defined scholar’s term meant to describe
the incorrect assumptions of some readers concerning the nature of certain portions
of the text were twisted into a blatant assertion that the text itself is simply
“false.” For all of these reasons, I reject the proposed application of the
term pseudotranslation to the Book of Mormon in favor of my proposed alternative,
complex translation.

Even though ultimately I disagree with Shepherd’s thesis, I appreciated his
chapter. I found it to be both thoughtful and sensitively written, and it caused
me to think more deeply about the nature of one of our foundational volumes
of scripture.


    I wish to thank John A. Tvedtnes and John Gee for their helpful comments on a

  1. Craig L. Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and
    an Evangelical in Conversation
    (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1997).

  2. Matthew R. Connelly, Craig L. Blomberg, Stephen E. Robinson, and BYU Studies
    Staff, “Sizing Up the Divide: Reviews and Replies,” BYU Studies 38/3
    (1999): 163-90. The notes to this roundtable identify numerous other reviews,
    mostly from evangelical sources. See also a review by Eugene England, “The
    Good News— and the Bad,” BYU Studies 38/3 (1999): 191-201.

  3. FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999). The contributions to this volume included
    reviews by Paul L. Owen and Carl A. Mosser, 1-102; Blake T. Ostler, 103-77;
    and William J. Hamblin and Daniel C. Peterson, 178-209, as well as the following
    substantive articles: Daniel W. Graham and James L. Siebach, “Philosophy
    and Early Christianity,” 210-20; David L. Paulsen and R. Dennis Potter,
    “How Deep the Chasm? A Reply to Owen and Mosser’s Review,” 221-64;
    and Roger D. Cook, “How Deep the Platonism? A Review of Owen and Mosser’s
    Appendix: Hellenism, Greek Philosophy, and the Creedal ‘Straightjacket’
    of Christian Orthodoxy,” 265-99, with an afterword by the editor,
    Daniel C. Peterson, 300-328.

  4. Paul L. Owen and Carl A. Mosser, “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics and
    Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?” Trinity
    n.s., 19/2 (1998): 179-205.

  5. Francis J. Beckwith has coauthored with Stephen E. Parrish two previous books
    dealing with Mormonism: The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis (Lewiston,
    N.Y.: Mellen, 1991), reviewed by Blake T. Ostler in FARMS Review of Books 8/2
    (1996): 99-146, and See the Gods Fall: Four Rivals to Christianity (Joplin,
    Mo.: College Press, 1997), reviewed by James McLachlan, “Knocking Over Straw
    Gods,” FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 119-57.

  6. This particular formulation derives from Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate
    (1987 ed.), s.v. “Christian,” which just happens to
    be the dictionary on my office shelf.

  7. Blomberg, “Sizing Up the Divide: Reviews and Replies: III. Reply by Craig
    L. Blomberg,” BYU Studies 38/3 (1999): 176-83 at 180.

  8. I suspect the reason that evangelicals are generally unwilling to articulate
    with precision their private definitions of the word is that at least some of
    such definitions likely would have the effect, whether intended or not, of excluding
    Catholics and the Orthodox, which neutral observers would rightly see as patently
    absurd. Indeed, some evangelicals expressly deny that Catholics are Christian.
    See Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, Offenders for a Word: How Anti-Mormons
    Play Word Games to Attack the Latter-day Saints
    (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 183-84.

  9. Carl Mosser, in his chapter “And the Saints Go Marching On: The New Mormon
    Challenge for World Missions, Apologetics and Theology,” in The New Mormon
    413 n. 26, and 66, acknowledges that Latter-day Saints are offended
    when described as non-Christians, and he claims to “understand why Latter-day
    Saints feel offense.” Nevertheless, he does “not believe that at this
    time Mormonism can be categorized as Christian in any very useful or theologically
    significant sense.” This sentence illustrates my very point. Mosser appears
    to have in mind some sort of unarticulated doctrinal test. To use the word Christian
    in this fashion without clearly putting the reader on notice that a nonstandard
    usage of the word is meant (i.e., one subject to undisclosed evangelical theological
    limitation) is to perpetrate a linguistic “bait and switch.” Mosser
    may not find the public definition of the word “useful” or “theologically
    significant,” but it is by that definition that speakers and writers of
    English the world over communicate, which is very useful indeed.

