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Benjamin McGuire

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Benjamin McGuire last won the day on May 14 2014

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About Benjamin McGuire

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  1. Isn't this what the purpose of translating is? To convey meaning from one language to another - that is, from an author in one language to a reader in another language? It certainly isn't simply picking up a text and using a dictionary to try and move that text from one language to another. This is why good translations aren't rigidly tied to the source in terms of dictionary meaning - why they work to strip out idioms that do not work from the source culture, and work to make the text fit the needs of the readers in the destination culture and language. Primary language is important (it is, after all, why the Book of Mormon is largely in English right?). But, EME isn't really the English that Joseph Smith spoke (which is why we distinguish between EME and modern English right?). You have made this point numerous times. So I end up asking you this question? Why does Joseph Smith get a book that he cannot read very well? And not only Joseph Smith - the popularity of the KJV itself helps the language persist in certain contexts, right? But, that popularity began to decline at the end of the 19th century - as soon as alternatives were widely available. So if Joseph Smith receives the text of the Book of Mormon (and in this context, the question of how isn't too important), why doesn't come in contemporary English? But let's get back to the issue of the text. What percentage of the text would you say is made up of grammar (morphology, syntax, the verbal system, etc.) that was archaic in 1830, and what percentage of the text is made of grammar that wasn't archaic in 1830? How much of the grammatical structure of the text is more recent than EME? Of the vocabulary, how many words do you think post-date EME in their usage? In terms of my point (b), I unsuccessfully (or incompletely) was pointing out the fact that texts have much greater room to impact society and culture as a translation. That is, the Book of Mormon has a much greater impact on its audience as a translation than it would have had as an original piece of literature produced by Joseph Smith (even an inspired piece literature). By using idiosyncratic language, the Book of Mormon doesn't just claim to be a translation, it presents itself as one - and this encourages its audience to read it as one (and more easily adopt change suggested by the text). The King James language is only a part of this, and serves another function. After all, it's not too hard to look at Jacob 1:7 and see Psalm 95:
  2. The problem isn't about the construction. Having wonderful archaic language construction isn't what makes a good translation. What makes a good translation is the way that the text works for its intended audience. If the intended audience is a 19th century audience then using EME as the language base makes it a bad translation. If the intended audience was an audience completely fluent in EME, then using that EME could make a wonderful translation. Of course, most people in the 19th century were not completely fluent in EME, and we have been getting considerably less so ever since. Just as the King James translation has been losing popularity for over a century now to other translations using modern English. Suppose (to oversimplify for the purpose of illustration), I suggest that early modern and modern English are two entirely different languages (I recognize that it is a flawed analogy but it will help illustrate the problem). If my target audience speaks Spanish, and my original text is in German, I am not going to produce a text in French (even if my target audience has a limited understanding of French). But this is akin to the outcome that you seem to be suggesting. We know with some certainty that the text on the Gold Plates cannot be an exact analog to the language in the Book of Mormon - especially where the Book of Mormon uses long quotes from the King James text. So the fact that we have these (near) verbatim sections of the the Book of Mormon indicates a textual reliance in the Book of Mormon on the King James version of the Bible, and not some nearly identical independent translation of a text that is related to, but certainly not identical to the sources used by the translators of the King James. My position is that Joseph Smith is (a) a reader of the text - and that he should not be identified as a translator in any strict sense of the term. That (b) the archaic language is used to help the primary audience (those contemporary with its publication including Joseph Smith) understand the text as a translation - not just because it claims to be a translation, but because it has a distinct stylized feel to it. That (c) this use of the King James language in particular (where it is reliant on the King James text) creates a textual mechanism in which most of its primary readers would recognize biblical texts from their citations, allusions, and reinscriptions in the Book of Mormon. And these points lead me to the conclusion that the use of the archaic language in places is a deliberate case of translationese used rhetorically as a way of encouraging a certain perspective of the text and its contents for its first readers.
