Stanford Carmack – Exploding the Myth of Unruly Book of Mormon Grammar: A Look at the Excellent Match with Early Modern English
Dr. Carmack focuses on syntax: the arrangement of words and phrases. Early Modern English was spoken centuries before Moroni’s visit.
1475-1700: Early Modern English
BH Roberts posited that the Book of Mormon was full of grammatical errors because Joseph was uneducated. This has long been the dominant view.
Carmack above showed many syntax correlations to Early Modern English (from 1475-1700). Syntax is the way in which words and phrases are arranged.
More specifically, certain BoM syntax closely correlates with several books in the late 15th Century. However, the BoM has a negative correlation — when comparing these same variables of syntax — with the King James Bible.
And Joseph didn’t use this syntax in his own language. Only in the scriptures he transmitted.
The dominant English Bible in Joseph’s day was the King James. The KJV had lots of Tyndale’s writings in it. Tyndale wrote in the 1520s and 1530s. Early Modern English works well with the KJV that is found within the Book of Mormon text.
Carmack posits that the Book of Mormon has a range of syntax usage from Chaucer through the 19th Century with a concentration in the 1500s and 1600s.
Dr. Royal Skousen is the premier authority on the Book of Mormon text. He argues we should continue to adapt our theories of the Book of Mormon, based on new evidence.
Skousen reviews the translation witnesses’ accounts, what the documents show about the translation process, unique vocabulary, and other variables.
Skousen closes, saying the transmission involved Joseph Smith. But the transmission was the Lord’s.
Carmack compares the Book of Mormon syntax to four books from Joseph’s time period. Three of them have elements that more closely match the Book of Mormon than the fourth book: The View of the Hebrews (VH).
The View of the Hebrews has long been claimed by LDS critics to be a source material for the Book of Mormon. I find it highly interesting that other books — with no real or even claimed connection to the Book of Mormon — more closely mimic the Book of Mormon than a book (VH)the critics claim gave rise to the Book of Mormon.
You gotta listen to these Blake Ostlerpodcasts. This topic is one that Blake had already published in BYU Studies in 1987. But, fortunately for us, he recently put into podcast form.
In this weekly episode Ostler’s synthesis is this: the Book of Mormon has ancient, as well as modern, elements.
Ostler and his sons discuss several modern topics that others suggest influenced the Book of Mormon: View of the Hebrews, the use of the King James Bible, claimed anachronisms, possible Wesleyan (Methodist) influence on Joseph Smith, a very developed form of Christianity (not available in ancient Judaism), and others.
Then Blake and his sons review the improbability of Joseph knowing ancient material and otherwise guessing correctly in so many areas.
Mosiah 1-5, 7-8: closely reflect covenant renewal festival in the Old Testament
Abinadi and Samuel the Lamanite: evidence of prophetic lawsuit, following biblical form
1 Nephi 1: ancient form of prophetic commission
Blake sees ancient and modern influences in the same text. The same thing occurs in the Bible, as older texts are re-purposed and redacted.
They also discuss the translation process that was not a simple fax from heaven. William Smith described how Martin Harris used the breastplate/spectacles to translate in 1828. He stopped using this system, as it strained his eyes.
Once Oliver was involved (1829), Joseph used a chocolate-colored stone he found near him home when he was digging in a well. Blake explains that David Whitmer’s explanation — ancient text with English below — can’t be the answer for a variety of reasons.
Joseph wouldn’t have edited a text directly and exclusively given by God (with no room for variation or modification); in fact, in 1827 Joseph added and modified text to clarify
translation will never be directly and solely from God, unless God overpowers Joseph’s mind
no translation can possibly be exactly word for word; and Joseph didn’t know a language other than English at this time
Ostler speaks of the Gospel of John, which was written long after Jesus’ death, and contained insights into Jesus’ divinity (living water, bread of life, etc); these insights weren’t understood at the time of Jesus, as the other Gospels show that the Apostles didn’t understand Jesus’ mission and teachings during his life; the Gospel of John in much more reflective and imposes a more complete view
Ostler argues that, like the Gospel of John, Joseph is receiving the revelation of the text, but also the true meaning of the text in a 19th Century thought world
not only is the Book of Mormon a translation (from the Golden Plates), but it’s also a revelation with Joseph’s expansion and reflected through Joseph’s world
puzzler: no text of Isaiah on table, but he has multiple chapters; uses neither plates nor book available while Joseph is looking at stone (within hat); he was simply inspired to know revelation; he translated just as he did the parchment of John, the Book of Abraham, the Book of Moses, and other translations (revelation is the answer)
early witnesses needed Golden Plates to help Church grow, not because Joseph viewed the plates to translate (in 1828 he gave up trying to understand the characters)
theory of revelation: includes a human and God, but it’s a human experiences; this experience requires interpretive framework; reflects ancient text, but his own abilities, terminology, and cultural influence has its effects observable
there’s no such thing as revelation from God’s point of view; we get revelation from our point of view
the Book of Mormon is twice inspired! Once with the original prophet, but second with Joseph’s expansion.
