If It Sounds Like a Duck: A Possible Egyptian Linguistic Component in Book of Mormon Names

A 2018 BYU Studies article, “An Egyptian Linguistic Component in Book of Mormon Names,” represents another significant contribution regarding the apparent influence of the Egyptian language on Book of Mormon names. Here we have a plausible case that four names may each employ an Egyptian system for indicating descent, which may derive from the pin-tailed duck hieroglyph. Its usage and pronunciation could help explain the influences behind these names.

Abstract: There are several names in the Book of Mormon—such as Zenephi, Zenos,
and Zenock—that look as though they are composed of scriptural names
(Nephi, Enos, Enoch, and so forth) with different forms of a z-prefix
that might mean “son of ” or “descendant of.” This article proposes that
the names Zenephi, Zenos, Zenock, and Cezoram incorporate the names of
other Book of Mormon or biblical individuals and the Egyptian pin-tail
duck hieroglyph, represented by the morpheme se-/ze-, which denotes
filiation with these ancestors. If this hypothesis is accurate, it could
provide insight into some aspects of the structure of the language of
the Book of Mormon and could also reveal information about Book of
Mormon naming practices and genealogical lineages of the people who
received these names.

There’s quite a lot of analysis and some interesting surprises in this work.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

23 thoughts on “If It Sounds Like a Duck: A Possible Egyptian Linguistic Component in Book of Mormon Names

  1. Gee, if only we had some Book of Mormon text in the original language. Wouldn't that go a long way toward settling these apologetical questions?

    What a pity that angel took the gold plates away. But oh how extremely convenient!

    — OK

  2. That's an uninteresting, lame comment.

    What's interesting is that all these names indicate that the delivery of the text was a revelation of words, not ideas. Not even a revelation of sounds works, as shown by the first occurrence of the name Coriantumr in the original MS (Helaman 1:15).

  3. This is a very interesting insight but the only situation which an Egyptian use of "se/ze" would apply would be Zenephi who fought in the last battles with Moroni before he and his army were "carried away". The other two, Zenos, and Zenock, are old world settlings. This would eliminate Zenos as a descendent of Enos and while Zenock could be the Egyptian way of saying "descendent of Enoch" it would still be biblical, not Book of Mormon. Then again, I don't have the full article.

    Still very interesting.

  4. OK,
    Without #1 and #2, there would be no serious study of the bible, because there would be very little to base it on. Any attempt at study would be grasping at straws and making up unproveable and untestable theories from whole cloth, or would require relying on conjecture and anecdotes ALONE, which doesn't make for a robust or healthy dialogue. It would afford the so-called researchers the comfort of speculation without trial. These researchers would resort to relying on faith as the ultimate test since there's literally no other way to sufficiently or satisfactorily check their work. Furthermore, there would be no actual scholastic work offered by reputable institutions because there would be no intellectual basis for such work, let alone a group of peers in the field to vet whatever findings are being fabricated. It would be a circle jerk.
    *rubs chin* hmmmm…. this is all starting to sound verrry familiar.

  5. So any argument that uses the Documentary Hypothesis as a source can be disregarded? *rubs chin* hmmm, interesting.

  6. Ok, you’ve hit on a key point that I’ve brought up several times. Without a source document, any speculation about linguistic forms in either Hebrew or Egyptian is just that—pure speculation. It’s like a child playing in a sandbox: he’s entertained and feels like he’s accomplishing a lot moving sand from place to place, but the work he has done has no value outside of the sandbox.

  7. https://www.lds.org/broadcasts/face-to-face/cook?lang=eng

    The LDS Church now considers the Book of Mormon a revelation and no longer considers it a translation, a complete and utter capitulation.   Those deemed anti-Mormon were the first to recognized the revelation view as the only way to resolve contradictions.
    Mormons used to be proud of being a strange and peculiar people. No more. The new party posture, led by guys like Jeff Lindsay, is to so thoroughly watering down the belief structure, it becomes unrecognizable from mainstream Christianity, making Mormonism just another Christian congregation.

    It is like the goofy kid (modern Mormons) with the kooky parents (old school Mormons) begging the cool kids (mainstream Christianity) to accept them. Defending your parents by swearing you are not them. Interesting, who is converting who?

