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Book of Mormon as literature


canterdogs

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Hi I'm canterdogs from Sydney Australia. I am a Protestant Christian.

I have been in dialogue with an Australian Mormon concerning literature style of the Book of Mormon and comparisons with the Bible. My initial point was that in the Bible we have a diversity of literary styles ranging from history to poetry to apocalypse to law to letters as well as the gospels and so on. I then made the point that in the BoM we don't have this sort of literary diversity. My LDS friend then gave me a number of passages from the BoM to read. And so I am in the process of doing this.

Additionally, I am aware of LDS scholarship identifying apparent Hebraisms in the BoM text such as chiasmus. And other Hebrew nuances that LDS scholars allege are in the BoM. I have yet to investigate such claims, but intend on looking into it.

In my reading of the BoM, however, there was one passage that seems to me to point very strongly towards a 19th century authorship of the book (I think that there are other things that point to a 19th century construction of the book, but this one is obvious in my opinion). The passage is 4 Nephi 1:17. It says the following:

"There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God."

"Nor any manner of -ites." This phrase strikes me as something that would not have been translated like this by the power of God. Is there any scholarship or apologetic argument that explains this verse? Again, it seems very much out of place and, I think, seems to point to 19th century authorship of the book. Any thoughts?

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This points to nineteenth century translation, not authorship. Factions aren't a modern concept.

Factions aren't a modern concept. But the use of term "-its" is, to my knowledge, never used in the Bible or any other ancient document. It seems very out of place in an ancient text. How can we translate the word "-ites" from an ancient language? To what reformed Egyptian word do we derive this word? Is there any evidence that any Hebrew or Egyptian word could be translated in this way? Or is this a term that Joseph Smith has coined, originating from the different tribes in the OT - often referred to witht he suffix "ites". It seems out of place.

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Factions aren't a modern concept. But the use of term "-its" is, to my knowledge, never used in the Bible or any other ancient document. It seems very out of place in an ancient text. How can we translate the word "-ites" from an ancient language? To what reformed Egyptian word do we derive this word? Is there any evidence that any Hebrew or Egyptian word could be translated in this way? Or is this a term that Joseph Smith has coined, originating from the different tribes in the OT - often referred to witht he suffix "ites". It seems out of place.

I am not sure why this is a problem. Jebusites, Canaanites, Moabites, Israelites, Ishmaelites, Carmelites, Jezreelites, Arbites, etc (and more) are all listed in the Old Testament. Of course the words would not be the same in the Hebrew, but the part that denotes the "ite" would probably be the same. So if an Old Testament author said that there were no more Jebusites, Canaanites, Moabites, Israelites, Ishmaelites, Carmelites, Jezreelites, Arbites, or any other kind of factions or tribes, how would that word be translated?

Glenn

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Factions aren't a modern concept. But the use of term "-its" is, to my knowledge, never used in the Bible???It seems out of place.

::: dutifully scratching out all mentions of Hittites, Amalekites, and all other variety of "ites" from the Bible to politely comply with the worldview of those who say such a concept is unbiblical.:::

Seriously though, most languages have root endings which means belonging to whatever root it appends.

English uses "-ite", "-ian", and probably a half dozen others that don't readily come to mind.

I can think of a few in a few Germanic languages, for example "-ing", "-inga". Most languages have something similar.

I don't know the Semitic equivalent - but it would need some shift to convey that same meaning - otherwise the text wouldn't be able to convey the various Israelite, Amalekite, and Hittite distinctions that it apparently manages to convey. To suggest otherwise would be like claiming there is no Greek equivalent for "mercy". (If the English word is in the translation that comes from Greek...that infers the Greek language likely has such a word.) Wouldn't you agree?

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Hi I'm canterdogs from Sydney Australia. I am a Protestant Christian.

And away we go...

PFD1573~Alice-Down-the-Rabbit-Hole-Posters.jpg

canterdogs, the translation process of the Book of Mormon (and what kind of expectations or assumptions can be made about the text) is a huge subject, and let's just say the rabbit hole goes very, very deep.

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Factions aren't a modern concept. But the use of term "-its" is, to my knowledge, never used in the Bible or any other ancient document. It seems very out of place in an ancient text. How can we translate the word "-ites" from an ancient language? To what reformed Egyptian word do we derive this word? Is there any evidence that any Hebrew or Egyptian word could be translated in this way? Or is this a term that Joseph Smith has coined, originating from the different tribes in the OT - often referred to witht he suffix "ites". It seems out of place.

