One Small Step
One Small Step
Reviewed by John A. Tvedtnes and Matthew Roper
In 1997 Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, then graduate students at the Talbot School
of Theology at Biola University in California, presented a paper entitled “Mormon
Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not
Knowing It?” at a regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. It
was subsequently published in Trinity Journal.1 Noting that most evangelical
responses to beliefs and practices of members of the Church of Jesus Christ
came from uninformed sources (what we would call “anti-Mormons”), they proposed
a new direction. They began by drawing attention to the scholarly training and
publication record of Latter-day Saint researchers and suggested that it was
time for evangelical scholars to lend their expertise to responding to this
research. The book being reviewed here, a follow-up to that suggestion, assembles
articles written by various evangelical scholars. Despite their credentials
(Ph.D.s and Th.D.s), some of them make the same mistaken assumptions as their
less educated coreligionists.
In this review, we shall address only a portion of The New Mormon Challenge:
part 4, labeled “The Book of Mormon.” It includes an introductory essay by the
editors, followed by two articles—one by Thomas J. Finley, “Does the Book
of Mormon Reflect an Ancient Near Eastern Background?” and the other by David
J. Shepherd, “Rendering Fiction: Translation, Pseudotranslation, and the Book
The introduction has an error—one that can lead to some misunderstandings
about the Latter-day Saint position. The editors write, “According to Smith
and the Latter-day Saints, the theological aspect of the record contains the
‘fullness of the gospel’ that was lost when early Christianity suffered a ‘Great
Apostasy'” (p. 334). While it is true that we believe in an apostasy in
early Christianity, it is not tied to the “fulness of the gospel” that is claimed
for the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon itself is not the only source of
restoration of truths that were lost—an honor that also belongs to “other
books” (1 Nephi 13:39-40) and more especially to revelations received by the
Prophet Joseph Smith. The Nephite record contains the “fulness of the gospel”
because it describes in detail the nature of the atonement of Christ. The main
thing lost in the apostasy was the priesthood, which was not restored by the
Book of Mormon but by angelic ministrations.
Although Latter-day Saints frequently use the term gospel to refer generally
to all truths to be learned through the restoration, there is a much narrower
meaning found in the scriptures. The gospel is the good news of Christ’s atonement,
and its first principles and ordinances include faith, repentance, baptism,
and receiving the Holy Ghost. This is the gospel as it is set forth in the Book
of Mormon (1 Nephi 10:14; 15:13-14; 3 Nephi 27:13-21; Ether 4:18),
the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 3:20; 13:1; 20:9; 27:5; 33:11-12; 39:5-6;
42:12; 76:40-42; 84:26-27; 107:20; 135:3; 138:2-4, 57), and the Pearl of Great
Price (JS—H 1:34; Articles of Faith 3-4). Doctrine and Covenants 93:51
uses the expression “the gospel of salvation,” while Abraham 2:11 speaks of
“the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of
life eternal” (cf. D&C 128:5, 17). In Jacob 7:6, the gospel is defined as
“the doctrine of Christ,” referring to the doctrine concerning Christ, rather
than the totality of Christ’s teachings, since he had not yet been born when
these words were uttered (cf. Mormon 3:21; D&C 76:82). Elsewhere, the Book
of Mormon equates the “fulness of the gospel” with coming “to the knowledge
of the true Messiah” (1 Nephi 10:14; 15:13-14; cf. 3 Nephi 20:30-31;
D&C 19:27). The Book of Mormon contains the most lucid explanation of the
atonement of Christ (see especially 2 Nephi 2, 9; Mosiah 15; Alma 34, 42)
and therefore clearly qualifies as containing the fulness of the gospel.
Unfortunately, from the works they cite, neither Finley nor Shepherd appears
to be well acquainted with the scholarly literature on the Book of Mormon, and
this critical weakness impairs their approach to the subject. We hope that by
reviewing what they have written we can help them and other scholars to take
a more in-depth look at the issues.
Shepherd on Translation and Pseudotranslation
David Shepherd is not the first to consider the question of translation vs.
pseudotranslation in the case of the Book of Mormon. In 1986 Richard Lloyd Anderson
compared the Book of Mormon with gospels that are known or at least generally
believed to be fraudulent.2 Shepherd might have begun with an examination of
Anderson’s work and then included a critique in his essay.3 Shepherd’s work
is flawed by the fact that he is unacquainted with an array of scholarly work
that has been done on the Book of Mormon.4
After examining the text of the Book of Mormon, David Shepherd concludes that
the Book of Mormon is not a real translation of a real text, but a pseudotranslation
or pretended translation.5 While we disagree with his conclusions, we acknowledge
that his approach is at least somewhat fair. After having presented some evidence,
he adds that “As convincing as much of the above material would seem to be,
it should be pointed out that this type of internal evidence is fundamentally
weakened by the frank realization that our knowledge of the ancient world is
fragmentary and must always be open to revision in the light of new discoveries”
Shepherd admits that searching for anachronisms “will always be susceptible
to more or less plausible counterarguments,” since “even if a particular text
is viewed suspiciously on account of anachronisms and/or unusual or unexpected
content, this does not necessarily imply pseudotranslation. While these issues
of content may be relevant in judging the antiquity of a document, distinguishing
between translation and pseudotranslation is ultimately a matter of assessing
whether or not a linguistic transfer has taken place and how this transaction
(or lack thereof) has been represented” (p. 381). He also admits that “arguments
based on internal evidence that suggest pseudotranslation on the basis of anachronism
will always be susceptible to counterarguments that legitimately recognize our
incomplete knowledge of the past” (p. 384). Such declarations are a positive
step in the dialogue between Latter-day Saints and those who reject the scriptures
brought to light by Joseph Smith.
One of the problems that Shepherd notes is the lack of an original text. “It
seems safe to presume,” he writes, “that a bona fide translator, in order to
validate his claims to have translated the source text faithfully, will be keen
from the outset either to include a copy of the original language text or provide
accurate information regarding its whereabouts” (p. 380). That would be
ideal, of course, but it is a modern idea that was not the standard for scholars
of Joseph Smith’s day (or even a century ago); moreover, it has not always been
possible. For example, the apocryphal book called Ecclesiasticus in the 1611
King James Version (KJV) of the Bible (and known as Ben Sirach to most scholars)
was known only from Greek manuscripts until the mid-twentieth century when Hebrew
fragments of the text were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls and at nearby Masada.
Another example is the Discourse on the Abbaton by Timothy I, the late fourth-century
A.D. archbishop of Alexandria and patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The
text purports to be a translation from an earlier source text, but using Shepherd’s
methodology, it is impossible to determine whether it was originally written
in Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, or was merely a pseudotranslation originally written
in Coptic. Equally significant is the fact that no early Hebrew version of the
Gospel of Mark is known, though some scholars believe that the available Greek
text is a translation from Hebrew or its related language, Aramaic.6 Shepherd
grants that “the Koine Greek of the New Testament itself shows traces of Semitic
influence. But unlike Tobit, no Hebrew or Aramaic ‘original’ of the New Testament
has thus far come to light” (pp. 381-82).
On occasion, Shepherd steps outside the bounds of a study of translation vs.
pseudotranslation to discuss other issues. He notes, for example, that the question
of metallurgy in ancient America
has prompted considerable research by scholars such as John Sorenson. Although
it seems that some other professional archaeologists have been reluctant to
be drawn into such discussions, the limited response suggests that the archaeological
record simply does not support the presence of the type of metallurgy and metalworking
in Mesoamerica during the period relevant to the ancient American setting of
the Book of Mormon. Sorenson’s primary explanation for the lack of early evidence
is to emphasize the incomplete and contingent nature of the archaeological record.
We fail to see how “the limited response” says anything about the archaeological
record. Sorenson has not, however, used the evidence for metallurgy to support
the Book of Mormon but merely to counter critics by showing that the door is
not yet closed on this issue. With so few pre-Classic sites excavated in Mesoamerica
(most of the attention is given to Classic sites), one should not be surprised
that little evidence has been found for metal working in that geographic and
Shepherd assumes that
considerable efforts have been expended to demonstrate that the English text
of the Book of Mormon is a translation of a text written in either Egyptian
or, as is often suggested, Hebrew (albeit in Egyptian script). In the case of
the latter, for instance, the English text is examined for Hebraisms, that is,
deviations from idiomatic English that reflect linguistic interference from
the Hebrew original that supposedly lies behind the English version of the Book
of Mormon. For example, John Tvedtnes has uncovered numerous “Hebraisms,” which
he sees as clear evidence that the English Book of Mormon is a translation of
a Hebrew source. (p. 384)
As Tvedtnes read the Book of Mormon, he simply noticed examples of Hebraisms
and did not dig for supportive evidence. Although Shepherd
finds the case for Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon less than compelling, 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. The absence
of external evidence and our corresponding reliance on internal evidence will
not allow the case to be closed definitively. (pp. 384-85)
“Everyone concerned,” according to Shepherd, “seems resigned to the fact that
no source text in ‘reformed Egyptian’ will be forthcoming—the doubters,
because of their belief that the source never existed, the believers because
they believe it has been returned to heaven” (p. 385). However, Hebrew
and related Aramaic texts are now known to have been written in Egyptian characters
in the time of Lehi, and neither Shepherd nor anyone else, as far as we can
determine, has read the relevant studies or commented on them.7
Unlike many anti-Mormon writers, who continue to circulate explanations that
were long ago disproved, Shepherd acknowledges that the Spaulding manuscript
“bore little resemblance to the Book of Mormon,” saying that it was Fawn Brodie’s
“authoritative dismissal of the ‘Spaulding Theory’ that dealt it its death blow”
(p. 386). Unfortunately, that theory still lives on in the minds of some
Shepherd agrees with Brodie that the Book of Mormon owes “its debt to nineteenth-century
America rather than to antiquity” (p. 383). And while he rejects the Spaulding
manuscript as a source for the Book of Mormon, he sees, instead, reliance on
the King James Version of the Bible and Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews (pp. 386-87).
Commenting on John W. Welch’s assessment of the “unparallels” between View of
the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon,8 Shepherd maintains that the two texts differ
from each other because “Joseph Smith might well have chosen not to follow it
on various ‘major’ points, whether out of a fear of incurring charges of plagiarism
by agreeing too much with it or perhaps out of a genuine disagreement with Ethan
Smith’s account on any number of different grounds, including theological, literary,
or historical” (p. 504 n. 71). By this reasoning, the Book of Mormon could
be demonstrated to have derived from Ethan Smith’s work whether it agrees or
disagrees with that source.9
Shepherd believes that Stan Larson “shows quite conclusively that the Book
of Mormon’s version of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is demonstrably dependent on
the English version that appears in the AV Gospel of Matthew” (p. 387).
And he does “not find the critique of R. Skousen . . . sufficiently convincing
to vitiate Larson’s thesis” (p. 504 n. 75). He does not refer to the response
of John W. Welch (the target of Larson’s criticism) to Larson, which appeared
in the same volume as Skousen’s response.10
Shepherd targets Tvedtnes’s study of the Isaiah variants in the Book of Mormon,
though he misstates the argument. He refers the reader to David P. Wright’s
response to this essay, in which “Wright shows that the divergences are most
easily and economically explained as Smith’s response to italicized words in
the AV, his desire for smoothing and harmonizing irregularities, and his willingness
to include additional material (such as conjunctions)” (p. 388).11 A more
recent study of the original and printer’s manuscripts of the Book of Mormon
shows that the words that are italicized in the King James Version of Isaiah
were usually included in the manuscripts, but that they were dropped prior to
the actual printing of the Book of Mormon.12 This argues against Wright’s suggestion
that Joseph Smith knew that the italicized words represented material not reflected
in the Hebrew but necessary for the flow of the passage in English. It seems
clear that the italics, the centerpiece of Wright’s argument, did not influence
Joseph Smith in making modifications to the biblical text. Based on the new
data, we cannot know who decided to remove or modify those italicized words.
It could have been Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, or even the typesetter.
Shepherd’s condemnation of the Book of Mormon on the ground that it includes
what now appear to be KJV errors seems to be his only means of testing his claim
that the text is a pseudotranslation. He mentions Wright’s point about “instances
where erroneous AV translations were uncritically reproduced by Joseph Smith
in BoM Isaiah” (p. 389). We find no serious problem with this, since it
is well known that New Testament quotations from the Old Testament tend to draw
upon the Greek Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text, even when the Greek is
mistranslated. Writers of scripture, it seems, use whatever version of the scriptures
is familiar to their audiences. Consequently, we are not troubled by the examples
given by either Shepherd or Wright.
“Although it will be faint praise indeed for defenders of Smith’s ‘translation’
work,” Shepherd writes, “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).
