Recommended Reading: Bokovoy and Tvedtnes, Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible

I strongly recommend Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible by David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes (Tooele, Utah: Heritage, 2003, 232 pages). This carefully written and well documented resource adds new depth to our insights about the Hebraic roots of the Book of Mormon text. These insights show rich levels of meaning or help us understand the reasons for some of the unusual features of the text.

For example, Chapter 18, “Editorial Techniques,” includes a discussion of a Hebraic editorial technique called “repetitive resumption” in which editorial comments are framed between two parallel statements. The repetition of statements could function somewhat like our use of parentheses in modern English to mark where an explanation or departure from the story had occurred. An example is Joshua 1:7-9, which begins with a command to be strong and courageous, followed by what some scholars see as an editorial insertion about the need to study the law daily, followed by a repetition of the command to be strong and courageous. This pattern, interestingly, is also found abundantly in the Book of Mormon.

An example of repetitive resumption in the Book of Mormon is Alma 10:32 and Alma 11:20, two passages stating that the object of Nephite lawyers was to get gain, and that they got gain according to their employ. In between, in Alma 11:1-19, we get a lengthy parenthetical explanation about Nephite law, payment for judges, and the monetary system (undoubtedly not coins but a system of weights for precious metals related to measures of grain). The departure from the story appears to have been added editorially to help readers understand the significance of Zeezrom’s subsequent offer of six “onties” (a large measure of silver) to Amulek if only he will come to his senses and deny the existence of a Supreme Being (Alma 11:22). What is essentially a parenthetical explanation is bracketed with two very similar phrases, following a Hebraic editorial technique.

Scholars only recently came to recognize and appreciate repetitive resumption in the Old Testament. Bokovoy and Tvedtnes cite Bernard M. Levinson, Hermeneutics of Innovation: The Impact of Centralization upon the Structure, Sequence, and Reformulation of Legal Material in Deuteronomy (Ph.D. diss., Brandeis University, 1991), pp. 142-150 and Bernard M. Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

The ancient editorial technique of repetitive resumption — only recently discovered — helps us understand why some passages of the Book of Mormon seem to have puzzling redundancy (not to mention wordiness). Relevant examples of “wordy” passages with apparent repetitive resumption include Alma 3:1, Alma 8:6-8; Alma 15: 16-18; Alma 17:26-27; Alma 23:6; Alma 24:23-24; Alma 27:4; Helaman 10:3, and others.

Remember, ancient Hebrew and related languages did not have punctuation as we do today. Parentheses, dashes, etc. were not available, so writers used other techniques in their writing to mark beginnings and ends of sections, editorial insertions, etc.

Consider Helaman 10:3, where a dash seems demanded by the text:

And it came to pass as he was thus pondering — being much cast down because of the wickedness of the people of the Nephites, their secret works of darkness, and their murderings, and their plunderings, and all manner of iniquities — and it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying:

While it was easy to add dashes for the English translation, repetitive resumption with the phrase “it came to pass as he was thus pondering” would have been a valid editorial technique to achieve the same effect in Hebrew. The resulting text is far too redundant for modern English ears, but this foreign level of wordiness is actually an echo of ancient Hebraic origins.

The authors reformat several Book of Mormon passages using bold to mark the repeated phrase in repetitive resumption and parentheses to help delimit the parenthetical comment or editorial insertion. Here is one more of many examples:

Alma 8:6-8

[6] … and he came to a city which was called Ammonihah.

[7] (Now it was the custom of the people of Nephi to call their lands, and their cities, and their villages, yea, even all their small villages, after the name of him who first possessed them; and thus it was with the land of Ammonihah.)

[8] And it came to pass that when Alma had come to the city of Ammonihah he began to preach the word of God unto them.

Today Biblical scholars recognize that the Bible shows many signs of editorial revisions, following the same pattern that we see in the Book of Mormon, where inspired editors make it clear that they are editing earlier documents to create an inspired abridgment. And one of the techniques common to ancient editors of both texts was the use of repetitive resumption – just one of many Hebraic elements that we can find in the Book of Mormon text (others include chiasmus, for example).

Interestingly, the more we learn about ancient scripture from the Old World, the more we can appreciate the crafting of the ancient scripture from the New World, for both have common roots.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

10 thoughts on “Recommended Reading: Bokovoy and Tvedtnes, Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible

  1. It is too bad that the examples used had to do with Lawyers, wickedness and money. The Book of Morman is full of love, as is the Bible.

    However your writing of Herbraic roots is fascinating. The Book of Mormon is fascinating. Chiasmus is wonderful.

