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Explanation for "Nephi and His Asherah"


Bill Hamblin

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You're assuming that the if/and sentences in the BoM are, in fact, Hebraisms.  You're begging the question by assuming that which you wish to prove.  "If/and statements in the Book of Mormon are Hebraisms, therefore if/and statements in the Book of Mormon are proof that the Book of Mormon contains Hebraisms." 

So no, I don't concede that B is true.  I "concede" that Hebrew may contain if/and constructions, but that doesn't mean that any use of an if/and construction is a Hebraism, any more than every use of a double negative is a "Spanishism".

Oh my. Fighting desperately to the bitter end.

We know that "if/and" conditional constructions occur in Hebrew. We have quite good reason to believe that they don't occur in English and have never occurred in English -- and we have utterly no reason to think the contrary.

Here is the relevant definition for Hebraism given at Answers.com and at The Free Dictionary:

"A linguistic feature typical of Hebrew occurring especially in another language."

Here is the relevant definition for Hebraism given by Webster's Third New International Dictionary (Unabridged):

"A characteristic feature of Hebrew occurring in another language or dialect."

Here is the relevant definition of Hebraism supplied by the Oxford English Dictionary:

"A phrase or construction characteristic of the Hebrew language; a Hebrew idiom or expression."

You'll notice that not a single one of these definitions insists that a Hebraism must be characteristic of Hebrew alone and totally unknown to any other language on earth.

You're redefining the term in a rather painfully obvious effort to wriggle away from conceding a quite obvious point.

But I'm a good sport. If you want to prolong the agony, I'm certainly willing to let you. Feel free to demonstrate that "if/and" conditional sentences are typical of Tagalog, Mandarin Chinese, Swahili, Turkish, Nahuatl, or any other language that you care to choose. Perhaps the native language of Joseph Smith, Solomon Spalding, Sidney Rigdon, and/or Oliver Cowdery was actually Japanese, Malay, Georgian, or Xhosa, and perhaps "if/and" conditionals are common in that native language. Perhaps, when he was dictating the text of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was under the influence of "if/and" conditional structures characteristic of his native Telugu, Tamil, Tibetan, or Twi.

Just to save you some time, I might note that, unless I'm misremembering, Royal Skousen (a meticulous, extraordinarily competent, and internationally respected professor of linguistics) has checked through a number of Indo-European languages, and doubts very much that "if/and" conditional sentences are characteristic of any of them. So you might want to concentrate your efforts on non-Indo-European tongues.

The point I'm trying to make (apparently unsuccessfully) by bringing up the Bible is that this particular "ideomatic contamination" doesn't manifest itself in the largest body of indisputably authentic Hebrew-to-English translations.  Your argument is that if/and constructions can (and in the Book of Mormon, did) make it into the English translation.  But in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands of pages of extant Hebrew-to-English Bible translations, it didn't.  So there's a difference, then, between the Bible and the BoM.  If the Book of Mormon if/and constructions are genuine artifacts of translational "contamination," why don't Bible translations have them?  If if/and constructions are the kind of "common structure and word order" that "creeps into the target language" why didn't they creep into the Bible translations?

Probably for the same reason that they don't appear in printed editions of the Book of Mormon after 1830: If they existed in the initial translation manuscripts, they were edited out before printing. The translators of the King James Version were the finest scholars of early seventeenth century England. The translators of the New English Bible submitted their manuscripts to a committee of specialists in English literature and style (including J. R. R. Tolkien) who ensured that it was good English. In the case of the Book of Mormon, several "if/and" conditionals made it past the country yokels Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery into the 1830 printing, but did not survive into subsequent printed editions.

You might cry foul, in that this question creates a catch 22 situation.  That is, if the Bible has the same type of a particular "Hebraism" as one found in the Book of Mormon, then the Bible is potentially the source of that Hebraism.  But if the Book of Mormon contains a "Hebraism" that the English translations of the Bible don't then said  "Hebraism" probably isn't a genuine translational artifact--otherwise it would be present in Bible translations.

It does, yes, seem that you're trying to rig the game so that it's "Heads, I win; tails, you lose."

