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Do Hebraisms In The Late War Undermine The Ones In The Book Of Mormon?


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There is clear evidence that the claimed Hebraisms found in the Book of Mormon are also found in 19thC literature. With the emergence of 'The Late War...' will there now be less emphasis placed on Hebraisms as evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient Hebrew text?

 

Examples (taken from The Hebrew Background of the Book of Mormon, by John A. Tvedtnes):

 

1)

 

Adverbials

Hebrew has fewer adverbs than English. Instead, it often uses prepositional phrases with the preposition meaning in or with. The English translation of the Book of Mormon contains more of these prepositional phrases in place of adverbs than we would expect if the book had been written in English originally—another Hebraism. Here are some examples:
"with patience" instead of patiently (Mosiah 24:15)
"with much harshness" instead of very harshly (1 Nephi 18:11)
"with joy" instead of joyfully (Jacob 4:

 

 

The Late War

 

Ch VII, p.46, 43. So William was ordered to depart to the land which lieth in the east, where he remaineth unto this day, and his name shall be no more spoken of with reverence amongst men.

 

 

 

Ch XIX, p.101, 20. And the men of Columbia rushed forward with fierceness, and drove the men of Britain from their strong hold.

 

 
2)
 
Compound Prepositions
Hebrew often uses compound prepositions, made up of a preposition plus a noun, in places where English would normally use just a preposition. For example, Hebrew uses compound prepositions that would be translated literally as by the hand of and by the mouth of. English would normally use just by. The Book of Mormon contains many examples that appear to show the influence of this Hebrew use of compound prepositions:
"ye shall be taken by the hand of your enemies" (Mosiah 17:18)
"I have also acquired much riches by the hand of my industry" (Alma 10:4)

 

 

The Late War

 

Ch XLIII, p.222, 2 But it was lighted up by the hand of heaven, and not to be extinguished by the insignificant and self-created gods of the earth.

 

 

 

 

 
3)
 
Hebrew uses another compound preposition that would be translated literally as from before the presence of or from before the face of. English would normally use simply from. The influence of the Hebrew can be seen in these Book of Mormon passages:
"they fled from before my presence" (1 Nephi 4:28)
"he had gone from before my presence" (1 Nephi 11:12)
"they were carried away . . . from before my face" (1 Nephi 11:29)

 

 

The Late War

 

Ch XLVIII, p.255, 34 Now when the men of Columbia heard that Ross, the chief captain of the king, was slain, and the host of Britain was compelled to flee from before the city, they were exceedingly rejoiced.

 

(Acknowledgement: These are not my discoveries, I've been following several threads on various sites and wanted to get opinions here. There are several others, but thought I'd start with these)

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There is clear evidence that the claimed Hebraisms found in the Book of Mormon are also found in 19thC literature. With the emergence of 'The Late War...' will there now be less emphasis placed on Hebraisms as evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient Hebrew text?

 

I don't think so. There is a clear difference between translating by the gift and power of god and intentionally imitating an archaic style of expression. It is a common occurrence for new enthusiasts of Shakespeare to carry that style of expression over into everyday life just for fun. The author of The Late War was obviously fond of archaic language and felt at ease in using it. He mentions that he would like to write historical accounts on other subjects, thus hinting that if his style of writing is enjoyed, he can produce more of it.

 

Joseph Smith was barely educated enough to translate through visual means. He did so without any printed materials kept at hand. After interruptions he would began dictating without asking what were the last words recorded by his scribes. It is amazing how many books some people think he must have read before he began translating, as if he were secretly a well-read scholar! I guess they don't think that translating by the gift and power of God is even possible.

Edited by prismsplay
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Palmer is going to be so upset 

 

Upset because he didn't know about The Late War before writing his book or because you think prismsplay's comment eliminates the chance that any of the books Joseph might have read (or is known to have read) influenced either the narrative or linguistics of Joseph's dictation?

