In a past Maxwell Institute publication, Daniel Peterson made a great point about the nature of the language in the Book of Mormon that seems to defy theories of Joseph Smith as its author. See Daniel C. Peterson, “Mormonism as a Restoration,” FARMS Review 18/1 (2006): 389–417. The article is no longer available at the Maxwell Institute’s website, but is at the Scholar’s Archive at BYU (PDF form only — the numerous HTML-format articles at the Maxwell Institute did not survive the recent changes there).
A number of details from the Book of Mormon text appear to support a view of the book as a rather literal translation from an ancient document. In an ancient Hebrew idiom, for example, arrows are “thrown” (see, for example, Alma 49:22). Also, just as in ancient Hebrew and other Semitic languages, in a construction known as a “cognate accusative,” the word denoting the object of a verb is sometimes derived from the same root as the verb itself. “Behold,” says the prophet Lehi, “I have dreamed a dream.” Similarly, the (to us) redundant that in such expressions as “because that they are redeemed from the fall” and “because that my heart is broken” is a Hebraism (see, respectively, 2 Nephi 2:26 and 4:32).
But some Hebrew constructions that appeared in the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon have been erased from later printings, in a bid to make the book read more smoothly as English. One striking example of this involves a series of conditional sentences in Helaman 12:13–21. Such sentences, in English, typically feature an if-clause (either using the word if itself, or something equivalent), which expresses a hypothetical condition, and a result clause that describes what will occur if the hypothetical condition comes about. For example, “If you don’t study, you will fail.” The result clause may contain a word such as then, but commonly does not. By contrast, the result clause of a conditional sentence in ancient Hebrew can be introduced by the word wa (and), so that the sentence takes what might be termed an if-and form. The occurrence of if-and conditionals in the 1830 Book of Mormon seems to indicate that it did not originate in the mind of a native English-speaker, but is a quite literal translation from a Hebrew original:
13. yea and if he saith unto the earth move and it is moved.
14. yea if he say unto the earth thou shalt go back that it lengthen out the day for many hours and it is done.
16. and behold also if he saith unto the waters of the great deep be thou dried up and it is done.
17. behold if he saith unto this mountain be thou raised up and come over and fall upon that city that it be buried up and behold it is done.
19. and if the Lord shall say be thou accursed that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever and behold no man getteth it henceforth and forever.
20. and behold if the Lord shall say unto a man because of thine iniquities thou shalt be accursed forever and it shall be done.
21. and if the Lord shall say because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence and he will cause that it shall be so. (Helaman 12:13–14, 16–17, 19–21, 1830 edition)
4. and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart with real intent having faith in Christ and he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:4, 1830 edition)
It is difficult to imagine a native speaker of English (such as Joseph Smith, though poorly educated at the time, indisputably was) producing such sentences. Yet they represent perfectly acceptable Hebrew.
Since that time, further research from Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack suggests that there is a persistent thread of Early Modern English in the text, some of which has been edited out to make the grammar more standard for our era. Whatever the cause for this, it’s unreasonable to believe it was just Joseph’s Yankee dialect at work. It’s a fascinating complex of details about the translation of the Book of Mormon, a book that upon closer examination readily overturns many of the theories that have been offered to explain it as a modern product of Joseph Smith’s environment.
On the other hand, the evidences mentioned above can be over-simplified. Not everything is Early Modern English or Hebraisms. It’s a complex text.
Update, Aug. 6, 2019: Perhaps more interesting or more persuasive than the interesting oddities of grammar is the existence of legitimate Old World names in the many Book of Mormon names that are not found directly in the KJV. For starters, consider this brief 2013 article from Stephen D. Ricks at The Interpreter: “Some Notes on Book of Mormon Names.” But there is much more that could be said. Also consider Matthew Bowen’s many articles at The Interpreter on the intelligent use of wordplays associated with Old World names in the Book of Mormon. You can see some information about numerous other Book of Mormon names in the Book of Mormon Onomasticon at BYU.edu, though in some cases there may be recent discoveries that have not yet have been entered into the data presented there.
78 thoughts on “Ifs, Ands, or Buts: A Reminder on the Origins of the Book of Mormon”
Daniel is full of shit. Period.
"quite literal" [Peterson] or "creative" [Skousen] translation. Considering translation has been clarified to mean "revelation", is it a "quite literal" or "creative" revelation? On closer examination we don't even know what our truth claims are, which readily overturns the idea that any of this matters.