No argument can possibly be allowed to count in favor of the Book of Mormon. So terms have to be redefined and unreasonable demands have to be made.

Hebraisms are evidentially useless.  Whether they're genuine or not is irrelevent,

Thanks for the candor. It's strangely refreshing.

because it's impossible to demonstrate that they are genuine,

Entire dissertations are written on topics like "Hebraisms in the Gospel of John," etc. All based on thin air, I suppose.

and not either derivations from the Bible,

You're going to continue to suggest that "if/and" conditionals are derivable from the English Bible despite the utter lack of even a trace of evidence to support that claim?

bad (but apologetically useful) grammar,

Can you provide any evidence for the existence of any dialect or regional or class variant of English in any period of the language's history that is characterized by "if/and" conditional sentences? If not, repeating this as if it were a viable explanatory possibility is merely fatuous.

dictation errors, copy errors,

Bzzzzt. The "if/and" conditionals in the Book of Mormon occur too frequently and in too close succession for them to be plausibly explained away as either dictation or copyist errors.

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The anti's resposes remind me of something......

Helaman 16:

15 Nevertheless, the people began to harden their hearts, all save it were the most believing part of them, both of the Nephites and also of the Lamanites, and began to depend upon their own strength and upon their own wisdom, saying:

16 Some things they may have guessed right, among so many; but behold, we know that all these great and marvelous works cannot come to pass, of which has been spoken.

17 And they began to reason and to contend among themselves, saying:

18 That it is not reasonable that such a being as a Christ shall come; if so, and he be the Son of God, the Father of heaven and of earth, as it has been spoken, why will he not show himself unto us as well as unto them who shall be at Jerusalem?

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It seems that this trhead has wandered away from Ashera.  I am a little bit disappointed.  I had hoped that Dr. Peterson would have something further to say on it.  Right now it appears to me that Kevin Graham has had the last word on this.

Unfortunately, some of my life involves time away from the FAIR boards. When I get a chance, I'll go back and review the relevant portions of the thread.

In the meantime, though, it's safe to assume that Mr. Graham has spoken the last word on the topic. According to Mr. Graham's boasts, he routinely reveals me to be wrong and even incompetent. This presumably wasn't the first time, and I'm sure it won't be the last.

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This thread has been fascinating on Asherah as a "living tree," which she was, Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Eerdmanns, 2005, p. 101.

Asherah was also understood as a grove of trees, i.e., living. (Dever, p. 102)

The Vulgate follows the Septuagint many times in translating Asherah as locus, sacred groves, the Septuagint having alsos, meaning "sacred grove." (Dever, p. 102). The Goddss Asherah was associated with living trees, even entire groves of them, also called "high places" in the Biblical record (Dever, p. 102).

After reviewing the evidence of all the scholars, Dever concludes that "It seems pretty obvious: a luxuriant green tree represents the goddess Asherah, who gives life in a barren land." p. 224

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In my prior post, I pointed out a number of problems with DCP's attempt to connect the veneration and worship of Asherah in the ancient Near East ("ANE") with Nephi's account of his vision that begins at 1 Nephi 11. In this post, I'll explain why those problems are related to a fundamental flaw in the article's methodological approach to the BoM text. Simply put, the article doesn't analyze the BoM passages it relies upon as a religious text, as something composed and recorded by Nephi some twenty to thirty years after the vision occurred. Indeed, the article isn't even concerned with Nephi in his role as the author/composer of a text. Instead, the article presents DCP's exciting speculations about the content of what Nephi, the recipient of the apocalyptic vision, actually experienced. This includes his clairvoyant insights into when and how, during the visionary experience, Nephi came to "grasp" a certain connection between his vision of the tree of life, and the vision of the virgin in Nazareth.

First, though, it's worth noting how, in my view, the article misconstrues the language of I Nephi 11. Toward the end of my last post, I noted that DCP's analysis begins with verse 8 of I Nephi 11, omitting verses 1 through 7. Since verses 6 and 7 in particular provide helpful context for interpreting the contents of verses 8 through 11, and what follows them, I'll include those two verses below.

The article begins this way (I've restored the omitted text at verse 11):

Nephi's vision of the tree of life, among the best-known passages in the Book of Mormon, expands upon the vision received earlier by his father, Lehi.