  3. No. It's a lousy translation. One of the hallmarks of what we consider to be good translation is the avoidance of archaic language. Using archaic language is not "masterful, eclectic translation". It does not demonstrate philological expertise. Instead, it makes it difficult for the readers to actually understand what the original author intended. As Lawrence Shapiro noted: Or Lawrence Venuti: It is a good translation if it is translated into the current language at the time of translation. If the Book of Mormon is EME, then it is a good translation in the time period in which EME is used. But outside of that time period, it is no longer a good translation. It is a translation into archaic language, not well understood by its audience, and certainly drawing attention to itself. This is fine if its part of the meaning of the text-as-artifact - it becomes part of the rhetorical styling of the text overall, and impacts its meaning (as a translation). But, in terms of disguising the translator (which is the intent of good translations), not so much. We shouldn't have to read the Book of Mormon with a copy of the OED to help us understand it. Ben McGuire
  4. Any translation has to take into consideration the intended audience. The first problem is that the Book of Mormon, if it uses archaic language is a lousy translation if we assume that the target audience first reads the book in 1830. The second problem is what do we do with the parts of the Book of Mormon that are inconsistent with EME? The vocabulary itself is part of this problem because, of course, the text contains many words which are (as far as we can tell) coined by Shakespeare (and potentially later - I know of no one who has dated the entire 5,000+ word vocabulary of the Book of Mormon). This sort of inclusion means that the text was not potentially meant for an audience near 1611. What do we do with the sections that paraphrase passages from the Bible and update the language of the KJV? How do we deal with a translation that seems to interpret an historical text into an early 19th century context (part of what we would expect with a fluent translation made in the early 19th century)? As I noted last August, we run into a problem. Either the translation is fluent and prepared with a different audience in mind than the one that eventually became its first readership, or the translation isn't entirely fluent because this was part of the overall strategy of the text (part of its presentation) to help its first audience understand that the text was a translation and not an original work. Both circumstances can help explain the language issue. But in either case, most of the discussion above deals very little with the meaning of the text. That meaning has to include an understanding of audience, and how that audience reads the text. And it should also include the idea of the meaning of the text as an artifact - that is, how the text as a whole is understood and the role that it plays for its audience. Ben McGuire
  5. Something to look at - as an example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Essay_towards_a_Real_Character_and_a_Philosophical_Language https://archive.org/details/AnEssayTowardsARealCharacterAndAPhilosophicalLanguage In some ways, this sort of system shows interesting parallels to the degrees and connecting parts and so on, from the GAEL. I think there is room to see the GAEL as this sort of work to construct language (as opposed to being a translation of some sort working from the Egyptian into English as a preliminary for the BoA).
  6. We have several attempts (apart from the 1831 book that I linked), of newly made versions of the "pure language" that aren't connected back to Hebrew or Egyptian. Apart from the Eco book (which I also have, and which is very good), there are a couple of journal articles of some interest on this topic - Sam Brown, "Joseph (Smith) in Egypt: Babel, Hieroglyphs, and the Pure Language of Eden" in Church History 78:1 (March 2009), 26–65. and Christoper Eagle, "“Thou Serpent That Name Best”: On Adamic Language and Obscurity in Paradise Lost" in Milton Quarterly,Vol. 41, No. 3, 2007 Ben McGuire
  7. In adding to what Clark mentions, we run into this problem of a widespread cultural interpretation going on that the early LDS understanding fits into (and this interpretation impacts a lot of things - including Moses, but also the GAEL materials, and so on). The connection to "pure language" especially as we see it in Moses 6, comes from Zephaniah 3:9 - "For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent." This issue comes up fairly early within Mormonism, as it is an issue where Sidney Rigdon had some disagreements with Campbell (and Rigdon is very much a participant in the production of the Book of Moses). Later we have the encounter that Michael Hull Barton has with Mormonism (baptized in 1833, but it is in 1831 that he writes his book on the pure language:https://books.google.com/ books?id=dAISAAAAIAAJ&pg= PA112#v=onepage&q&f=falsehttps://books.google.com/ books?id=dAISAAAAIAAJ&pg= PA113#v=onepage&q&f=false And so on. And while we have some discussion of the language of Adam, it isn't exactly clear that the goal was to restore that specific language as opposed to creating a new language. And this concept of the new language was far more interested in creating a system that wasn't ambiguous in its vocalization (not so much in its meaning). That is, creating a phonetic system that was unambiguous was more important that creating a system where the embedded meaning was unambiguous (something we probably wouldn't worry about quite so much today). We can see this in the way that the GAEL is laid out. But we also see this idea in things like the discussion over the name James/Jacob in the King Follett Discourse, where the greatest liability of the King James text, it is suggested, is in the way that things are presented (spelled) in terms of names (and not so much over the concept of doctrine). Which is why Joseph Smith suggests that for the New Testament, it is Luther's translation into German that is best. At any rate, my point is that the bit in Moses represents something quite different from the material in Ether. And in Moses, we have an outcome that is due in part from an interpretation drawn from the Genesis account and the Ether text. But it's way of describing it is due more towards the notion of the pure language coming from Zephaniah, and early Mormonism's sense that the prophecy in Zephaniah had to be fulfilled as part of the preparations needed to clear the way for the Second Coming (just as the rest of the sects who fit into that restorationist movement also believed). So I am wary of extending the interpretation in Moses back on to Ether. Ether seems at least in part to be Moroni's re-understanding of the Genesis narratives in terms of the Jaredite record. (More or less what Clark was saying above). Ben M.
