Matthew Bowen’s latest contribution regarding the Book of Mormon’s frequent use of wordplays involving personal names is found in a new publication at The Interpreter. See Matthew L. Bowen, “Messengers of the Covenant: Mormon’s Doctrinal Use of Malachi 3:1 in Moroni 7:29–32,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 31 (2019): 111-138. Here is an excerpt from his introduction:
Jesus’s transition to and introduction of
Malachi’s prophecies constitute perhaps the clearest juxtaposition of
a proper name with its corresponding etymological meaning anywhere in
scripture: “Thus said the Father unto Malachi [malʾākî, ‘my messenger,’ or ‘my angel’] — Behold, I will send my messenger [malʾākî; or my angel], and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant [malʾak habbĕrît; or angel of the covenant]” (3 Nephi 24:1).
significance of this onomastic juxtaposition was not lost on Mormon. He
employs language that recalls Malachi 3:1 (3 Nephi 24:1) when he
expounds the doctrine of the ministering of “angels” (Hebrew malʾākîm,
see especially Moroni 7:29–32) and their role in the fulfillment of
divine covenants. This he does as part of a wider exposition of the
necessity of faith, hope, and charity (Moroni 7). In this article,
I will examine the meaning of the name Malachi (malʾākî) and
its doctrinal importance in the respective contexts of the canonical
book of Malachi and in 3 Nephi 24. I will also compare the language of
Malachi 3:1 (3 Nephi 24:1) and Moroni 7:29–32 to determine the nature
and degree of Mormon’s use of the former. And finally, I will show how
Malachi 3:1 (3 Nephi 24:1) and Mormon’s use of this text enhance our
understanding of the nature and function of the ministering of angels.
Bowen’s analysis of the scriptural use of the term “angel” shows that in some cases, Christ or Jehovah is actually classified as an angel, as appears to be the case in Malachi 3:1, where the messenger of the covenant appears to be the Lord. The language in 3 Nephi 24 where Christ recites Malachi 3, with an aptly worded introduction, along with Moroni’s appear reworking of concepts from that section of the text, appear to artfully reflect an awareness of the Hebrew words behind our English translation, giving us some interesting wordplays.
I am especially intrigued by Bowen’s discussion of the role of Isaiah 51:9-10 in understanding themes related to the topics of his paper More on that later.
29 thoughts on “Wordplays on the Name Malachi in the Book of Mormon”
There’s a pretty solid scholarly consensus that Malachi was written between 516 and 445 BCE — that is, long after Lehi left Jerusalem. So the only explanation of Malachi passages in the Book of Mormon must be a supernatural explanation, not a scholarly explanation. And thus like so many other instances of LDS “scholarship,” this is not really scholarship at all, just esoterica in scholarly garb.
To a genuine scholar, the Book of Mormon’s plagiarism of Malachi is just one more bit of evidence for its 19th-century authorship.
Pontificate all you want about miracles, just don’t confuse it with scholarship.
It's precisely because Malachi was written after Nephi left Jerusalem that the Lord quoted from Malachi to give those words to the Nephites. But I assume your issue is based on the allegation that because Nephi used some similar language in a couple of verses, that his work be a fraud and that it proves Joseph must have been plagiarizing from Malachi. But this is nowhere close to conclusive argument. An early response of mine to this charge is found on my Book of Mormon Problems #4 page in my LDS FAQ resources. There are several possibilities to consider:
1. The translation process, which clearly draws upon KJV vernacular when it fits as a translation approach, drew upon related phrases from Malachi (and many others) when they suitable fit related concepts Nephi was expressing.
2. Malachi himself was using terminology and phrases from earlier prophets whose writings we don't have. This is hardly a stretch since biblical authors often quote others without attribution, such as Micah copying an entire chapter of Isaiah without attribution in his book. If we didn't have Isaiah 2 in the extant OT manuscripts, then the Book of Mormon's citation of Isaiah would look like plagiarism from Micah.