Dan/Jeff made some interesting points. But then anonymous came in with his is own intelligent rebuttal of "Daniel is full of #$&*!. Period." Tough to know who to go with here. On the one hand Daniel Peterson does seems to have actual knowledge of Semitic languages. On the other hand Anonymous dismisses his arguments entirely without addressing them. I'll have to come back to this later when my head is a bit more clear.
I find it neat to learn what types of phrases and word combinations are unique to different languages, and how different a literal translation can be from a meaning-based one. Even in languages still spoken today, there are barriers that can make literal translations awkward.
My dad went on a Spanish-speaking mission, and recorded some video there to send back to family. Some of the phrases and wordings of the people they talked to wouldn't really work in English. Questions often end with "¿no?", and something like "Su familia no sabe Español, ¿no?" literally means "Your family doesn't know Spanish, no?" My dad's companion was once talking with a little boy, who answered "no" to a question, and the following silly exchange resulted:
Companion: "¿No? Por qué no?"
Little boy (grinning): "Por qué sí?"
Translated literally, this would be something along the lines of "No? Why not?" "Why yes?" Obviously this wouldn't work in English, so a translation into English might instead substitute something like "Why not?" "Because."
The fact that the Book of Mormon originally contained clauses like the "if-and" combination, which sounds weird in English, seems to indicate a more literal initial translation rather than a meaning-based one. It'd be interesting if we could more readily find out which parts are literally translated and which have different wordings based on meaning.
The fact that horse means riding animal, sword means warclub, and on and on, means in many occurrences it was neither a meaning based or literal translation. Apparently it can be whatever you want it to be. Again, on closer examination, we can readily overturn the theory that any of this matters.
Been through this nonsense before. Joseph Smith used Hebrew constructions because he encountered them in the Bible, where, for example, Joseph doubtless had read, in Genesis 37:5, “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more,” which passage contains not just the cognate accusative “dreamed a dream” but the seed of much of the Nephi plot.
Seriously, Jeff. How can you cite “dreamed a dream” as an example of a Book of Mormon Hebraism demonstrating ancient authorship? You’re not even trying any more.
Also, of course: Texas sharpshooter fallacy.
Ok/not ok, you can spin it as much as you want, and come up with all kinds of excuses for your doubt, but you’ll never compensate. For example, pretend there’s a great story about how Joseph was able to incorporate Hebrew structure, you still would have to explain the scores of unknown Hebrew names, symbols, etc. AND explain how (again, for example), when Lehi dreamed his dream, the dream included extra biblical 6th Century BC Middle Eastern concepts AND central themes behind Native American religious symbolism. 😊
It can’t be explained by “Joseph sure read a lot”.
"It'd be interesting if we could more readily find out which parts are literally translated and which have different wordings based on meaning." With most of the Bible this can and has been done, which why so many have moved on from the KJV.
"which sounds weird in English"? Weird? It doesn't sound KJV to you? And because of the BoM was translated in the KJV style, the LDS are forever stuck with the KJV, because if they ever switch from the KJV, they would have to ask, why doesn't someone ordained as prophet, seer, revelator translate the BoM into something more modern like the NIV? If trinity views have been retranslated out of the original BoM and white has been retranslated to pure, why not retranslate the BoM away from the KJV?
Dana Carvey describe how he does a George Bush (Sr) impersonation. Start with the Church lady, then add a little Mr. Rogers. Filtering the impersonation you could still pick up Dana Carvey himself in the impersonation. By analogy, start with KJV, add a character like Moroni, filtering a little and yankee dialect still comes through.
Other KJV writing imitations from the BoM publication era have similar so called Hebraism. Jeff dismisses this fact by declaring the BoM's Hebraism more beautiful. Declaring your children the most beautiful in the class photo is not an intellectual argument. Pretending it is with a straight face and seriously accusing anyone who can't see how something is "readily" overturned as unreasonable, is just flat out dishonest.
OK, "dreamed a dream" is an example that has support in the Bible. But there are many that do not. Even your many jabs at the overly heavy use of "and it came to pass" — about twice the rate in the KJV — better reflects the underlying Hebrew than the KJV English, for many places where "and it came to pass" could have been put into the English were edited out. And the nonintuitive ways it is used, such as in repetitive resumption and other cases where nothing has actually come to pass, are not something readily picked up by osmosis.
Jeff, we've been through all of this before. What Joseph took from the Bible was not just individual instances of the cognate accusative, but the cognate accusative form itself. And what you call "osmosis" is actually the normal mode of language acquisition.