  8. As a side note (and not really related to the current discussion), there is this fascinating interplay between Abinadi, Alma (later writings) and Nephi/Jacob. There is a lot of intertextual reference between Alma and Abinadi, and Alma and Nephi/Jacob. There is very, very little between Abinadi, and Nephi/Jacob. This is interesting to me both from the position that this is seen in the historical narrative that the text presents (that the small plates are not in public circulation until after they are given to Benjamin - and so wouldn't have been available to Abinadi), and it is interesting from the perspective that in the translation chronology, the small plates come last. Ben McGuire
  9. I think that your use of "parallel" is a bit broad here - because in some circumstances, we do have adequate methods to evaluate things and say that A is a valid parallel, but B is not. That essay of mine on parallelomania describes different ways to approach it, but in the examples I give, I illustrate how this can be done with some certainty. And when we deal with texts in particular, we can have some degree of certainty when Text B is reliant on Text A (even if we may not know the exact genealogy of that relationship). This is particularly true when we engage with the more complex relationships (quotation, reinscription, and so on). Our biggest struggle tends to be over words themselves - because you can almost never isolate a word to a particular document. This is natural because for wors to be meaningful, they have to have a broad awareness within a community. And usually when we create new words we usually tend to do so in a way that helps provide clues to meaning and intention. Because of this, words and short phrases are universally considered the weakest sorts of evidence for textual parallels. The only way to recover these as useful indicators of parallels is to provide a larger context - either by introducing other elements to the parallel (structure, interpretation, and so on), or by trying to greatly narrow the context of those words - by arguing for a technical usage that only occurs within a specific context. For the Book of Mormon, one of those arguments has consistently been over the idea of "secret combinations" as an indicator for freemasonry as an influence. The problem has always been that there is no narrow technical use for this term. As I describe it in my essay: In the context of your remarks, the trouble is distinguishing between a technical usage that might be called "19th century protestant language" and a usage within 19th century Protestantism that is determined by an already existing meaning that is being turned or adopted in protestant thought. If it is the later issue and not the former issue, then you cannot rely simply on a language parallel as being meaningful or significant in any way. Within religious movements in particular, there is a long identified trend at borrowing religious language and using it to create something new within a religious tradition. But religions do this because it is simply how language works more generally. I think this is likely true. But, you have to understand that this is a common feature of all translations (particularly good translations). And the question remains (as I ask it in the FairMormon conference presentation), is this a result of Joseph Smith as translator? Or is it a result of Joseph Smith as a representative of the narrative audience. The interesting part of this is that whether it comes through the mind of Joseph Smith, or is translated so that Joseph Smith will understand it, this still shoots down the idea of an 16th or 17th century translator producing a good translation a couple of hundred years before Joseph Smith arrives. On the other hand, we run into other problems that create interesting challenges. Nephi sometimes sounds an awful lot like Plato from his Phaedrus. When Jacob quotes from Psalm 95, he certainly doesn't apply it to his own context in a way that imitates the New Testament interpretation. And Jacob's discussion on polygamy would be right at home in the debates at the time of Rabbi Gershom in the Middle Ages. Perhaps on some level we run into the problem that the language of the translation becomes as much a mirror as anything else. And perhaps we read into it what we want to read into it. Ben McGuire
  10. Duplicate
  11. Isn't this the point? There are two problems. The first is that, I think, you would be hard pressed to identify a "19th century protestant language". We can discuss technical language and its value in looking at sources and textual genealogies, but, I think this one is a real problem. The second challenge is that your essay offers no negative check. I wrote a bit about that in my review essay here: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/finding-parallels-some-cautions-and-criticisms-part-one/ http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/finding-parallels-some-cautions-and-criticisms-part-two/ This is from page 70 (in part 2) of the essay that I link above: We can, I think. expand this by substituting the idea of an author (in the above quote) for a corpus of material coming from 19th century protestant writers, if we can find the same language in other works outside of that corpus, we have achieved the same effect. If it isn't unique to 19th century protestant literature, then it cannot be attributed to that body of material. My issue isn't with the idea that contemporary language finds its way into the Book of Mormon (it wouldn't be a translation if it didn't, right?). My issue is with this notion of a "19th century protestant language", which, I think, isn't a very defensible construct. As far as the rest of it goes, I think that Carmack and Skousen have far bigger problems with the lack of a negative check than you might. In theory, the translation could only be as old as the most recent language in it (which is, I think, part of what you are trying to express). Ben McGuire
