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Is there textual evidence that the Book of Mormon has ancient origins?

Jeff Lindsay Mormon defender says yes.

There were a lot of grammatical errors in the 1830 Book of Mormon yet when some of these seem to match the structure of Hebrew Lindsay says it shows the Semitic origin of the book. Anybody can write a book full of errors in grammar and sentence structure some of which concerning that it could be said that they have been translated from some language or other. Lindsay the Book claims that the Nephites altered the Hebrew and says it was written in Reformed Egyptian for heaven’s sake. The Book of Mormon plagiarised the Bible so much that many Semitic features and structures got into the book. Anybody who argues that “King Laman, who having entered into a treaty” is an indication of Hebrew origins and influence is a crank. We all have heard people who would use similar expressions. The problem with all fundamentalist apologists is that they never sit down and work out the mathematics of coincidence and what statistics say and they end up seeing amazing wonders where there are none.

Lindsay says that there is a chiasmus, a way of using contrasts poetically, in the Book of Mormon proving that the Book did not originate with Joseph Smith. This is a form of poetry used by the Semites and he says it appears in Alma 36 which is the best example. But the chapter is about the contrast between sin and goodness and damnation and salvation and joy and sorrow and uses a way of writing similar to that of the psalms that anybody who was familiar with the Bible could easily imitate. The Book of Mormon is supposed to contain parallels that fit ancient writings like some of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were unavailable to Smith and are a sign that the book really did originate among ancient Jews. But many of the writings were written after the Nephites went to America. And parallels are inevitable for the Jewish and Christian symbolism and imagination can follow much the same patterns in many ways. For example, both religions use the dichotomy between light and darkness and have much the same morality and share their stress on one God. Thousands of parallels can be found between religious teachers of unrelated traditions. It is like when you have many teachers teaching computers. If you were taping all they said and compared them you would find that they sometimes say things in nearly the same words though they are miles apart. The reason is that they are talking about the same thing which increases the chances of them using the same words or structure of meaning and thinking of the same comparisons. When you get familiar with the Psalms you will find that it is easy to imitate the style. I certainly can by inventing my own psalm. Thus the chiasmus has a natural explanation. The Tanners have found the psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4) in the Book of Mormon has been pieced together from several psalms in the KJV and so it is not to be wondered at if it is like Hebrew poetry. But the Mormons make a big deal of it. The Mormon Church won’t tell you that lots of English students especially in the past had to study the structure of Hebrew poetry in the English translation. Oliver Cowdery could have helped Smith write the poetry in the Book of Mormon. The intention was to create something nice that people would take to and make famous. Plus something could be a chiasmus by chance. When you are writing about opposites it is easy for them to appear.

There were books in Smith’s day that studied the poetic style of the chiasmus. To one familiar with the psalms it would not be hard to replicate. And there are ones in Doctrine and Covenants created by Smith when Smith was not claiming to be translating anything but giving the word of God in Smith’s own words.

In a page about the Isaiah Variants in 2 Nephi 12 of the Book of Mormon Lindsay says that Smith’s translation took a chunk out of Isaiah here but added some differences that were not in the King James Bible. The eerie thing about this is that it adds the words ships of Tarshish to the reference about ships of the sea in the KJV which some believe was in the original. They believe that for ships of the sea and ships of Tarshish are similar in Hebrew which could have resulted in ships of Tarshish being left out by mistake or mistranslated. So it seems that he corrected the KJV here by supernatural power. The Mormons admit that it cannot be proved that the emendation is a restoration of what Isaiah originally wrote. They just say it is possible. So here we just have more Mormon speculation when they want us to believe the Book of Mormon was able to restore a lost rendering of Isaiah!

The Mormons admit that there were books that Smith might have consulted which gave both ships of Tarshish and ships of the sea as possible translations but think that there is no evidence he could have got to them. When he learned of the translation problem he just put in both words. I believe Oliver Cowdery who Smith once got to help him translate, who was a schoolteacher, played a large role in the writing of the Book of Mormon. There may have been somebody else too. The Mormons just assume that if the Book of Mormon is a forgery then Smith alone wrote it. It is an assumption that is convenient for them for they heap ridicule on the suggestion that Smith authored the Book of Mormon and pretend he was barely literate. But somebody could have done research for Smith.