3. Nephi was inspired by the same source that inspired Malachi in sharing some related concepts.
The shared concepts and phrasing represent a relatively minor issue within the realm of what commonly happens in translations and in authorship. Again, the direct and serious citation of Malachi was done by the Lord for the very reason you give — that Malachi came after the brass plates existed and was not available as a text to the Nephites, but was viewed by the Lord as important for their knowledge.
I always thought it interesting that when the first Nephi gave prophesies of Christopher Columbus, etc, those characters go unnamed, but when he prophesied (or repeated prophecies of) Joseph Smith, Joseph is named. Here we see Malachi named, almost like the audience has an idea who that is. Interesting.
It looks like Jeff is peering into his hat and seeing the motives and intentions of Jesus and Mormon "The doctrinal significance … not lost on Mormon", etc. Well isn't that how imagination and conjecture are converted into reality?
Great point Anon. I also find it interesting that in the BoM, predictions of events that are to occur pre 1830 are extremely precise. Any prophecies beyond that are predictably nebulous.
Jeff writes, It's precisely because Malachi was written after Nephi left Jerusalem that the Lord quoted from Malachi to give those words to the Nephites. But I assume your issue is based on the allegation that because Nephi used some similar language in a couple of verses, that his work be a fraud and that it proves Joseph must have been plagiarizing from Malachi.
Actually, my main point this time was merely that these Interpreter-style essays are not scholarship. And Jeff nicely makes my point by repeatedly invoking God in his response. If one explains away a blatant anachronism by saying that God put the words of a later writer into the ears of an earlier writer, well, thats fine: believe it if you wish, but don't call it scholarship.
And when God wants to tell Moroni that infant baptism is a solemn mockery, he whispers the words of a 1794 Protestant Catechism, 1825 Sermons by John McDowell, and 1812 writings by William Innes to Moroni.
"Many ignorant and immoral persons…would be tempted into hypocrisy and a solemn mockery by promising what they never meant to fulfill…and thus infant baptism is often made the occasion of sin…" – The Protestant Dissenter's Catechism, London, 1794.
"With respect to such children our subject teaches that their baptism can be of little or no service to them…There baptism profiteth nothing. Yes, this is solemn mockery." – Theology in a Series of Sermons, by John McDowell – 1825.
"Whatever liberty others may have in observing infant baptism……he is chargeable with solemn mockery…." A Letter to the Editor of the Christian Instructor, by William Innes, 1812.
"And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children." Moroni 8:9. 1829.
Over and Out,
This blog is truly amazing, Jeff. It's incredible how you return to this empty well again and again, convinced you've discovered an endless source of living waters, when everyone else sees your bucket's empty. Time after time. Such nonsense and emotion-based rhetoric foisted upon us as evidence and scholarship.
You're obviously an intelligent person. I look forward to the time when it all comes crashing down and you see these things for what they are: verifiably false and misleading since their origins. We'll be here with open arms, doing our best not to judge you too harshly. Until then I'll keep praying for you.
Anon 12:57 – The dirty little secret w Jeff is that he has made it clear that the Mormon church is "true" the way all monothestic religions r true, which is to say he is not a true believer. So to him saying that Mormonism is verifiably false as as odd as saying one can prove there is no God. When you understand this, you understand that his supposed defenses r tongue in cheek rationalizations of an older sibling to his toddler brothers and sisters about how mom and dad were telling the truth about santa Claus.
Yes, history is rife of examples of famous people stealing ideas and taking credit for others' works. Leibniz was tossed out on his head for even claiming to have invented / discovered calculus because clearly is was Newton's idea first so Leibniz clearly plagiarized it.
Likewise, the Chinese have no right to lay claim to the Pythagorean Theorem calling it the Gougo Theorem (https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Famous_Theorems_of_Mathematics/Pythagoras_theorem) because everyone knows that it was the Greeks who came up with it first and if anyone else were to think deep thoughts then they are obviously plagiarists.