  12. First, Have you read my discussion about the Book of Mormon translation? http://www.fairmormon.org/fair-conferences/2016-fairmormon-conference/book-mormon-communicative-act Second, we run into this problem - which is that the King James is a relatively dated source. This idea only works if we assume that the Book of Mormon is an EME work. But this clearly isn't the case, since it includes language which comes too late for the EME period. If we look at this list, and compare them to other Biblical translations, we find something very different. So, for the NIV: Spotless? Check. Restoration? Check. Happiness? Check. Plan? Check. Forever? Check. Consigned? Check. And so on. I think that there is a real problem with Skousen and Carmack's work (which I discuss in that link above). Ben McGuire
  13. The Book of Mormon's relationship with issues of higher textual criticism of the Old Testament is interesting. After all, the Book of Mormon fits what we look at in terms of the textual history of the Old Testament rather well in some places (the way that it uses [proto-]Deuteronomy, for example, and it's interaction with the Samuel literature). And clearly, the Book of Mormon doesn't engage third Isaiah at all. I think that we have a couple of things that can be suggested. First, I think that we have to be careful when talking about the translation of the Book of Mormon - especially where the Book of Mormon quotes from (or alludes to, or references, or reinscribes) material from the Old Testament. I discussed this a bit in my FairMormon presentation last summer: http://www.fairmormon.org/fair-conferences/2016-fairmormon-conference/book-mormon-communicative-act At the same time, I think that there is room for a second Isaiah which could be dated somewhat earlier than the accepted view of biblical scholarship, and there is always the challenge of dating the Brass Plates, and Lehi's departure from Jerusalem. What if, to create a scenario, the Brass Plates were intended as a gift to the Egyptians. The northern connections (which I have seen sometimes attributed to them being some sort of heirloom for Laban's family) would then be re-understood as trying to emphasize Joseph (the son of Jacob) - and the history in Genesis of Joseph's connection to an earlier Pharoah in Egypt (and this would help us understand in a different context why the genealogy of descendants of Joseph's sons Ephraim and Manasseh would be included in the text). This would potentially make their creation (the Brass Plates) fairly close to the departure of Lehi. And this coupled with a departure for Lehi of around 592, could leave us with a version of second Isaiah on the Brass Plates (it certainly wouldn't be the final form of this text). Alongside this is the other problem that Nephi is clearly not just quoting Isaiah, but is recontextualizing it (resinscription perhaps on a large scale - or perhaps in more colorful terms, literary cannibalism of the Biblical Isaiah). The accuracy of the translation from the Brass Plates in Nephi's material isn't all that particularly important in this case because of course, it is intended to be likened unto the readers of the text (as Nephi so carefully illustrates in 2 Nephi 26-27). I describe that relationship in this essay here: http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/nephi-a-postmodernist-reading/ After the first bit, the text is modified and taken from Isaiah 29:3–4a. And while much of this text comes from Isaiah 29, the rest comes from 1 Nephi 13:34–35, and it progresses through that text: the Lord God shall bring these things forth (2 Nephi 26:14) I will bring forth unto them (1 Nephi 13:34) After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief (2 Nephi 26:15) after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren (1 Nephi 13:35) and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles (2 Nephi 26:15) and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles (1 Nephi 13:34) They shall write the things which shall be done among them (2 Nephi 26:17) they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them (1 Nephi 13:35) In recognizing the earlier text from Nephi being used here, our perspective shifts. We are no longer reading just a commentary on Isaiah. Rather, we are reading a commentary on Nephi’s prophecy. Instead of Nephi’s using his own language to comment on Isaiah, he uses the language of Isaiah to comment on his own earlier text. Nephi understands that his own prophecy is not about Jerusalem (as Isaiah 29 is). He even perhaps recognizes that the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy may never be verified for many of his descendants (they don’t get confirmation of the fall of Jerusalem until the Nephites discover Zarahemla and the Mulekites). In using Isaiah to interpret his own text, Nephi has given