  10. Contrast with this what I believe to be a proper approach to the issue, as
    reflected in a 1998 document of the United Methodist Church, entitled Sacramental
    Faithfulness: Guidelines for Receiving People from the Church of Jesus Christ
    of Latter-Day [sic] Saints,
    available online at www.gbod.org/worship/articles/sacramental/intro.html
    as recently as 17 March 2003. Rather than claiming that Latter-day Saints are
    not Christian, this document explains that they are not within the historic, apostolic
    Christian tradition, which is a both true and unobjectionable statement (the word
    apostolic being used here in its tertiary sense of referring to a tradition of
    succession of spiritual authority held, as by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox,
    and Anglicans, to be perpetuated by successive ordinations from the apostolic
    age). See Benjamin I. Huff, “Of Course Mormonism Is Christian,” and
    Kent P. Jackson, “Am I a Christian?” reviews of Craig L. Blomberg,
    “Is Mormonism Christian?” in FARMS Review of Books 14/1-2 (2002):
    113-30, 131-37.

  11. For a recent example, see William J. Hamblin, “Joseph or Jung? A Response
    to Douglas Salmon,” FARMS Review of Books 13/2 (2001): 87-107, and
    the further material cited at 92 n. 13.

  12. This is rather like the fairness inherent in having one child cut and the
    other choose.

  13. For that matter, I also doubt that it would be possible to prove the Bible
    to be true or that God exists.

  14. Thomas J. Finley, “A Review of Hugh Nibley’s Comparisons between
    the Book of Mormon and the Lachish Letters,” available online at www.irr.org/mit/nibley.html
    as recently as 17 March 2003.

  15. Kevin L. Barney, “A Seemingly Strange Story Illuminated,” FARMS
    Review of Books
    13/1 (2001): 5-10.

  16. See John A. Tvedtnes, The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book of Mormon
    (Salt Lake City: Cornerstone, 1999), 94-97.

  17. Bruce M. Metzger, ed., The Oxford Annotated Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version
    (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 241, emphasis in original.

  18. The KJV renders it “glasses” in the archaic sense, meaning “mirrors.”
  19. Edouard Dhorme, A Commentary on the Book of Job, trans. Harold Knight (London:
    Nelson, 1967), 281-82, and bibliography cited therein; Samuel Terrien, Job
    (Neuchatel, Switz.: Delachaux and Niestle, 1963), 149; Marvin H. Pope, Job:
    Introduction, Translation, and Notes
    (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1965),
    129; The Interpreter’s Bible (New York: Abingdon, 1954), 3:1050; R. J. Williams,
    “Writing,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville:
    Abingdon, 1962), 4:916; and the annotation to this verse in the New English Translation
    (the NET Bible), available online at www.bible.org/netbible as recently as 17
    March 2003.

  20. Ignace J. Gelb et al., eds., The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute
    of the University of Chicago
    (Chicago: Oriental Institute, 1984), 15:296-99.
    My argument would not be that sepher derives from siparru, but that the Akkadian
    word influenced the word choice of sepher here.

  21. Dhorme, Job, 281-82.
  22. Henry S. Gehmann, “Sepher, An Inscription, in the Book of Job,”
    Journal of Biblical Literature 63 (1944): 303-7. Although some modern translations
    continue to understand sepher here as a “scroll,” apparently taking
    the verb chaqaq in a greatly weakened sense, Gehmann shows why the verb should
    be understood as referring to inscribing into a hard surface of some kind. Gehmann
    was unaware of the theory that the sepher was a bronze tablet.

  23. That is, bronze//rock (on which inscriptions are carved) works better as a
    parallel word pair than would inscription//rock, as in the former case both terms
    are the same class of nouns (i.e., materials on which inscriptions are written).

  24. Apparently emending w’prt “and lead” of the Masoretic
    Text to b’prt “on lead.” Pope, Job, 129, concurs: “With
    an iron stylus on lead/Carved in rock for all time.”