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Upset because he didn't know about The Late War before writing his book or because you think prismsplay's comment eliminates the chance that any of the books Joseph might have read (or is known to have read) influenced either the narrative or linguistics of Joseph's dictation?

cause his book is now old news

 

 

look, first you would have to prove that any teacher ever use the dumb book and then Joseph ever laid eyes on it. If it were all that popular of a book back in 1800s wouldn't someone back then have stood up and yelled plagiarism 

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cause his book is now old news

 

 

look, first you would have to prove that any teacher ever use the dumb book and then Joseph ever laid eyes on it. If it were all that popular of a book back in 1800s wouldn't someone back then have stood up and yelled plagiarism 

 

Not if writing "in the ancient style" was an acceptable literary style. The Late War appears to be a supported literary style within a genre.

 

Dr Samuel L. Mitchell endorsed The Late War. He seems to be the same guy who also endorsed the Book of Mormon (unless there were two renowned Dr Samuel L. Mitchells from New York who were approached for literary endorsements). 

 

In his endorsement he says:

It seems to me one of the best attempts to imitate the biblical style... 

 

 

It was clearly not the first book written "in the biblical style." Given Harris later took the early translations of the Book of Mormon to Mitchell, it was also not the last.

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Not if writing "in the ancient style" was an acceptable literary style. The Late War appears to be a supported literary style within a genre.

 

Dr Samuel L. Mitchell endorsed The Late War. He seems to be the same guy who also endorsed the Book of Mormon (unless there were two renowned Dr Samuel L. Mitchells from New York who were approached for literary endorsements). 

 

In his endorsement he says:

 

It was clearly not the first book written "in the biblical style." Given Harris later took the early translations of the Book of Mormon to Mitchell, it was also not the last.

 

What information do we have that the early translations that Harris took to Mitchill and Anthon were written in Biblical style?

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look, first you would have to prove that any teacher ever use the dumb book and then Joseph ever laid eyes on it. If it were all that popular of a book back in 1800s wouldn't someone back then have stood up and yelled plagiarism 

 

An excellent point. I mentioned the visual aspect of translating by the gift and power of God. A couple of quotes on that are these:

 

Ether 3:23-24:

And behold, these two stones will I give unto thee [the brother of Jared]; and ye shall seal them up also with the things which ye shall write. For behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded. Wherefore I will cause in mine own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write.

 

Mosiah 8:13:

Now Ammon saith unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he hath wherewith that he can look and translate all records that are of ancient date, and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he had not ought and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

 

What is in the Book of Mormon was in some manner seen by Joseph Smith. Whether or not the words he dictated to scribes were influenced by what little he had already read is a minor question. Hebraisms were not even intended by Joseph Smith, for some of his 1837 revisions of the Book of Mormon eliminated or ruined some of them. The fact that they are there says more about the nature of the plates he was translating than it does about what he had read, which was not very much at the time he was translating (although he later became an avid reader).

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An excellent point. I mentioned the visual aspect of translating by the gift and power of God. A couple of quotes on that are these:

 

Ether 3:23-24:

And behold, these two stones will I give unto thee [the brother of Jared]; and ye shall seal them up also with the things which ye shall write. For behold, the language which ye shall write I have confounded. Wherefore I will cause in mine own due time that these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things which ye shall write.

 

Mosiah 8:13:

Now Ammon saith unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he hath wherewith that he can look and translate all records that are of ancient date, and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he had not ought and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

 

What is in the Book of Mormon was in some manner seen by Joseph Smith. Whether or not the words he dictated to scribes were influenced by what little he had already read is a minor question. Hebraisms were not even intended by Joseph Smith, for some of his 1837 revisions of the Book of Mormon eliminated or ruined some of them. The fact that they are there says more about the nature of the plates he was translating than it does about what he had read, which was not very much at the time he was translating (although he later became an avid reader).

 

Deleted initial response.

 

I want to specifically discuss whether the Hebraisms stand up if there is strong evidence to show that some of the claimed Hebraisms were actually an established literary/narrative style in 1800s. Because if they are, the strength of them as evidence for the BoM is weakened.

Edited by canard78
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What information do we have that the early translations that Harris took to Mitchill and Anthon were written in Biblical style?

I think you're missing the point. Mitchell, a respected scholar of the area (that coincidentally Harris also consulted) endorsed The Late War as one of the strongest examples of this genre. In other words, he'd read others too. This was an established genre.

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I think you're missing the point. Mitchell, a respected scholar of the area (that coincidentally Harris also consulted) endorsed The Late War as one of the strongest examples of this genre. In other words, he'd read others too. This was an established genre.