Given Joseph Smith’s minimal education, what appears to be his disinterest in
reading prior to 1829, the short time span during which the Book of Mormon was
dictated (roughly two months), and his rather parochial surroundings, we believe
that the Prophet’s claim to have had divine assistance in the translation of
the Book of Mormon remains plausible.
Finley on the Book of Mormon and the Ancient Near East
At the 1998 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Thomas
J. Finley delivered a paper entitled “A Review of Hugh Nibley’s Comparisons
between the Book of Mormon and the Lachish Letters.”13 In that paper he listed
several criteria that should be met in order for comparisons between the Book
of Mormon and ancient Near Eastern texts to be valid. He began his most recent
article with a reiteration of the first four criteria plus one additional criterion.14
We are in general agreement with his lists.15 We would, however, add two other
—A parallel is strongest when the two texts are set in the same geographical,
temporal, and cultural context. Thus, when Lehi attributed to his ancestor Joseph
the same prophecy attributed to him in early Jewish texts unavailable to Joseph
Smith, we consider the parallels to be strong support for the Book of Mormon.16
—An accumulation of parallels is evidence for a common milieu if not
a common source. Thus, if one finds (as is, indeed, the case) that a number
of Christian writers who lived prior to the fourth century A.D. describe ten
or more beliefs or practices known from their time that were introduced by Joseph
Smith long after Christianity had forsaken them, this is prima facie evidence
for the Prophet’s contention that he received the information by divine inspiration.
The parallels would be weaker if attested only in early Jewish texts since Joseph
Smith claimed to be restoring the early Christian Church.
Finley’s general approach is more sophisticated than that of earlier critics
of the Book of Mormon. We are, however, disappointed because he seems unaware
of much of the Book of Mormon scholarship that has been published during the
past few decades. We suspect that the fault may lie in what his editors provided
him. When commenting on an article entitled “Book of Mormon Names Attested in
Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions,”17 Finley’s arguments make it clear that he did
not consult the work of Jeffrey R. Chadwick and Terrence L. Szink, whose earlier
articles were cited in the notes,18 nor does he consider other articles on the
names Lehi and Sariah in the same issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies.19
This seems to indicate that Finley never actually held a copy of the journal
in his hands but was responding to only one article sent to him.20
Another concern, particularly in view of Finley’s background in Bible studies,
is his discussion of the language of scriptural translations. “It is true,”
Finley writes, “that one would expect a translation of ancient material to occur
in the idiom of the translator, but in this case the language of the KJV [King
James Version] was already archaic even in the time of Joseph Smith” (pp. 338-39).
But the language found in the KJV was already archaic in the time of King James.
The KJV was not a direct translation from the Hebrew and Greek texts of the
Bible but is a slightly modified version of the Bishop’s Bible (1569). Written
instructions from the archbishop of Canterbury to the members of the translation
committee specified that they were to modify the wording of the Bishop’s Bible
only when its wording did not agree with the meaning of the Hebrew Old Testament
or Greek New Testament texts. The Bishop’s Bible was in turn a revision of the
Great Bible (1539), which was a revision of Taverner’s Bible (1539), which was
a revision of Matthew’s Bible (1537), which was a revision of Coverdale’s Bible
(1535), which was in turn based on the translation made by William Tyndale in
1526-31. Tyndale relied in part on the translation prepared in the late fourteenth
century by John Wycliffe, and he retained some of Wycliffe’s wording.
Finley claims it is “highly likely that Joseph Smith was imitating the style
of the KJV rather than translating an ancient Hebrew original” (p. 365).
Why could he not have done both? Why must one assume that the use of KJV style
excludes his translating an ancient text? The KJV set the standard for scriptural
language in Joseph Smith’s day. He seems to have used this style in his translation
of the Book of Mormon, the Books of Abraham and Moses, and also in the revelations
found in the Doctrine and Covenants. But Joseph Smith was not alone in following
this practice. Nearly a century after the publication of the Book of Mormon,
Robert H. Charles prepared his magnum opus, a two-volume translation of ancient
texts known as The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament.21 Charles
made it a point to imitate the style of the King James Version of the Bible.
He did so for several reasons; for example, the New Testament cited some of
these works or earlier writings on which they were dependent. Because the KJV
was the Bible most commonly read in the English-speaking world, this ensured
that readers of Charles’s work would readily make the tie between the KJV and
those other texts.22 Oxford University Press continues to publish Charles’s
book. Jewish scholar Theodor H. Gaster intermingled KJV language and modern
English in his vDead Sea Scriptures.23 When citing passages from the Dead Sea
Scrolls that were also found in the Bible, he employed the older style of English.
When Robert L. Lindsey began his work in Israel with the Gospel of Mark, he
initially translated it “into simple modern Hebrew from the Greek text. The
text was then distributed to Hebrew-speaking readers and comments invited.”
Many of those who reviewed the work expressed “the desire that the Gospels,
as ancient works, should be read in Old Testament Hebrew style.”24 Lindsey returned
to the task and prepared a translation of Mark in biblical Hebrew that has received
It is possible that the Book of Mormon might have met with the same fate as
Lindsey’s modern Hebrew version of Mark had Joseph Smith rendered it in nineteenth-century
English. It would not have sounded scriptural to Americans and Englishmen acquainted
with the King James Version of the Bible. Another reason for using the KJV style
in the Book of Mormon is that it makes it easier for the reader to recognize
when the Nephite prophets were paraphrasing or quoting biblical books. The language
of the Book of Mormon fills the same role as Charles’s translation of apocryphal
and pseudepigraphic texts.
Finley’s general approach is laudable, but we find fault with some of the
details. We are concerned that he sometimes comments only on the weakest points
made by Latter-day Saint scholars and ignores the stronger ones.
According to one of the earliest criticisms of Joseph Smith’s account of translating
the Book of Mormon from the golden plates, the ancients never wrote on metal
but only used materials such as papyrus or parchment.25 This claim is false;
during the mid- and late- twentieth century hundreds of ancient texts written
on metal plates have come to light. Like the Book of Mormon plates, many of
these were also buried in stone boxes. 26
Finley does not, however, repeat the argument that the ancients never wrote
on metal plates.27 Instead, he uses the backup position established by the critics
after it had been demonstrated that this practice actually existed. “There is
no question,” he admits, “that metal was sometimes used as writing material
in the ancient world, including the Near East. However, such examples do not
seem to parallel the lengthy Book of Mormon, since they normally contain a small
amount of material and imitate standard writing procedures for the time” (p. 340).
By not advancing the earlier position held by critics of the Book of Mormon,
Finley makes Joseph Smith’s claim to have translated from metal records acceptable,
though earlier critics found this claim preposterous. Once the original argument
can no longer be maintained, critics concentrate on a narrower aspect.28 In
this instance, Finley does not adopt the earlier argument against the concept
of writing on metal plates but instead focuses on the narrower claim that none
of the other metal records are lengthy accounts like the Book of Mormon.
To support this claim, he cites three examples of metal documents that have
been discussed by Latter-day Saints. Two tiny silver scrolls containing excerpts
from the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 were discovered in Jerusalem and
date to preexilic times, providing a clear example of scriptural texts written
on metal. Finley does not feel that these are relevant to Book of Mormon examples
since the text contains only brief excerpts and “they are tiny scrolls that
were rolled up in such a way that a string could be inserted through the center
so they could be worn around the neck” and were therefore meant to serve as
phylacteries (p. 340). The two Darius plates found in a stone box at the
palace of Darius have often been cited by Latter-day Saints as an example of
records written on metal plates and buried in a stone box. Finley complains
that these contain “only eight lines of cuneiform writing repeated in three
languages” (p. 340).29 The famous Copper Scroll (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls)
is obviously a much lengthier text; however, according to Finley, “unlike the
brass or gold plates discussed in the Book of Mormon, this work attempted to
imitate a ‘standard parchment scroll.’ The text did not contain religious or
literary matter but ‘appears to be an administrative document which simply enumerates,
in a dry bookkeeping style’ the inventory of items” (p. 341).
Clearly Finley wants to show that, in contrast to the documents described
by the Book of Mormon, ancient records on metal were rare, were short, did not
contain religious material, and in form normally imitated scrolls, but one wonders
how Finley can generalize from a few examples. That some metallic documents
had short texts is clear from the Jerusalem silver scrolls and the short text
of the Darius plates, yet the Copper Scroll has a much longer text. The tiny
silver documents from Jerusalem were clearly made in imitation of scrolls, but
the Darius plates certainly were not; and while the Copper Scroll may not contain
religious material, the preexilic documents from Jerusalem, although short,
contain scripture. Rather than provide a negative contrast with the Book of
Mormon, even these few examples show that ancient metallic documents include
a variety of elements, forms, and uses.
Finley’s discussion of metal plates is inadequate. He fails to deal with several
standard Latter-day Saint sources on the subject of ancient metal plates, including
studies by Franklin Harris,30 Paul Cheesman,31 Curtis Wright,32 and William
Hamblin.33 While the works of Cheesman and Harris are now out of print, the
omission of the latter two is curious. Wright’s article is a standard discussion
of the issue from a Latter-day Saint perspective. Hamblin has surveyed about
thirty examples of plates known from the archaeology and literature of the ancient
Near East and Mediterranean region. Although not comprehensive, Hamblin’s survey
highlights the variety of plates used in antiquity. He shows that (1) writing
on metal plates was a relatively old practice dating back to the third millennium
B.C. in Mesopotamia in the general region and at the approximate time of the
Jaredite departure, (2) it was known in the Syro-Palestinian region and Israel,
(3) some ancient Near Eastern peoples wrote on metal plates in scripts that
can reasonably be described as reformed Egyptian, and (4) evidence suggests
that the practice of writing ancient sacred law on metal plates was adopted
by Greeks and Romans from the ancient Near East sometime between the seventh
and sixth centuries B.C., approximately the time when Lehi’s family retrieved
the plates of brass and commenced their own tradition of keeping records on
The longest texts that Finley mentions are the Copper Scroll and the trilingual
plates of Darius. A more recent find is much longer:
On Sunday, the twentieth of July 1986, P. Neve could record the surprising,
first-time find of a metal tablet, which was made on the occasion of the restoration
work on the inner side of the Hittite city wall for Yerkapi. The findspot, lying
35 meters west of the Sphinx gate in the south of the old city, proved to be
a pit, dug about 30 cm under the surrounding plaster street level, in whose
clay fill the bronze tablet lay horizontally embedded. This consisted of a rectangular
plate of 35.0 x 23.5 cm in length and width and a thickness of 8 to 10 mm. Its
weight was 5 kg. In the corners on the small side, two circular holes 1.8 cm
in diameter are cut out, through which formerly ran a bronze chain 31 cm long
consisting of 13 pieces. . . . The actual metal plate is closely written
on both sides after the fashion of a clay tablet and is, on each side, divided
into two columns. . . . Each column contains about 100 lines with
the exception of column IV, which is less closely written, with the height of
the characters being about 3 mm.34
The text on the bronze tablet was published in German in 1988 and in English
in 1995. The English translation of this tablet of 350 lines takes ten pages
and discusses a treaty between Tudhaliya IV of Hatti and Kurunta of Tarhuntassa,
giving the genealogy of the dominant party as well as historical precedents
and religious dimensions to the treaty.35 It curiously “represents the sole
example of a metal tablet yet recovered from Hatti, although such objects are
elsewhere mentioned in Hittite diplomatic documents.”36 And yet Finley claims
that “there is no parallel among materials in cuneiform writing for the many
plates it would have taken to record even the book of 1 Nephi” (p. 341).
This is demonstrably untrue.
Nor should we forget the Egyptian examples of metal plates, which Finley does
not mention.37 Two bronze plates are found in the British Museum (BM 57371 and
57372), one of which (BM 57371) contains fifty-eight lines of demotic text,
while the other contains a bilingual inscription of which thirty-one lines of
the hieroglyphic and sixteen lines of the demotic inscription are preserved.
Both plates were written by the same individual, who can confidently be dated
to the first century B.C.38 In reference to these bronze plates, one scholar
notes that “the value of all metal during the ancient period virtually excludes
the survival of such records except in the most fortuitous circumstances. The
practice would certainly have been more common than the surviving material would
suggest.”39 He further notes that “since the two tablets are inscribed on both
sides they can hardly have been intended for display in the temple of Dendera.”
He reasons that “the most likely place for them to have been kept would have
been in a temple treasury or magazine and to have been found with a hoard or
hoards of ritual and votive objects enumerated here.”40 The plates of brass
were similarly kept in Laban’s “treasury” (1 Nephi 4:20).41
While not lengthy, a number of other examples of writing on metal plates are
worth mentioning. One copper tablet calls itself “the Phylactery of Moses.”42
It was excavated in Acre near Syracuse, and although written on copper, it was
supposed to have been written on a gold plate.43 The thirty-two lines of Greek
text describe how Moses was protected in the holy of holies from the divine
presence there. The text also has specific instructions about it being “something
that you should not hand over to anyone except your offspring.”44 Though the
text dates to the end of the second century or beginning of the third century
a.d. and was found farther away in the Mediterranean basin, it shows a terminus
ad quem for this Jewish practice.