Truth is only found in single instances and everything else is just commentary on those single instances.
Steve, wouldn't it be easier just to say this? — "If in his infinite wisdom he wants to, God can make a book written by pre-5th-century Israelite refugees read like it was written by 19th-century American Protestants?"
I mean, God could do that, right? So why all this fuss about evidence and such? Evidence is meaningless if it can be trumped with the declaration that Goddidit. Why defend the Mormon scriptures the hard way when you can do it the easy way?
Personally, I think the word Nahom appears in the Book of Mormon because Satan whispered it in Joseph's ear, just as he did the rest of the text. He wanted a bit of hard evidence in there to help convince people to believe his lies. You see, Satan orchestrated the whole thing, from the First Vision onwards, in order to lure people away from the true faith of Seventh Day Adventism.
See how easy Jeff's game is?
Steve and Jeff,
You have a 1000 piece puzzle in front of you. All the pieces are out on the table, and in their proper place, but each piece is one inch away from the pieces around it. None of the pieces are actually linked together.
Right now, you can pick up any piece you want, and all the other pieces stay on the table. You pick up the polygamy piece, and you have so many explanations for it. No problem. Nothing to see here.
You then pick up the differing First Visions. You have that taken care of.
You pick up Adam-God and put it back down. You pick up the Danites, and put it back down. You pick up changed revelations in D&C. You pick up the obvious 19th Century Protestant doctrine in an ancient book. One by one, you pick them up and put them down.
You think these are all just isolated issues, disconnected from each other. You have one strained apologetic argument after another, but you can handle the strain when you are only picking up one piece at a time.
As long as you refuse to put the puzzle together, you can protect yourself from the awful reality of this frightening picture.
I know, because this is what I did for a long time. I had a disjointed puzzle, and I didn't want to see what all the evidence was so clearly telling me.
Someday, you'll have no choice but to simply put that puzzle together once and for all. It's a road all will have to walk.
EBU – jeff and others have all put the puzzle together. Their argument is: so what. They know many will not come to the so-what conclusion once they figure out how to put the puzzle together themselves, so they give those people
Need distractors and straws to grasp. Jeff's detergent to putting the puzzle together is: be weary of big list attacks, don't take the list of items the way science tells us to and connect with the dots.
If so-what is the response to it not being true, the so-what should also be the response to it being true. After all "it" can be sliced and diced anyway the conmen want to make it.
EBU, what you have described is life in general. Your description could fit for the Anglican Church, work, family life, Super Bowl Sunday, etc. I only thought the argument that just because others thought infant baptism was wrong that Joseph obviously stole it from people that came before him was just not a sound argument.
OK, 19th century revivalist America is the time Joseph grew up. I would sure hope that the translation of the Book of Mormon would reach a target audience of the general population and not that of academics. After all, I believe that one of the reasons that we have the King James Version of the Bible was to make it more accessible to the general population.
I think that Satan has had greater success at inspiring mass murders such as Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, and others to wreak havoc on humanity than to focus on a farm boy. You are correct though, evidence is meaningless. At the end of the day, it does depend on if you have felt that you have been touched by the Divine.
other anons I never claim to have all the answers it's just that your arguments are just as ridiculous as you claim the arguments that Jeff has as being ridiculous.
I agree that what I have written can be applied to Super Bowl Sunday and yes….even Anglicanism. The big difference is however that Super Bowl Sunday doesn't claim to be the One True Sunday, nor even the One True Football Game! And likewise, Anglicanism doesn't claim to be the One True Church.
All of the problems and issues with Anglicanism and the Super Bowl can be expected because they are institutions made by human beings. Thus…the fact that there are so many similar problems in Mormonism tells me that it, too, is an institution established by man. Otherwise the only evidence I have to the contrary is a subjective feeling about it. Or worse…your own subjective feeling about it.
What you would have me believe is that although it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it isn't a duck.