My question was not meant as a response but as a follow-up and took into account the facts you state above. If we know that the translation Harris showed to Mitchill was written in Biblical style then it is one more reason for Harris to show it to Mitchill. It raises the possibility that Harris was showing the translations to Mitchill in order to get a similar style endorsement either in addition to or instead of looking for a confirmation of the translation itself.

 

On Edit. I rasie the question because I assume the translation was taken from the book of Lehi from the large plates of Nephi. Do we assume that is also in the Biblical style? If so why?

Edited by CA Steve
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Deleted initial response.

 

I want to specifically discuss whether the Hebraisms stand up if there is strong evidence to show that some of the claimed Hebraisms were actually an established literary/narrative style in 1800s. Because if they are, the strength of them as evidence for the BoM is weakened.

 

But how can they be weakened if they were not intended, yet still show up? And how do we know that the author of The Late War even knew about Hebraisms? It looks to me that he simply enjoyed writing in an antiquated style that he was fond of. You cannot elevate whatever Hebraisms existed back then into "an established literary/narrative style" unless you can prove that authors understood what Hebraisms were and that they intended to employ them in their writing.

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My question was not meant as a response but as a follow-up and took into account the facts you state above. If we know that the translation Harris showed to Mitchill was written in Biblical style then it is one more reason for Harris to show it to Mitchill. It raises the possibility that Harris was showing the translations to Mitchill in order to get a similar style endorsement either in addition to or instead of looking for a confirmation of the translation itself.

 

On Edit. I rasie the question because I assume the translation was taken from the book of Lehi from the large plates of Nephi. Do we assume that is also in the Biblical style? If so why?

 

Is there any reason it wouldn't have been in the biblical style? All of the revelations received through Joseph Smith are in the biblical style. The first revelation we have documented (D&C 3) is written in the biblical style.

 

In fact, you could argue that D&C 6 (received a year before the Book of Mormon was published and to a "19thC farmboy") is a revelation "teeming with literary and Semitic complexity." The inverted sentence is sometimes given as an example of a Hebraism in the Book of Mormon, and yet there it is in a modern revelation to someone who, at this point, if 'prismplay' is to be believed is entirely unread and ignorant of any literary or narrative style:

 

D&C 6:23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?

 

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Is there any reason it wouldn't have been in the biblical style? All of the revelations received through Joseph Smith are in the biblical style. The first revelation we have documented (D&C 3) is written in the biblical style.

 

In fact, you could argue that D&C 6 (received a year before the Book of Mormon was published and to a "19thC farmboy") is a revelation "teeming with literary and Semitic complexity." The inverted sentence is sometimes given as an example of a Hebraism in the Book of Mormon, and yet there it is in a modern revelation to someone who, at this point, if 'prismplay' is to be believed is entirely unread and ignorant of any literary or narrative style:

 It was the first thing that Joseph translated. We don't have a copy of it nor the lost 116 pages. It is from large plates, which if I recall correctly, were a secular history. I am not trying to make a case either way, in fact I would find it more interesting if we did know it was written in the Biblical style because of the possibilities I raised above. So I am wondering if we have any direct information about its content. I know Don Bradley is wrting something on the content of the lost 116 pages. Maybe he has an idea of how the translation Harris carried to Mitchill was written.

 

Oh and sorry for the derail.

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But how can they be weakened if they were not intended, yet still show up? And how do we know that the author of The Late War even knew about Hebraisms? It looks to me that he simply enjoyed writing in an antiquated style that he was fond of. You cannot elevate whatever Hebraisms existed back then into "an established literary/narrative style" unless you can prove that authors understood what Hebraisms were and that they intended to employ them in their writing.

 

I'm not saying Hunt knew about Hebraisms. But it was entirely his intention to write in Biblical style.

 

1. The author having adopted for the model of his style the phraseology of the best of books, remarkable for its simplicity and strength, the young pupil will ac- quire, with the knowledge of reading, a love for the manner in which the great truths of Divine Revelation are conveyed to his understanding, and this will be an inducement to him to study the Holy Scriptures.