Was Joseph aware he was expanding beyond the plates? In 1837, Joseph felt inspired to expand the already-published Book of Mormon. Ostler argues that he originally followed inspiration, not knowing he was the instrument to expand.
Joseph was free to express, not give an isomorphic 1:1 translation. Any translation has “play” in it. Ostler believe he received concepts and phraseology, and then explained it.
The Book of Mormon revelation was given great liberty what the underlying text meant.
Ostler recognizes that chiasmus, Hebrew phrases, separate and unique voices in the book (Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, and Moroni) are all evidences against the expansion theory.
The current consensus is that horses died off in the Americas around 10,000 years ago. Horses, scholars believe, were only reintroduced by Columbus to the Carribbean in 1493, and by Cortez to the continent over two decades later in 1819.
In other words, critics claim that the Book of Mormon is a fraud, since horses — mentioned in the Book of Mormon — couldn’t have lived here at the time of the Nephites.
However, don’t forget that many critical claims against the Book of Mormon have disappeared as new evidence is uncovered. For example, early critics (around 1830) scoffed at the idea of metal plates and stone boxes. Since that time many examples of metal plates and stone boxes have arisen.
So, it’s prudent to exercise patience and restraint when questions arise.
Back to horses. This was reported recently in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Horse remnants we’re dated to 50 years before the Spanish arrived in Southern California.
“The finds are significant because native North American horses were thought to have been extinct more than 10,000 years ago, and the remains are older than the recorded conquests by the Spanish, who reintroduced horses to the New World.”
A few videos about horses in Pre-Columbian America:
Michael Ash, among other things, shares that at least 2 non-LDS scholars believe that smaller horses weren’t extinct in the Americas before Columbus.
Couple thoughts about translation:
Did Joseph mean horse when he dictated “horse” to Oliver? Maybe. Maybe not. Joseph likely had never heard of tapirs, llamas, or other large animals — known to exist in the Americas — when translating the Book of Mormon.
Horse may have been the only related word Joseph knew. Joseph, after all, only used words with which he was familiar.
When the Greeks first saw a hippopotamus in the Nile they called the animal a “river” horse. They had no name for such an animal. Would you consider a hippo a horse that’s in the river? Not really, but the Greeks just grabbed the best name they could think of.
A Baird’s tapir, currently the largest land animal in Mesoamerica, is called a “jungle” horse by indigenous people. Mayan people called the Spanish horses by the same name they previously applied to tapirs.
Further, showing how names are sometimes inexact, the Baird’s tapir is called an ante-burro by people in the Oaxaca-Vera Cruz area.
Further, horses were discovered in North America (by the French and other explorers) in modern-day Texas, Missouri, and elsewhere in the 1680s.
The Kiowa and Pawnee Native American tribes had horses before 1600. A report about horses arises in 1567 from the Sonora Valley. Before the Spanish arrived to those areas, and therefore their horses could have spread.
More videos on the topic:
Daniel Johnson talks about wheeled vehicles, horses, and other related issues:
Horses with riders are found on petroglyphs in Southern Utah.
The first carvings at the Newspaper Rock site were made around 2,000 years ago, left by people from the Archaic, Anasazi, Fremont, Navajo, Anglo, and Pueblo cultures.
In Navajo, the rock is called “Tse’ Hone'” which translates to a rock that tells a story.
The petroglyphs were carved by Native Americans during both the prehistoric and historic periods. There are over 650 rock art designs.
The drawings on the rock are of different animals, human figures, and symbols. These carvings include pictures of deer, buffalo, and pronghorn antelope.
Some glyphs depict riders on horses, while other images depict past events like in a newspaper. While precisely dating the rock carvings has been difficult, repatination of surface minerals reveals their relative ages.
The reason for the large concentration of the petroglyphs is unclear.”
BYU Geology professor Wade Miller’s comments at the 2009 FAIR MORMON conference about the petroglyphs (photo above):
“I took this photograph last year of Petroglyphs at Newspaper Rock in southeastern Utah. I thought it was interesting to see all the animals depicted – including sheep and goats. Certainly they were here at the same time as man.