For the sake of those who missed this stuff the first time around:
Beginning when we are children, we don't simply mimic the words and phrases we hear; we learn both words/phrases and the linguistic structures used to put them together to form original sentences. When a normal, linguistically competent child hears enough utterances like Here comes Sally!, they are ready to say There goes Timmy! on their own, without having previously heard that exact phrase.
In the same way, when any linguistically competent individual, Joseph Smith included, reads Joseph dreamed a dream in the Bible, they are equipped to produce, entirely on their own, similarly structured cognate-accusative-phrases like Sarah creamed a cream and Albert lived a life.
This has nothing to do with osmosis; it's simply the everyday workings of language acquisition. It's not special. It's not mysterious. It's utterly normal.
In sum: the presence of the cognate accusative in the Book of Mormon, including cognate accusative phrases not found in the Bible, is not evidence of BoM authenticity.
Let me repeat that, for emphasis: it is not evidence of BoM authenticity.
Let me repeat it one more time, just to be sure you're hearing me: it is NOT evidence of BoM authenticity.
It's beyond silly for you to repeat the claim that it is. You do your faith no favors by repeating such incredibly bad arguments.
"not something readily picked up by osmosis."
Are you ever going to back this up with some how? It seems OK has backed up his rebuttal repeatedly with you only pretending that repeating the rebutted argument is some how a rejoinder.
Saying "not readily picked up" starts by assuming Reformed Egyptian retained Hebraism, that the translation was literal, and the translation was accurate. Assumptions I think even you concede are entirely faith based, and not even necessarily endorsed by the LDS Church. As your assumptions pile up, it seems you are making it up.
I suppose Dana Carvey repeating "wouldn't be prudent, not at this juncture" more than George Bush made him a truer speaker of Yale English, but that obviously does not mean Carvey's impressions were actual transcripts from Bush or any Yale professor.
Just as a note, 1 Nephi 1:2 defines the Book of Mormon text as Hebrew constructions conveyed by Egyptian characters. Mormon 9:32-33 suggests that Hebrew, in Mormon's eyes, was the preferred language of scripture, and Reformed Egyptian merely the vehicle. The aforementioned Reformed Egyptian was also "altered by [them], according to [their] manner of speech", ie adapted to suit their linguistic needs, so there is little reason to assume that it would not be capable of conveying Hebraisms.
It looks to me like Jeff provided his backup right there and you missed it. When he said that such things were not readily picked up by osmosis, he was referring to non-intuitive constructions, ie constructions that do not follow English conventions. I think it's fair to say that uncomfortable, ill-fitting constructions are less likely to be adopted by osmosis.
Hoosier – never said it couldn't have hebraism, what r y talking about? What uncomfortable ill-fitting constructs? The kjv was the principal piece of literature and they were all very comfortable w it. That fact is not at all an assumption. You r inventing fake facts such as uncomfortable.
I believe you missed my point, Anon@6:57. Anon@10:06 said the following:
"Saying 'not readily picked up' starts by assuming Reformed Egyptian retained Hebraism"
I endeavoured to demonstrate that such an assumption would be well founded in the Book of Mormon's internal claims. I agree, nobody said that it was impossible, but Anon did say that it was an assumption, so I wanted to clarify that it is a well-founded one.
I'm not saying that these people were uncomfortable with the KJV. What I'm saying is what Jeff said, that Hebraisms (in this case "and it came to pass" specifically) are used in the Book of Mormon text in ways that are non-intuitive, ie they aren't natural or obvious. They aren't in tune with rhetorical expectations or the rules of English. In this sense they are uncomfortable, outside the literary box, and therefore it is unlikely that Joseph Smith independently produced them.
Hoosier, you're ignoring a simple truth: apologists have never produced a single instance of a linguistic construction in the Book of Mormon that could not have been produced by a 19th-century writer familiar with the King James Bible and other sources readily available in Joseph Smith's time and place.
Not a single one.
The apologists claim to have done so, but just like Jeff's citation of the cognate accusative, their claims fall apart under the slightest analysis.
The plain and precious truth is obvious to all independent observers: the Book of Mormon is 19th-century pseudepigraphic religious fiction, written in response to 19th-century controversies over Christian theology, Native American origins, etc.
No angels, no gold plates, no miraculous translations, just an extraordinarily gifted guy with a sharp eye on the main chance and a bunch of superstitious marks with more spiritual hunger than common sense.
I've lurked on this blog for a bit now, OK, and I've been impressed by your erudition and passion, but the facts of the matter compel me to a different conclusion. I say what I say with the utmost respect.