 

http://archive.org/stream/latewarbetweenun00inhunt#page/n7/mode/2up

 

Hebraisms are held up as evidence for the Book of Mormon as an ancient Hebrew text. Sentence structures (such as Adverbials and Compound Prepositions) are said to stand as evidence that the Book of Mormon was first written in the Hebrew language (with Egyptian characters) and translated later into English. This, some say, is why certain sentences sound awkward in English and instead sound like the Hebrew they believe the Book of Mormon was first written in 1,500-2,000 years earlier.

 

If we find that nearly every one of the 'Hebraisms' (that is, archaic sentence structures) were still in use in 1800s then there is little reason to argue that their appearance in the Book of Mormon is explainable.

 

Hebraisms and Chiasmus are some of the evidences proposed by advocates of a 'tight translation' (like the one you reference above with the words read off a stone). I'm saying that the fact that the sentence structures are evident in publications that were of Joseph's day then they now just easily support a lose translation of an ancient document or inspired, but modern, dictation.

 

The 'Hebraisms' could well be simply Joseph's choice of words (whether a loose translation or anything else). We can see that other people who preferred to write in the "phraseology of the best of books" came up with similar sentence structures, even though they were not translating an ancient text.

 

The D&C shows that Joseph used this phraseology when dictating modern scripture too.

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 It was the first thing that Joseph translated. We don't have a copy of it nor the lost 116 pages. It is from large plates, which if I recall correctly, were a secular history. I am not trying to make a case either way, in fact I would find it more interesting if we did know it was written in the Biblical style because of the possibilities I raised above. So I am wondering if we have any direct information about its content. I know Don Bradley is wrting something on the content of the lost 116 pages. Maybe he has an idea of how the translation Harris carried to Mitchill was written.

 

Oh and sorry for the derail.

 

No worries, I think it has some relevance to the topic so not entirely a derail.

 

If you're interested in what the 116 pages sounded like I agree that Don Bradley's work will be interesting. I'd also suggest you have a look at what would have likely been on the 117th page:

 

 

1 And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.

2 And it came to pass that he had three sons; and he called their names Mosiah, and Helorum, and Helaman. And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord.

3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.

... etc etc...

Mosiah 1 (or Mosiah 3 if you follow Skousen's argument).

 

By the way... there are 'Hebraisms' in this passage too which are also found in The Late War:

 

Mosiah: "...which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers..." (instead of "fathers' mouths")

TLW: "... issued out of the mouths of the engines in abundance..." (instead of "engines' mouths")

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In post #1 there is a link to the full text of The Late War. Anyone following that link and spending a little time reading that book will soon realize that this was a comical presentation meant to amuse by intentionally employing antiquated language in flowery ways. Such shallow amusement soon becomes boring, because the reader knows that the mental effort required to translate the floweryness back into plain language is not worth the effort.

 

By contrast, the Book of Mormon is plainly written and understood. Whatever Hebraisms exist in it are evidence that it is what it claims to be. Its plain message is in the serious tone of the persons who engraved it, and therefore reflect their Hebraic way of expressing themselves as the Spirit directed them.

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In post #1 there is a link to the full text of The Late War. Anyone following that link and spending a little time reading that book will soon realize that this was a comical presentation meant to amuse by intentionally employing antiquated language in flowery ways. Such shallow amusement soon becomes boring, because the reader knows that the mental effort required to translate the floweryness back into plain language is not worth the effort.

 

By contrast, the Book of Mormon is plainly written and understood. Whatever Hebraisms exist in it are evidence that it is what it claims to be. Its plain message is in the serious tone of the persons who engraved it, and therefore reflect their Hebraic way of expressing themselves as the Spirit directed them.

The intent of the LW is anything but comical.

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There is clear evidence that the claimed Hebraisms found in the Book of Mormon are also found in 19thC literature.

 

Is the rate at which the Hebraisms are found in the Last War (LW) comparable to the rate at which they are found in the Book of Mormon (BoM)?

 

If the rate in the LW is considerably less than in the BoM, then might that suggest enough of a difference so that the Hebraism argument for the BoM may still be of some force?

 

I ask because things like prepositional phrases aren't non-existent even in modern English, but they may occur less frequently (I don't really know if they do or not), as a general rule, to act as a differentiator from ancient Hebrew.