A gold plate from about a century earlier was discovered in 1827 during the
excavation of the Cefn Hendre in Segontium (Caernarvon), Wales.45 The gold plate
dates from the earliest period of Roman occupation of the site, although no
details of the discovery are known. “The text preserves a Jewish liturgical
formula written in Greek letters,” but the underlying language of most of the
text is Hebrew.46 The plate is rather small (only twenty-six lines), but it
is worth noting for its material (gold), Jewish elements, and Hebrew written
in a non-Hebrew script.
While Finley focuses on examples from the ancient Near East, metal plates
from the greater Mediterranean region are also relevant since the Greeks and
Romans seem to have adopted the practice from the ancient Near East. In addition
to the examples surveyed by Hamblin, other metal plates include the bronze Tabula
Contrebiensis (87 B.C.),47 the Tabula Bembina (104 B.C.),48 the Entella Tablets
(254-241 B.C.),49 and the Larinum Bronze tablet (A.D. 19).50 The Iguvium Bronze
Tablets (first to second century A.D.) are among the most significant surviving
examples of bronze plates. These consist of seven bronze plates, five of which
are written on both sides; they explain the details of Umbrian sacrificial rituals
and contain, as Hamblin has noted, the sociological “equivalent of parts of
Leviticus and Deuteronomy, which the Book of Mormon claims were on the Hebrew
bronze plates.”51 Significant for other reasons as well, the Iguvium plates—”written
partly in an Etruscan, partly in a Latin alphabet—are all that remains
to us in writing of the Umbrian language.”52 They are “the only extant records
of any considerable extent in the Umbrian dialect; that is, in that language
which, with Oscan, Latin, and several other dialects, makes up the Italic branch
of the Indo-European family. . . . No other body of liturgical texts
from pre-Christian Europe can compare with the Iguvine Tables in extent. They
have therefore an extraordinary importance both for the linguistic and the religious
history of early Italy.”53
Nephi and other Book of Mormon prophets indicated that one of the chief values
of the plates of brass, in addition to records themselves contained on them,
was their value in helping to preserve the language of their fathers. Thus Nephi
reminded his brothers, “It is wisdom in God that we should obtain these records,
that we may preserve unto our children the language of our fathers” (1 Nephi
3:19). Hundreds of years later, King Benjamin taught his sons, “For it were
not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things,
to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates;
for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could
read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could
teach them to their children” (Mosiah 1:4). Clearly many significant parallels
exist between ways plates were used in antiquity and in the Book of Mormon.
While Finley rewords the old argument about plates in terms of what is known
from the Old World, other critics have defined it differently, pointing out
that no metal records have been found in the New World. The point is made moot
by the fact that the Nephite scribes do not suggest that the use of metal plates
was widespread in their culture. While most Nephite writing was probably on
perishable materials (Alma 14:8, 14 speaks of records being “burned and destroyed
by fire”), just a handful of records are written on metal, specifically on the
brass plates of Laban, the small plates of Nephi, the large plates of Nephi,
and the abridgment plates of Mormon.54 In effect, the plates from which Joseph
Smith translated the Book of Mormon seem to have been unique. Indeed, the use
of plates to write large books seems to have been confined to a single family,
that of Lehi and Laban.55
Finley argues that the volume of materials written on the brass plates of
Laban made it “at least awkward to transport them from place to place,” then
contrasts this with the “leather, papyrus, and parchment” used for Bible materials,
which were “much more easily transportable and convenient to use. While metal
was used in the ancient Near East for writing material, the dissimilarities
in usage with the Book of Mormon outweigh the similarity of material” (p. 342).
This is like arguing that the tabernacle of Moses, with all of its metal implements,
could not have existed because it would have been “awkward to transport” and
that archaeological evidence for the existence of stone temples in the ancient
Near East suggests that the use of tent-shrines is improbable. As a believer
in the Bible, Finley, like us, would reject that argument. Moreover, his argument
against the plates of brass seems to be based on the assumption that they were
intended to be carried about from place to place. But unlike Moses’ tabernacle,
they were not intended to be transported across vast distances.
In his treatment of writing materials used in the ancient Near East, Finley
draws attention to the fact that the Copper Scroll, the only metal document
found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as the small inscribed silver scrolls
found in Jerusalem, were rolled up, demonstrating “that the normal form of writing
for literary content was on scrolls” (p. 341). While we cannot disagree
with his conclusion, we find it interesting that he is inconsistent in his argument.
Noting that “the two ‘tables of stone’ that Moses received from the Lord contained
the Ten Commandments,” he adds that “otherwise, stone was used for monumental
inscriptions” (p. 341). When dealing with the Book of Mormon plates, he
argues that they must fit the usual pattern, but when it comes to the Bible,
he makes an exception for the Ten Commandments. It seems that his religious
leanings, like ours, determine how he evaluates evidence.
Finley’s discussion of Hebraisms, listed in one of John Tvedtnes’s articles,
is useful and demonstrates that while Hebraisms might be expected in an English
translation from an ancient text (as occasionally with the King James Version
of the Bible), they are not necessarily strong evidence for the Book of Mormon
unless they are unattested in the KJV.56 Of course, in some cases Finley is
merely reinventing the wheel as the discussion of Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon
has a long bibliography. He acknowledges that some of the examples “seem more
unique to the Book of Mormon” (p. 344) but rejects others on the basis
that similar idioms can be found in the KJV. Thanks to searchable computer versions
of the scriptures, we are able to find such parallels, making some of us wonder
how Joseph Smith managed to do it, especially given his mother’s statement that
he was not wont to read books and his wife’s indication that he had no written
materials with him during the translation.57
Sometimes, one cannot be sure where Finley stands on the issue of Hebraisms.
For example, he seems to correct Tvedtnes about the occasional placement of
the “relative pronoun” (actually a particle), which “in Hebrew normally directly
follows its antecedent noun or noun phrase, just as in English. Sentences like
the example he gives from 1 Nephi 17:27 would be rare, though perhaps possible
in biblical Hebrew” (p. 344). He then compares the Book of Mormon verse
with Jeremiah 37:1, perhaps intending to suggest that Joseph Smith merely borrowed
the usage from the KJV, despite the fact that Finley had just said the usage
was only “perhaps possible in biblical Hebrew” (p. 344). If it is only
“perhaps possible” (which seems to be less certain than “possible”), why then
use an example from the KJV that, as Finley notes, “gives the literal order”
But having provided evidence that the “perhaps possible” Hebrew usage actually
exists in the Bible (both in the Hebrew and the KJV English), Finley argues
that if 1 Nephi 16:37 were really drawn from a Hebrew text, it would use
“and” rather than “who.” We concur that the conjunction would have been a possible
reading, but what then do we do with the example from Jeremiah 37:1, which uses
“whom” in a similar context, as Finley himself notes (pp. 344-45)?58
Finley draws another example, saying, “Tvedtnes’s third example, if translated
literally from a Hebrew text, should read, ‘then the-ones-living without God
shall confess.’ Mosiah 27:31 has, ‘Then shall they confess, who live without
God in the world,’ while the better English form suggested by Tvedtnes is ‘then
shall they who live without God in the world confess.’ The degree to which Tvedtnes’s
suggested translation and the translation in the Book of Mormon reflect the
literal Hebrew appears to be roughly the same” (p. 345). But there is a
big difference when one realizes that Hebrew sentences usually begin with the
verb. In Hebrew one expects “confess” to appear before the active participle
“the-ones-living without God,” and that is precisely how it appears in the Book
of Mormon. In this case, Finley has obscured the relevant facts.
Tvedtnes observed (like Sidney B. Sperry before him) that Alma 13:18, which
says that Melchizedek “did reign under his father,” should be understood in
the sense of the Hebrew word for “under,” which also means “instead of.” Finley
dismisses the argument on the grounds that “in English the two prepositions
communicate entirely different ideas,” meaning that Joseph Smith’s “translation
would fail to communicate properly” (pp. 345-46). Finley not only disallows
evidence for Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon but also condemns its improper
usage of English terms, making Joseph Smith damned if he did and damned if he
didn’t use Hebraisms in his translation.
The most impressive Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon are words that reflect
wordplays understandable only in Hebrew and words that are better understood
in Hebrew terms than in English due to the range of meaning of the corresponding
Hebrew words.59 Here are a few examples:
— In Alma 49:4, we read that the Lamanites attempted to “cast their
stones and their arrows” at the Nephites atop the wall of the city Ammonihah.
Alma 49:22 speaks of “the stones and arrows which were thrown.” While in English,
we would appropriately use the verb “throw” for stones, this is not so for arrows,
where we would expect “shoot.” But the Hebrew verb yrh, meaning “to throw” or
“to cast” (e.g., Exodus 15:4, 25; Joshua 18:6; Job 30:19), also has the meaning
of “shoot” for arrows (e.g., Exodus 19:13; 1 Samuel 20:11, 20, 36-37; 2 Kings
13:17; 19:32). Indeed, in 2 Chronicles 26:15, the Hebrew verb (with a variant
spelling) is used in the passage rendered “to shoot arrows and great stones”
in the King James Version of the Bible.
—In 1 Nephi 1:6, we read that as Lehi “prayed unto the Lord, there
came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him.” The English term “dwelt”
normally connotes setting up house or at least staying for a long time, and
we would expect to read that the pillar of fire “sat” or “rested” on the rock.
Significantly, the Hebrew verb ysb means both “dwell” and “sit.” For example,
Jacob’s sons “sat down to eat” (Genesis 37:25), but “Israel dwelt in that land”
(Genesis 35:22). The same verb is used in both passages.
—In Helaman 9:6, we read that the Nephite judge had been “stabbed by
his brother by a garb of secrecy.” Critics have contended that this makes no
sense in English, since “garb” has the same meaning as “garment” or “clothing.”
This idiom is the same as the English “under cloak of secrecy.”60 But the Hebrew
word beged means both “garment” or “garb” (e.g., Genesis 39:12-13) and “treachery.”61
This would seem to be a wordplay in the Hebrew original of the Book of Mormon.
As for the preposition “by,” in Hebrew its range of meaning includes “in,” “with,”
and “by means of.”
—Jacob wrote that Nephi instructed him regarding Nephite sacred preaching,
revelations, and prophecies that “I should engraven the heads of them upon these
plates” (Jacob 1:4). We really expect something more like “most important” to
be used here. Indeed, the Hebrew word for the head of the body is sometimes
used to describe things as “chief” (Deuteronomy 33:15; Psalm 137:6; Proverbs
1:21; Amos 6:1) or “precious” (Song of Solomon 4:14; Ezekiel 27:22), which seems
to be the sense in which Jacob used the word.
— The land of Jershon has a valid Hebrew etymology, Yershon, meaning
“place of inheritance.” Significantly, it appears in passages that employ the
words “inherit” (Alma 27:24) and “inheritance” (Alma 27:22; 35:14). The wordplay
makes sense only in Hebrew.
Finley argues against Royal Skousen’s assertion that the Book of Mormon uses
the if-and construction known from the Hebrew Bible for result clauses, a construction
unfamiliar to speakers of English.62 He writes that “while Skousen’s observation
is interesting, I think it may still be the case that this construction was
influenced by the KJV in its original form. The conjunction and occurs 51,714
times in the KJV. By comparison, the NIV reduces this by about 40 percent. It
is surely a prominent feature of the KJV, and that could have influenced Joseph
Smith to use it even in some of his result clauses” (p. 347). The statistics
notwithstanding, Finley fails to give even one example of the use of the conjunction
in the KJV that matches the examples Skousen listed from the Book of Mormon.
Does one even exist in the English Bible? Shepherd seems to have thought so.
He also challenges Skousen’s study, claiming that this Hebraic feature is known
from the King James Version of Jeremiah 5:1 (p. 503 n. 64). He has, however,
misanalyzed the text, which can be diagrammed as follows:
Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,
and see now,
and seek in the broad places thereof,
- if ye can find a man,
if there be any that executeth judgment,
- that seeketh the truth;
and I will pardon it.
The English antecedent for “it” in the final “and” clause is not “man.” If
this were an example of the if-and construction discussed by Skousen, we should
have “and I will pardon him.”63
Finley also mangles his quotation of 1 Nephi 17:50, which we give here
in four different versions to show that Latter-day Saints have consistently
and correctly understood the scriptural passage completely different from Finley’s
idiosyncratic understanding. For the original manuscript, we provide the context
for the if-and construction.