I don't have a Hebrew Ph.D, but I am somewhat familiar with the literature surrounding the Book of Mormon Hebraisms, and I must reject your assertion that they were all readily available to Joseph Smith. To meet that criteria, they would have to be a) readily observable in the Bible so that young Joseph could pick them up or b) available in the scholarly works which our enterprising young protagonist would have to have read. I find it unlikely that a young Joseph Smith possessed the intellectual acumen to observe subtle patterns that lay unnoticed by legions of scholars for centuries as they pored over the most significant book in the world. Furthermore, any claims of a lengthy reading list are of necessity pure speculation, and therefore, if they are accepted, it must be on faith. There are better and more warranted things to put my faith in than the specious speculations of cynics.
As for your assertion that "the plain and precious truth is obvious to all independent observers", that is the epitome of the used and abused party line. Please give it up, you're not doing yourself any favors. If that dogma were true, there would be no converts at all. The truth is the opposite. Just ask Don Bradley, Jordan Vajda, or Janet Eyring. Your claim falls apart under the slightest analysis.
That said, everything that you or I has said has been said before, and nothing has changed. Seems rather pointless.
Hoosier – It is possible Hebraism remained in the modified language, no one said otherwise. It is also clear that it is possible they did not. "but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also" We will never know, because there is no realistic idea what reformed Egyptian is and the Anthon carators have not been found together anywhere in the world. If that is what you are calling backup, your clearly do not know what back up is.
1 Nephi 1:2 Yea, I make a record in the a language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.
Mormon 9:32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.
33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.
"I must reject your assertion that they were all readily available to Joseph Smith"
Other KJV writing imitations from the BoM publication era have similar so called Hebraism. Jeff dismisses this fact by declaring the BoM's Hebraism more beautiful. Declaring your children the most beautiful in the class photo is not an intellectual argument. Pretending it is with a straight face and seriously accusing anyone who can't see how something is "readily" overturned as unreasonable, is just flat out dishonest.
"any claims of a lengthy reading list" Critics do not claim this, so this is what is called a strawman.
"no converts at all." Jevoha witnesses, etc have just as many converts.
"and nothing has changed. Seems rather pointless."
I know, nothing has changed, the apologist continue to be entirely incapable of providing a rejoinder, they only repeat the already defeat arguments the way you did.
"the plain and precious truth is obvious to all independent observers",
Not just independent observers, but the LDS church itself which has openly reject previous truth claims, such as the laminates are the principal ancestors of Native Americans and on and on.
The child's-photo argument is fallacious. It's a false metaphor. I don't claim to know what Jeff meant, but I will say what I know: beautiful doesn't just mean aesthetically pleasing (though the aesthetics of the BoM must be taken into account.) It also means sophisticated. The BoM evinces sophisticated Hebraic features built into the very cores of individual narratives and sermons, whereas the Late War, among others, does not. BoM Hebraism is not just beautiful, it's sophisticated, and that must be accounted for. Speaking for myself, the authors and redactors of biblical books were professionals who lived and worked their whole lives in a Hebrew literary milieu far more comprehensive than that of 19th-century frontier America. KJV or no, I doubt that JS could equal their work at age 24. The fact that the Book of Mormon does so is not explained by glib appeals to KJV osmosis.
Critics most certainly propose diverse textual sources for Joseph Smith's ideas and writing. What critics are you reading? If JS didn't get his Hebraic references from the KJV, the only other source would be scholarly writings, but his access to such writings is entirely assumed.
It's not relevant to the point that the JWs have as many converts. OK asserted that his conclusion is obvious to all independent thinkers. The fact that intelligent people are converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a refutation of this assertion.
I could just as easily say that the critic is intractable in his dogma. It wouldn't matter either way. That which is evidence to me is foolishness to you, and your smoking gun looks to me like a water pistol. We're talking past each other.
As for your final point, I could talk about how we're commanded to adopt light and truth as it comes out, and how a separate introduction published with the Book of Mormon is no more canonical than the chapter headings, but would it make much of a difference?
"are used in the Book of Mormon text in ways that are non-intuitive"
Says who? How do you determine they are non-intuitive. It would be intuitive for excessively imitating a particular style in an ad hoc repetition of a rehearsed story line.
"natural or obvious" We are sure if this is statement in favor or against the LDS theory of BoM provenance.
"They aren't in tune with rhetorical expectations or the rules of English." I am not sure this was every in dispute.
"uncomfortable = outside the literary box". Again KJV was not outside the box for the time and place of publication.