Apparently Joseph Smith felt that the term "-ites" best conveyed the meaning of the original Nephite word, which probably meant "faction." This says nothing about the ancient Nephite language, only the limits of Joseph Smith's vocabulary.

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You'll be interested to read "Book of Mormon Literature" by Richard Dilworth Rust and Donald W. Parry. It begins:

Although understated as literature in its clear and plain language, the Book of Mormon exhibits a wide variety of literary forms, including intricate Hebraic poetry, memorable narratives, rhetorically effective sermons, diverse letters, allegory, figurative language, imagery, symbolic types, and wisdom literature. In recent years these aspects of Joseph Smith's 1829 English translation have been increasingly appreciated, especially when compared with biblical and other ancient forms of literature.

You need to take into consideration the claims of what the Book of Mormon is, that is, what does the book represent itself as? You'll find that it is structured around particular narrators with particular styles. If you are a serious student of the subject you can look at Grant Hardy's new book, Understanding the Book of Mormon: A Reader's Guide from Oxford University Press. My review of the book is here.

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Hi I'm canterdogs from Sydney Australia. I am a Protestant Christian.

I have been in dialogue with an Australian Mormon concerning literature style of the Book of Mormon and comparisons with the Bible. My initial point was that in the Bible we have a diversity of literary styles ranging from history to poetry to apocalypse to law to letters as well as the gospels and so on. I then made the point that in the BoM we don't have this sort of literary diversity. My LDS friend then gave me a number of passages from the BoM to read. And so I am in the process of doing this.

Hey, you probably already have these, but, there's a psalm in 2 Nephi 4; there are proverbs in Alma 37-38; there's an epistle in Moroni 8; etc.

Grant Hardy just wrote a book about the Book of Mormon's literary complexities that might interest you.

Additionally, I am aware of LDS scholarship identifying apparent Hebraisms in the BoM text such as chiasmus. And other Hebrew nuances that LDS scholars allege are in the BoM. I have yet to investigate such claims, but intend on looking into it.

Cool, Canterdog. I congratulate you on your openness.

The original identification of chiasmus, or, let's say proposed chiasmus, was made by John W. Welch, who has quite a few writings on the subject and has become quite an expert even on chiasmus in non-Mormon texts. (See his edited volume, Chiasmus in Antiquity.) A recent statistical testfor the presence of intentional chiasmus in the Book of Mormon text was made by Boyd F. and Farrell W. Edwards. If that interests you, there has also been some follow-up back and forth discussion on the issue.

In my reading of the BoM, however, there was one passage that seems to me to point very strongly towards a 19th century authorship of the book (I think that there are other things that point to a 19th century construction of the book, but this one is obvious in my opinion). The passage is 4 Nephi 1:17. It says the following:

"There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God."

"Nor any manner of -ites." This phrase strikes me as something that would not have been translated like this by the power of God. Is there any scholarship or apologetic argument that explains this verse? Again, it seems very much out of place and, I think, seems to point to 19th century authorship of the book. Any thoughts?

For me it is simply beyond doubt that the Book of Mormon is in Joseph Smith's own words. An explanation that has been proposed for this is that God gave Joseph Smith the concepts, which he clothed in words. This is a position that is debated around here, and which I used to oppose. But, while working on a paper that will soon be published on the Book of Mormon translation process, I've come to believe it's quite reasonable.

Ultimately, though, most Latter-day Saints don't believe in the Book of Mormon because they have an explanation for every apparent anachronism, nor because of positive evidence like Hebraic literary patterns, but because the book does precisely what is claimed for it--it brings them closer to God. This way of testing the book is described in the book itself in Alma 32, Moroni 7, and Moroni 10:3-5. Check those out and see if they make sense to you. I find them very similar to Jesus' teaching "by their fruits ye shall know them" and Paul's enumeration of the fruits of the Spirit.

All the best in your searches,

Don

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thanks for the responses. I am aware that there are a lot of "-ites" in the Bible. Trouble is that never is that term ever used. A number of bloggers have stated that it was Joseph Smith's term. But I understood the translation process as Joseph reading from the seer stone. In other words, the translation was a direct revelation from God. So the BoM should contain none of Smith's terms because it was God Himself who supposedly translated the text only for Joseph to dictate to the scribe.

To me that term screams of a 19th century authorship of the Book. Obviously this isn't the only place that I am having problems with. There are other problems such as the mixing up of the Testaments. We have NT ordinances being performed in OT times etc... This doesn't seem genuine to me. Addionally, it would be remiss of me not to say that I have very serious reservations about the historicity of the book (but I know you guys have heard enough of this stuff... It's just something we'll have to agree to disagree on). So my assessment of the BoM isn't just from this specific text.