In talking to Bureau of Land Management archaeologists about these Petroglyphs, they said while it wasn’t possible to date them, they nevertheless were made over many centuries. You can see that there is a man on a horse as one of the figures.
They (BLM personnel) would say that this shows it was after the time of Columbus since horses weren’t here before this time. But this leads to a circular reasoning.
Some of the petroglyphs are very faint, and it’s assumed that these are much older ones. This picture also shows some of the kinds of animals that the people of the time were familiar with. They include sheep and goats, possible both domesticated and wild types.”
LDS critics often claim “all reputable” scientists or scholars say this or that in relation to the LDS Church. Broad, sweeping claims. Often lots of bravado and bluster.
Absolutely no evidence for this. Absolutely no evidence for that.
Is it true? Science checkmated the LDS Church?
How could it be true when more and more faithful Latter-day Saints are doing Science. The very Science the critics claim disproves the LDS Church.
Science is simply a method to understand truth. Mormons are good geologists, statisticians, chemists, and are distinguished in every field of Science. How Mormons interpret data for their personal lives is unique. So is the way in which life-long agnostics interpret non-scientific data.
Experiments on bacterial genetics, plant growth, and other topics won’t prove or disprove God. Won’t prove or disprove the Book of Abraham. Nor the Book of Mormon. Or a long list of issues.
Science answers how. Faith answers why.
To repeat, has Science check mated the LDS Church?
Quick summary: Nope.
Longer summary: evaluate each specific critical claim in context. When all relevant data is on the table “all scientists” don’t tend to agree and/or the argument is often itself flawed with biases.
Let’s first consider what “all scientists” believe. Scientists, like most academics, tend to be very secular.
Many, many non-believers. Do non-believers believe in the Book of Mormon?
Moreover, the individual critic frequently herself lacks a fundamental understanding of Science and how exactly Science would perform an experiment to unequivocally illuminate the question under discussion.
To unequivocally prove the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, or other topic is obviously false — contrary to many critics’ belief system — turns out to be quite challenging. In fact, it’s impossible.
For example, a critic might say that no self-respecting scientist believes major battles with steel swords and wheeled, horse-driven chariots took place in Palmyra, NY around 400 AD. And further, no archaeologists have found lots of steel blades, metal armor, and wheels in the ground.
Book of Mormon defeated in a single swipe? Nope!
This is an example of a straw man. I and every LDS scientist would agree. Yet, there’s more nuance to this situation than you may initially appreciate.
1) Joseph never called the hill near his home the Hill Cumorah. That belief — that the hill where Joseph got the plates was the same site as the final Nephite battle — sprung up long after Joseph Smith passed away, as folks hypothesized where the Book of Mormon took place. It didn’t help that well-meaning Church leaders latched onto the idea.
The final Nephite and Jaredite battles likely happened in Mesoamerica — near where the entire narrative occurred. Moroni wandered northward for decades. 36 years total. A trek from Mesoamerica to NY can be accomplished by a fit person in around a year.
2) Nephi mentioned the fine steel of his bow and the Sword of Laban. Both of these could have been made with technology of the time. The Book of Mormon text doesn’t otherwise mention steel swords.
Dr. Wade Miller discusses iron, steel, swords, the Bible, and the Book of Mormon.
4) No archaeologists have excavated the Hill Cumorah. Farmers have plowed the field, but no organized excavations have been undertaken.
I’d be suprised if anything were found, but the point still remains that nobody has done the research to rule out presence of metal Nephite objects.
So, when aspecific example is given by critics — and not simply exaggerated generalizations — the Book of Mormon typically stands on reliable evidence. Sure, questions still exist, but critics’ sweeping claims are nearly always uninformed and imprecise.
The same thing applies with claims toward the Lehites and DNA. When one looks at all the evidence — and not simply listens to critics’ absolute and usually unsupported statements — the picture becomes clearer.
Watch Ugo Perego and Michael Whiting dispel common misconceptions. These two scientists are leaders in the field of genetics, and see no conflict between their science and the Book of Mormon narrative.
Another scientist, Dr. Keith A. Crandall, converted to the LDS Church. He discusses DNA and the Book of Mormon below:
A larger point should be emphasized: how does one prove the Book of Mormon? How does one disprove the Book of Mormon? I’ll argue one can do neither.