"and therefore it is unlikely that Joseph Smith independently produced them." Some critics agree with you, those critics think JS had confederates help him produce the BoM. But again … Other KJV writing imitations from the BoM publication era have similar so called Hebraism. Jeff dismisses this fact by declaring the BoM's Hebraism more beautiful. Declaring your children the most beautiful in the class photo is not an intellectual argument. Pretending it is with a straight face and seriously accusing anyone who can't see how something is "readily" overturned as unreasonable, is just flat out dishonest.
"It would be intuitive for excessively imitating a particular style in an ad hoc repetition of a rehearsed story line."
If I can borrow a leaf from your book, says who? You are vulnerable to the same rejoinder you used on me. But, in all seriousness, I will hearken back to Jeff's original example. He mentioned how the BoM usage of "and it came to pass" is non-intuitive, such as cases of repetitive resumption and usage when nothing actually came to pass. Such a usage makes sense in Hebrew because the equivalent phrase was effectively a generic transition phrase, but in English the words carry a different meaning. The Book of Mormon uses them in a way that makes sense in Hebrew but is clunky and awkward in English. This is something that we think is unlikely to be lifted from the KJV, especially since one of the mandates of the KJV translators was to produce an aesthetically beautiful English text.
Again, for reference, I never said that the KJV was outside the box or uncomfortable. I said that the BoM Hebraisms are uncomfortable and out of the box in an English context, which indicates that they did not originate in an English context.
The firsthand evidence does not furnish enough for me to seriously consider confederate support as a factor in the production of the BoM. As for "other productions" and the child's-photo metaphor, I addressed those at 11:11.
"the aesthetics of the BoM must be taken into account" So it is not a false metaphor?
"It also means sophisticated" Just another way you say beautiful, until you come up with rigorous baseline explaining what it is.
"The BoM evinces sophisticated Hebraic features built into the very cores of individual narratives and sermons, whereas the Late War, among others, does not. BoM Hebraism is not just beautiful, it's sophisticated, and that must be accounted for." Yes provide your scientific baseline in how this "accounted" for, otherwise you just using your fallacious beauty argument all over again.
"Speaking for myself, the authors and redactors of biblical books were professionals who lived and worked their whole lives in a Hebrew literary milieu far more comprehensive than that of 19th-century frontier America. KJV or no, I doubt that JS could equal their work at age 24." Again opinion and assumption as originally stated. Your assumptions pile up
"The fact that the Book of Mormon does so" Again, you as said, for you, the fact that you glibly assert your assumptions as fact does not make them fact.
"KJV osmosis" Critics claim KJV imitation, not "osmosis". Critics usually osmosis in regards to other stories at the time.
"Critics most certainly propose diverse textual sources for Joseph Smith's ideas and writing. What critics are you reading? If JS didn't get his Hebraic references from the KJV, the only other source would be scholarly writings, but his access to such writings is entirely assumed." It is your assertion, you are the one suggesting critics such Hebraism did not come from KJV imitation, and then you should probably go talk that critic, because I do not see anyone here claiming that the so called Hebraism is anything more than excessive KJV imitation.
"It's not relevant to the point that the JWs have as many converts. OK asserted that his conclusion is obvious to all independent thinkers. The fact that intelligent people are converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a refutation of this assertion." You are the first person I have met that thinks intelligent = independent thinker.
"I could just as easily say that the critic is intractable in his dogma." Yes you could and you need to explain and back it up.
"It wouldn't matter either way. That which is evidence to me is foolishness to you, and your smoking gun looks to me like a water pistol. We're talking past each other." Yes you are, but OK and I.
"As for your final point, I could talk about how we're commanded to adopt light and truth as it comes out, and how a separate introduction published with the Book of Mormon is no more canonical than the chapter headings, but would it make much of a difference?" I was not talking about canonical, I was talking about truth claims. You appear to be claiming there are no truth claims, only canon that can be perpetually re-interpreted, which is what apologist usually do when they are defeated.
"If I can borrow a leaf from your book, says who?" Exactly, that was the point, glad you got it. So you are starting to understand. I was using your vague assertions style of self declared intuitive. So when you come up with your baseline defining intuitive, you can quick talking past others.
"which indicates that they did not originate in an English context." Many critics agree with this. They say it originating in JS mind.
Anon, we cannot reproduce Joseph Smith's translation under laboratory conditions. He's dead. No secular, empirical experiment is possible. That means that all we can have are opinions! We have an obligation to consider the evidence before us and judge it, but everyone will do that under the weight of cognitive baggage (differing paradigms for interpreting evidence, emotional and other biases, differing measures of what constitutes knowledge/proof, etc.) It is not at all uncommon, especially in history, for two people to draw differing conclusions from the same set of data. Those conclusions are opinions. It's up to each of us as an individual to arrive at our own after weighing the data. Asking for a conclusion devoid of opinion is logically impossible, and yet you deride me for not providing it?