Original manuscript: God had commanded me that I should build a ship
& I sayeth unto them if [G]od had commanded me to do all things I could
do it if he should command me that [I] should say unto this
water be thou earth & it shall be earth
& if I should say it it would [b]e done.64
Printer’s manuscript: If he should command me that
I should say unto this water be thou earth it should be earth
& if I should say it it would be done.65
1830 edition: If he should command me that I should
say unto this water, Be thou earth, it should be earth; and
if I should say it, it would be done.
1981 edition: If he should command me that I should
say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and
if I should say it, it would be done.
Finley’s version: If he should command “Say unto
this water, be thou earth and it shall be earth”; and if I
should say it, it would be done (p. 346).
Skousen’s point was that the if-and construction had been eliminated
in the printer’s manuscript because it is impossible English. Finley’s reformulation
of the sentence to eliminate the if-and construction does so by eliminating
four words of the quotation, “me that I should” (p. 346), which changes
the grammatical construction of the sentence significantly. We agree that if
those four words were not in the text, Finley’s understanding of the construction
would be correct. Unfortunately, they are in the text and Finley’s understanding
of the construction is not superior to Skousen’s. Skousen can account for the
construction as it stands in the original manuscript, while Finley must emend
In Finley’s treatment of Skousen’s other examples, he must admit that “these
instances more clearly use and to introduce the result clause” (p. 347),
which is an admission that Skousen is right. Finley argues that because of the
ubiquitous use of and in the KJV (and almost everything written), Joseph
Smith must have randomly thrown in and even where it made no sense
in English. This can hardly be construed as a coherent, much less a cogent,
Finley’s objection to the use of Egyptian characters is that “someone from
those who supported Jeremiah would be expected to use Hebrew rather than Egyptian”
(p. 351). This is merely an assumption, as is the statement that “it is
more likely that the idiom of the KJV, rather than an underlying Hebrew or Egyptian,
influenced Joseph Smith” (p. 351).
Finley relegates to a footnote his comments on the use of Egyptian characters
in Hebrew inscriptions. He dismisses the use of Papyrus Amherst 63
as evidence for the Book of Mormon. The text, including a quotation from Psalm
20:2-6, was written in Egyptian demotic script though the language is actually
Aramaic, a language closely related to the Hebrew used by the Jews after the
Babylonian captivity. Relying on a dating of the second century B.C. assigned
to the text by earlier scholars,67 he concludes that “it is rather
late in relation to the alleged time of Nephi” (p. 493 n. 46). But Gee
and Tvedtnes have shown that subsequent scholarship dates the text to the fourth
century B.C., considerably closer to Nephi’s time.68
Book of Mormon Names
Finley also evaluates the essay “Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient
Hebrew Inscriptions,” mentioned earlier in this review.69 In that article, we
did not address all the issues and evidence relating to Book of Mormon names
but focused only on recently attested names in Hebrew inscriptions. We showed
that many Book of Mormon names that were once ridiculed and dismissed as shallow,
modern creations are now attested in authentic Hebrew inscriptions, most of
which predate 587 B.C., a time and context in which they could have been known
to Lehi’s family.
Finley’s response to our article does contain some useful information and
not just obfuscation. For example, Finley claims that “it should first be noted
that some of the names may not be found directly in the KJV but can easily be
derived from it, and they were attested as names used during the time of Joseph
Smith. This applies to the names Sam and Josh, which quite plausibly come from
Samuel and Joshua. Regardless of whether or not a Hebrew inscription contains
one of these names, the derivation from the KJV and a name current with Joseph
Smith has to be considered a viable explanation” (p. 353).
Finley’s comment misses the mark since the names Sam and Josh and many others
were criticized when the Book of Mormon appeared because they sounded modern.
The evidence we presented in our article shows that these names are attested
in Hebrew inscriptions and are entirely appropriate for Lehi’s time.70 Finley
seems to be aware of only half the problem in attributing the names to a nineteenth-century
origin. It is not just a question of how Joseph Smith might have fabricated
a few names, but how he could have known that these names would, long after
his death, be attested and dated to an appropriate time period consistent with
the claims of the Book of Mormon. One must also explain how some Book of Mormon
names, though not yet attested in ancient inscriptions, have an etymology consistent
with the context in which they are used or appear in that record.
We can, however, agree that, from a scholarly point of view, one must consider
all possible explanations. Finley does not seem willing to consider that the
ancient Hebrew derivations are a viable possible explanation. It seems that,
for those who are convinced a priori that Joseph Smith was a charlatan, no evidence
from the ancient Near East is acceptable. For those who accept Joseph as a prophet
and the Book of Mormon as authentic ancient scripture, the evidence seems significant.
Finley’s rejection of this evidence seems ironic when one considers the fact
that a paper on “Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon,” which Tvedtnes presented
at the thirteenth annual World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem in August
2001, was given a warm reception by the Hebrew scholars in attendance.
Finley offers specific comments about the Book of Mormon names and how they
compare with the ones found in ancient Hebrew inscriptions that we have discussed.
Of the name Isabel (Alma 39:3),Finley notes that “she was a ‘harlot’ who caused
Coriantum [Corianton], the son of Alma, to ‘forsake the ministry.’ While the
Isabel mentioned here is not the same as Jezebel, the Phoenician princess who
married Jeroboam the son of Nebat (1 Kgs 16:31), the context makes it clear
that there is some thematic connection. . . . Surely biblical Jezebel could
be the inspiration for Isabel in the Book of Mormon” (pp. 353-54). That
approximates our contention, though we must correct Finley by noting that it
was King Ahab, son of Omri—not Jeroboam, son of Nebat—who married
Jezebel; he has simply misread the Bible text, taking 1 Kings 16:31 in
isolation from verse 30.71
Not wishing to credit Joseph Smith with knowing “what the underlying Hebrew
was,” Finley finds another explanation for the name that we demonstrated was
known from an ancient Hebrew inscription.72 For him, Isabel is merely an early
French variant for Elizabeth that came into use in both England and the United
States (p. 354). Are we to believe that Joseph Smith was clever enough
to compose a fraudulent book (the Book of Mormon) but dumb enough to give himself
away by using English names like Sam, Josh, and Isabel? Finley seems to have
fallen for the standard anti-Mormon view in which Joseph seems to be cleverly
pulling hoaxes while at the same time tripping over his own words.
“As for the name Abish,” writes Finley, “Tvedtnes, Gee, and Roper cite the
name ‘bs’ ” in two ancient texts, but “their explanation fails to
account for the final aleph in the name on the cited inscriptions”
(p. 355). Actually, we did account for it, and had Finley read more carefully,
he would have noted the sidebar that reads,
There is abundant evidence from the inscriptional material that hypocoristic
forms sometimes have a suffixed aleph, represented in transliteration by ‘.
Thus we have the biforms Sbn’ (biblical Shebna) alongside Sbnyhw
(Shebniah), both attested in Hebrew inscriptions. Similarly, the biblical name
Ezra (Hebrew ‘zr’), whose name is borne by one of the books of the Bible,
has a final aleph and is hypocoristic for biblical Azariah (‘zryh), the name
of two biblical kings. The longer form is also known from contemporary inscriptions,
as is the form ‘zr. Neriah (Hebrew Nryh), known from the Bible as the name
of the father of Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch, is attested in inscriptions in both
its long form and in the hypocoristic form Nera (Hebrew Nr’). Alongside the
biblical name Obadiah (‘bdyh), whose hypocoristic form Obed (‘bd) is also
known in the Bible, the inscriptions have several occurrences of the hypocoristic
form ‘bd’, with suffixed aleph. Also known from the inscriptions are the
biblical name Asaiah (‘syh) and its hypocoristic form ‘s’. Finally, we
have the name Hzd’, hypocoristic for an unattested Hzdyh. These
facts suggest that Alma, which is written with a final aleph on a document found
in Nahal Hever in 1961, may also be hypocoristic.73
We did not invent the concept, which is accepted by other Bible scholars of
whose work Finley seems not to be aware. Contrary to his contention, we found
the suffixed aleph entirely explainable in terms of ancient Hebrew names, as
have other scholars before us. In addition to the work of Avigad and Sass, cited
above, we should also note that such eminent Semitics scholars as William Foxwell
Albright,74 Frank Moore Cross Jr. and David Noel Freedman,75 Wolfgang Röllig,76
and Frank L. Benz77 have discussed what has been called “afformative ‘aleph'”
in Hebrew and other Northwest Semitic languages.
Finley’s carelessness is illustrated by his declaration that “Sariah (the
wife of Lehi[,] and Nephi’s mother), according to some Mormon writers, is the
same as the woman named Seraiah or Saryah in an Elephantine papyri of the fifth
century B.C.” (p. 358). We know of no one who has claimed that Lehi’s wife
lived at Elephantine in Egypt in the fifth century. Rather, the claim, supported
by the evidence, is that the name in the Elephantine papyri is identical to
that of Lehi’s wife. Finley added that the name Sariah “can be compared with
the common masculine name Seraiah in the KJV” (p. 358). We have made that
very comparison in our article and wonder why Finley claims it as his own. If
he wants to suggest that the name cannot be used for a woman, we have dealt
with that issue as well, even drawing attention to a bulla with Solomon as the
name of a woman. Also note that the name Saria is now known from a fifth-century
B.C. Jewish inscription found in the Bosphorus region.78
Finley claims that “from all of the preexilic evidence from the Hebrew inscriptions
we would expect the name to be spelled with a long ending for the -iah part
of it, yielding Sar-yahu instead of Sar-ya” (p. 358). Finley should carefully
examine the references we cited in our footnotes as sources for the Hebrew names.
We showed that both the long and short versions of the divine name appear in
names on preexilic seals and bullae as well as in the Bible, though the long
form has a longer history.
In his critique of the name Aha, Finley makes some of the same points we made,
making us wonder if he really read our comments. He astounded us by noting that
“the expression ‘Aha!’ appears 10 times” in the Old Testament (p. 356).
Does he think that Joseph Smith sat trying to think up another name, turned
to Psalm 35:21, and said, “Aha! That’s what I’m looking for”? (This also does
not explain how Joseph Smith was able to know that Aha would be attested in
a Hebrew inscription predating Lehi’s day.) Elsewhere, Finley suggests that
the Prophet may have taken the name Nahom from “Nachon’s threshingfloor” in
2 Samuel 6:6 or from Naham of 1 Chronicles 4:19 (p. 363).
Finley may be correct in his critique of Nibley’s identification of the Book
of Mormon place-name Shazer with Arabic shajer. Were we to argue Finley’s case
for him, we would point out that the real problem is with the use of two sibilants
(sh and z) consecutively—something that rarely occurs in Semitic languages.
Failing to bring this up, Finley argues that “perhaps a more likely source for
Shazer was the place name Jazer in the KJV. . . . Note especially
Isaiah 16:8, ‘they are come even unto Jazer, they wandered through the wilderness'”
(p. 362). This seems to suggest that Joseph Smith went through the Bible
looking for obscure names used in connection with the word wilderness
so he could use the information in the book he was fabricating. Even with searchable
electronic versions of the scriptures on the computer, the task would be difficult.
In some cases, Finley simply protests too much. He objects that one cannot
know whether the names Alma, Abish, Aha, and Ammonihah would have been written
with the Hebrew letter ayin or the letter aleph (p. 355). In fact, the
ancient Hebrew texts to which we referred settle the question for each of these
names. Finley does the same with the letter h in the names Aha and Nahom: does
it represent Hebrew heh or heth (pp. 356, 363)? Again, the inscriptions
we cited answer that question; Finley is much too dismissive of the evidence.79
In his discussion of the name Alma, Finley acknowledges that the name (with
initial aleph rather than ayin) is attested in one of the Bar Kochba letters
of the early second century A.D. and at Ebla in the late third millennium B.C.
His footnotes draw attention to books written by two scholars outside the Church
of Jesus Christ but do not inform his audience that it was Latter-day Saint
scholars who first made the tie between those ancient texts and the Book of
Mormon. (We repeated the information in our article.) But Finley leans toward
“modern potential sources for the name Alma,” such as “the phrase alma mater
or even the transliterated Hebrew word for ‘virgin’ or ‘young woman,'” noting
that “it is quite possible that the young Joseph Smith heard the term in a sermon
on Isaiah 7:14 (‘Behold, a virgin [‘alma] shall conceive, and bear a son, and
shall call his name Immanuel’)” (p. 355). Can anyone seriously picture
Joseph Smith thinking, “Virgin—now there’s a good name for me to give
to my male protagonist”? Is it not more plausible to hold that the reason so
many Book of Mormon names have shown up in ancient Hebrew texts is due to the
historical accuracy of the book rather than to Joseph Smith dreaming up nonsense
such as this?