To say there’s not a shred of evidence for the Book of Mormon historicity is a mischaracterization. Haven’t we — that is, LDS and non-LDS scholars — found things in Mesoamerica and elsewhere that are in sync with the narrative of the Book of Mormon? Yep!
Critics used to say say steel wasn’t known till 100s of years after Lehi. And they mocked Joseph and the Book of Mormon for that. That’s clearly no longer believed. We could list item after Book of Mormon item (silk, swine, iron, etc) that is no longer a mismatch or an anachromism.
See trends below:
I like the trend:
Surely, not everything matches and much work remains. But to say there’s no evidence is untrue. To prove or disprove is not possible. To find supporting evidence is possible and is under way. A complete fraud wouldn’t be expected to get so many matches.
LDS scientists are the ones (no surprise!) who are interested in finding support for the Book of Mormon. Other scientists typically don’t care or are perhaps mildly opposed to such ventures and findings. Again, no surprise.
Do atheist, Catholic, evangelical, or other scholars, who find wheat (or other disputed item in the Book of Mormon) in Guatemala, refuse to admit wheat was in the area? No.
They’re scholars doing scholarly work. They publish their findings, regardless of implication.
Does finding wheat in Mexico change non-Mormon opinion of the LDS Church? The Book of Mormon? Probably not in the least.
Does wheat in Guatemala (if found) absolutely prove the Book of Mormon? No. Evidence for? Absolutely.
So, let’s allow scientists — Mormon and non-Mormon — to do their jobs: Science. And publish all findings.
The truth will take care of itself. I expect more and more evidence will be uncovered to support the Book of Mormon.
“The dictation flowed smoothly. From the surviving portions of the Original Manuscript it appears that Joseph dictated about a dozen words at a time. Oliver would read those words back for verification, and then they would go on. Emma later added that after a meal or a night’s rest, Joseph would begin, without prompting, where he had previously left off (The Saints’ Herald 26 [Oct. 1, 1879]:290). No time was taken for research, internal cross-checking, or editorial rewriting.”
The dictated draft was copied onto the printer’s manuscript and published by Grandin in Palmyra.
No evidence exists Joseph used other sources, despite desperate critics’ claims. His wife Emma said Joseph couldn’t have his such sources from her if he tried.
October 2017 General Conference talk by Elder Callister:
Elder Callister gave another wonderful speech below:
Royal Skousen — the leading expert on the Book of Mormon manuscripts — details the process of dictation and printing:
This book was a product of inspiration. Translated by the gift and power of God.
Some worry about what Isaiah is doing in the Book of Mormon. After reading and watching lots of videos I have confidence that Isaiah was written by 1 person. Isaiah. Many recent scholars think the multiple-Isaiah theory is an embarrassment to scholarship.
Steven Smoot and the 3 Mormons give a good introduction:
The premier non-LDS commentary on “Second” Isaiah (The Anchor Bible, Volume 20) says there is insufficient evidence from wordprint analysis that Isaiah was written by anything other than a single author.
We also have a new model, proposed by Avraham Gileadi, which shows that Isaiah contains a far more profound and sophisticated literary paradigm, if we accept that it is a unitary work. No wonder this new unitary theory, which just happens to get around a traditional objection to the Book of Mormon, is gaining ground.
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible says Isaiah 48-55 is based on liturgy that predated Lehi, even if it was written after he allegedly left Jerusalem. The Book of Mormon has 47-55. Hang tight before you throw your arms up in despair.
For those who aren’t familiar with the ECB:
“Written by world-class Bible scholars, the ECB encapsulates in nontechnical language the best of modern scholarship on the sixty-six biblical books plus the Apocrypha. The only one-volume Bible commentary to cover all the texts (even including 1 Enoch) regarded by one or more Christian churches as canonical, the ECB provides reader-friendly treatments and succinct summaries of each section of the text that will be valuable to scholars, students and general readers alike.”
“One of the major flashpoints in academic biblical studies in the past 125 years has centered on the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah. Beginning in the late 1800s, some scholars suggested that this book may have been written by multiple people over a period of centuries, a view that contrasts with the traditional one that the entire book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century BC by the Judean prophet Isaiah ben Amoz.
Because for many conservative scholars the latter position is the only one that respects the divine inspiration of the text, and because they also believe that this position is endorsed by Jesus in the New Testament, the differing conclusions of mainstream and conservative scholars regarding the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah have long served to divide these groups.