I have given you, and all observers, my honest assessment of the evidence. I don't think Joseph Smith's other writings from the time evince the creative capacity required for the Book of Mormon. I don't see him having access to the resources he'd need to compile the BoM onomasticon. Within the primary sources regarding the translation, the possibility of confederates is completely ruled out, and Joseph's head being in the hat and his clear budgetary problems rule out his reading from a manuscript and render unlikely his ability to even afford one.
Now for your other points:
"Critics claim KJV imitation, not 'osmosis'"
You're right, I chose the wrong word. In the context of the argument, though, it doesn't make much of a difference. One way or the other, the common critical claim is that JS derived the BoM's Semitic features from his experience with the KJV and, where the KJV does not feature them, from other works. Imitation or osmosis, an untutored, barely graduate-age Joseph Smith had to get them from somewhere and weave them together in a fashion comparable to the ancient masters who compiled the Pentateuch. Sounds fishy to me.
"You are the first person I have met that thinks intelligent=independent thinker."
This is a strawman. I never said intelligence = independent thinker. That said, intelligence is essential to assessing evidence and is therefore essential to independent thinking. Would you agree that intelligent people are more likely to be independent thinkers? That said, what's the definition of "independent thinker" anyway? Sounds like another one of those things for which there are only opinions.
"Yes you are, but OK and I."
Alright. Whatever you say.
"I was not talking about canonical, I was talking about truth claims. You appear to be claiming there are no truth claims, only canon that can be perpetually re-interpreted, which is what apologist usually do when they are defeated."
You're tooting the victory horn a little prematurely. The original Book of Mormon was not published with that introduction. It was never sanctioned as revealed scripture, the mind and will of the Lord whom we worship. Under what pretense, then, are we obligated to presume it a church-breaking truth claim? Why must we die on that hill? The concept of erroneous prophetic understandings was forecasted by the Lord Himself in D&C 1:24-28. There would be no need for such counsel if the Lord understood every idea and word from a church leader to be absolute. You're playing a tiresome game of Pin the Doctrine on the Donkey, trying to pin me to a belief I do not and need not hold.
"Many critics agree with this. They say it originating in JS mind."
Joseph Smith Jr. was a native English speaker. His mind WAS an English context.
You admitted you just talking past others. Ok and I have not admitted that we r talking past others. Now u r concedeing that what u previously called facts r just opinions and your opinion is your child is the prettiest. Good for you.
The kjv is also in an English context. Now you are concedeing that reformed Egyptian was never ever in js mind. We all understand that u find the bom revelation beautiful, but u were previous ly manufacturing facts out of your opinion of beauty.
With respect, you can't deny that a lot of the chatter on this site is talking in circles. Jeff has demonstrated an admirable commitment to intellectual honesty, revising his assessments as contrary evidence comes out. I've seen little of that elsewhere, and Jeff has certainly not been moved off his major positions. Everybody is talking in circles, including you. At least I admit it.
When have I denied anything I claimed to be a fact? Where have I manufactured facts? I just read through all of my responses to see what you might be talking about. It remains a fact that there are Hebraisms, Semitic writing features, in the Book of Mormon text. It also remains a fact that some of them are quite complex and some of them are not featured in the Bible. That's data. Opinions take over when we interpret that data. My opinion on the matter has always been quite clear, and since we're dealing with people who are dead and gone the best we can have is opinions based on the facts. That is the stance I have maintained.
You appear to be hung up on the whole "child is the prettiest" metaphor, so let's dig into that a little more. I will reproduce the metaphor in the most fleshed-out form in which it has been given:
"Declaring your children the most beautiful in the class photo is not an intellectual argument."
This is fallacious. Jeff and I commenting on the beauty and sophistication of the BoM is not the same as a parent picking their child as the most beautiful. Why? The whole question is whether or not Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, no? Well, for one, creation of aesthetic beauty requires a conscious application of skill and effort, which must be accounted for. If Joseph didn't manifest such skill, it throws his authorship in doubt. Likewise, to craft sophisticated narrative and rhetorical structures requires the conscious application of rhetorical and literary skill and effort. The same question is in play. Finally, to have those styles match up with the ancient culture which you claim to represent requires a great deal of knowledge, which must be accounted for. Then, to have those same styles shed light on theological styles requires a great deal of theological and rhetorical capability. We aren't siding with the Book of Mormon just because we think it's pretty, like a parent with their child. We're with it because our acknowledgment of those features renders Joseph's authorship unlikely. Your reduction of the whole point to that pithy sentence is inaccurate.