  25. Compare the molubdinoi chartai of the Greeks and the tabulae plumbeae of the
    Romans, mentioned in Dhorme, Job, 282.

  26. The NIV posits scroll//lead//rock and the Anchor Bible copper//lead//rock.
  27. I therefore would retain the reading of the Masoretic Text rather than emend
    the text. The way that lead was used in the process of engraving an inscription
    into rock is uncertain; among the possibilities are to understand (a) the stylus
    point as involving an alloy of iron and lead (just as iron and lead stand side
    by side as elements in an alloy described in Ezekiel 22:20); (b) the lead as being
    used to outline the lettering for the engravers; or (c) the lead as being used
    to fill in the grooves once they were cut into the stone.

  28. Dhorme, Job, 282; Williams, “Writing,” 4:916. Note also that the
    preposition used here is ‘al; the writing therefore is not in, but
    literally on the luach and on the sepher.

  29. For the understanding of two records, one a summary and the other a lengthier
    and more permanent one, see I. W. Slotki, Isaiah (London: Soncino, 1980), 141.

  30. Finley discusses these plates (p. 340). See further William J. Adams
    Jr., “Lehi’s Jerusalem and Writing on Metal Plates,” Journal
    of Book of Mormon Studies
    3/1 (1994): 204-6, and William J. Adams Jr., “More
    on the Silver Plates from Lehi’s Jerusalem,” Journal of Book of Mormon
    4/2 (1995): 136-37.

  31. After all, our hypothetical minimalist might argue, we do have a seventh-century
    B.C. (nonscriptural) palimpsest from Wadi Murabba’at, as Finley mentions, as
    well as scriptural material from the third century B.C. among the Dead Sea Scrolls;
    if papyrus could survive there for 2,250 years, what is a few hundred more?

  32. Roland K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.:
    Eerdmans, 1969), 543-53. See also Robert Graves, Adam’s Rib and Other
    Anomalous Elements in the Hebrew Creation Myth: A New View
    (London: Faber and
    Faber, 1955), who suggests that the early part of Genesis was originally depicted
    on tablets that were read in the wrong order.

  33. Mark Hofmann knew of these scholarly expectations and used them in creating
    his fraudulent version of the transcript, including putting the writing into columns
    and providing a large circular structure at the bottom of the page. The fact that
    the Hofmann transcript was a fraud does not obviate the prior scholarly concern
    over the originality of the Whitmer transcript. Anthon’s letters to E. D.
    Howe dated 17 February 1834 and to T. W. Coit dated 3 April 1841
    are reproduced in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of
    Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
    (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930),

  34. Barry Fell attempted to reverse engineer the Hofmann transcript using the
    opening verses of 1 Nephi 1 as a translation pony. This misguided effort
    was based on an ignorance of the history of the translation. So it was with some
    surprise that I saw Stan and Polly Johnson, Translating the Anthon Transcript
    (Parowan, Utah: Ivory Books, 1999), attempt to use Ether 6:3-13 as a translation
    pony in deciphering the transcript. The Johnsons apparently failed to learn from
    Fell’s fundamental error. For a review of the Johnson effort, see John Gee,
    “Some Notes on the Anthon Transcript,” FARMS Review of Books 12/1
    (2000): 5-8.

  35. Edward H. Ashment, “‘A Record in the Language of My Father':
    Evidence of Ancient Egyptian and Hebrew in the Book of Mormon,” in New Approaches
    to the Book of Mormon,
    ed. Brent L. Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books,
    1993), 329-93.

  36. Finley cites John A. Tvedtnes, “The Hebrew Background of the Book of
    Mormon,” in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, ed. John L. Sorenson and Melvin
    J. Thorne (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1991), 79-91.