Bind Up the Testimonya collection of essays from a colloquium held at Wheaton College in 2013brings together a variety of evangelical responses to this issue. Although a few of the essays arrive at conservative conclusions regarding the authorship and dating of the book of Isaiah, most of them attempt to chart new, more nuanced directions for thinking on this subject, and suggest that careful attention to the (complicated) compositional history of the book of Isaiah need not be a hindranceand can, in fact, be a helpto Christians who understand the book of Isaiah as divinely inspired Scripture that has spoken to Gods people throughout the ages and that continues to speak to them today.
Is historical accuracy an indispensable part of the Bible’s storyline, or is Scripture only concerned with theological truths? As progressive evangelicals threaten to reduce the Bible’s jurisdiction by undermining its historical claims, every Christian who cares about the integrity of Scripture must be prepared to answer this question.
Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? offers a firm defense of Scripture’s legitimacy and the theological implications of modern and postmodern approaches that teach otherwise. In this timely and timeless collection of essays, scholars from diverse areas of expertise lend strong arguments in support of the doctrine of inerrancy. Contributors explore how the specific challenges of history, authenticity, and authority are answered in the text of the Old and New Testaments as well as how the Bible is corroborated by philosophy and archaeology.
“In The Vision of All, Joseph Spencer draws on the best of biblical and Latter-day Saint scholarship to make sense of the so-called -Isaiah chapters- in the first two books of the Book of Mormon. Arguing that Isaiah lies at the very heart of Nephi’s project, Spencer insists on demystifying the writings of Isaiah while nonetheless refusing to pretend that Isaiah is in any way easy to grasp.
Presented as a series of down-to-earth lectures, The Vision of All outlines a comprehensive answer to the question of why Nephi was interested in Isaiah in the first place. Along the way, the book presents both a general approach to reading Isaiah in the Book of Mormon and a set of specific tactics for making sense of Isaiah’s writings. For anyone interested in understanding what Isaiah is doing in the Book of Mormon, this is the place to start.”
“The results of this research bear witness that the book of Isaiah has a literary unity characteristic of a single author. These results, therefore, confirm the claims made in the Book of Mormon and the New Testament by later prophets and by the Savior that Isaiah was the author of the book bearing his name.”
In addition, Paul Fields shared his insight at a recent conference on this topic: Stylometry and the Book of Isaiah. A few paragraphs from the conference about Isaiah in the Bible:
“There have been a few stylometric studies over the years starting with the earliest that I am aware of in 1970. To interpret the results, it is important to realize that none of the studies can establish that there was more than one writer of the text. Although there is evidence of more than one writing style in the text, factors other than the identity of the author must be considered.
“More than one style does not necessarily indicate multiple ‘hands hold the pen.’ The same author can express himself or herself differently when writing at different times, to different audiences, on different topics, or for different purposes. So, the presence of multiple writing styles cannot be asserted as indicating multiple people as authors of a text.
“Also, unlike the Book of Mormon which had one translator (Joseph Smith) who had one scribe (Oliver Cowdery), the Bible has gone through innumerable hands over the last 2000 years. It has been translated and retranslated by translators after translators, and written and rewritten by scribes after scribes. While we can show that the modest changes to the text of the Book of Mormon have not made a meaningful difference in the writing styles in the Book of Mormon, we cannot show that to be the case for the Bible. In fact, it should actually be surprising if only one writing style was found in a Biblical text.
“There have been studies showing that the original author’s ‘wordprint’ comes through the translation process to a certain extent, the original author’s style as evident in the translated text is still affected by the translator’s style. Further, we have shown that the “scribe effect” — the extent to which a scribe’s wordprint can be detected in a dictated text — can range from a trivial amount (10-15%) to a large amount (70-80%). Consequently, the accumulated effect of a sequence of translators and a sequence of multiple scribes (copyists) will result in substantial changes to the writing styles in a text, even if the translator effect and the scribe effect are small for each step in the sequence.
“Finally, stylometric studies must be conducted in the context of established historical facts that set the framework for the analyses and their interpretation. The results of stylometric studies can provide evidence for our against a research conjecture that is founded on historical and biographical information external to the stylometric analyses. Proceeding in the opposite direction by just ‘fishing around’ for different writing styles in a text and then trying to assert historicity or identity based on the results is an excellent way to arrive at nonsense conclusions or at least non-scientific conclusions.
“In sum, whatever someone wants to assert about the number of people who were ‘Isaiah,’ that assertion must be based on evidence other than stylometric evidence.”
“As long ago as 1984, L. La Mar Adams in “A Scientific Analysis of Isaiah Authorship” which was one of the first scientific approaches to the multiple Isaiah theory wrote, “The disputed authorship of Isaiah is one of the most popular textual biblical issues and appears to be the father of all Old Testament authorship problems of the same nature.”