And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.

And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.

And he said unto me: What desirest thou?

And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof... [ -- for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.] (1 Nephi 11:8

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My my my. I can see that I'm really going to have to get back into this. But the thread is so darned long and I've got so many things to do! (Multiple speeches to prepare on Islam for Education Week next week, and for a nearly month-long lecture tour on Islam to Australia and New Zealand in September, and for a conference on the Qur

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I am heartened that we have gotten back to the issue of Nephi's Asherah, but I cannot let pass Mighty Curelom's pronouncement that the presence of hebraisms in the Book of Mormon is not, and in fact, cannot be evidence of its antiquity, regardless of whether such hebraisms appear in the Bible. Mighty Curelom does indeed wish to have it both ways, as he acknowledges, and adds the glib conclusion, "That is not my problem."

I think that Mighty Curelom may be right that it is not his "problem." Mighty Curelom's "problem" is of a different sort. Specifially Mighty Curelom's "problem" is that, with this post, he has given up any credibility he may have in his discussion of this issue, and by implication has given up any credibility he may have in his discussion of any other issue relating to Mormonism. Mighty Curelom's "problem" is that he has just revealed himself as no less an apologist against Mormonism as the most extreme and unreasonable apologist for Mormonism.

"O, how the Mighty are fallen."

In spite of my disillusionment, I neverththeless wish you all the best, O Mighty Curelom!

--Consgilieri

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You see, we BoM apologists wear our bias on our sleeve. We start with the premise that we know the BoM is true and then we work from there.

Anti's do the same thing. They start with the premise that they know the BoM is false and then they work fom there.

The difference is, we admit our bias; they hide theirs. They are "objective" and "rational".

The other difference is that we lace our arguments with FACTS. They lace their arguments with innuendo, nothing more.

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This thread has been fascinating on Asherah as a "living tree," which she was, Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Eerdmanns, 2005, p. 101.

Asherah was also understood as a grove of trees, i.e., living. (Dever, p. 102)

The Vulgate follows the Septuagint many times in translating Asherah as locus, sacred groves, the Septuagint having alsos, meaning "sacred grove." (Dever, p. 102). The Goddss Asherah was associated with living trees, even entire groves of them, also called "high places" in the Biblical record (Dever, p. 102).

After reviewing the evidence of all the scholars, Dever concludes that "It seems pretty obvious: a luxuriant green tree represents the goddess Asherah, who gives life in a barren land." p. 224

And then there's the issue of JSJr's theophany occurring in a grove of trees.

USU "Now ain't that appropriate?" 78

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MC is suggesting there is a problem with Hebraisms as evidence for the BoM. He has explained why he thinks this problem exists.

Would you like to point out why he is wrong, or just continue to say he's being blinded by ideological devotion? (He may be, but the way to show that is to explain why he's wrong, not just declare him to be biased.)

If a potential BoM "hebraism" exists in the KJV Bible, there is a possibility of derivation. If it does not exist in any translation of the KJV Bible, it seems unlikely that it can be explained as a translational artifact.

Which of these propositions do you disagree with?

This isn't even a catch-22, really, since a Hebraism that was not in the KJV, but WAS in other versions, would pass both tests and be available as evidence for the BoM being a translation.

Daniel Peterson at least suggested the possiblity that it was /may have been in other translations, but that it got weeded out during the editing process before we could ever see it. If he could find evidence that this was the case, he'd really be onto something.

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MC is suggesting there is a problem with Hebraisms as evidence for the BoM.  He has explained why he thinks this problem exists.

Would you like to point out why he is wrong, or just continue to say he's being blinded by ideological devotion?  (He may be, but the way to show that is to explain why he's wrong, not just declare him to be biased.)

I've done so. Several times.

If a potential BoM "hebraism" exists in the KJV Bible, there is a possibility of derivation.  If it does not exist in any translation of the KJV Bible, it seems unlikely that it can be explained as a translational artifact. 

Which of these propositions do you disagree with?

Neither of them. That's precisely my point.

The second proposition appears to be true. The first proposition is demonstrably not.

