If you’re interested in possible Book of Mormon “Hebraisms” (language structures in the English translation suggesting Hebraic roots in the original), one good essay is “The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon” by Dr. John A. Tvedtnes. This is a chapter in Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, edited by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Comp., 1991), pp. 77-91. This is one of several excellent books available free online at the Maxwell Institute (FARMS).
Here a couple of excerpts:
Hebrew uses another compound preposition that would be translated literally as from before the presence of or from before the face of. English would normally use simply from. The influence of the Hebrew can be seen in these Book of Mormon passages:
“they fled from before my presence” (1 Nephi 4:28)
“he had gone from before my presence” (1 Nephi 11:12)
“they were carried away . . . from before my face” (1 Nephi 11:29)
And here’s one from the discussion of conjunctions:
Another difference between Hebrew and English conjunctions is that in Hebrew the same conjunction can carry both the meaning and and also the opposite meaning but. Here are two well-known Bible passages in which the King James Version renders the conjunction but:
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it” (Genesis 2:16-17).
“And as for Ishmael . . . I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac” (Genesis 17:20-21).
Evidence for Hebraism in the Book of Mormon lies in the fact that some passages use the conjunction and when but is expected. Here, for example, are two different versions of the Lord’s promise to Lehi:
“Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; but inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (2 Nephi 1:20; compare Alma 50:20).
“Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land; and inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall be cut off from my presence” (2 Nephi 4:4).
In one of the quotations of this promise, Joseph Smith rendered the conjunction and, while in another place, he rendered it but. In other Book of Mormon passages, Joseph translated and when in English we would expect but because a contrastive meaning is clearly called for:
“And when I speak the word of God with sharpness they tremble and anger against me; and (= but) when I use no sharpness they harden their hearts against it” (Moroni 9:4).
“He commanded the multitude that they should cease to pray, and also his disciples. And (= but) he commanded them that they should not cease to pray in their hearts” (3 Nephi 20:1).
And from his final section:
Words Used in Unusual Ways
At several points in the Book of Mormon, we encounter English words used in ways that are unknown or unexpected in our language. King Mosiah said, “I shall give this people a name, that thereby they may be distinguished above all the people” (Mosiah 1:11). In English we would expect distinguished from. But the Book of Mormon passage reflects the normal Hebrew expression, which uses the compound preposition that means from above.
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). The term head seems out of place. We would expect something like most important to be used. But the expression is readily explainable in terms of Hebrew. The Hebrew word for the head of the body is sometimes used to describe things as chief (see Deuteronomy 33:15; Psalm 137:6; and Proverbs 1:21) or precious (see Amos 6:1; Song of Solomon 4:14; Ezekiel 27:22). This is probably the sense in which Jacob used the word.
Nephi wrote, “We are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20). It seems strange to have Nephi call the American continent an island. But the Hebrew word generally translated isle in the Bible has a wider range of meaning than just island. It most often refers to coastal lands.
Food for thought, I hope.