“The majority of biblical scholars divide the book of Isaiah into multiple authorship. The problem of identifying authorship for the book and parts of the book is known as the “Isaiah problem,”3 or what we are calling the “Multiple Isaiah Theory Problem.”
Adams explained, “A few years ago, our group of thirty-five specialists in Semitic languages, statistics, and computer science at Brigham Young University devised a literary style analysis to test the claims of these biblical scholars. This study, which spanned several years, in the end used more than 300 computer programs, analyzed several hundred stylistic variables, and obtained more than 4800 statistical comparisons.
“…The results of the study were conclusive: there is a unique authorship style throughout the various sections of Isaiah. The rates of usage for the elements of this particular style are more consistent within the book of Isaiah, regardless of the section, than in any other book in the study. This statistical evidence led us to a single conclusion: based on style alone, the book of Isaiah definitely appears to be the work of one man. The two parts of Isaiah most often claimed to have been written by different authors, chapters 1–39 and 40–66, were found to be more similar to each other in style than to any of the other eleven Old Testament books examined.”4
Royal Skousen understands the Book of Mormon text better than anyone alive.
Watch the last few minutes of this video from Royal Skousen. Evidence for an inspired use of Isaiah (and not copied from a nearby copy):
witnesses never reported Joseph used a Bible from a nearby shelf
no evidence Joseph had access to the Bible, though the printer did
Joseph spelled out the proper names when encountered for the first time in the Book of Mormon
biblical names were often misspelled in the Book of Mormon manuscripts; these biblical names wouldn’t have been misspelled if Joseph and Oliver had checked the nearby King James version of the Bible
Of the 478 verses in the Book of Mormon quoted from the book of Isaiah, 201 agree with the King James reading while 207 show variations. Some 58 are paraphrased and 11 others are variants and/or paraphrases. It is to the variants that we will give our attention here…
Tvedtnes compares many verses between the Book of Mormon and Isaiah. I’ll only share this (many others are found in the link above) one: Isaiah 2:16 compared with 2 Nephi 12:16:
KJV: “And upon all the ships of Tarshish”
BM: “And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish”
Here, BM adds a line not found in KJV. Interestingly, LXX reads “And upon every ship of the sea, and upon all views of pleasant ships,” with the last part paralleling KJV/BM “and upon all pleasant pictures.” The Greek talassa, “sea,” resembles the word Tarshish. But both the Targum and the Vulgate have “sea” with LXX instead of Tarshish.
The matter is a very complex one, for which a complete discussion cannot be included here. BM appears to have included the versions of both MT and LXX/T/V. MT could have dropped the nearly identical second line by haplography…
“It has long been my contention that the best scientific evidence for the Book of Mormon is not archaeological or historical in nature, as important as these may be, but rather linguistic. This is because we have before us a printed text which can be subjected to linguistic analysis and comparison with the language spoken in the kingdom of Judah at the time of Lehi.
One of the more remarkable linguistic evidences for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon as a translation from an ancient text lies in the Isaiah variants found in it. The examples given here, though sketchy, are presented to offer some of that evidence to all those who seriously inquire after the origins of the Book of Mormon.”
This guy, Terry Sheets, (the Backyard Professor) starts to discuss the KJV around 6:49. Till then, he comments on the power of reasoning and study. Terry first explains the KJV relies more on the Bishops’ Bible (translated in 1568) much than on a direct translation from the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
The KJV translators were instructed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to modify the wording of the Bishops’s Bible only when its meaning varied from the meaning of the Greek NT and Hebrew OT texts. The Bishops’ Bible was itself a revision of the Great Bible (1539).
A few versions of the Bible rest between the Great Bible and the William Tyndale’s first English Bible. Tyndale translated this version from 1526-1531 directly from Greek and Hebrew texts. Tyndale retained some of John Wycliffe’s wording from the late 14th Century.
The KJV style set the standard from scriptural language of Joseph’s day. Others, not just Joseph, followed this practice of using King James type language.
Nearly 100 years after the Book of Mormon was translated, Robert H Charles, the translator of biblical texts, “The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament”, made it a point to imitate the language and style of the KJV of the Bible in his magnum opus.
He did so for several reasons, including this obvious one: The KJV was the most common version read in the English-speaking world.
Jewish scholar, Theodore Gaster, intermixed KJV and modern English in his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls (originally written in ancient Hebrew). The DSSs was not in English. Yet, Gaster translated this ancient language into KJ English. Just like Joseph did.