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To me that term screams of a 19th century authorship of the Book

Only if we accept the notion that the translation process was always along the lines of a divine tele-prompter. This does not sit with the account of Oliver Cowdery failing to translate because he thought God would just give it to him.

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thanks for the responses. I am aware that there are a lot of "-ites" in the Bible. Trouble is that never is that term ever used. A number of bloggers have stated that it was Joseph Smith's term. But I understood the translation process as Joseph reading from the seer stone. In other words, the translation was a direct revelation from God. So the BoM should contain none of Smith's terms because it was God Himself who supposedly translated the text only for Joseph to dictate to the scribe.

To me that term screams of a 19th century authorship of the Book. Obviously this isn't the only place that I am having problems with. There are other problems such as the mixing up of the Testaments. We have NT ordinances being performed in OT times etc... This doesn't seem genuine to me. Addionally, it would be remiss of me not to say that I have very serious reservations about the historicity of the book (but I know you guys have heard enough of this stuff... It's just something we'll have to agree to disagree on). So my assessment of the BoM isn't just from this specific text.

We don't know what the original word was that is here translated as "-ites". Your objection presupposes that an equivalent suffix to "-ites" did not exist, or could not have existed, in the original tongue. That does not seem to me to be valid assumption. Such grammatical terminations exist in most languages; and it is perfectly feasible that in the original manuscript the Nephite equivalent of "-ites" was used, and therefore it was correctly translated by Joseph Smith into its English equivalent. I really don't see a logical, or valid linguistic basis for the objection you raise.

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We don't know what the original word was that is here translated as "-ites". Your objection presupposes that an equivalent suffix to "-ites" did not exist, or could not have existed, in the original tongue. That does not seem to me to be valid assumption. Such grammatical terminations exist in most languages; and it is perfectly feasible that in the original manuscript the Nephite equivalent of "-ites" was used, and therefore it was correctly translated by Joseph Smith into its English equivalent. I really don't see a logical, or valid linguistic basis for the objection you raise.

My objection is not that there are not "-ite" eqivalents in other languages - or even in modern English. But when, for example, do you hear someone say "There were no Asians, or Australians or any other type of -ians"? No one would say this.

When is the term "-ite" ever used if it is not attached to a word? It is never used in isolation. What we would expect to see would be something like this: "There were no Lammanites or any other tribe of people". To detach the suffix and use it in isolation is simply incorrect. As many people pointed out on this blog, there are many "-ites" in the Bible, yet not once is this term used in isolation. It smacks of someone who has taken the OT and noticed that there are lots of "-ites" mentioned and simply assumed that this was a valid way of labelling ancient tribes.

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It is an artifact of the "translation", and is not a valid criticism. If you do some research on the internet, you will find an artifact of American history. It was a current term at that time because of a group known as "Mennonites" (have you ever heard of the Amish? They are a subset of the Mennonites) the "-ites" suffix was taken from them. They were much like the "Ammonites" in the BoM who reject violence.

You have to realize that JS was just a backwoods boy, and not accustomed to mainstream English, even as spoken at the time.

For more information on the validity of the BoM, check the current BoM thread. It gets quite technical, but just ride with it. All the Mormons are saying about the Jockers study is that they did not include enough other possible authors. That is acknowledged.

I can't link to other boards from here, but I do note that you have found another that I post on. Don't let others demand that you conform to their way of thinking.

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My objection is not that there are not "-ite" eqivalents in other languages - or even in modern English. But when, for example, do you hear someone say "There were no Asians, or Australians or any other type of -ians"? No one would say this.

When is the term "-ite" ever used if it is not attached to a word? It is never used in isolation. What we would expect to see would be something like this: "There were no Lammanites or any other tribe of people". To detach the suffix and use it in isolation is simply incorrect. As many people pointed out on this blog, there are many "-ites" in the Bible, yet not once is this term used in isolation. It smacks of someone who has taken the OT and noticed that there are lots of "-ites" mentioned and simply assumed that this was a valid way of labelling ancient tribes.

What if in the original language it was idiomatically correct to say "-ites," and so that is how it was translated into English? The "-ites" did not denote only "tribes". They were also factions and breakaway groups who separated or distinguished themselves by such titles (or others so distinguished them). The Amalekites for example were people who had decided to follow Amalek).