Finley objects to Nibley’s suggestion (which he mistakenly attributes to Tvedtnes)
that “the form -ihah may be due to Joseph Smith’s ‘transliteration,'” noting
that “forms with -iah also occur in the Book of Mormon (e.g., Sariah and Mosiah)”
(p. 356). Finley here has misstated several facts, having confused what
we wrote on the name Ammoniah with what Nibley wrote on the subject. In our
article, we suggest that the Nephites may have used a longer form of the divine
name Yhwh (which, the reader will note, has the letter h twice), while the Jews
used the shorter form Yh. Indeed, the names that have the -ihah ending are all
from later Nephite history, suggesting that this was a later internal development.
Of the Hebrew name that we identified with the Book of Mormon Ammonihah, Finley
notes that “other scholars read it as Imannuyah(u), meaning ‘Yahweh is with
us’ and corresponding to Immanuel, ‘God is with us.’ The Mormon writers give
no evidence for equating the name with Ammonihah rather than the accepted Immanuyah”
(p. 356). We acknowledge that other readings are possible for this and
other names, due mostly to the fact that the Hebrew names in the inscriptions
are all written without vowels. Our vocalization is, however, a possible reading,
but nothing can settle this kind of issue. We can say that the door is simply
not shut on the authenticity of ancient names in the Book of Mormon.
Similarly, Finley objects to our claim that the Bible name Haggith “‘may have
been vocalized Hagoth anciently.’ They give no evidence for this assertion”
(p. 357). Since the books of the Bible were originally written without
vowels, which were added later to the text, we cannot produce the evidence for
the vocalization Hagoth, but neither can one demonstrate that the later Bible
manuscripts are correct in rendering it Haggith. Another factor that must be
considered is linguistic drift, by which pronunciation changes over time. The
way the Nephites pronounced a name in the fourth century A.D. may not be the
same as the way they and other Israelites pronounced it in the sixth century
B.C.—especially the vowels.
We thank Finley for noting one error, namely that the name Heman in the Bible
does not begin with the same consonant as Hmn on the two Israelite seals. We
cannot know whether the initial h in the Book of Mormon name Himni represents
the Hebrew letter heth or the letter heh. But Himni has the -i suffix of gentilic
names and could derive from either of the attested Hebrew names. In his discussion
of the name Jarom, Finley writes that “from the analogous examples they give
in their note, however, the name should be Jarum” (p. 357). But in vocalized
Hebrew the vowels u and o are both denoted by the letter waw.
Regarding the Book of Mormon names Mathoni and Mathonihah, which we, like
Finley, compared with biblical Mattan and Mattaniah,80 Finley draws attention
to New Testament Matthew, saying, “it is significant that the only spelling
with a /th/ occurs in the New Testament. That reflects the Greek transcription
of a name of the same general form as the Old Testament name. The Hebrew form,
if indeed it were as early as the time of Nephi, would not have had the sound
/th/ in it; the KJV forms with /tt/ are closer to what would be expected from
an underlying Hebrew form” (p. 357). That is true only of the later vocalized
Hebrew texts, but vowels weren’t written in Nephi’s day. The Hebrew letter tav
is sometimes transliterated t, sometimes th, in the KJV Old Testament as well
(e.g., Ruth, Jotham, Jonathan). Vocalized Hebrew discloses that the t in Mattan
and Mattaniah is geminated because of the assimilation of a nun to the tav.
This was clearly understood by the Massoretes of post-New Testament times, who
developed the rules for vocalization, but we do not know how it was seen by
people in Nephi’s time or by the Nephites of six centuries later who bore the
names Mathoni and Mathonihah.
Finley claims that “the vowels on the name Muloki (Alma 20:2; 21:11) were
almost certainly not part of the name Mlky found on a bulla from Jerusalem that
dates to about 600 B.C. That name was Malki” (p. 357). Again, however,
we are dealing with a language for which vowels were not originally written.
It may have been Malki, as Finley says, but that does not necessarily hold for
a name used in the Book of Mormon centuries later, when vocalic shifts could
have occurred (as they have in various European languages). Indeed, regular
patterns are one of the evidences for such shifts, and in Muloki (“Mulekite”),
we have the o as the last vowel in the stem, just as in other Nephite gentilics,
Lamoni (“Lamanite”) and Moroni (“Moronite”).
Finley objects that “the name Ammon occurs only as the name of a people. . . .
It is never found as a personal name” (p. 356). While we did not discuss
that name in our article, we see that Finley here breaks his own rule about
deciding whether the Book of Mormon name begins with an aleph or an ayin. If
the latter, then it would clearly be related to the people of that name (Psalm
83:7, as Finley notes). If the former, we must draw attention to “Amon the governor
of the city” (1 Kings 22:26; 2 Chronicles 18:25) and the Jewish king of
the same name (2 Kings 21:18-19, 23-25; 1 Chronicles 3:14; 2 Chronicles
Our comparison of the Book of Mormon name Luram with the name Adan-Luram known
from eighth century B.C. inscriptions from Syria came under fire from Finley,
who objects that “the letter l stands for a particle on the front of the verb
and marks the name as Aramaic rather than Hebrew.” The name could be Aramaic,
but we challenge Finley’s statement that “it seems unlikely that an Aramaic
name would turn up among the Lamanites about a thousand years after the alleged
migration to the New World” (p. 358). Aramaic, called “Syrian” and “Syriack”
in the KJV, is a sister language to Hebrew that was adopted by the Jews during
the Babylonian captivity. But educated Jews already used Aramaic a century before
Lehi left Jerusalem, as is clear from the story recounted in 2 Kings 18:26
and Isaiah 36:11. Part of the book attributed to Daniel, who was a contemporary
of Lehi,81 is known only in Aramaic, beginning with Daniel 2:4 and going through
the end of chapter 7.82 The name Luram is a perfectly valid hypocoristic form,
i.e., a name that omits the theophoric element (probably to avoid the too frequent
repetition of the name of deity).
Summarizing his discussion of Book of Mormon names, Finley writes that “it
is next to impossible to claim with any certainty that a name in an ancient
inscription matches one found in a source where the names are transliterated
into a different script and no originals are available for comparison” (p. 359).
The underlying assumption behind this claim is that no Book of Mormon names
are valid for comparison with those found in ancient texts because Joseph Smith
left us only the English version of the Book of Mormon. He adds that “the claim
of the Mormon writers that the names are not found in the KJV has to be tempered
with the fact that many of those names (Sam, Josh, etc.) can be derived rather
easily from a name in the KJV” (p. 359). Ironically, he never discusses
the evidence we presented that Josh is an attested hypocoristic for Josiah,
an Old Testament name. Finley’s approach is based on the a priori assumption
that the Book of Mormon is not a translation of an ancient text, meaning that
all of it must be explainable only in terms of Joseph Smith’s world. Thus he
is able to dismiss some of the evidence by saying that “a few isolated instances
of apparent correspondence (certainty is prevented by the lack of vowels for
the inscriptional evidence) are most likely accidents of history” (p. 359).
What is the bottom line? At least fifteen nonbiblical Book of Mormon names
are now attested in ancient Hebrew inscriptions, fourteen of which date to before
587 B.C. None of these were known or published in Joseph Smith’s day. Many of
these are in a hypocoristic form that was criticized as too modern when the
Book of Mormon appeared but can now be shown to be acceptable since it was known
in ancient Israel from preexilic times. Additionally, non-Hebrew names such
as Paanchi and Pahoran (both Egyptian) are also attested.83 Then there are as
yet unattested Book of Mormon names with valid Hebrew etymologies (e.g., Jershon,
discussed earlier).84 Here are some examples:
—Zarahemla, “seed of compassion,” designates the city founded by a
descendant of the only surviving son of the Jewish king Zedekiah, who was led
to the promised land by the hand of the Lord.
—Current editions of the Book of Mormon render a Nephite monetary unit
as shiblum (Alma 11:16). A study of the printer’s manuscript shows that this
was actually shilum, which in Hebrew means “payment” or “reward” and is entirely
appropriate for the content of Alma 11’s description of the wages of the judges.
The issue of Book of Mormon names concerns not just one or two but a whole
complex of elements that deserve careful examination and continued study. Finley
would likely argue that all of these are “accidents of history”; yet one wonders
how many “accidents of history” one must suggest before the criticism of the
nineteenth-century explanation of Book of Mormon names becomes untenable. Our
assumption is the opposite of Finley’s: believing that Joseph Smith translated
the Book of Mormon from an authentic ancient text and that linguistic and cultural
evidence supports this view, we look beyond the English text.
Writing of the Liahona, also called a ball or director, Finley notes that
“elsewhere this device was called a ‘compass’ (1 Nephi 18:12). The principle
behind the compass apparently was first discovered in the twelfth century” (p. 362).
We were surprised Finley adopted this old canard long used by critics of the
Book of Mormon. The objection raised here fails to note that Nephi at no time
suggests that this was a magnetic compass! This instrument, used by European
mariners only since the twelfth or thirteenth century, derives its name from
an English word meaning “round,” because of its circular designation of 360
degrees of arc. (The compass we use for drawing circles is certainly not magnetic.)
The Liahona was, indeed, a round object (see 1 Nephi 16:10); hence the
name compass is perfectly acceptable. That a magnetic compass was not intended
is easily demonstrable by Nephi’s statement that “the pointers which were in
the ball . . . did work according to the faith and diligence and heed
which we did give unto them” (1 Nephi 16:28; see also v. 29).
Commenting on 1 Nephi 16:18, 21, Finley asserts that “there is no evidence
I am aware of for bows made of steel in ancient times. The ‘bow of steel’ mentioned
several times in the KJV should actually be a ‘bow of bronze'” (p. 363).
This is another long-standing but unwarranted criticism. The English word steel,
together with the KJV passages regarding the “bow of steel,” did not originally
denote carburized iron as it does today. It originally denoted anything hard,
and we still use the verbal form “to steel” in the sense of “to harden.” Webster’s
1828 dictionary, which reflects usage in Joseph Smith’s day, defines steel not
only as iron mixed with carbon but notes that its derivation is “probably from
setting, fixing, hardness.” One of the four meanings of the noun is “extreme
hardness; as heads or hearts of steel,” while it is used figuratively of “weapons;
particularly, offensive weapons, swords, spears and the like.” One of the meanings
of the verbal form is “to make hard or extremely hard.”85 So just like the “bow
of steel” in the KJV (2 Samuel 22:35; Job 20:24; Psalm 18:34), Nephi’s bow may
have consisted of a copper alloy like bronze.86 However, it is likely that the
metal was only one component of the bow. Roland de Vaux argued that the “bronze
bow” in the biblical passages “refers to the metal covering of certain bows,”
sometimes used to reinforce composite bows.87
The Geography of 1 Nephi
The latter part of the twentieth century saw a surge of interest in the question
of Lehi’s trail from Jerusalem to the land he called Bountiful. Finley challenges
some of this research. “Using only the details found in the Book of Mormon,”
he writes, “it is impossible to discern whether [the valley of Lemuel] was located
in the western Sinai or in the northwestern part of the Arabian peninsula” (p. 360).88
But 1 Nephi makes it clear that, after traveling south-southeast from the
valley, keeping “in the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Nephi 16:13-14, 33),
Lehi’s party turned “nearly eastward” to reach the land they called Bountiful
(1 Nephi 17:1). We now know that there is a fertile region in precisely
the location where one would expect to find Bountiful (i.e., the Dhofar province
of Oman in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula). We also know that Nahom,
the name of the place where Ishmael was buried just before the party turned
east, is reflected in three inscriptions from the time of Lehi found at precisely
the region where Nahom should be located if Lehi traveled through Arabia.89
Finley claims that “Nephi makes no reference to any countries traversed on
this journey, which presumably would have included Moab, Edom, and Sheba if
the journey was actually made through Arabia” (p. 360). Not quite. Moab
was located in what is today Jordan, east of the Dead Sea, while Edom is immediately
on the south of Moabite territory. The people of Moab and Edom were essentially
nomadic shepherds in ancient times and Lehi’s party could have easily passed
through either territory virtually unnoticed. Even today, one can walk for many
days through the region and not see another soul—or at least ensure that
no one sees you. If, as many think, Lehi traveled south through the hills of
Judah prior to descending to the Arabah Valley that leads to the Red Sea, he
would have bypassed Moab altogether and would have traversed only the tip of
Edomite territory in the south. The ancient kingdom of Saba’ (KJV Sheba)
was situated in Yemen and was the most populated region in the Arabian peninsula.