Shon Hopkin discusses Abinadi in the Book of Mormon, including the KJV variants (variants discussed around 34:00 mark):
“Doubts as to the literary unity of the book of Isaiah are fairly recent. The late nineteenth century saw a division of Isaiah into three parts by critics, who
categorized only 262 of the 1292 verses as the genuine product of Isaiah.
These critics deny the prediction element of prophecy and highlight different literary forms and theological ideas. The Book of Mormon attributes two of these three sections to Isaiah by quotation; ancient scriptures as well give no hint of a division. Christ and the apostles themselves attribute the book to Isaiah.
Internal evidences of the unity of the book include imagery, repetition, expressions peculiar to Isaiah, and song. Changes in style can be attributed to mood. The differences between the Book of Mormon and the King James Version support the authenticity and literary unity of Isaiah.”
Another discussion on Mormon Miscellaneous about the Book of Mormon translation, including these topics:
Hebrew, Greek, and Hierglyphics
King James Version compared with the Book of Mormon
2 Nephi 22:2 vs KJV Isaiah 12:2 vs Hebrew
JS statements “translated by the gift and power of God”
KJV Isaiah 7:14 contrasted with Hebrew & LXX (Septuagint) & Book of Mormon
More insights from the Backyard Professor:
Many differences exist between the KJV of Isaiah and Joseph’s translation. In some cases, Joseph’s translation is closer to the earlier manuscripts. That is, the Book of Mormon Isaiah verses are closer to the Greek OT Septuagint (from 3rd Century BC) and the Hebrew Masoretic texts.
Scholarly speculation, based on the changes in the language within the later chapters of Isaiah, gave rise to the multiple-author theory.
Cyrus lived 200 years after Lehi and was mentioned in Isaiah. This name and other Isaiah issues may just as well be later substitutions. All we have are probabilities and possibilities. This was not uncommon.
The Backyard Professor has a total of 6 videos on this topic.
Joseph’s translation process of the Book of Mormon was miraculous, including the Isaiah chapters. Nearly 1/2 of the verses differ from the JST.
In Sunday’s afternoon conference session, Elder Tad R. Callister directly addressed so many critical claims. Watch the talk here.
Critics’ Claims fall short. Very short.
Claim ONE: Joseph was a creative genius at 23.
Critics now say this. But nobody thought Joseph was a genius from 1820 – 1844. Instead, they laughed at his “obvious” fraud.
100s of unique names, places, and details. Where’d all that creativity originate? Critics now claim Joseph used numerous books and materials. Not a single person reported seeing Joseph with such. Indeed, scribes, including Emma explained Joseph lacked notes or manuscript upon which to rely. And Emma further noted that Joseph couldn’t have concealed such if he had tried.
In fact, Joseph dictated page after detailed, interwoven, harmonious page with his head in a dark hat, looking at a seer stone.
If he used the mountain of books (for which there is no evidence) as critics claim, how did he sift through it all, winnow out the irrelevant, and keep the intricate facts straight? He dictated 500+ pages fluidly.
To pull this scheme off, Joseph must have also had a photographic memory of prodigious proportions. But critics don’t seem to have ever made that claim in his day.
The above only accounts for the book’s historical content.
Claim TWO: Joseph was a theological genius at 23.
Again, critics say this now, though they didn’t in his lifetime.
Think of what the Book of Mormon contains. Its teachings clarify and contradict Christian teachings of his time. Joseph wrote that the Fall was a positive step forward. Nobody claims that. His dictation described the covenants of baptism. Rich doctrinal insights into the Atonment and Resurrection. Sermon on faith in Alma 32. Allegory of the Olive Tree.
All of this was off the top of his head with no notes? Not possible. Instead, God’s fingerprints are all over this book.
Why didn’t anyone else say all of this in the last 1800 years? “Geniuses” have lived and died. It wasn’t genius. It was revelation.
Claim THREE: Joseph was a naturally gifted writer at 23.
Joseph Interweaved names, places, strategies, coined phrases that are now on refrigerator doors, etc. These are messages that live, breathe, and inspire.
Joseph dictated the entire work in 65 working days. With only (mostly) minor grammatical corrections after that. No working draft.
Emma disagreed with this claim. Emma says Joseph couldn’t write a coherent letter. Elder Nelson made 40 drafts of a recent conference talk. Precision take work. And time. Lots of time.
What of Joseph’s other claims?
