Alma 7:11 – Indications of Ancient Hebrew Origins?

A article in FARMS’ Journal of Book of Mormon Studies on the language of Alma 7:11 (Thomas A. Wayment’s “The Hebrew Text of Alma 7:11”) argues that English words in Alma 7:11, apparently including a citation of Isaiah 53:4, more closely follow the actual Hebrew in the Masoretic text for Isaiah 53:4 than the KJV or the Septuagint. This is one of those many subtle but noteworthy indications of ancient Semitic origins of the text itself. Take a look at the article and let me know what you think.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

13 thoughts on “Alma 7:11 – Indications of Ancient Hebrew Origins?

  1. I disagree with Mr. Wayment.

    The most obvious flaw in his arguement is that he is comparing someone’s ‘translation’ of the MT passage to the Alma text. He is entirely focused on a match of the two words, “pains” and “sicknesses.” On this matter everything depends on the translation of the MT he is using.

    If you follow Brown, Driver, Briggs, the most literal translation will be “our sickness” followed by “our pains,” as in my literal translation of the MT:

    Surely our sicknesses he bore,
    And our pains he carried

    KJV:
    Surely he hath borne our griefs,
    and carried our sorrows

    Alma 7:11:
    he will take upon him the pains
    and sicknesses of his people

    The use of “pains” and “sicknesses” is a close match to the BDB definitions, and hence closest to the MT, on those two words (except in a different order). But overall, the KJV is still much closer to the MT than Alma.

  2. I’m not sure what to make of it. ON the one hand, the subtlety of the root of “ma-akov” picked up by Alma is significant, both doctrinally and linguistically–that is, if Alma was using a Hebrew text to begin with.

    You see, the problem is that the Masoretic text came about almost 1000 years after Alma. Unfortunately, Mr. Wayment did not use the Dead Sea Scrolls for comparison–that would have given us a far better idea of what was on the brass plates. The most reliable source chronoligically should have been the LXX. The question is, which do distrust more, the deteriorating effect of time on the Masoretic text or the effect of translation on the LXX.

    Frankly, I do not believe that Alma was “translating” Isaiah at all. Isaiah was his inspiration; hence, he picked up on the two most important words in that word group. Any effort to pin a translation down on Alma will result in the mahnahvu stated before–that the syntax of the KJV is undeniably closer to the Masoretic.

    But the nuance of Alma’s discussion–that we should pay attention to.

  3. You are right, Walker. I should not have discounted the significance of the literal word definitions. I think there is good reason to believe that the phrase in Alma is dependant on Isaiah. The fact that Joseph Smith got those two words so accurate should not be ignored. And so, I do not entirely disagree with Wayment.

  4. Another ditty of note:

    In Helamen 9:6, Mormon refers to a “garb of secrecy,” a strange phrase I would say.

    However, the Hebrew word for garb, “beged,” has a dual definition. One means “clothing” and the other means “treachery.” It is very tempting, even compelling, to believe that Mormon was exhibiting his Hebrew skill for punnery.

  5. A bit of a tangent: bear with me.

    James Frey’s book goes for a year when it becomes largely discredited for embellishment.

    The Book of Mormon goes for 150 years, after which its likelihood of authenticity INCREASES, gaining whole institutions devoted to determining its origins.

    I’m not seeing any Utah Frey-house Ministries or Foundation for Freyian Research and Memoir Studies.

    True, the production method was different. However, the literary question is the same concerning authenticity.

    Just a thought.

  6. Actually, the article is in the FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, not in the FARMS Review. (I hope that BYU Alter Ego will let me say that without challenging me on it.)

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