But Lehi’s group turned east after burying Ishmael at Nahom, so they would have
passed only on the outskirts of Sheba. More to the point, however, is that 1 Nephi
is an abridgment that Nephi prepared thirty years after their departure from
Jerusalem (2 Nephi 5:28-33). He specifically wrote that “if my people desire
to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search
mine other plates” (2 Nephi 5:33), meaning the large plates, which contained
a more detailed history.90
Finley finds the “three days in the wilderness” of 1 Nephi 2:6 problematic:
Does this mean three days after they arrived at the Red Sea or three days
since they left Jerusalem? . . . If the reference is to the time since
leaving Jerusalem, then it would be much too short for a journey by foot to
the Red Sea. [Eugene] England assumes that Nephi means three days after the
party arrived at the Red Sea. This is a possible reading of the passage, but
it also means that Nephi did not mention how long the journey from Jerusalem
to the Red Sea took. (pp. 360-61)
On foot it takes at least five days to travel from Jerusalem to Elath on the
Red Sea, but Hugh Nibley has argued that Lehi must have used pack animals since
he took tents with him (1 Nephi 2:4).91 If the party rode donkeys or camels,
the journey would have been considerably faster. It seems to us irrelevant that
Nephi omitted details, since the small plates were an abridgment of materials
previously recorded on the large plates, which Nephi did not prepare until arriving
in the New World (1 Nephi 19:1), at least eight years after the group’s
departure from Jerusalem. Still, it seems likely that the three-day journey
denotes the time it took to arrive at the valley of Lemuel after reaching the
borders near the Red Sea. An oasis with a perennial stream running to the Red
Sea about seventy miles south of the Jordanian city of Aqaba fits Nephi’s description
of the journey.92 One wonders if Finley considers this to be another of Joseph
Smith’s lucky guesses.
In his critique of Eugene England’s assumption that the term borders in 1 Nephi
denotes a wadi,93 Finley writes, “England’s discussion fails to account for
the different prepositions by and in. . . . Plus, if borders means ravines,
one wonders why Joseph Smith didn’t choose a term like valley or something that
would be more descriptive” (p. 361). However, the Hebrew preposition b can be (and is, in the KJV) translated either “in” or “by,” so the question
makes no real sense in terms of Hebrew. Other researchers have suggested that
the “borders” of which Nephi wrote were mountains. Anciently, borders tended
to be natural barriers (e.g., ravines, shorelines, or mountains). Indeed, the
KJV often renders the Hebrew word lwbg (used in the KJV passages employing “borders”
in the examples cited by Finley) as “coast,” a word that, in modern English,
is used only for a seashore.94 Finley should know this. Rather than ask “why
Joseph Smith didn’t choose a term like valley,” perhaps we should ask why Nephi
didn’t write it. The fact that Joseph correctly reflected the Hebrew term is
really evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon. Still, in this, as in some of
his other comments about the writings of Hugh Nibley and Eugene England, Finley’s
comments are directed toward the researchers rather than toward the object of
their research, the Book of Mormon.
Lehi and his family went neither west nor north, but south down by the borders
of the Red Sea (1 Nephi 2:5).95 Recently researchers have identified a
plausible site for the valley of Lemuel approximately seventy miles from Aqaba
(well within a three-day journey from there whether on camel or on foot). The
valley has cliffs suggestive of Lehi’s references to firmness and steadfastness
and immovability (1 Nephi 2:10), and it also has a perennial stream, a
“continually running” river (1 Nephi 2:9) that has existed there for millennia
and that empties into the Red Sea, apparently the only stream known in that
region that would fit Nephi’s and Lehi’s descriptions.96 Other research indicates
that a group traveling in a south-southeast direction from there would have
followed or shadowed the spice road along the eastern side of the Red Sea where
wells that occasionally provided water are now known to have existed. A site
known as Nhm is located at the eastward turning of this route precisely as Nephi’s
account suggests. Although unknown to Joseph Smith, that name is attested as
early as the seventh to fifth centuries B.C. in the region. Almost directly
eastward of Nhm is a “bountiful” region that also fits Nephi’s description.
Even if Joseph Smith had by some fortuitous chance learned of a fertile region
on the southeastern shores of the Arabian Peninsula, the Book of Mormon specifies
the characteristics of that region.
—Bountiful was nearly eastward from a place called Nahom (1 Nephi
—Terrain and water sources from Nahom eastward apparently permitted
reasonable access from the interior deserts to the coast (1 Nephi 17:1-3).
—Bountiful was a fertile region (1 Nephi 17:5-6).
—It was a coastal location (1 Nephi 17:5-6).
—Fruit and wild honey and possibly other food sources were available
(1 Nephi 17:5-6; 18:6).
—The availability of fruit (1 Nephi 17:5-6; 18:6) and the plentiful
nature of the region suggests the availability of fresh water at this location
—Timber was available that could be used to construct a ship (1 Nephi
—A mountain was nearby (1 Nephi 17:7; 18:3).
—Substantial cliffs existed near the ocean from which Nephi’s brothers
might attempt to throw him into the sea (1 Nephi 17:48).
—Sources of flint (1 Nephi 17:11) and ore (1 Nephi 17:9-10)
were available in the region.99
—Suitable wind and ocean currents were available to carry a vessel
out into the ocean (1 Nephi 18:8-9).100
Researchers have been able to identify only one location along the whole southeastern
coast of the Arabian Peninsula that meets all these criteria. Although subsequent
research has suggested modification of some of his arguments, our conclusions
agree with those made by Hugh Nibley in his pioneering work fifty years ago
on Lehi’s desert journey: “It would have been quite as impossible for the most
learned man alive in 1830 to have written the book as it was for Joseph Smith.
And whoever would account for the Book of Mormon by any theory suggested so
far—save one—must completely rule out the first forty pages.”101
Too Simple for Words
Finley assumes that everything and anything that could have been known in
Joseph Smith’s time about the ancient world must have come to his attention,
whether by the Prophet reading the relevant material or by listening to preachers’
sermons. If this was so, one wonders how it is that no Latter-day Saint scholars
noticed the material until a century or more later. Did Joseph Smith have sufficient
funds to procure the materials,102 and was he also able to remember everything
he had read in the KJV Bible or heard in a sermon? Was he a charlatan as the
critics maintain? Of the scholarly opinions expressed about Joseph Smith, we
prefer the assessment given by William Foxwell Albright of Johns Hopkins University
I do not for a moment believe that Joseph Smith was trying to mislead anyone;
I accept the point of view of a Jewish friend of mine at the University of Utah,
that he was a religious genius and that he was quite honest in believing that
he really could decipher these ancient texts. But to insist that he did [try
to mislead people] is really doing a disservice to the cause of a great church
and its gifted founder.103
While Finley and Shepherd clearly insist on a nineteenth-century origin for
the Book of Mormon, neither of them deals with the question of the witnesses
to the Book of Mormon. According to Finley, “It is not my purpose here to examine
the validity either of Joseph Smith’s testimony or of the witnesses” (p. 338).
This may have been his way of establishing a scholarly distance, but he seems
not to understand that one cannot separate the contents of the Book of Mormon
from the declarations of the eyewitnesses, as Terryl L. Givens has recently
In their original call for better anti-Mormon attacks by evangelicals, Mosser
and Owen wrote as follows about New Approaches to the Book of Mormon:105
It has become common for evangelicals to defer to this book. This is quite
disturbing. Many of the authors of this volume (though not all) are thorough-going
naturalists. The methodology they sometimes employ to dismantle traditional
views of the Book of Mormon could equally be used to attack the Bible. D. P.
Wright, one of the contributors to the work, writes, “This, by the way, shows
that the conclusions made here about the Book of Mormon cannot be used to funnel
Mormons into fundamentalist Christianity. It is the height of methodological
inconsistency to think that critical method of study can be applied to the Book
of Mormon and that its results can be accepted while leaving the Bible exempted
from critical study.”106
The irony is that Mosser and Owen as editors tacitly accept Finley’s and Shepherd’s
wholesale adoption of exactly this presumably “disturbing” approach. They have,
in addition, almost totally neglected the response by members of the Church
of Jesus Christ. Put another way, they do not “respond to contemporary Mormon
scholarship.”107 Instead, they have embraced what they previously described
as “the height of methodological inconsistency.” Based on the portion of their
book devoted to the Book of Mormon, Mosser and Owen’s original verdicts still
—”There are, contrary to popular evangelical perceptions, legitimate
—”Mormon scholars and apologists . . . have, with varying
degrees of success, answered most of the usual evangelical criticisms,” and
“the issue[s are] much more complex” than the evangelicals realize.109
—”Currently there are (as far as we are aware) no books from an evangelical
perspective that responsibly interact with contemporary LDS scholarly and apologetic
—”At the academic level evangelicals are . . . losing the
debate with the Mormons.”111
—”Most involved in the counter-cult movement lack the skills and training
[in ancient history and in things pertaining to the Church of Christ] necessary
to answer Mormon scholarly apologetic.”112
Appendix: KJV Language
We maintain that the language of the King James Bible played an important
role in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon not because he “plagiarized”
from the Bible (as some critics maintain), but because the Bible was a crucial
part of his cultural and linguistic heritage. The same could be said of other
nineteenth- and early twentieth-century translators. For example, in the following
chart we compare the work of two different translators, Robert H. Charles113
and Howard C. Kee,114 each of whom translated the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.
Charles’s work was published in 1913; Kee’s appeared seventy years later. While
both are considered excellent translations, Charles chose to follow the biblical
style of the Kings James Version, while Kee used more modern terminology.115
|*reserved for eternal punishment (T. Reuben 5:5)||destined for eternal punishment (T. Reuben 5:5)||reserved unto judgment (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6)|
|*lusted after (T. Reuben 5:6)||filled with desire (T. Reuben 5:6)||lust after (1 Corinthians 10:6; Revelation 18:14)|
|*the Mighty One of Israel (T. Simeon 6:5)||the Great One in Israel (T. Simeon 6:5)||the mighty One of Israel (Isaiah 1:24; 30:29)|
|thrones and dominions (T. Levi 3:8)||thrones and authorities (T. Levi 3:8)||thrones, or dominions (Colossians 1:16)|
|*the fashion of the gentiles (T. Levi 8:14)||the gentile model (T. Levi 8:14)||the fashion of this world (1 Corinthians 7:31)|
|laid waste (T. Levi 16:4)||razed to the ground (T. Levi 16:4)||[“lay/laid waste” very common; “rase” only in Psalm 137:7]|
|*filthy lucre (T. Judah 16:1)||sordid greed (T. Judah 16:1)||filthy lucre (1 Timothy 3:3, 8; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 5:2)|
|written upon the hearts of men (T. Judah 20:3)||written in the affections of man (T. Judah 20:3)||I will . . . write it in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33); write
them upon the table of thine heart (Proverbs 3:3)
|*to offer Him the first-fruits (T. Judah 21:5)||to present as offerings (T. Judah 21:5)||[“firstfruits” very common]|
|them that have familiar spirits (T. Judah 23:1)||ventriloquists (T. Judah 23:1)||them that have familiar spirits (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Isaiah 19:3)|
|*And from your root shall arise a stem; And from it
shall grow up the rod of righteousness unto the Gentiles (T. Judah 24:5-6)
|and from your root will arise the Shoot, and through it will arise the
rod of righteousness for the nations (T. Judah 24:6)
|And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch
shall grow out of his roots: . . . And in that day there shall be a root
of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the
Gentiles seek (Isaiah 11:1, 10)
|*singleness of eye (T. Issachar 3:4)||singleness of vision (T. Issachar 3:5)||thine eye is single (Luke 11:34; Matthew 6:22)|
|*singleness of your heart (T. Issachar 4:1; 7:7)||integrity of heart (T. Issachar 4:1); sincerity of heart (T. Issachar
|singleness of heart (Acts 2:46; Ephesians 6:5; Colossians 3:22)|
|bowels of mercy (T. Zebulon 7:3)||merciful in your inner self (T. Zebulon 7:3)||bowels and mercies (Philippians 2:1)|
|we were all scattered unto the ends of the earth (T.
|we were all dispersed, even to the outer limits (T. Naphtali 6:7)||[“the ends of the earth” used in passages relating to scattering (Isaiah
26:15) and gathering (Isaiah 43:6; Micah 5:4) of Israel]
|*it stirreth him up (T. Gad 4:4)||he conspires (T. Gad 4:4)||stir him up (Numbers 24:9; Job 41:10; Song of Solomon 2:7; 3:5;8:4; 2 Peter
|*true repentance after a godly sort (T. Gad 5:7)||for according to God’s truth, repentance destroys disobedience (T. Gad
|for godly sorrow worketh repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10)|
|*abstaineth from meats (T. Asher 2:8)||is abstemious in his eating (T. Asher 2:8)||to abstain from meats (1 Timothy 4:3)|
|beguile me (T. Joseph 6:2)||lead me astray (T. Joseph 6:2)||beguiled me (Genesis 3:13; 29:25)|
|*let this suffice me (T. Joseph 7:6)||that is enough (T. Joseph 7:6)||let it suffice (Deuteronomy 3:26; Ezekiel 44:6; 45:9)|
- Carl Mosser and Paul Owen, “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics and Evangelical
Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?” Trinity Journal, n.s., 19/2
- Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Imitation Gospels and Christ’s Book of
Mormon Ministry,” in Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-day Saints,
ed. C. Wilfred Griggs (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft and BYU Religious Studies Center,
- Ironically, Shepherd discusses some of the same texts that Anderson examined
(see, for example, 376, 386).