them an entirely different framework for understanding Isaiah — one based on the premise of likening the scriptures unto themselves. And this happens not in a rather simple way but in a radical repurposing of Isaiah’s text.31 What Nephi does in this narrative unit is to give us an example of reading, both by likening the scriptures unto himself and by invoking the spirit of prophecy. So, I think that there are lots of ways we can address this issue - but this issue in particular can be challenging because of the assumptions that most readers bring to the text (assumptions about what the text is, about what the translation is, and so on). Personally, I don't buy into the idea of a unified Isaiah. And I think that the Book of Mormon uses what we might label a proto-deutero-Isaiah (which as we know isn't a final form for the Isaiah text either). And I think the the King James language that appears in the Book of Mormon comes not as a literal translation of anything on the Brass Plates, but with other purposes (as I discuss in that first link above). And given all of this (which is obviously a very nuanced perspective - probably shared by very few), the deutero-Isaiah problem doesn't create a lot of anxiety for me. Ben McGuire
  14. On the other hand, does our benefit mean that we should ignore other problems that come from it? The problem with this is that it creates a standard that we wouldn't want to adopt necessarily in other areas. Refusal to be immunized creates risk for the larger community (should we deny people the choice?). Should we judge the outcomes of medical experimentation on humans - not by the impact that it has for the individuals being tested but by the larger benefit it might create for the rest of the population? These sorts of ethical questions suffer very badly when we use simple anecdotal evidence.
  15. Vogel suggests that: But this seems to be an interpretation suited to his thesis. It could just as easily be suggested the other way around - that this wasn't seen as a special case in this sense, and that the language is used because a connection had already been made. There is no Christian Biblical belief about John being ordained to the priesthood by an angel. Earlier, Vogel notes this about the 1832 history: Here is the problem presented by Section 84, that Vogel doesn't address well at all. Here are verses 26 and 28 for contrast: 26 And the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key of the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; 28 For he was baptized while he was yet in his childhood, and was ordained by the angel of God at the time he was eight days old unto this power, to overthrow the kingdom of the Jews, and to make straight the way of the Lord before the face of his people, to prepare them for the coming of the Lord, in whose hand is given all power. "this power" seems to refer to the priesthood (if not, it's antecedent is unclear). But, what comes out of this is that the two points mentioned in verse 26 with regard to the lesser priesthood are the "ministering of angels" and "the preparatory gospel". Both of these things are repeated in verse 28 - as illustrations of this point. The first is in being "ordained by the angel of God" and the second is repeated in the "to prepare them for the Coming of the Lord". The ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel. The challenge this brings for Vogel is that is suggests that by September of 1828, that "the ministering of angels" is being understood specifically by the idea of angelic ordinations. And so he has to contend that in between the summer 1832 composition of that history and the September 1832 writing of the revelation, that the meaning of this phrase underwent significant change. It seems much more likely that it is the other way around - that the language in Section 84 represents an already understood meaning and context, and we see that context in the 1832 history. And while what Vogel describes of the 1832 history is correct, it doesn't actually present the full context which does contribute to my argument: http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-circa-summer-1832/1#full-transcript That "the reception of the holy Priesthood" refers to the lesser priesthood is understood from this narrative viewed as a sequence of events. And this confirms the idea that we see in Septermber of 1832 in the parallels in Section 84 between an ordination and the ministering of angels. So I think that we can use the notion of "ordain" as being about an ordination to the priesthood (as opposed to some other ordination). But the emphasis of my comments was more about this idea of the ministering of angels (84:26) becoming an ordination by an angel (84:28). And while Section 84 is where we encounter this idea of a "lesser priesthood" as Vogel points out, the idea of the Melchizedek Priesthood as a "high priesthood" is already in the 1832 history - and this suggests that whether articulated or not, the Aaronic Priesthood was already viewed as a lesser priesthood (we have this language of comparison that comes before Section 84). So I think that there is probably a reasonable case to be made that Vogel has it wrong in these specifics here. That is, the chronology of change is less discrete than he describes, and that Section 84 isn't exactly the demarcation between one set of ideas and another that he suggests. Ben McGuire