 

Thanks, -Wade Englund-

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The intent of the LW is anything but comical.

 

So you find nothing comical about this:

 

"... the chief Governor, whom the people had chosen to rule over the land of Columbia; even James, whose sir-name was Madison, delivered a written paper to the Great Sanhedron of the people, who were assembled together. And the name of the city where the people were gathered together was called after the name of the chief captain of the land of Columbia, whose fame extendeth to the uttermost parts of the earth; albeit, he had slept with his fathers."

 

Such pompous language, saying in about 80 words, what could have been said in about 20 words, is comical. Calling persons, places, and things by names other than their own is more amusing than informing.

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One thing you miss is that the BOM is not only full of pithy sayings done in Hebrew style, but entire passages and chapters done that way. I read an article in the Ensign years ago (by Welch?) that showed how the structure of the entire book of 1st Nephi is done in a Hebrew structure. The structure of the BOM is a lot more complex than just flowery phrases.

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Is there any historical evidence JS came into contact with The Late War?  No.

Did JS have an extensive education?  No.

Could it be said that the Bible compares well in this same way to The Late War? Yes.

If the Bible was not recognized as an ancient work, would it be subject to this criticism?  Yes.

Is it likely that people of the time appreciated writing "In the ancient historical style" (On the front cover of The Late War)?  Yes.

If they wrote in such a style, is it likely that Hebraisms would inadvertently appear in their works?  Yes.

JS was familiar with the Bible so is it reasonable that he might adopt this style in a translation process?  Yes.

If JS was familiar with That Late War is it reasonable that he might adopt this style in a translation process?  Yes.

 

So is this criticism just a rehash of the JS copied the Bible criticism?  Yes.

 

Conclusion: The Late War confirms JS's style of translation and there is no evidence he was influenced by it in anything more substantial than style at most.

Edited by BCSpace
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So you find nothing comical about this:

 

"... the chief Governor, whom the people had chosen to rule over the land of Columbia; even James, whose sir-name was Madison, delivered a written paper to the Great Sanhedron of the people, who were assembled together. And the name of the city where the people were gathered together was called after the name of the chief captain of the land of Columbia, whose fame extendeth to the uttermost parts of the earth; albeit, he had slept with his fathers."

 

Such pompous language, saying in about 80 words, what could have been said in about 20 words, is comical. Calling persons, places, and things by names other than their own is more amusing than informing.

 

I find nothing intentionally comical about this.

 

This poem is hilarious precisely becaue it was never intended as such. http://www.poemhunter.com/best-poems/william-topaz-mcgonagall/the-late-sir-john-ogilvy/

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It's not plagiarism that's the question here. The question is whether or not The Late War is an indication that Hebraisms can crop up in modern non-Hebrew compositions that are being patterned after the linguistic style of the KJV, and I think the answer is certainly yes. There have been many Latter-day Saint scholars who have argued that Book of Mormon Hebraisms are of no apologetic value if they can be shown to be found within the KJV. They can arise just from the couching of new ideas in KJV-sounding language. The Late War certainly shows that, since many of the putative Hebraisms that people have pointed to before as an indication of the Book of Mormon's ancient provenance are also found there. Appealing to Smith's lack of education is no help here, as it doesn't take formal education to repeat grammatical patterns you have had ingrained in you your entire life. 

 

Deleted initial response.

 

I want to specifically discuss whether the Hebraisms stand up if there is strong evidence to show that some of the claimed Hebraisms were actually an established literary/narrative style in 1800s. Because if they are, the strength of them as evidence for the BoM is weakened.

 

It is and has always been bad scholarship to claim "Hebraisms" in the Book of Mormon which are also available in contemporary English literature or even in oral tradition from that time.

Mclellan is quite right to say that there are "many Latter-day Saint scholars who have argued that Book of Mormon Hebraisms are of no apologetic value if they can be shown to be found within the KJV."

Thus, any examples which can be found in contemporary literature should immediately be rejected as diagnostic.  As they say of good evidence, "less is more."

There are Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon, but only the ones unique to contemporary English usage are useful.  Since the Book of Mormon was translated from an Egyptian text, however, there are many more Egyptianisms.  The Hebraisms are a result of the bilingual scribes bringing their knowledge of Hebrew to an Egyptian text.

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