  37. The relevant literature includes Thomas W. Brookbank, “Hebrew Idioms
    and Analogies in the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era (1909-10): 117-21,
    234-39, 336-42, 418-20, 538-43; (1914): 189-92;
    Sidney B. Sperry, “The Book of Mormon as Translation English,”
    Improvement Era (March 1935): 140-41, 187-88; Sidney B. Sperry,
    “Hebrew Idioms in the Book of Mormon,” Improvement Era (October 1954):
    703, 728-29; E. Craig Bramwell, “Hebrew Idioms in the Small Plates
    of Nephi” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1960); E. Craig
    Bramwell, “Hebrew Idioms in the Small Plates of Nephi,” Improvement
    (July 1961): 496-97, 517; John A. Tvedtnes, “Hebraisms in the
    Book of Mormon: A Preliminary Survey,” BYU Studies 11/1 (1970): 50-60;
    M. Deloy Pack, “Possible Lexical Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon”
    (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1973); Angela Crowell, “Hebraisms
    in the Book of Mormon,” Zarahemla Record 17-18 (summer and fall 1982):
    1-7, 16; John A. Tvedtnes, “Since the Book of Mormon is largely the
    record of a Hebrew people, is the writing characteristic of the Hebrew language?”
    I Have a Question, Ensign, October 1986, 64-66; Brian D. Stubbs, “Book
    of Mormon Language,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:179-81; John
    Gee, review of Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon
    5 (1993): 172-82 at 179-80; John A. Tvedtnes, review of New Approaches
    to the Book of Mormon, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon
    6/1 (1994): 8-50
    at 30-40; John Gee, “La Trahison des Clercs: On the Language and Translation
    of the Book of Mormon,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994):
    50-120; Royal Skousen, “Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book
    of Mormon,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994): 121-44;
    Royal Skousen, “The Original Language of the Book of Mormon: Upstate New
    York Dialect, King James English, or Hebrew?” Journal of Book of Mormon
    3/1 (1994): 28-38; Royal Skousen, “How Joseph Smith Translated
    the Book of Mormon: Evidence from the Original Manuscript,” Journal of Book
    of Mormon Studies
    7/1 (1998): 28-29; Hugh W. Pinnock, Finding Biblical Hebrew
    and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon
    (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1999);
    cf. the discussion in Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture
    That Launched a New World Religion
    (New York: Oxford, 2002), 134-35. Numerous
    treatments also deal with specific examples. For instance, I treat rhetorical
    interchanges of number (a type of enallage, Greek for “interchange”),
    in Kevin L. Barney, “Enallage in the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book
    of Mormon Studies
    3/1 (1994): 113-47, and Kevin L. Barney, “Divine
    Discourse Directed at a Prophet’s Posterity in the Plural: Further Light
    on Enallage,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 6/2 (1997): 229-34,
    an edited version of which appeared as “Further Light on Enallage,”
    in Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon: The FARMS Updates of the 1990s, ed.
    John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1999), 43-48. For
    a treatment of rhetorical interchange of person in the Book of Mormon, see David
    Bokovoy, “From Distance to Proximity: A Poetic Function of Enallage in the
    Hebrew Bible and the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
    9/1 (2000): 60-63.

  38. Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Textual Evidences for the Book of Mormon,”
    in The Book of Mormon: First Nephi, The Doctrinal Foundation, ed. Monte S. Nyman
    and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center, 1988), 283-95.

  39. Gee, “La Trahison des Clercs,” 87-88, in a section appropriately
    entitled “Ante hoc ergo propter hoc?”

  40. Ashment’s recitation of evidence from the Book of Commandments is problematic
    on other levels as well, both for not excluding scriptural quotations and for
    often being inapposite to the form supposedly present. Finley cites this material
    in a couple of places, but even he notes that many of the examples given were
    not relevant to the form at issue (492 n. 31). Finley is to be commended for focusing
    his attention on the KJV evidence, which is the stronger evidence for his point
    of view.

  41. See Kevin L. Barney, “Poetic Diction and Parallel Word Pairs in the
    Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4/2 (1995): 49-50.

  42. In this retroversion, I have hypothesized that the same verb is repeated twice,
    as in Genesis 49:2: “Gather yourselves together, and hear, ye sons of Jacob;
    and hearken unto Israel your father,” where both verbs reflect weshime’u.
    Alternatively, two different verbs could be used here.