"19th century revivalist America is the time Joseph grew up. I would sure hope that the translation of the Book of Mormon would reach a target audience of the general population and not that of academics. After all, I believe that one of the reasons that we have the King James Version of the Bible was to make it more accessible to the general population."
I think you just made my point! Joseph Smith grew up in 19th Century Revivalist America. Nephi and friends did not.
But, if Nephi "saw our day" I find it very enlightening that the scope of his vision did not extend beyond the borders of Joseph Smith's backyard. Nephi had nothing to say about transubstantiation, Marian devotion, mortal vs venial sin, purgatory, indulgences, priestly celibacy, etc etc etc. Nephi seems to have only wanted to settle the dispute between the Calvinists (Luck Mack), the Universalists (Joseph Smith Sr) and the Arminians as manifested in the Methodist faith (Joseph Smith, Jr.)
Steve – "your arguments are just as ridiculous as you claim the arguments that Jeff has as being ridiculous" Consistency would then require you to claim Jeff's arguments are also ridiculous, which is the whole point. So we are all in agreement that everything here is absurd.
EBU and OK have both made better points in a few sentences than Jeff has in over a decade of blogging. Hang it up, Jeff. You bet on the wrong horse, uh… tapir.
"I think that Satan has had greater success at inspiring mass murders such as Genghis Khan, Pol Pot, and others to wreak havoc on humanity than to focus on a farm boy."
I have been taught all of my life, and I'm sure you have as well, that Mormonism is God's only true church and the only way to salvation is through its priesthood and ordinances. If you truly believe that, the 14 year old farm boy and his movement would be pretty important to Satan–foiling its plans would be foiling God's plan, which is what he's all about, right? That comment doesn't agree with the world view, or "eternal view" of the church.
"I only thought the argument that just because others thought infant baptism was wrong that Joseph obviously stole it from people that came before him was just not a sound argument."
That was not my argument.
What is really fascinating about the issue of infant baptism showing up in the Book of Mormon is this:
In Joseph Smith's region, there were almost no Catholics. It was almost entirely Protestant. A recent LDS.org essay explains this to be the truth. This essay links much of the early doctrine of the Restoration to Protestant ideas. Including this issue of infant baptism.
The majority of Protestants in Smith's region (Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Methodists, etc) all practice infant baptism, just like the Catholics! It is one area in which Protestants and Catholics agree. So again….Joseph Smith is not settling a dispute between Protestants and Catholics. He never does! Everything in the Book of Mormon settles disputes between Protestants and Protestants. It was the Baptists that preached against infant baptism, against this common practice of the rest of the Protestants.
The Book of Mormon, according to the title page, was written for the descendants of the Lamanites. Assuming that the Lamanites are the ancestral peoples of Latin America, the majority of whom became converts to Catholicism, it would've been much more prophetic for the Nephites to deal with Catholic doctrine, rather than Protestant doctrine. At least a little bit.
And it is not just generic Protestant doctrine, either. It is specific Protestant doctrines. In issues debated between the Calvinists and the Arminians, the Book of Mormon, without fail, comes down on the side of the Arminians. (Free will instead of pre-destination, infinite atonement instead of finite atonement, conditional election instead of unconditional election, fall from grace as a real possibility instead of the Calvinist concept of the "persistence of the Saints.)
Methodists, Joseph Smith's apostate Christian sect of choice, were Arminians.
The book is an Anti-Calvinist screed written for Protestants in upstate New York, which includes allusions to freemasonry (secret combinations), treasure digging (treasure slipping deeper into the ground), seer stones (like Joseph's), and dark-skinned, loincloth-sporting heathens that scalp people…..hmmmmmmm.
But thank goodness we have all this Hebraic word-play! Otherwise, we'd all have to assume that a treasure-digging, scrying Methodist who loved to tell tales about the Injuns wrote it!
I marvel at how arduously Jeff and Steve try to distract from their non-belief.
