Jump to content

Book of Mormon translation: "Loose" or "Tight"...


cinepro

Recommended Posts

The subject of the Book of Mormon translation is one of interest to me, because I find it to be one of the most confused aspects of the Book of Mormon.

There seem to be two basic theories about the translation.

"Tight" translation- This is the belief that the book was revealed word for word. Meaning, Joseph had little or no control over the text.

"Loose" translation- This is the belief that Joseph had much latitude over the wording and phrasing used in the book, being given ideas and impressions, but supplying the words and phrases on his own.

The issue is discussed a more in depth here:

http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=jbms&id=41

It seems that neither method would fully account for the contents of the Book as analyzed by apologists. How can a "loose" translation explain the presence of non-English words such as "Cumom" or "Curelom"? How would supposed Hebraisms be constructed by Joseph?

But then there are problems for a "tight" translation. Basically, if God (or Moroni, or the Holy Ghost) revealed the specific words to be used, than Joseph Smith wasn't a translator, he was a reader (and dictator). If it was God/Moroni/HG doing the actual translation from the reformed egyptian to English, than it becomes much harder to accept apologetic arguments that rest on parralels between the Book of Mormon translation and other conventional translations of ancient texts (where a human with sufficient but imperfect knowledge of both languages renders from one to the other).

So, we find both theories being put into play, depending on what needs to be proven about the text. Relying on either one exclusively creates difficulty for some parts of the text.

With that in mind, I was suprised to find the following statements by the worlds foremost authority on the Book of Mormon text: Royal Skousen. In discussing the critical text project for the Book of Mormon,

4. What are some of the major findings of this project?

(a) The original manuscript supports the hypothesis that the text was given to Joseph Smith word-for-word and that he could see the spelling of the names (in support of what witnesses of the translation process claimed about Joseph

Link to comment

Loose or Tight?

I have been reading John Welch's Sermon in the Temple, which is a discussion of the BofM version of the Sermon on the Mount, found in 3Nephi, and he concludes that the translation is simultaneously "loose" and "tight", depending on the location.

Skousen opts for "tight" (and he has probably studied the original text closer than anybody ever has). Yet Blake Ostler opts for "loose" (and I think his opinions count for something too).

I personally fall in with Welch. Its some of one and some of the other.

Which is what makes the whole text so enigmatic for everyone, I suppose.

Beowulf

Link to comment

Another factor to be considered are the plates themselves. Were the plates that were translated by revelation, wholly accurate and reflective of their peoples history? Rather, is it possible that errors existed in the self same plates?

When I first started posting, I opined that given the large war casualties listed in describing the final battle scene at the Hill Cumorah, and that with so many dead littering the ground, that some remnants of that final battle were apt to be found.

Both Brant Gardner and Juliann countered that based on studying other ancient texts describing battles, that a common practice was to inflate the battle casualties and number of combatants. With this theory of textual errancy, can we trust the revealed translation of Joseph Smith whichever model we choose, or do we still need to leave room open for the possibility that the Gold Plates themselves contained errors?

Link to comment

As you point out, there are problems with either translation theory. however, the loose translation is easier to defend. For those who support the word-for-word or "tight" translation theory, how do you explain the King James bible translation errors existing in the Book of Mormon? The word-for-word theory explains "curelom" and "cumom" but it does not explain "horse" or "steel." Also, the french word 'adieu' is not a big issue, unless you believe the BofM was translated word-for-word. I predict Royal Skousen's word-for-word theory will be thoroughly dismissed in this thread because it is much harder to defend than the loose translation theory.

Link to comment

Zelph, your objections are valid. But I think you have misunderstood what Skousen means by "tight". It is not a function so much of whether the phrase is a curious one or not, but whether JS dictated it word for word as he saw it, or whether he reformulated things "in his mind" (see D&C7) and then wrote it down.

As a professional translator, I happen to use both methods, depending on the sentence structure and what needs to be conveyed in the target language.

That is another piece of (personal) evidence for me that John Welch may be right.

Link to comment
Zelph, your objections are valid. But I think you have misunderstood what Skousen means by "tight". It is not a function so much of whether the phrase is a curious one or not, but whether JS dictated it word for word as he saw it, or whether he reformulated things "in his mind" (see D&C7) and then wrote it down.

As a professional translator, I happen to use both methods, depending on the sentence structure and what needs to be conveyed in the target language.

That is another piece of (personal) evidence for me that John Welch may be right.

Having translated a number of Hebrew texts myself, I'd say that I side with Welch. I have seen evidence for both tight and loose translation, dependent upon where one looks in the text. The crossouts sometimes argue against tight control, for if Joseph smith were already reading an already composed English text, there would be no need for crossouts. We also find names spelled differently and sometimes even same words spelled differently in the same books. For instance, both the spellings sayeth and saith are used in the Book of Mormon. If the control were tight all the way through the spellings would be affected, in my opinion. Based upon my reading of the text it is both tight and loose in the Book of Mormon as a whole, and tight or loose from section to section.

Link to comment

I will just make a quick comment. I don't really have any grounds to debate anything so I will just bring up my observation of how the Lord works.

If you want scriptures you can read the book of Ether mostly chapter 2-3.

As we all know this is about the Brother of Jared. He was given a task that he didn't know how to do, build ships. (Where as Nephi knew how to build them). So the Brother of Jared was shown how to build them. The Lord Helped the Brother of Jared with what he couldn't do.

But the bigger example of this is with two other problems the Brother of Jared was faced with, getting air, and light into his ships. The first one, the Lord just gives him the answers. No "search ponder and pray" the Lord just told him how to do it. The second problem with the light the Lord didn't give him the answer and left it up to the Brother of Jared to find an answer. I don't know why he left this question up to him, but he did. (One could claim that he had the scriptures, and from the LDS footnote in the story of Noah and the ark it hints that Noah had some shining stones). But for what ever reason the Brother of Jared was suppose to use his agency and do his part.

We know what happen.

I think this is how the translation of the book of Mormon happened. Joseph Smith translate what he could with what power that was given him, this is where the names are spelled out and where Joseph Smith reads things word for word. When it comes to bible verse Joseph Smith had his own resources and used his agency and so forth. This doesn't change what Joseph Smith did! Because he was the one called to do it.

Just remember what the Lord explains about the translation process

(Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-10.)

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

10 Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.

I also think through out the translation process the Lord was helping Joseph Smith understand how the Spirit works and how revelation comes.

Link to comment

I tend to fall into the Welch camp also, but I'm biased because I was his research assistant for about 18 months. (He's sharp a guy as I've ever met).

No matter what the specifics, it occurs to me that process itself was somewhat arduous. The D&C seems to indicate that it required a lot mental focus. However, I think the D&C also supports a "looser" translation. It indicates that when Oliver tried to translate, one of his problems was that he kind of figured it would be given to him. But the revelation indicates that the process required Joseph to work it out in his mind first and then ask God if it was correct. That makes me think that Joseph was involved as more than just a celestial typewriter.

Here is an interesting question. Maybe someone knows the answer. One of the theories that gets kick around is that as Joseph became more adept and comfortable with the process he moved away from using the Urim and Thummim and went to the seer stone. I'm curious if the manuscript shows any sort of developments that would accompany that change. For example, do the first chapters of the book support a "tighter" translation which become "looser" as the narrative progresses?" Are there more paralell structures toward the front of the book and fewer as the book concludes?

Probably no way to answer that.

C.I.

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...