  8. Anon 7:58, there's no question but that the Church has been conforming itself to contemporary American culture's thinking on all kinds of issues, whether it's general religious tolerance (the Catholic Church is no longer the Church of the Devil), general racial tolerance (black people are no longer spiritually inferior beings cursed for their morally deficient premortal existence), or DNA science (the Lamanites are no longer the principal ancestors of the Native Americans).

    On all these issues, yes, it's the Church that is being converted.

    Revelation is always subject to revision. Of course, believers will insist this is not so — they will insist the prophets are reliable and God's truths are unchanging — but the history is there for all to see.

    — OK

  9. Anon 7:58. Thanks for that link. What struck me in watching those excerpts is that the apostle, Quentin Cook never answers the questions himself. This is a key distinction for later deniability—he was there but those aren’t his words. This is a favorite dodge of the church if one of the answers is questioned or later proven wrong. That and “he wasn’t speaking as a prophet at the time” are two of the preferred.

  10. The Church's earliest prophets were definitely firebrands compared to today's corporate-manager milquetoasts. I think the last really forthright (or, from today's perspective, embarrassing) general authorities were Bruce McConkie and Ezra Taft Benson. But when it comes to openly enunciating the wackadoodle, even they paled in comparison to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. How are the mighty fallen!

    — OK

  11. Getting the feeling that Anon and OK are the same guy…
    However, I'd like to bring up some things I find rather relevant to the Anti-Mormon circle of fun.
    Nevermind the fact that it is damn near deceitful to refer to the bible historically as a singular work, the word itself being defined as "a collection of books." Also ignoring the fact that the list(s) that has(have) defined the Holy Bible has(have) changed and varied since the concept existed, though all of this tears your statement apart.

    The Bible is, in large part, being verified to be largely truthful, with the exceptions being those that would be expected from eyewitness accounts and transcription errors over thousands of years. While it isn't perfect, it is undeniably the best preserved body of work in the world, and has been studied by people who have descended from its writers or their eyewitnesses for almost as many years. Before the concept of Historicity existed, people were trying to prove the Bible's, which gives it at the least 1500 years of study and debate, followed by 800 years of general acceptance.
    This is with the "original texts" which were copies of copies of copies of copies to be sure, the cultures relevant to the books persisting into the current age, and general respect and admiration for the body of work as a whole.

    Even so, there is a growing faction of scholars that consider the New testament as we have it to be a translation from a Hebrew original. This, of course, is not extant, which can be said of the greek "originals" as well. The oldest copies of anything written are of the gospels, sure, but they are far from originals. In this way, it could be said that, with the Original Plates (which were not originals themselves, but copies and abridgments made by Mormon and his son) missing and the "original" copies of the first Book of Nephi extant, you might say that there is more of the Book of Mormon left than the New Testament, which of course, is not all that impressive considering that the Book of Mormon was compiled about three hundred years after the earliest texts of the New Testament.
    Back to the Hebrew Original theory behind the New Testament: there is a great deal to support this with a few of the letters and at least one of the Gospels and John's Revelation. This evidence comes from looking at trends found in translations from Hebrew to Greek and noticing similar trends in the material. Namely mistakes, like the title of the Lord appearing to be a tattoo on his thigh in John's Revelation, which is ridiculous as far as greek to greek mistakes go, but damn near expected from a gentile's translation from Hebrew as a second language (and culture) and Kione Greek.

    My point in all this is to say that your comment about study of the Book of Mormon is like depending on a single translation of the bible is accurate to a degree, but might not mean what you want it to. I really do not care about your further banter with what appears to be yourself regarding the Church and it's modern policies and policy changes. My father once taught me something valuable regarding outsider opinion, "Looking through a glass darkly is sometimes the best you can do, but the most informative view is from inside the church, not through the stained glass window," and my mother, "¿Porque no los dos?"

  12. Sammie, tell me who wrote the book of Genesis. Who were you taught wrote it? In your Mormon indoctrination, who did they say the author is?