- Shepherd should have consulted Donald W. Parry, Jeanette W. Miller, Sandra
A. Thorne, eds., A Comprehensive Annotated Book of Mormon Bibliography (Provo,
Utah: Research Press, 1996). Also, since its inception in 1989, the Review of
Books on the Book of Mormon (subsequently changed to the FARMS Review of Books
and now called the FARMS Review) has published annual bibliographies of published
works relating to the Book of Mormon.
- For examples of recent pseudotranslations that rely on Latter-day Saint scriptures
but purport to be translations of ancient texts discovered in a European archive,
see John A. Tvedtnes’s review of David T. Harris, Truths from the Earth,
volume 2, in FARMS Review of Books 9/2 (1997): 68-73.
- See, e.g., Robert L. Lindsey, A Hebrew Translation of the Gospel of Mark (Jerusalem:
Baptist House, n.d.).
- See the following articles: 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): 51-120; John A. Tvedtnes and Stephen D. Ricks,
“Jewish and Other Semitic Texts Written in Egyptian Characters,” Journal
of Book of Mormon Studies 5/2 (1996): 156-63; John Gee and John A. Tvedtnes,
“Ancient Manuscripts Fit Book of Mormon Pattern,” Insights (February
- John W. Welch, “View of the Hebrews: ‘An Unparallel,'”
in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, ed. Welch (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and
FARMS, 1992), 83-87.
- Finley admits that “it is clear from the ‘unparallels’ that
View of the Hebrews was not the sole or even the primary source for the Book of
Mormon” (p. 387). One wonders if he, like some other critics, believes
that Joseph Smith used the expensive five-volume Irish atlas showing the Comora
islands or the Wonders of Nature, which describes the effects of volcanic eruptions,
or some of the centuries-old magical books that others suggest he used. For our
part, we find it difficult to believe that Joseph Smith was so well read that
it took decades and sometimes more than a century for critics to scour the libraries
to “find” the “sources” he reputedly used. The fact that
Joseph’s mother wrote that he hardly ever read seems not to bother any of
these people. Lucy Mack Smith, History of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake
City: Improvement Era, 1902), 84.
- John W. Welch, “Approaching New Approaches,” Review of Books on
the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994): 145-86. See also Welch, “The Sermon
at the Temple and the Greek New Testament Manuscripts,” in his Sermon at
the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount: A Latter-day Saint Approach (Salt Lake
City: Deseret Book, 1990), 145-63. This was a response to Stan Larson’s
original article, “The Sermon on the Mount: What Its Textual Transformation
Discloses concerning the Historicity of the Book of Mormon,” Trinity Journal
7 (1986): 23-45.
- See John A. Tvedtnes, “The Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon,”
a book-length preliminary report (Provo, Utah: FARMS TVE81), and the shorter version,
“Isaiah Variants in the Book of Mormon,” in Isaiah and the Prophets:
Inspired Voices from the Old Testament, ed. Monte S. Nyman (Salt Lake City:
Bookcraft and BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982), 165-77. Wright’s
article, “Isaiah in the Book of Mormon: Or Joseph Smith in Isaiah,”
found on the Internet, has recently appeared in Dan Vogel and Brent Lee Metcalfe,
eds., American Apocrypha: Essays on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Signature,
2002), 157-234. Tvedtnes plans to review that material in the pages of the
- Royal Skousen has been working on a multivolume study of the Book of Mormon
manuscripts, of which the first two volumes, The Original Manuscript of the Book
of Mormon, and the two-part The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon,
were published by FARMS in 2001.
- Finley’s critique of Hugh Nibley’s use of the Lachish Letters
as evidence for the Book of Mormon was read to the Society for the Study of Alternative
Religions (SSAR) at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society,
19 November 1998, in Orlando, Florida. The paper, “A Review of Hugh Nibley’s
Comparisons between the Book of Mormon and the Lachish Letters,” has been
posted on the “Mormons in Transition” Web site at www.irr.org/mit/nibley.html.
Nibley’s article, “The Lachish Letters: Documents from Lehi’s
Day,” appeared in the Ensign, December 1981, 48-54, and was reprinted
in Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS,
1989), 380-406. Of Finley’s many objections to Nibley’s article,
we are especially mystified by the fact that he objects to Nibley’s use
of the only study of the Lachish letters available to him at the time Nibley’s
piece was published. Surely Finley cannot expect Nibley to have been sufficiently
clairvoyant to know that a later study of the letters would take the place of
the earlier one. Even if all his points were valid, this would reflect negatively
on Hugh Nibley, but not on the Book of Mormon.
- “1. A parallel should be specific enough that it cannot be explained
other than by general human experience. 2. A parallel should be unique to the
Lachish Letters and not more readily explained by sources that were easily available
to Joseph Smith, such as the KJV. 3. Any parallel should be examined thoroughly
to see how it functions in both contexts. . . . 4. One should always
keep in mind the possibility of accidental parallels.” Finley’s original
fifth criterion was specific to the Lachish letters that he was discussing, though
it could be applied to other similar studies: “One should also remember
the nature of the Lachish Letters themselves. They do not give comprehensive descriptions
of their times but offer only brief and usually fragmentary insights into particular
issues. They are also subject to various interpretations because of their fragmentary
- Actually, we find the example that he gives in his third criterion to be opaque.
The terminology in this case is certainly descendant. It would also have been
nice if Finley had elaborated some means of determining when an anachronism might
be the result of prophecy (say in Isaiah’s prophecy of Cyrus or the prophecy
of Josiah in 1 Kings 13:2) rather than anachronism.
- See John A. Tvedtnes, “Joseph’s Prophecy of Moses and Aaron,”
Insights 21/1 (January 2001): 2. Hugh Nibley has been especially active in comparing
Latter-day Saint scriptures with texts from antiquity. For example, some of the
parallels in his Enoch the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1986)
are not strong evidence for the Book of Moses because the parallel quotations
are from non-Enochian texts. But where they are quotations from an Enoch text,
they are certainly relevant. Douglas F. Salmon argued against the use of parallels
in his “Parallelomania and the Study of Latter-day Scripture: Confirmation,
Coincidence, or the Collective Unconscious?” Dialogue 33/2 (2000): 129-56.
See the review of this article in William J. Hamblin, “Joseph or Jung? A
Response to Douglas Salmon,” FARMS Review of Books 13/2 (2001): 87-107.
- John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, and Matthew Roper, “Book of Mormon Names
Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
9/1 (2000): 40-51.
- Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Sariah in the Elephantine Papyri,” Journal
of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993): 196-200; and Terrence L. Szink, “Further
Evidence of a Semitic Alma,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999):
- “Seeking Agreement on the Meaning of Book of Mormon Names,” Journal
of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000): 28-39.
- One of the distinctive features of Finley’s article is his general ignorance
of Book of Mormon scholarship and his repeated lack of attention to the full range
of scholarship on an issue. This is particularly disappointing given Parry, Miller,
and Thorne’s Comprehensive Annotated Book of Mormon Bibliography. Perhaps
Mosser and Owen’s complaint still holds with respect to the Book of Mormon:
“Currently there are (as far as we are aware) no books from an evangelical
perspective that responsibly interact with contemporary LDS scholarly and apologetic
writings.” Mosser and Owen, “Losing the Battle,” 181.
- Robert H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford:
- See the appendix of this review for examples from Charles’s work.
- Theodor H. Gaster, The Dead Sea Scriptures (New York: Anchor Doubleday, 1956).
- From Robert L. Lindsey’s introduction to A Hebrew Translation of the
Gospel of Mark (Jerusalem: Baptist House, n.d.), 76; see also 78-79.
- See, for example, John Hyde Jr., Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs (New York:
Fetridge, 1857), 218.
- See H. Curtis Wright, “Ancient Burials of Metal Documents in Stone Boxes,”
in By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley, ed. John M.
Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990),
2:273-334. The article was based on Wright’s earlier study, “Ancient
Burials of Metallic Foundation Documents in Stone Boxes,” Occasional Papers,
University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science 157
(December 1982): 1-42. Wright drew on Richard Ellis’s Yale University
doctoral dissertation on Mesopotamian foundational deposits.
- In this connection, Hugh Nibley’s observation seems almost prophetic:
“It will not be long before men forget that in Joseph Smith’s day
the Prophet was mocked and derided for his description of the plates more than
anything else.” Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, The World of the Jaredites,
There Were Jaredites (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1988), 107.
- This tactic can be illustrated by Thomas Key, author of A Biologist Examines
the Book of Mormon, 14th ed. revised and enlarged (Marlow, Okla.: Utah Missions,
1995). Key argued that the Book of Mormon was wrong in claiming that the Jaredites
brought bees to the New World, for bees were not known in the Americas prior to
the coming of Columbus. In a private communication with Key, Matthew Roper noted
that the Book of Mormon mentions bees only in connection with the Jaredite travels
in the Old World, prior to their ocean crossing. Roper also provided an extensive
bibliography of articles written by scholars outside the Church of Jesus Christ
who clearly demonstrate the presence of bees and the harvesting of honey by the
Maya of Mesoamerica in pre-Columbian times. Rather than drop the argument, Key
just reinvented it, acknowledging that while there were bees in ancient Mesoamerica,
they were unknown in what is now the state of New York.
- Actually, only the Elamite text comprises eight lines; the Persian text takes
up to ten lines and the Babylonian seven, for a total of twenty-five lines for
each plate. Darius was not the only ancient king named in ancient metal plates;
one of the plates of the Assyrian king Sargon II, deposited at Khorsabad, has
thirty lines of script.
- Franklin S. Harris Jr., The Book of Mormon Message and Evidences (Salt Lake
City: Deseret News Press, 1953), 95-105.
- Paul R. Cheesman, Ancient Writing on Metal Plates (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon,
- H. Curtis Wright, “Metallic Documents of Antiquity,” BYU Studies
10/4 (1970): 457-77.
- William J. Hamblin, “Sacred Writing on Bronze Plates in the Ancient
Mediterranean” (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1994).
- Heinrich Otten, Die Bronzetafel aus Bogazköy: Ein Staatsvertrag Tutalijas
IV (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1988), 1; translated into English by John Gee.
- Gary Beckman, Hittite Diplomatic Texts, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: Scholars Press,
- Ibid., 108, with references to tablets of silver and iron.
- For an overview, see Adel Farid, Fünf demotischen Stelen aus Berlin,
Chicago, Durham, London und Oxford mit zwei demotischen Türinschriften aus
Paris und einer Bibliographie der demotischen Inschriften (Berlin: Achet Verlag,
- Ibid., 413, Abb. 30.
- A. F. Shore, “Votive Objects from Dendera of the Graeco-Roman Period,”
in Glimpses of Ancient Egypt: Studies in Honour of H. W. Fairman, ed. John Ruffle,
G. A. Gaballa, and Kenneth A. Kitchen (Warminster, Eng.: Aris and Phillips, 1979),
- For a discussion of treasuries as a repository for writings, see John A. Tvedtnes,
“Books in the Treasury,” chap. 9 in The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden
Books (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000), 155-66.
- Roy Kotansky, Greek Magical Amulets: The Inscribed Gold, Silver, Copper, and
Bronze “Lamellae”: Part I. Published Texts of Known Provenance (Opladen,
Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1994), 126-54.
- Ibid., 129-30.
- Ibid., 3.
- Ibid., 4, 8-9.
- J. S. Richardson, “The Tabula Contrebiensis: Roman Law in Spain in the
Early First Century BC,” Journal of Roman Studies 73 (1983): 33-41;
Guillermo Fatás, “The Tabula Contrebiensis,” Antiquity 57 (1983):
12-18; Peter Birks, Alan Rodger, and J. S. Richardson, “Further Aspects
of the Tabula Contrebiensis,” Journal of Roman Studies 74 (1984): 45-73.
- Harold B. Mattingly, “The Two Republican Laws of the Tabula Bembina,”
Journal of Roman Studies 59 (1969): 129-43; Mattingly, “The Extortion
Law of the Tabula Bembina,” Journal of Roman Studies 60 (1970): 154-68;
Mattingly, “The Agrarian Law of the Tabula Bembina,” Latomus 30 (April-June
- William T. Loomis, “Entella Tablets VI (254-241 BC) and VII
(20th century AD?),” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 96 (1994):
- Barbara Levick, “The Senatus Consultum from Larinum,” Journal
of Roman Studies 73 (1983): 97-115.
- Hamblin, “Sacred Writings on Bronze Plates in the Ancient Mediterranean,”
- Giuliano Bonfante and Larissa Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: An Introduction
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983), 48.
- James Wilson Poultney, The Bronze Tables of Iguvium (Baltimore: American Philological
Association, 1959), 1.