It is obvious that it is mistaken to say that Isaiah would have written about the ships of Tarshish and the ships of the sea and then about the luxury ships for he could have left out the middle reference to the ships of the sea. To say that Smith supernaturally corrected Isaiah without using books that he might have used is madness no matter how unlikely it was for him to have thought of using a book. You don’t say a caring guy who stabs his mother is innocent because he couldn’t have done it even though the knife was seen in his hand.

The Book of Mormon follows the KJV in translating a word for fancy ships as pleasant pictures. This shows that the author of the Book of Mormon was only human for fancy ships is, going by the context the right translation and he blundered here.

Lindsay makes a lot of some of the strange names in the Book of Mormon that seem to have been authenticated as real or close to real since. He does not mention that the prophet Zenos a name which Smith probably made up happens to match the name of the Greek philosopher Zeno. These things happen.

He said that once the critics were sneering at the fact that the Book of Mormon calls some Jewish characters Alma a Latin woman’s name but were proven wrong when a text found in 1961 referred to a man called Alma. The Book of Mormon contains many strange names. It is only natural with all the languages in the world that if you make up words that most of them can be made to seem to have been derived from them. You need to prove the Book of Mormon before you can say Alma was derived from Hebrew for that is the only way you can be sure it was. Lindsay is begging the question in a subtle and clever way. Watch out for similar fallacies for they are rife in religious writings.

Lindsay says the name the Nephites gave the ocean they sailed on which was Irreantum meaning many waters (1 Nephi 17:5). The name exists in the Apocrypha which Smith read but is a bit different in the Book of Mormon. But Lindsay wants to know why the Book of Mormon changed the spelling. The two words are phonetically identical so all Smith had to do was to use a different spelling but which would give the same sound. The truth is that Smith had to change it for he said that Mormon wrote in altered Egyptian and that the Hebrew of the Nephites was very different from the original. Lindsay quotes Hugh Nibley saying that the Book of Mormon version of the word fits the Coptic word for many ir-n-ahte. This is nonsense for there are still differences. You even have to add m at the end to make Irreantum. Many is not the same as many waters. Nibley is inadvertently contradicting the Book of Mormon. He leaves no room for the word in the Book of Mormon to mean waters as well as many.

Others say the name Irreantum comes from Egyptian and Ir is river re mouth na is many and tehem is water. This shows that you can make bizarre words mean anything you want them to. You can pretend to get meaningful matches from a host of languages. There are plenty of languages and dialects in the region the Lehites allegedly travelled through to make that easy. And Jews were more likely to use Hebrew words to name places with.

Lindsay thinks that the references to a house of a god named Lehi may authenticate the existence of the prophet Lehi from the Book of Mormon. There is no evidence at all that this god is Lehi. And why would Lehi be seen as a god?

Lindsay quotes a Rabbi Yosef who found that the name of the compass the Lehites used called the Liahona makes good sense in Hebrew for Lia means round and Lawah means to start or stop and Lon means to abide. But this trick can be played with lots of languages. And Hebrew dictionaries were common enough in Smith’s neck of the woods for fundamentalists used them to find out exactly what the Bible said here and there. Notice too that only the first word is any way close. For example, if the Book of Mormon had been written in English it would have been argued that Lia comes from lead as in guide and hona from hone as in perfect. This is better than the Rabbi’s idea because the compass leads perfectly. Lead perfectly is a better idea for naming a compass than round, start and abide. Abide has no relevance to a compass at all.

COMMENT: The evidence is really largely forcing things to try to make them fit. Chaismus happens in modern books by accident. No Book of Mormon texts have been found in ancient times. There is no mention in Lindsay about how the Book of Mormon follows the mistranslations of the Bible that are in the King James Bible.