  43. Ugaritic texts in this article derive from Cyrus H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook,
    Analecta Orientalia 38 (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1965), abbreviated

  44. For further details and citations for the material in this and the previous
    paragraph, see ibid., 51-54.

  45. For further details and citations for the material in this paragraph, see
    Hoskisson, “Textual Evidences,” 284-87.

  46. John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, and Matthew Roper, “Book of Mormon Names
    Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions,” Journal of Book Mormon Studies
    9/1 (2000): 40-51.

  47. See John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper, “One Small Step,” in this
    number of the FARMS Review, 147-99.

  48. In Finley, “Hugh Nibley’s Comparisons,” in the paragraph
    beginning “Torczyner refers to two issues.”

  49. Incidentally, Finley transliterates this word as ‘alma, and I could not
    help but wonder whether his leaving off the final he’ was a subtle attempt
    to influence the reader by suggesting a more precise correspondence with Book
    of Mormon “Alma.” I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt
    and assume that this is simply Finley’s normal manner of transliterating
    the feminine -ah ending, although I could not help but notice that in “Hugh
    Nibley’s Comparisons” he writes the Hebrew word for scroll as megillah,
    not megilla.

  50. Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Alma as a Hebrew Name,” Journal of Book of
    Mormon Studies
    7/1 (1998): 72-73.

  51. Ibid. Note that the Dead Sea Scrolls often confuse the two letters as well.
  52. For the attestation of this name at Ebla, which Finley also mentions, see
    Terrence L.Szink, “Further Evidence of a Semitic Alma,” Journal of
    Book of Mormon Studies
    8/1 (1999): 70.

  53. Hoskisson, “Textual Evidences,” 288-89.
  54. This information derives from a partial search of the name “Alma Smith”
    on www.familysearch.org. My thanks to Alma Allred (a male, by the way) for this
    information. We should note, however, that the male gender of these individuals
    has not yet been independently verified. As one of them was married to someone
    with the given name “Amasa” (usually a male name, as in “Amasa
    Lyman”), more research needs to be undertaken to verify that the database
    correctly reflects the gender of these individuals.

  55. For the Latter-day Saint announcement of the discovery, see S. Kent Brown,
    “‘The Place That Was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen,”
    Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 66-68. Brown provided additional
    informal commentary on the discovery available online at pub26.ezboard.com/fpacumenispagesfrm47.showMessage?topicID=14.topic
    as recently as 17 March 2003. More recently, see S. Kent Brown, “New Light
    from Arabia on Lehi’s Trail,” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book
    of Mormon,
    ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch (Provo,
    Utah: FARMS, 2002), 55-125. There are now three known altars in Yemen with
    the name NHM inscribed on them; see Warren Aston, “Newly Found Altars from
    Nahom,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/2 (2001): 56-61.

  56. If Finley had known of this evidence, I can imagine that he would have pointed
    to the Arabic h in *NHM being a softer form of the letter than the harder cheth
    of the likely Hebrew *NHM underlying Book of Mormon “Nahom.”
    Brown cogently addresses this point in “‘The Place That Was Called
    Nahom,'” 79 n. 3: “The exact equivalency of the root letters
    cannot be assured. It is probable that the term Nahom was spelled with the rasped
    or fricative Hebrew letter for ‘h’ (het or chet) whereas the name Nihm,
    both in modern Arabic and in the ancient Sabaean dialect, is spelled with a softer,
    less audible h sound.” See G. Lankester Harding, An Index and Concordance
    of Pre-Islamic Arabian Names and Inscriptions
    (Toronto: University of Toronto
    Press, 1971), 81, 602; and Joan C. Biella, Dictionary of Old South Arabic: Sabaean
    (Chico, Calif.: Scholars, 1982), 296. One has to assume, it seems to me,
    that when the members of Lehi’s party heard the local name for “the
    place that was called Nahom” they associated the sound of that local name
    with the term Nahom, a Hebrew word that was familiar to and had meaning for them.