Finally, I'm going to reproduce our exchange on English context in full:
Hoosier: "I said that the BoM Hebraisms are uncomfortable and out of the box in an English context, which indicates that they did not originate in an English context."
Anon: "Many critics agree with this. They say it originating in JS mind."
Hoosier: "Joseph Smith Jr. was a native English speaker. His mind WAS an English context."
Anon: "The kjv is also in an English context. Now you are concedeing that reformed Egyptian was never ever in js mind."
JS's mind? English context. KJV? English context, by your admission. The Hebraisms therefore are unlikely to have come from there either. What does Reformed Egyptian have to do with it? I said that Joseph's mind was an English context because he spoke English. What does that have to do with the denial of Reformed Egyptian which you alleged I made?
“to have those styles match up with the ancient culture which you claim to represent requires a great deal of knowledge, which must be accounted for”
So then how do you account for the cultural artifacts of 19th century America throughout the book? There may be some Hebrew linguistic elements present in the text—those have been accounted for as one need only have an eye and mental ear for imitation. Also, one can find many previously un-thought-of linguistic elements if one looks hard enough. Not only are there claimed Hebrew elements, to some there are clear elements of early modern English.
Harder to explain are the 19th century themes and styles present in a supposedly ancient text.
"quite complex". This is opinion, not fact. English, like most languages is complex I suppose depending on what you are calling complex . "Sophistication, complex" are just your beauty argument all over again. You are manufacturing a fact out of opinion . All parties agree so called hebraisms exist in other historical fiction imitating kjv published in the era of bom publication.
"What does Reformed Egyptian have to do with it?". Seriously? Reformed Egyptian has everything to with. You r admitting that J's didn't translate, divinity did and it was the Devine translation revealed to J's. And admitting it is an extremely akward, uncomfortable Devine translation, which is fine, but this Devine translation gets all sorts things odd like war club etc. But to then try spin theses oddities as beauty based assumptions does not make them fact. Then to compensate for other oddities you suggest devinity used js heart and mind in the translation somehow wo explaining what this means. When ever u think an assumption is demonstrated it is evidence of devinity, when not it is the imperfections of men. This is not the way independent intelligent thinkers operate.
What supposed circle I am talking in, other than responding to you?
I have never found the "eye and mental ear for imitation" argument compelling. It's easy to ascribe to someone astonishing capabilities when you're 170 years removed from them. Nobody who knew them is around to disagree with you. Any surviving statements to the contrary can be dismissed as biased or simply ignored, and you can always claim that the evidence that would prove your case simply hasn't been found yet, a la second Spalding manuscript. But the argument as it has been presented to me is fundamentally circular:
Joseph Smith imitated the Bible thanks to his great capacity to imitate. We know he had this capacity because he imitated the Bible.
On first glance it looks valid, but you'll notice that the premise is only valid if you have already decided to believe in the conclusion. In fact, the conclusion is necessarily one of the supporting premises. That's not a sign of strong logic.
From what I see, there's no independent reason to assume Joseph Smith had these literary powers. They only become plausible when you are acting as an apologist for a previous conclusion regarding the Book of Mormon. I do not have such a pre-existing conclusion, so there is no logical reason for me to assent to the circular argument which I shall call, copyright violation pending, The Imitation Game.
Seriously, what could we possibly say that could change your mind? It's not like Joseph Smith ever produced sophisticated literary criticisms to show off his skills. There's no positive evidence for the Imitation Game. You've also discarded all the primary evidence, being his writings and firsthand witnesses, which do not portray an erudite genius. You're totally disassociated from the evidence outside the circular argument at this point, so you can speculate away. You can do pretty much anything you want, except for one thing: call it fact.
Regarding the sophistication/beauty of the Book of Mormon, among those who study it the case is pretty much closed. It's as close to fact as literary criticism can produce. If you protest, saying that the Book of Mormon is not at all sophisticated, or is devoid of beauty, you will find yourself squarely outside the mainstream of both critical and apologetic thought. I don't know what fact you think I have manufactured. That the Book of Mormon is sophisticated is pretty well established. I have given it as my opinion that its level of sophistication is above Joseph Smith's ability to compose. Your accusation is cavalier. What facts have I manufactured?
All parties agree that so-called Hebraisms exist outside the KJV, but what does that really mean? A "hickory-dickory-dock" chiasm would count, but since the Book of Mormon evinces far more elaborate structures, the presence of such simple structures outside of the BoM wouldn't do anything to prove the case against it. When outside works are on the BoM's level, then the argument might have some validity.