    Okay, now take a moment to do some actual research from the field of history and religion and scriptural study and see what the actual answer is. Who is it? What did you learn when you peeked outside the tent flap of your understanding of the bible? Did you see that vast expanse of jungle? Full of vibrant study and knowledge and evidence and learning?
    The Book of Mormon doesn't have that. It's a tent in the desert. The water's running out, and you need to get a move on.

  13. Sammie,

    Orbiting Kolob (OK) and anon are not the same and almost no one here is viewing things as an outsider. You are a classic example of Mormons calling their fellow Mormons anti-Mormon for telling the truth about what they were taught. Refusing to follow the unwritten code of playing dumb for the cohesion of the group does not make one an outsider, unless you are circling the wagons inside an existing circle. Maybe you can take the name Mormon with you to the new circle, but does that give you the right to call the old circle anti-Mormon? If the new circle is currently refusing the name Mormon, even less so? Wouldn't it be the height of absurdity to call the FLDS or the RLDS anti-Mormon?

    Given the opposing world views of your latin mother and western father, you should have a little more understanding for those that refused to sacrifice personal honesty at the altar of lying for the lord to defend the flock. Scape goat us all you need to, but if you are going to call us anti-Mormon, we are going to call you anti-Christian.

  14. Perhaps I was misunderstood. I was not insisting that OK and anon were the exact same person. I was merely pointing out how similar they sounded posting irrelevant quibble after seemingly declaring victory from a poorly thought through post.

    Anon, I am taught that the book of Genesis is true, nothing more, and nothing more is demanded of my belief. When I was a Jew by faith, I believed the entirety of scripture to have been given to Moses. My current views have Moses as the main vessel through which God acted as who scholars term the "Redactor" in amalgamating the stories of his ancestors who had long since past, and whose records I believe were lost with Joseph's favor in Egypt. I even hold a special place for the Mishnah, which I use when teaching in Church.

    I don't really care for your frankly absurd implication that I have been behind some sort of intellectual wall. I also would like to point out that the vibrant field of study you deny exists persists without your acknowledgment without so much as noticing your disbelief. I see American grains that fed an ancient and vast civilization that predates even the Popol Vu's people, and bloody political wars and conspiracies that have since spelled their end. On opposing shores I see more than two and a half thousand year old Steel, a curiously placed valley and seasonal stream, an impossibly named city east of an impossibly lush coastal paradise, stone boxes, scriptures on metal, and the faith of many disparate Israelite descendants coming into the prophetic realization of their heritage.

    None of this ever depended on the Church or its members. It existed before they could find it. Further, the only information you two presented here that was relevant has been responded to. As for the rest of it, Revelation isn't just subject to revision, it is itself revision. People are imperfect vessels, even prophets, and the Lawgiver does pretty damn well given the material he has.

    As far as the circle I was referring to, I was trying to help you visualize how you and your fellow look when you speak to each other as if you have presented something profound or even accurate. You congratulate each other on victory against a silent adversary who hasn't given you the time of day. The truth of the matter is that you don't argue with someone tied up in deceit, arrogance, and resentment in order to convince them. There are only three reasons, well four, to do so.
    1. to intellectually expose and humiliate them publicly
    2. to help a bystander have the resources to respond to the few legitimate claims brought up
    3. to strengthen one's own understanding and familiarity with their reasons for their position in order to protect them from future deceit.
    4. because it's really funny to watch Bill Burr accurately describe arguments. When you're right, you stay on point and don't let go, which is admirable, but my goodness, how you get into the weeds when someone points out how wrong you are!

    In my case, I was bored and had writers block working on my essays, and then reasons 1 and 2. Maybe if you come up with something new, I'll be able to add 3 to that, but I doubt you'll put in the effort.

    Just to reiterate, the linguistic study of the Book of Mormon has yielded some of the most profound information about both ancient worlds and have redeemed the book steadily from its mocked position in American life in the past. To butcher a quote from Jim Bennet, that's not how fraud works. In fraud, Time exposes the mistakes and makes them more obvious. In the case of the book of Mormon, time has been generous and DCP's (I know, not my favorite apologist either) howlers have been addressed and thoroughly rebutted.

    If you have something relevant to the post (which is about the effect of modern linguistics on study of the content, and maybe if you push it, the veracity of the Book of Mormon) I'll continue talking with you. If not, I'm signing out for now.