  57. Lynn M. Anderson, The Easy-to-Read Book of Mormon: A Learning Companion (Apple
    Valley, Minn.: Estes Book, 1995), and Timothy B. Wilson, Mormon’s Story:
    An Adaptation Based on the Book of Mormon
    (N.p., 1993). Both volumes were reviewed
    by Camille S. Williams, Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7/1 (1995): 3-12;
    the Anderson volume was also reviewed in the same number of the Review by Marvin
    Folsom, 13-18.

  58. Kevin D. Miller, “Did the Exodus Never Happen? How two Egyptologists
    are countering scholars who want to turn the Old Testament into myth,” Christianity
    (7 September 1998). The quotation is the last paragraph of the online edition,
    available at www.christianitytoday.com/ct/8ta/8ta044.html as recently as 17 March
    2003. My thanks to Mike Parker for bringing this article to my attention.

  59. While for most purposes Shepherd’s statement is correct, it is not absolutely
    so. If the Book of Mormon were a fraud, one still must somehow account for the
    statements of the witnesses to the gold plates. Therefore, a critic might argue
    that Joseph actually manufactured a set of plates to perpetrate this fraud. In
    that case, the appearance of such plates, if they could be authenticated as having
    been fashioned by Joseph’s hand or at his instructions, would serve as strong
    external evidence against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

  60. David P. Wright, “Isaiah in the Book of Mormon . . . and Joseph
    Smith in Isaiah,” (1998; updated, March 2000), available online at www.members.aol.com/jazzdd/IsaBM1.html
    as recently as 17 March 2003. This paper, in slightly revised form, has been published
    in American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon, ed. Dan Vogel and Brent Lee
    Metcalfe (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2002), 157-234.

  61. Given that the Great Isaiah Scroll predates the earliest manuscripts of the
    Masoretic Text by about a millennium, it is difficult to see in what sense
    Shepherd means to call it “late.”

  62. The bad-witness fallacy involves the failure to take an ancient witness to
    the text seriously in any given instance simply because that witness is viewed
    by the textual critic as among the less reliable witnesses to the text generally.
    All the evidence for and against a particular variant must be evaluated in every
    case, for even the worst general witness to a text can sometimes preserve an original
    reading. This is the principle of eclecticism, which is a fundamental principle
    of good textual criticism. Ancient witnesses cannot be prejudged and then dismissed
    and ignored on a global basis.

  63. Donald W. Parry, Harmonizing Isaiah: Combining Ancient Sources (Provo, Utah:
    FARMS, 2001), 43.

  64. Ibid., 46.
  65. Ibid., 49.
  66. Royal Skousen, “Towards a Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon,”
    BYU Studies 30/1 (1990): 41-69, at 50-56.

  67. I would include the possibility of Joseph “expanding” the text
    with authoritative commentary, interpretation, explanation, and clarification
    under the rubric of “loose” translation. I would view such an expansion
    as simply being a little more extensive form of translator’s gloss. The
    possibility of such expansions in the text has been articulated in Blake T. Ostler,
    “The Book of Mormon as a Modern Expansion of an Ancient Source,” Dialogue
    20/1 (1987): 66-123, rejected in Stephen E. Robinson, “The ‘Expanded’
    Book of Mormon?” in The Book of Mormon: Second Nephi, the Doctrinal Structure,
    ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, Utah: BYU Religious Studies
    Center, 1989), 391-414, and clarified in Blake T. Ostler, “Bridging
    the Gulf,” FARMS Review of Books 11/2 (1999): 103-77. I accept the
    possibility of such interpretive material in the text, but we should be clear
    that not all Latter-day Saint scholars do.

  68. A fourth issue would be the quotation in the Book of Mormon of material deriving
    from Deutero-Isaiah, a hypothetical author scholars would date to after the time
    the Lehites left Jerusalem. Shepherd does not address this issue, presumably because
    as an inerrantist the existence of a Deutero-Isaiah would be no less a difficulty
    for him.

  69. The characteristics of O, the original Book of Mormon manuscript, make it
    quite clear that the Isaiah material was dictated, just as was the rest of the
    Book of Mormon, and that a scribe did not visually copy a King James Version of
    the Bible.

  70. Kevin L. Barney, “Isaiah Interwoven,” in this number of the FARMS