Which 19th-century artifacts do you speak of? I don't deny that there are alleged 19th-century artifacts, but it would be helpful to know which ones you refer to. I've seen some which are overblown, others disproved, and some which are legitimate, none of which are church-breaking.
Likewise, I don't know what "war club" oddity you are referring to. Is it the "sword" translation? War clubs at the waters of Sebus and elsewhere? Please clarify.
As for the whole Reformed Egyptian thing…you have created the mother of all strawmen.
I NEVER admitted that JS didn't translate, and I have no idea how you got to that conclusion. I just said that he didn't have to be fluent in RE because he said that he got what he got through divine means. Whether you prefer loose or tight translation models, that much is obvious. That is all that I said. For good measure I will reproduce it:
"What does Reformed Egyptian have to do with it? I said that Joseph's mind was an English context because he spoke English. What does that have to do with the denial of Reformed Egyptian which you alleged I made?"
That is all I said about RE. That is it. I don't know how you connected Joseph's mind being an English context to him not being involved in translation. There is a total disconnect there. That logic only works if you presume that the translation consisted of God giving Joseph perfect fluency in RE and letting him rip. That is not the prevailing model of translation and is not in keeping with what we know of revelation.
"But to then try spin theses oddities as beauty based assumptions does not make them fact."
Spinning these oddities? That sounds like spin itself. Is there any way in which I could rebut oddity-based accusations without being accused of spinning? If everyone's spinning…no one is. I'm in awe of the phrase "beauty based assumptions" as well. The "sophistication argument" is not my only reason for believing the Book of Mormon, but it does provide you a convenient way to spin my refusal to immediately capitulate as merely "beauty based assumptions", when that is not true. You haven't even presented me with any oddities to confront. How do you know my reactions? How can you accuse me of spinning when I have not even been given anything to spin besides the vague assertion of the presence of "oddities"?
It's not absurd to imagine that the Lord permits us to clothe His concepts in language which we understand. When Joseph of Egypt interpreted dreams, there's no reason to believe that he just parroted words the Lord put into him. He conveyed the divinely recieved information in his own tongue. Believing scholars for centuries have been 100% comfortable with the idea that Isaiah's or Ezekiel's visions were described using their own words, or that Jeremiah used imagery from his environment to sharpen his warnings and lamentations. Those are prophetic standards. Communicating the messages of the Lord in an understandable way is the responsibility of prophets. For it to be otherwise is to eject a prophet's agency, an unacceptable circumstance in God's eyes.
"Literary powers" etc, again, these are all conclusion based opinions presented as fact. From 170 years ago when literary gaints lampoon the bom to modern podcasts w dehlin where the literary prowess of bom is questioned.
If you don't know the warclub reference or other oddities etc u either have no business being here or u r deliberately being argumentative and obviously never interested in serious dialogue, as admit you deliberately just talking around others.
If don't know what the word translation means, no one can help. But the truth is u do and what u indicated was it was neither a tight or loose translation by js . Recognize this fact u try to deflect and change the translation subject to a more generic conversation on how his communicates.
“I have given it as my opinion that its level of sophistication is above Joseph Smith's ability to compose.“
And this is your error—many apologists make the same error. You seek to limit the human ability to create based on your lack of imagination and narcissism. “If I couldn’t do it, it couldn’t be done,” or “there’s no way an uneducated farmboy could have pulled this off.” It is within his ability—he created it. Unless you’re arguing that he had nothing to do with the text (which is a separate argument) you must admit his ability caused the book to be produced. If he produced it, the book now becomes de facto evidence of his abilities.
You also equate education with intelligence, which is a critical error as well. The difference is demonstrated in the BoM translation. The story and all of the elements you love so much are present, but they were presented with less-than-perfect English grammar. Intelligence produced the story and the imitation, lack of education is evidenced in the packaging.
“Regarding the sophistication/beauty of the Book of Mormon, among those who study it the case is pretty much closed. It's as close to fact as literary criticism can produce.”
There are many of us who are trained in “literary criticism” who disagree with that statement. It’s contrived, clunky, and long winded. One famous literary critic, Samuel Clemens, disagrees with your statement as well.
“What facts have I manufactured?”
Interesting that you would ask this question at the end of a paragraph full of manufactured facts.
“You've also discarded all the primary evidence, being his writings and firsthand witnesses, which do not portray an erudite genius.”
I would beg to differ. Joseph has been called a religious genius by more than one individual—“literary critic” Harold Bloom being one of those individuals.