  15. Oh, wait, one last thing since you appealed to my mother. Thanks for being civil about the way you went about it. That alone is why I want to respond to what you said there.

    I really don't care about the self victimization. No one makes you lie. If you can't accept a calling, then you can't accept a calling. You're not telling me you expect anyone to lend you their platform to disparage them, do you? The Church is not your uni. Even if it were, the Uni's don't let that happen on their campuses with their mic's and their audience anyway.

    In other words, the party line of "Lying for the Lord" resonates more with those who have sympathy for deception, internal or external, and not so much with me. I don't have the patience for once I see the same lie for the fifth or sixth time.

    As far as academic bias goes, I'd venture that you've neglected to remove your own when reading relevant work. At least the LDS authors acknowledge their bias in the beginning. Just some things to consider.

  16. "You congratulate each other on victory against a silent adversary"

    "I really don't care about the self victimization."

    Mira quien habla.

  17. OK,

    As far as I know, the Documentary Hypothesis relies on documents that no longer exist to demonstrate that at least the Torah and more specifically, Genesis, is an amalgamation of writings. You mentioned that it is convenient that the original source of the Book of Mormon (the golden plates) are no longer available to us to validate the apologetical papers that come about regarding (at least in part) the linguistics of the Book of Mormon. Likewise, these original documents (according to the Documentary Hypothesis) that made up Genesis also no longer exist.

    I seem to remember that you brought up the Documentary Hypothesis as an argument against the Book of Mormon. A hypothesis that relies on documents that no longer exists.

    Does that make sense now?


  18. Some positive comments are in order: Thanks for sharing the interesting article, Jeff. I am always interested in hearing about new Book of Mormon research, and your website is one of my "go-tos" for getting a quick glimpse of new and interesting discoveries. I also find the ldsmag.com website one of my favorites in the morning.

  19. Sammie,

    You have an uncanny ability to use a lot of words to say very little. That should serve you well in academia.

    I’m confused by your attempt to prove that linguistic studies of the original language of the Book of Mormon are as valid as Biblical studies because we’re not sure what original language the Bible was written in. We know what Hebrew is/was and we know what Greek is/was. No one knows what “reformed Egyptian” is. The only hint we have is the “Caractors” document that may or may not be copied from the plates. We don’t know if the book was written in a simplified form of Egyptian, Hebrew written in Egyptian hieroglyphics, an amalgamation of them, or if, like the Book of Abraham, the translation Joseph provided had nothIng to do with what may have been written on the plates. Heck, we don’t even have physical evidence that the plates actually existed at all. So all of those gaps leave one wondering why apologists are trying to find Hebrew word plays (for example) in a document that hasn’t been shown to have been written by a Hebrew or even someone familiar with Hebrew. No significant baseline has been established from which to jump off into this sort of detailed minutiae. It’s an argument based on a premise that has never been established. Let’s keep moving that sand. . .

  20. Steve, thank you for clarifying — I think I now understand the nature of your objection.

    That said, the objection strikes me as nonsensical, at least if you're objecting to the claim implicit in my questions (which I'll repeat here):

    How can this kind of apologetical "scholarship" of the Book of Mormon — the kind that presumes and attempts to demonstrate its ancientness — be taken seriously without recourse to any text in the original language? How can it be taken seriously if we don't even know what that original language is? ("Reformed Egyptian"? What's that?) How can such scholarship proceed without any sure knowledge of where the Book of Mormon's events took place?

    We do have biblical texts in the original language (something we don't have for the Book of Mormon). We do know what those languages were (something we don't know re the Book of Mormon). We do know where the Bible's events took place (again, something we don't know re the Book of Mormon).

    The fact that we don't have ancient, unredacted texts of the hypothesized J, E, and P does nothing to help the case for the Book of Mormon, nor does it do anything to weaken the Documentary Hypothesis — which is, after all, called a hypothesis and has never been claimed as anything more than that: a hypothesis, whose validity can be (and has been) judged on the basis of all the linguistic, geographical, and archaeological knowledge that we don't have for the Book of Mormon.

    That's the point, and you really haven't presented a meaningful objection to it. And LDS apologetics remains junk.

    — OK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.