    I attended two Masses in the Catholic Church this week. I was again impressed with the simple message of “Love” and “Doing Good” that the Priests talked about.

    One Priest was 68. A gentle, loving, and spiritual giant. The other Priest I heard this week was 41. Also, a good man. The first Priest is looking forward to retirement in two years. He asks for our prayers.

    Regarding the mention of the Pope/Chevrolet a couple of days ago. I apologize for being so picky. However, the Catholic Priests and Deacons I know love the Pope, or “Holy Father” as they choose to refer to him. I believe that their love for the Pope is matched by our love for our Prophet.

  2. Thanks for your kind comments! Actually, I liked that post better after replacing “Pope” with “General Authority.” Ties in better with General Motors.

  3. Don’t know if this was true.
    But the story goes…

    This supposedly happened back in the days when Golda Meir was the Prime Minister of Israel, and Israel had recently kicked butt in a war defending itself against foreign invasion.

    The tenacity and professionalism of the Israeli Defense Forces had amazed and astounded the world.

    The president of the United States was discussing this with Golda, and said “Let’s swap 3 generals.” And he named 3 of Israel’s famous generals (probably including Moshe Dayan) that he wanted for the United States.

    Gold then replied: “Okay, we’ll take General Motors, General Electric, and General Dynamics.”

  4. Nice! Dave Bokovoy and his wife are old friends of mine from high school (and at BYU). I’m thrilled to see him published.

  5. Dave was great at Education Week, very enthusiastic in his presentations.

    This is off topic, but you’ve got to get the new FARMS related DVD “Journey of Faith.” Besides shedding light on the geographical and practical aspects of Lehi’s journey from Jerusalem to the new world, I was impressed by the spiritual aspects as well. Particulary when the family traveled through the “Empty Quarter” to the land Bountiful, I’m afraid I would have sided with Laman and Lemuel. Yet a sattelite photo showing the uniqueness of the land Bountiful provided a Celestial perspective that God knew exactly what awaited them at the end of that trail.

  6. I have often wondered if any other Wards/Stakes have been affected by multi-level marketing strategies “raging” through the ward. About five years ago we had multi-level marketing people move into our Ward. Many Ward friendships for many quickly turned into how to get rich together. People were invited to join Amway/Quixtar team while sitting in the chapel waiting for Sacrament to begin.

    Many of the poorer/weaker members joined the scheme. When they failed in sales they did not come back to church. They were embarassed that they let the upline people down.

    The ringleader left town when he was fired from his regular job. Amway has left the Ward. But some members have never returned. they never found their riches.

    The ringleader and his circle used church membership directories in establishing the business.

    This was unfortunate. Has anyone else experienced this kind of problem?

  7. Brother, my bishop recently challenged me to serve a full time mission. I am 21 years old and am a freshman at Brigham Young University. I just concluded a four year enlistment with the United States Marine Corps. How can I possibly expect to serve a two year mission when I’m already behind 4 years and continue schooling? Can you give me any insights?

    Josh Kim

  8. re: going on a mission at 21.

    Actually, you’re only 2 years behind, so don’t worry that much.

    Pray about it. Study it out. Make a decision (either way), then present that decision to the Lord for confirmation. If you don’t get a confirmation, pray about the other scenarios, choose another scenario, and pray until you get a confirmation.

    I think you have 3 possibile scenarios: 1) go on a mission now, 2) go on a mission later, 3) don’t go on a mission.

    After 4 years in the Marines, you are going to be much more mature than the vast majority of 19 to 21 year old missionaries. That can be both a good and a bad thing. On the good side, you can be a very strong positive influence, and a tremendous leader among the missionaries.

    On the down side, you may get very frustrated with the relative immaturity of most of the 19 year olds, compared to yourself. You’re going to be living and working 24/7 with _some_ (not all) missionaries who will be momma’s boys who don’t know how to cook meals, iron a shirt, or clean a toilet. And worse, some will think that’s all beneath them.

    You might also get frustrated at the relative lack of structure and command (comparatively) in the mission compared to the Marines. People say that mission life is highly structured, but that’s only in comparison to the average teenage slacker’s life, and not compared to military life.

    You’re going to be in the same MTC class, and mission district with some whiners who will complain about food and the demanding work schedule and how “hard” it is. But to you the MTC food will be great compared to mil-chow. And the daily life in the mission field will be EASY compared to Marine life. Can you put up with the whiners?

    You might get frustrated at the average 19 year old’s inability to follow orders in a military fashion, or the average 19 year old’s (relative) unwillingness to commit to “the cause” or “the mission”, compared to the Marines. Whereas the Marines Corps is a totally volunteer force of highly self-motivated individuals, the missionary corps has a good percentage of young men entering due to family, church, and culture pressure, and not so much out of self-motivation.