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It is an artifact of the "translation", and is not a valid criticism. If you do some research on the internet, you will find an artifact of American history. It was a current term at that time because of a group known as "Mennonites" (have you ever heard of the Amish? They are a subset of the Mennonites) the "-ites" suffix was taken from them. They were much like the "Ammonites" in the BoM who reject violence

Why was the "ite" suffix necessarily taken from them? The Bible is a far likelier source. Israelite, Edomite, Moabite, Canaanite, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

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My objection is not that there are not "-ite" eqivalents in other languages - or even in modern English. But when, for example, do you hear someone say "There were no Asians, or Australians or any other type of -ians"? No one would say this.

When is the term "-ite" ever used if it is not attached to a word? It is never used in isolation. What we would expect to see would be something like this: "There were no Lammanites or any other tribe of people". To detach the suffix and use it in isolation is simply incorrect. As many people pointed out on this blog, there are many "-ites" in the Bible, yet not once is this term used in isolation. It smacks of someone who has taken the OT and noticed that there are lots of "-ites" mentioned and simply assumed that this was a valid way of labelling ancient tribes.

For all of tranlastion's problems, there is a certain freedom in being able to convey information like this in a more striking manner than in the original. You are taking issue with a translation matter.

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My objection is not that there are not "-ite" eqivalents in other languages - or even in modern English. But when, for example, do you hear someone say "There were no Asians, or Australians or any other type of -ians"? No one would say this.

When is the term "-ite" ever used if it is not attached to a word? It is never used in isolation.

So let me see if I am understanding you.

You are saying that phrase "Nor any manner of -ites" is NOT used in normal conversation, correct?

So please explain to me why this fact would point to a "19th century construction of the book" as opposed to say a 20th century construction or an 18th century construction, or ANY other century construction.

In other words what about "Nor any manner of -ites" points to the 19th century?

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So let me see if I am understanding you.

You are saying that phrase "Nor any manner of -ites" is NOT used in normal conversation, correct?

So please explain to me why this fact would point to a "19th century construction of the book" as opposed to say a 20th century construction or an 18th century construction, or ANY other century construction.

In other words what about "Nor any manner of -ites" points to the 19th century?

it points to a modern construction of the book. And further, from someone whose education prevented him from realizing the error of this term. The term "-ites" is just wrong and amateurish. Is that how we describe other people? As "-ites"? Is this the style we see in ancient documents? Or is this a schoolboy error commited by a self-proclaimed prophet? Joseph Smith was a religious genius. But there are a littany of evidences that give his game away. This was a glaring one.

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it points to a modern construction of the book.

No, it points to a modern translation. It could very easily be a translation of the Nephite word for "faction."

And further, from someone whose education prevented him from realizing the error of this term. The term "-ites" is just wrong and amateurish.

He was a poorly educated rural New Yorker. God uses imperfect people to accomplish his purposes.

Is that how we describe other people? As "-ites"? Is this the style we see in ancient documents? Or is this a schoolboy error commited by a self-proclaimed prophet? Joseph Smith was a religious genius. But there are a littany of evidences that give his game away. This was a glaring one.

The word "-ites" does not glare. You're making a mountain out of nothing.

If only Joseph had translated the Book of Mormon into perfect 21st English, right?

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What points to it being the work of a 19th Century farm boy from Vermont is the fact that it's so boring.

Hi I'm canterdogs from Sydney Australia. I am a Protestant Christian.

I have been in dialogue with an Australian Mormon concerning literature style of the Book of Mormon and comparisons with the Bible. My initial point was that in the Bible we have a diversity of literary styles ranging from history to poetry to apocalypse to law to letters as well as the gospels and so on. I then made the point that in the BoM we don't have this sort of literary diversity. My LDS friend then gave me a number of passages from the BoM to read. And so I am in the process of doing this.

Additionally, I am aware of LDS scholarship identifying apparent Hebraisms in the BoM text such as chiasmus. And other Hebrew nuances that LDS scholars allege are in the BoM. I have yet to investigate such claims, but intend on looking into it.

In my reading of the BoM, however, there was one passage that seems to me to point very strongly towards a 19th century authorship of the book (I think that there are other things that point to a 19th century construction of the book, but this one is obvious in my opinion). The passage is 4 Nephi 1:17. It says the following:

"There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God."

"Nor any manner of -ites." This phrase strikes me as something that would not have been translated like this by the power of God. Is there any scholarship or apologetic argument that explains this verse? Again, it seems very much out of place and, I think, seems to point to 19th century authorship of the book. Any thoughts?

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