Sorry for the late response — have been traveling in Israel, seeing for myself some of the majestic scenes of the New Testament, along with viewing a variety of things also relevant to the Book of Mormon, such as the silver amulets from Ketef Hinnon, the earliest biblical text found so far. Incidentally, it's an example of writing scripture on metal.
The numerous examples of Semitic elements in the Book of Mormon are among the many pieces of the puzzle that our critics seem to refuse to look at. Did any of you actually respond in any meaningful way to Bowen's find regarding the name Malachi? Sorry if I missed that. But to me, it seems like many people vigorously ignore the puzzle pieces with chiasmus, Hebraic and Egyptian wordplays, plausible ancient names that were once ridiculed, geographical details now confirmed beyond Joseph's knowledge, and numerous cases of an alleged weakness in the Book of Mormon eventually becoming a strength.
This post deals with the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, a serious issue for anyone interested in the LDS faith. It makes sense to first evaluate whether or not the Book of Mormon can plausible be considered as ancient scripture. If so, then something miraculous was going on with the Restoration, and that provides a foundation for dealing with things we don't like about the actions of fallible individuals in the Church that seem or genuinely are problematic. Making a list of the things you don't like about Church history and doctrine is not responsive to the authenticity and divinity of the Book of Mormon. That's the first issue to tackle.
Yes, our faith accepts a number of doctrines related to Arminianism. But the similarities can be found in the Bible as well, including the ability of man to fall from grace and the conditional nature of salvation. But these commonalities are not new concepts from Arminius or Hugo Grotius. These can generally be found in what I see as clear teachings (though obviously not clear enough for all Christians) in the New Testament and the Old. However, the Book of Mormon treatment of our conditional salvation employs an ancient pre-exilic understanding of covenants in showing how God calls us in a covenant relationship to "rise from the dust" and become enthroned (Is. 52, see Walter Brueggeman and others on the "rise from the dust" theme that I discuss in a 3-part series for the Interpreter). It is a pervasive concept that cannot be accounted for by appeal to relationships to Arminianism.
To see a parallel and assume that it means plagiarism is a weak and flawed approach. If you fail to see if there are more ancient parallels for the concepts in question and cannot provide a plausible model for how plagiarism accounts for anything meaningful in the Book of Mormon, particularly the strengths of the text, then you don't have a viable model explaining its origins. There are interesting parallels to Book of Mormon in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the Nag Hammadi Library, in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers, and in many other aspects of ancient religion. You can seize on any of these and claim plagiarism, but there is much more going on that you think.
As for "solemn mockery," that term has been used for many religious issues, not just baptism. The fact that others used that phrase in the context of criticizing infant baptism doesn't require plagiarism. Infant baptism defies the covenant nature of ancient Jewish and Christian religion and needs to be criticized. That others have criticized it and used a very common phrase (in the translation) does not require plagiarism.
The Book of Mormon cannot plausibly be considered ancient scripture. Sorry.
And chiasmus? Seriously, Jeff? You’re just making a fool of yourself.
OK – Jeff’s chronic distraction about the ancientness of the Book of Mormon is silly. It is like arguing that the Koran is not ancient because it came about in the 7th century and the ancient period ends in the 6th century. Regardless, the Koran has ancient parallels to concepts to at least the 6 centuries before it came to the knowledge of academia. The century of production is irrelevant, and Jeff knows it. It is his smoke and mirrors to distract from the real issues. The apologist have definitely gotten everyone to take the bait on this one.
“Semitic elements in the Book of Mormon are among the many pieces of the puzzle that our critics seem to refuse to look at”
Who are these mystery critics? I see a bunch of thinkers on this blog not only looking at Semitic elements in the Book of Mormon, but putting them under a microscope for genuine and careful comparison.
“Did any of you actually respond in any meaningful way to Bowen’s find”
Did you ever respond to Ignatius Donnelly’s massive findings?
“now confirmed beyond Joseph’s knowledge”
Now confirmed? You will have help us out with your definition of confirmed.
“authenticity of the Book of Mormon”
What does the even mean?