    Yes, you will find _some_ missionaries who are as gung-ho as the Marines, but they will be the minority.

    It’s a like a bell-curve. At one end of the curve are the unmotivated who are there only because they have to be. Yeah, they might still be worthy in a “raised bar” sort of way, but human nature still prevails. This end of the curve is still generally clueless, and doesn’t know what the mission is about. These need a strong and loving hand to keep them in line the whole time. Take your eyes off them for a minute, and things go fubar.

    At the other end of the bell curve are those who are gung-ho, rah-rah, Spirit-filled, walking-on-water Stake-presidents-in-training. Once they are pointed in the right direction, you set-em and forget-em, ’cause they’ll get the job done.

    But the vast majority in the middle hump of the bell curve are going to be honest young men who want to do good, but need patient, loving, understanding, long-suffering (Galatians 5:22) kind of trainers and senior companions to lead them. These are the good ones, but they just “go with the flow” until they grow into their calling as missionaries. They are there on faith, which is good, and have good desires, but need to be nourished and led.

    Can you take all your Marine training and discipline and re-mold it, removing all the rough-and-ready rumble-tumble in-your-face-D.I. style, and any semblance of unrightous dominion, and be a Galations 5:22 and D&C 121 style big brother to a very diverse mix of 19 year olds who are still mostly teeny-boppers?

    I went on a mission when I was 26. (Max age now is 25). I had my 27th and 28th birthdays in the mission field. My mission was mostly hell (but did have a few good moments and blessings thrown in) because I didn’t know how to get along with the snot-nosed punks and problem elders who fought with you because you wouldn’t approve their improper kiddie-baptisms, stole (or poisoned) your food, always left the dishes dirty (usually 2 to 3 sets of missionaries per apt), kept filthy pets, and wouldn’t even flush the toilet, let along clean it. I lost the Spirit, and then I became a problem elder.

    Your Bishop may be right about you needing to go on a misison. But bishops are going to say that regardless. The one who is ENTITLED to the revelation/confirmation is ultimately YOU. Pray over the 3 scenarios until you get a confirmation, (ponder/pray over each one individually, because answers are yes/no) and do whatever the Spirit says, regardless of what the Bishop says. The Spirit outranks him.

    Your maturity and discipline and leadership skills are very much needed in the mission field. But you also have to have the ability of working with a very diverse group of mostly immature young men, most of whom are _not_ motivated (yet) to do the work. And you can’t expect them to follow the mission rules and mission president’s orders in true military fashion.

  9. Excellent advice, BOM in Indy. I agree: it’s a personal decision that no one else can make for you. You are entitled to revelation as you ponder and pray about this issue.

    I would also point out that in terms of education and career, I feel like my mission helped me move along faster in the long run than if I had not gone. It was a two-year delay, yes, but those two years gave me an intense education about life, cultures, and many other things. I get to know people from over 50 countries, learned German, came to understand some of the perspectives of Europeans vis a vis Americans, learned how to get along with jocks and other companions who had almost nothing in common with me, learned how to work hard and sacrifice, learned to see the goodness in others even when they fail or don’t progress or fall away, learned about the challenges of immigrants, experienced the joy of real bread and real cheese, experienced Fasnach in Basel (!!), saw how chocoloate was made, learned that Mormons don’t have a monopoly on truth, got to see first-hand the ravages of drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness in several forms, and found out what it’s like to be a young, naive foreigner trying to teach religion to a wealthy, sophisticated, and highly educated people. Almost every moment was worth it. It changed my life and my attitudes (for those of you think I’m a self-righteous SOB, I would be even worse without that mission experience! – thank God for the painful experiences that helped me chill out a bit). It gave me skills and confidence and strength that I think made it much easier to move ahead with my life and move forward in my career and education. I count it as the best part of my education rather than just a two-year delay. And on top of that, I think I made a difference in the lives of a number of people, some of whom became converts to the Church. Yes, that’s the real reason we go, to serve others, but for me – and perhaps I’m an exception – the blessings my mission brought to me were just unreasonably great. So glad I went!

  10. I just got done reading “Testaments” a few days ago and was quite impressed. This is definatly one of the best books that Tvedtnes has published – along with “The Book of Mormon and Other Hidden Books: Out of Darkness Unto Light” – and Bokovoy is similarly a fine scholar on Hebrew and the Book of Mormon.

    Keep up the good work…

    Steve Smoot

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