Golden plates? LOL! Everyone knew in Joseph’s day that papyrus and parchment was what the ancients wrote on! Unrelenting criticism was heaped upon Joseph. Now experts know metal records exist elsewhere.
Use of cement! Another LOL. Till cement structures were found in ancient America. Lucky guesser, Joseph!
In spite of all the odds, Joseph guessed right over and over and over? Sure.
None of this — guessing-right-consistently hypothesis — makes sense. Further, all 11 witnesses remained true.
The Book of Mormon is an inspiration.
From John Welch: “Hours Never to be Forgotten: Timing the Book of Mormon Translation”
The Church has long been transparent about the seer stones. Read this article in the Friend in 1974:
“To help him with the translation, Joseph found with the gold plates “a curious instrument which the ancients called Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones set in a rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate.”
Joseph also used an egg-shaped, brown rock for translating called a seer stone…”
The Ensign in 1977 provided many details of the translation process, including an account of the rock in the hat.
Several podcasts about Joseph’s seer stones:
The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed Richard Bushman on the topic of seer stones:
More from Bushman on seer stones:
Discussion about reformed Egyptian:
Many languages are reformed from another language. That is, languages evolve and are constantly impacted by neighboring languages. They were reformed. Reformed Egyptian isn’t a title, but a description.
Consider the process through which English evolved:
Hebrew — the language spoken by Lehi — likewise went through a long evolution:
Proto-Semitic gave rise to Arabic, Aramaic (likely what Jesus spoke), Phoenician, Hebrew, Ethiopian, and other languages.
The Phoenician alphabet is derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs. It became one of the most widely used writing systems, spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world, where it evolved and was assimilated by many other cultures.
Egyptian impacted Phoenician, which in turn influenced Greek, Roman, and Hebrew (and others).
Egyptian itself also developed from another language family:
Three types of Egyptian writing:
Demotic was a cursive form modified from the already-established cursive Heiratic.
Heiratic and Demotic are variations of the original language script (Egyptian hieroglyphs). Heiratic was a cursive script used on papyri. Demotic was an even more cursive, more compact variety.
But — as with virtually all langages and writing scripts — one was developed or reformed or altered from the other. That is, Demotic was modified from the earlier version, Heiratic.
Egyptian has been modified in other ways in other places? Yes, Egyptian was reformed and became Coptic. Coptic is a modified Greek alphabet with modified Egyptian characters. Further, Beowulf English isn’t today’s English.
Small section of Beowulf (and Old English) below:
Further, Japanese is reformed Chinese. Although, we don’t typically categorize Japanese this way, but it’s true. Linguists and scholars know this.
Scholars may not use the exact words “reformed” to describe Japanese. That’s fine. We could say “evolved” or “modified” or “reformed” Chinese. Japanese descended from Chinese, however 1 wants to explain it.
From the link above: “One such text is Papyrus Amherst 63, a document written in Egyptian demotic and dating to the second century B.C. The document had, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, been preserved in an earthen jar and was discovered in Thebes, Egypt, during the second half of the nineteenth century.
For years, Egyptologists struggled with the text but could make no sense of
it. The letters were clear (Demotic script), but they did not form intelligible words. In 1944, Raymond Bowman of the University of Chicago realized that, while the script is Egyptian, the underlying language is Aramaic….
At both Arad and Kadesh-Barnea, there were, in addition to the “combination texts” discussed, other ostraca written entirely in either Hebrew or Egyptian hieratic.
The implication is clear: Scribes or students contemporary or nearly contemporary with Lehi were being trained in both Hebrew and Egyptian writing systems. The use of Egyptian script by Lehi’s descendants now
becomes not only plausible, but perfectly reasonable in the light of archaeological discoveries made more than a century after Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon.
Both hieratic and demotic were in use in Lehi’s time and can properly be termed “reformed Egyptian.” From the account in Mormon 9:32, it seems likely that the Nephites further reformed the characters.
Lehi would have spoken Hebrew. In Moroni 9:34 we learn Egyptian was used by the Nephites to compact language.
Charles Anthon (language scholar) first explained that Martin’s copied characters were an example of “shorthand” Egyptian. Harris was convinced Joseph had a real (not fabricated) record.
Several podcasts providing evidence for reformed Egyptian:
The fun Backyard Professor:
Brian Stubbs on the Egyptian and Hebrew cognates found in Uto-Aztecan: language family spanning from Mexico to Utah:
John Hall’s 2007 FAIR speech: “The Problem with Tampering with the Word of God: As far as it is translated correctly.”