“Making a list of the things you don’t like about Church history and doctrine”
That is something you do all the time. You readily jettison doctrine calling it “lots of errant” dearly held beliefs. So, since doctrine is so easily jettisoned, the “authenticity” of the book of the Mormon is a moot concern. That issue has been thoroughly and utterly tackled.
“To see a parallel and assume that it means plagiarism is a weak and flawed approach”
You may have tricked some into using your word plagiarism (are they plagiarizing you when they do that), but not me. Newton and Leibniz, or Elisha Grey and Alexander Graham Bell, were working in similar time periods on similar problems, neither one plagiarized the other. As a patent agent, you know one can not patent an idea, but as academics we can show the idea hotbed existing at a place and time. Your contention that a 1000 years of Hebrew “prophets” in an unknown location aggregated to address all the hotbed issues of an 1830 American town and family is fine, but that is less than plausible, that is super-miraculous, no different than Juan Diego and his Tilma.
To see a parallel and assume that it means ancient is also a weak and flawed approach. Good to see you understand that.
“If you fail to see if there are more ancient parallels for the concepts in question”
No one fails to see ancient parallels, because as you said, these concepts were also in the Bible. The Koran has parallels to concepts that predate its known existence by centuries.
“cannot provide a plausible model for how plagiarism accounts for anything meaningful in the Book of Mormon”
The academics have a presented more than plausible models, but highly probable ones. See Kirby Ferguson …
“As for “solemn mockery,” that term has been used for many religious issues, not just baptism.“
Yes, and Dan Vogel is careful to point you he did not invent the phrase “pious fraud” and the phrase was not just used in a religious context, but a medical context, for medical professionals that prescribe something we now call a placebo. Joseph Smith believed anything that produced good results was of God, including fraud and placebos. Joseph Smith probably genuinely believed God put the phrase “solemn mockery” in his mind, without realizing it was something in his mind from his environment. He probably also thought making tin plates that could not pass serious visual inspection was OK if it inspired people to desirable behavior.
“Infant baptism defies the covenant nature of ancient Jewish and Christian religion”
The circumcision covenant did not occur on infants?
You are right Jeff. I did not respond in any meaningful way to Bowens work. I will read it closely tonight and respond. EBU
Here is the feeling I get as I read this:
It really has the feel of something I studied in art school, something called "intertextuality." It is a postmodern critical theory in which chronology and influence is pulled out from under the history of "texts," in this case, works of art seen as "texts." Dicussions of how one artist or school influenced another artist or school becomes quaintly old-fashioned. Why not just ignore the reality of chronology all together, throw every work of art in a barrel, shake them all up, and spill them out again. Picasso might fall out of the barrel before Rembrandt, and therefore, ignoring chronology, we can view the Rembrandt in light of the Picasso, instead of the other way around.
Bowen's creative play with these different texts really has the same dizzying effect of postmodern deconstruction, but instead of dismantling something and leaving the reader with nothing to take home, Bowen has built something up which the reader CAN take home, except he might not want to…because it says more about Bowen's reading of these texts than the texts themselves.
And isn't that what postmodern critical theory is all about! Yes….yes it is.
The linguistic analysis seems to be little more than just an opening in the chain-link fence whereby Bowen can sneak onto the playground in the dark and do something that really isn't about linguistics at all. It is like watching a pianist perform an entire concert plucking the strings like a guitar. Or watching Jonsi from Sigur Ros use a violin bow on an electric guitar. It is really fascinating, but a purist would hardly call that true piano music or true guitar music.
Bowen is riffing on themes, using linguistics as a loose structural framework for his improvisation. And frankly, Bowen's insistence on inserting the most challenging word possible nearly every chance he gets makes this unpalatable for your average reader. "Theophoric hypocoristicon?" Seriously? "Incipit title?" Isn't that kind of redundant? I typed "incipit title" into the N-gram viewer, just for kicks. It looks like Bowen's use of these two words together is the first known instance!