Daniel Peterson at least suggested the possiblity that it was /may have been in other translations, but that it got weeded out during the editing process before we could ever see it.  If he could find evidence that this was the case, he'd really be onto something.

I fail to see the relevance.

The salient fact is that "if/and" conditionals demonstrably do appear in the Hebrew Bible. They therefore represent a Hebraism.

They also appear in the Printer's Manuscript and the 1830 printing of the Book of Mormon. Accordingly, they represent a Hebraism in the Book of Mormon. They do not appear to occur in the English Bible (KJV or otherwise). They therefore represent a Hebraism that is not derivable from the English Bible. And, thus, they refute The Dude's claim that all Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon are derivable from the English Bible.

Simple, clear, and neat.

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You see, we BoM apologists wear our bias on our sleeve. We start with the premise that we know the BoM is true and then we work from there.

Anti's do the same thing. They start with the premise that  they know the BoM is false and then they work fom there.

The other difference is that we lace our arguments with FACTS. They lace their arguments with innuendo, nothing more.

Hi, Her Amun.

I think that you have made a very sharp observation. The underlying disconnect between apologists and "antis" is what you say. The apologist assumes that the Book of Mormon is true and then has to view the body of facts so that the assumption is not disturbed. The anti-mormon, does the same thing from the other side.

But I disagree about use of facts. I think both sides use facts, and draw inferences from them. Also, there is a broad spectrum of people represented here. Some people are mere skeptics without a focused "anti" agenda. Some apologists are very open minded.

By the way, your name, Her Amun, is interesting and mysterious. It sounds Egyptian. What does it mean?

Best wishes.

David

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My my my.  I can see that I'm really going to have to get back into this.  But the thread is so darned long and I've got so many things to do!  (Multiple speeches to prepare on Islam for Education Week next week, and for a nearly month-long lecture tour on Islam to Australia and New Zealand in September, and for a conference on the Qur
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I concur completely with Professor Hamblin's observations, above.

Now, a few comments on Addictio's first response:

Nephi's apocalypse, like that to be written by the "apostle John," is saturated with Christian concepts, imagery and doctrine.

And John's apocalypse, as is now widely recognized, is positively saturated with Old Testament imagery, and, particularly, with images and symbols related to the Israelite temple. And the First Temple is precisely the context in which I place Nephi's "apocalypse," as Addictio calls it.

So why doesn't the DCP (online) article acknowledge the evident linguistic and doctrinal connections between the Christian apocalypse of John the Revelator and the vision (and angelic colloquy) we find in Nephi's related composition?

Because no article can do everything, because it wasn't relevant to my purposes, and because doing so would not affect my thesis.

Further, the article's claim that something Nephi "must" have understood through an ancient Israelite syncretic tradition, particularly one (the Asherah) so thoroughly repudiated by the reformist authors/editors of the Book of Deuteronomy, raises an additional difficulty.

My article sets out reasons for believing that Nephi would have understood Asherah imagery, regardless of his specific attitudes toward contemporary Israelite Asherah-veneration (which is quite well-attested for his period as for centuries earlier). I indicate why it is wrong to see Asherah as wholly "alien" and non-Israelite.

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Addictio's second response, on examination, turns out to be largely insubstantial, even granting appropriate weight to his wearisomely repetitious mockery of my "exciting speculations," "clairvoyant insights," "speculative, clairvoyant insight," "clairvoyant insight," "speculative flight of fancy," "naive speculations," and (repeated twice in rather close succession) "clairvoyant approach."

Addictio claims that I've misread and misrepresented the text of 1 Nephi 11, but I find nothing in his claim beyond assertion, and nothing that really merits a response. I think my analysis survives his rhetoric quite nicely.

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Hmmm... we've got two witnesses to Addictos one.

:P

e=mc2

Some intresting implications...

Zech. 1: 8, 10-11

  8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.

     

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If I might Dr. Petersen... a question... did not Solomon pick up on this theme of Lady Wisdom facing the scorners?

Song. 5: 7

7 The watchmen that went about the city found me, they smote me, they wounded me; the keepers of the walls took away my veil from me.

They turned themselves into the bride of Christ.

Wolfes in Grandma's clothing.

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