- The record of Ether was kept on only 24 gold plates and thus is not in the
same category as these other, longer texts.
- Lehi found the genealogy of his fathers on the plates of Laban, whose fathers
had kept the record, suggesting that they were closely related (1 Nephi 5:14).
- Tvedtnes plans to make a stronger case in one of the chapters of his forthcoming
book, The Book of Mormon and the Ancient World.
- For an in-depth discussion, see Gee, “La Trahison des Clercs,”
- Readers confused by my questions should realize that Finley’s argument
is confused and confusing.
- For a discussion of a Hebrew wordplay in Alma 32:21, see John A. Tvedtnes,
“Faith and Truth,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 3/2 (1994): 114-17.
- In 1 Samuel 28:8, we read that “[King] Saul disguised himself,
and put on other raiment” so he would not be recognized. See also 1 Kings
22:30 and Joshua 9:2-16.
- The adjectival and adverbial forms are rendered “treacherous”
and “treacherously” in Isaiah 24:16, Jeremiah 12:1, and Zephaniah
- See Royal Skousen, “Critical Methodology and the Text of the Book of
Mormon,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 6/1 (1994): 132-35.
Skousen notes that the examples he cites were changed in later editions of the
Book of Mormon, with the omission of the word “and,” thus giving the
text the appearance of idiomatic English rather than Hebrew. Tvedtnes notes that
the omission of “that” before some subordinate clauses in later editions
of the Book of Mormon destroyed a Hebrew idiom in the process of making it conform
to standard English usage. See 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),
- The Hebrew text uses the feminine, suggesting that the antecedent is the city
- Royal Skousen, ed., The Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon (Provo,
Utah: FARMS, 2001), 144. We have changed the markings to standards for our field
and have eliminated some of the diacritics.
- Royal Skousen, ed., The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon,
2 vols. (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2001), 1:120. We have changed the markings to the
standard Leiden bracket system and have eliminated some of the diacritics.
- We wonder how Professor Chaim Rabin, former head of the Hebrew Language Academy
in Jerusalem, would have reacted to Finley’s comment about the frequent
use of the conjunction “and” in the Book of Mormon. In 1971 Tvedtnes
received a letter from a friend, Robert F. Smith, who was then attending the Hebrew
University in Jerusalem. Smith told of an English lecture on the history of the
Hebrew language in which Rabin had cited a passage from the Book of Mormon to
illustrate the use of the Hebrew conjunction waw and told the assembled students
that the Book of Mormon reflected Hebrew better than the English Bible. When Tvedtnes
later went to Israel and took courses from Rabin, he found that Rabin had other
positive things to say about “Hebraisms” in the Book of Mormon.
- Stephen D. Ricks and John A. Tvedtnes used this date in their article “Jewish
and Other Semitic Texts Written in Egyptian Characters,” Journal of Book
of Mormon Studies 5/2 (1996): 160.
- Gee and Tvedtnes, “Ancient Manuscripts Fit Book of Mormon Pattern.”
- Tvedtnes, Gee, and Roper, “Book of Mormon Names.”
- Alan Goff, “Boats, Beginnings, and Repetitions,” Journal of Book
of Mormon Studies 1 (1992): 67-84, has shown in detail that the repetition
of themes in the Bible and Book of Mormon is an argument not against, but for,
- Tvedtnes, Gee, and Roper, “Book of Mormon Names,” 47, 49.
- Ibid., 50. For a discussion of the hypocoristic nature of names ending in
aleph, with an extensive listing of examples, see Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass,
Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and
Humanities, 1997), 471.
- W. F. Albright, “Northwest Semitic Names in a List of Egyptian Slaves
from the Eighteenth Century BC,” Journal of the American Oriental Society
74 (1954): 227, and “The Early Alphabetic Inscriptions from Sinai and Their
Decipherment,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 110
(1948): 21 n. 77.
- Frank Moore Cross Jr. and David Noel Freedman, Early Hebrew Orthography: A
Study of the Epigraphic Evidence (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1952),
- H. Donner and Wolfgang Röllig, Kanaanäische und Aramäische
Inschriften (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1962-79).
- Frank L. Benz, Personal Names in the Phoenician and Punic Inscriptions: A
Catalog, Grammatical Study and Glossary of Elements (Rome: Biblical Institute
Press, 1972), 240. Benz wrote that the afformative aleph is a “hypocoristic
termination and mark of abbreviation . . . well attested in Northwest
Semitic during the second millennium B.C.”
- “Institute Scholar Speaks at Congress of Jewish Studies,” Insights
21/9 (September 2001): 1.
- In an Internet posting of 10 June 2002, David Wright suggested that the Book
of Mormon place-name Nahom “may be Nah- with an -om suffix.” He then
argued that “it is consequently not clear whether the place name Nahom (whose
root could be nh/nah- given the evidence of the BM onomasticon) is to be associated
with the Arabic place name Nehhem (whose root is nhm) in Yemen.” Somehow,
he wants to believe that just because -om or -um may be a suffixed element in
other Book of Mormon names, it follows that it functions in a similar fashion
here, meaning that it cannot be considered equivalent to the Arabic name because
they are of different roots (nh vs. nhm). Wright gives no evidence for this contention,
basing his comments on later Nephite names rather than on names known from the
ancient Near East. In a footnote, Wright writes as follows: “John Tvedtnes’
article ‘Hebrew Names in the Book of Mormon’ at www.fair-lds.org treats
Nahom briefly (p. 3 of the PDF file). He chooses to associate Nahom with
Hebrew n-kh-m, but wrongly implies that Nehhem in Yemen is the same root. If one
associates Nahom with n-kh-m (hard-h), then one cannot credibly associate it with
the different root lying behind Nehhem (n-h-m; soft-h). As I noted in a post of
several months back, Kent Brown seeks to associate both roots in his JBMS article
on the Yemenite altar with the gentilic adjective nhmy ‘Nehemite’
written on it. This dual association stretches credulity.” But Brown notes,
“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.
. . . 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.” S. Kent Brown, “‘The
Place That Was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen,” Journal
of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 79 n. 3.
- Tvedtnes, Gee, and Roper, “Book of Mormon Names,” 51.
- To be sure, some Bible scholars believe Daniel was written much later than
the prophet of that name, but evangelical Protestants and Latter-day Saints typically
accept it as a contemporary account.
- For a discussion, see John A. Tvedtnes, “Nebuchadnezzar or Nabonidus?
Mistaken Identities in the Book of Daniel,” Ensign, September 1986, 54-57.
- Though not a name, the word sheum, included in a list of grains in Mosiah
9:9, can be compared with the Akkadian she’um, denoting grain. Akkadian
was spoken in the region from which the Jaredites emigrated to the New World and
the word may have been applied to a New World grain with which they were unfamiliar
and later adopted by the Nephites by means of the Mulekites.
- Major articles dealing with Book of Mormon names include Paul Y. Hoskisson,
“An Introduction to the Relevance of and a Methodology for a Study of the
Proper Names of the Book of Mormon,” in By Study and Also by Faith, 2:126-35;
Hoskisson, “Book of Mormon Names,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 186-87;
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; Tvedtnes, “What’s in
a Name? A Look at the Book of Mormon Onomasticon,” FARMS Review of Books
8/2 (1996): 34-42; Stephen D. Ricks and John A. Tvedtnes, “The Hebrew
Origin of Some Book of Mormon Place Names,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies
6/2 (1997): 255-59. The last several issues of the Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies have discussed the etymology of specific Book of Mormon names. Irreantum,
one of the place-names for which the Book of Mormon gives a meaning (1 Nephi
17:5), is the subject of Finley’s criticism. We recommend the article “Irreantum,”
by Paul Y. Hoskisson, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, in the Journal of Book of
Mormon Studies 11 (2002): 90-93.
- Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York: Converse,
- The same Hebrew term is also rendered “steel” in Jeremiah 15:12
- Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Volume 1, Social Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill,
1965), 243. See also the important discussion by William J. Hamblin, “The
Bow and Arrow in the Book of Mormon,” in Warfare in the Book of Mormon,
ed. Stephen D. Ricks and William J. Hamblin (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and
FARMS, 1990), 373-79.
- One wonders who is the target of Finley’s remarks. He seems to be saying
that the Sinai peninsula is the most logical setting for the story in 1 Nephi,
which is more an argument against modern Book of Mormon scholars than against
the Nephite record.
- Brown, “‘The Place That Was Called Nahom,'” 66-68;
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), 81-83.
- If, as some critics claim, Joseph Smith had access to Bible dictionaries,
one might expect that he would have looked at one of the maps and selected place-names
published thereon. The fact that the Book of Mormon does not mention Moab, Edom,
Sheba, etc., is evidence that Joseph Smith did not consult other materials.
- Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 55.
- George D. Potter, “A New Candidate in Arabia for the Valley of Lemuel,”
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 54-63.
- Eugene England, “Through the Arabian Desert to a Bountiful Land: Could
Joseph Smith Have Known the Way?” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light
on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds and Charles D. Tate (Salt Lake City:
Bookcraft and BYU Religious Studies Center, 1982), 143-56.
- KJV employs the word “coasts” in the New Testament as well, describing
territories that do not border on shorelines (e.g., Matthew 2:16; 16:13).
- In 1842 one critic chided, “Why were they not directed to the Mediterranean
Sea, which was so near Jerusalem, instead of being made to perform the long and
perilous journey to the borders of the Red Sea? more especially since the voyage
through the former would have been shorter by six or seven thousand miles, (no
trifling distance,) than the one performed according to the data given. An easterly
course from the borders of the Red Sea would have taken them across the Desert
of Arabia to the Persian Gulf.” Daniel P. Kidder, Mormonism and the Mormons:
A Historical View of the Rise and Progress of the Sect Self-Styled Latter-day
Saints (New York: Carlton and Lanahan, 1842), 265.
- How could there be “a valley at the mouth of a river on the border of
the Red Sea, where there never was a river for more than 300 miles either way
along the shore of the sea[?]” S. Burnet, The Evangelist (30 September 1880),
cited by Joseph Smith III in The Spaulding Story Re-examined (Lamoni, Iowa: Herald
Office, 1883), 14. For a detailed description of this site, see Potter, “A
New Candidate in Arabia,” 54-63.
- “Here, again, is a blunder of ignorance of known factors. The coastline
of the Persian Gulf was utterly inhospitable and barren.” Gordon H. Fraser,
What Does the Book of Mormon Teach? An Examination of the Historical and Scientific
Statements of the Book of Mormon (Chicago: Moody, 1964), 37. As recently as 1985
one critic confidently proclaimed, “Arabia is bountiful in sunshine, petroleum,
sand, heat, and fresh air, but certainly not in ‘much fruit and also wild
honey,’ nor has it been since Pleistocene times.” Thomas Key, “A
Biologist Examines the Book of Mormon,” Journal of the American Scientific
Affiliation 37/2 (1985): 97.
- For objections to timber, see Fraser, What Does the Book of Mormon Teach?
37, and Key, “A Biologist Examines the Book of Mormon,” 97.
- “Although the territory is one that in expanse is comparable to that
portion of the United States lying between the Mississippi River and the Atlantic
Ocean, yet in all that range of territory there has been no metal discovered that
would be suitable for ship construction, except in the central part and in the
Sinaitic peninsula, either of which is hundreds of miles distant from the reputed
spot where the vessel was built. And this fact goes far to strengthen the oft
repeated assertion that ‘the author and proprietor’ of the Book of
Mormon was illiterate.” Samuel W. Traum, Mormonism against Itself (Cincinnati:
Standard, 1910), 98. For recently discovered evidence for ore, see Wm. Revell
Phillips, “Metals of the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon
Studies 9/2 (2000): 36-41.
- David L. Clark, “Lehi and El Niño: A Method of Migration,”
BYU Studies 30/3 (1990): 57-65.
- Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 123.
- See the discussion in William J. Hamblin, “That Old Black Magic,”
FARMS Review of Books 12/2 (2000): 256-60.
- William F. Albright, letter to Grant S. Heward, 25 July 1966. A photocopy
is in the hands of Boyd Petersen.
- Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched
a New World Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002). Givens’s
book is one of the most insightful examinations of Book of Mormon scholarship
- Brent L. Metcalfe, ed., New Approaches to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City:
Signature Books, 1993).
- Mosser and Owen, “Losing the Battle,” 203 n. 109, emphasis added.
- Ibid., 204.
- Ibid., 180.
- Ibid., 181.
- R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 2:282-367.
- Howard C. Kee, “Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs,” in The
Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, ed. James H. Charlesworth (Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday, 1983), 1:775-828.
- Two recent translators, H. W. Hollander and M. de Jonge, The Testaments of
the Twelve Patriarchs: A Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 1985), have, in some cases,
preferred to use the KJV style in their English translation. Wherever they have
used the same words as Charles and the KJV, an asterisk appears by Charles’s