Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Jaredite and Adamic Language

Recently we received a comment from a reader regarding the language of the Jaredites. Rather than answer it in a short commnet, we have chosen to delve into this in much more detail since it is a comment received a few other times in the past. 
    Comment: “I believe the ancient Jaradites did speak Hebrew but the language obviously became corrupted over the centuries. The ancient patriarchs spoke Hebrew. I can even prove that Adam spoke Hebrew—that is the language of scripture and that is Adamic language. A Jewish Rabbi friend said that Hebrew is the language of God and it was used to create the earth” Ira T.
Response: The language of Adam, and of Noah, has been of interest and discussed by “experts” for generations without any conclusive decisions of which I am ware—each holding to their own vierwpoint. Obviously, the rabbis and other Hebrew and Jewish hierarchy claim that Hebrew was the original language. While they have a legitimate claim, it is not necessarily a solid one.
    First of all, we need to deal with the Adamic Lanuage. Typically, the Adamic language is, according to Jewish tradition (as recorded in the midrashim (Genesis Rabbah)—which, by the way, did not first occur until the post-Temple era, and taught them by Chazal (Hazal), which is an acronym for the Hebrew Ḥakhameinu Zikhronam Liv'rakha in the period from about 250 B.C. to 625 A.D.) as well as some Christians, the language spoken by Adam (and possibly Eve) in the Garden of Eden. It is variously interpreted as either the language used by God to address Adam (the divine language), or the language invented by Adam or given Adam by God with which he named all things (including Eve), as in Genesis 2:19. At best it is the language used by God to address Adam, but there is no suggestion that it would have been the language of heaven as much as a language used by God to speak to Adam. (It might also be of interest to know that the Kabbalah, or Kabbalism, assumed an “eternal Torah” which was not identical to the Torah written in Hebrew, thus Abulafia in the 13th century assumed that the language spoken in Paradise had been different from Hebrew).
For Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith declared that the Adamic Language was a “Pure and undefiled” language causing many LDS to believe it meant the language of God. In the early days of Christianity, “glossolalla” was called speaking of tongues, or the “fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning,” which Joseph Smith made it clear that such speaking was the easiest of the gifts to duplicate by Satan, and that unless there was one who could interpret, the practice was without value. In the Church today, it is recognized that “zenoglossy,” which is the speaking in known tongue, that was previously unknown to the speaker and is meant to represent other languages—a gift highly revered and seen frequently in missionary work.
    Apostle Orson Pratt declared that “Ahman,” from “Adam-ondi-Ahman,” was the name of God in the Adamic language (Journal of Discourses 2:342). An 1832 handwritten page from the Joseph Smith Papers, titled "A Sample of the Pure Language," and reportedly dictated by the Prophet to "Br. Johnson," asserts that the name of God is Awmen.
    A temple ordinance is thought to be a translation of the Hebrew פה לאל "mouth to God.” There is also the word “deseret,” which means “honey bee,” that many LDS believe is of the Adamic Language. We also know that Adam kept a Book of Remembrance, which “was kept, in the which was recorded, in the language of Adam” (Moses 6:5,46). As a side-note we ought to recongize that it is called "the language of Adam," not "the language of God."
    The point is, however, in none of these can it be said without a doubt that the one was the other, i.e., that the language of Adam, called the Adamic Language, was the language spoken in heaven in the pre-mortal world, or the language we will all be speaking after the resurrection. This fact is simply not known to us and has never been officially stated. Besides, the fact that God speaks all languages, does not suggest that a language he chooses to teach man is the “language of heaven,” even though it could certainly be said that any language God chooses to speak  is a “pure and undefiled” language since man has not had a chance to change, alter, or defile it when first received.
Secondly, in the Bible, the very first mention of a “language” is found in chapter 10 of Genesis, when it states “By these were the isles of the gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations” (Genesis 10:5); thus we find that in the time of Noah’s sons, Noah’s grandchildren began to spread out in the land, “each after his own tongue,” meaning each had his own language.
    This was a generation before Nimroad, the tower, and the confusing of langauges.
    However, in the following chapter, it states “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech” (Genesis 11:1). So how are we to correlate these two opposing statements?
    Perhaps we need to consider the context in which they appear. In this chapter (11), the narrative switches from the splitting up of Noah’s children and their families, in which we learned that they had different languages (Genesis 10:5), to zeroing in on one of these families, that of Nimrod, Noah’s great grandson through Ham and Cush (Genesis 10:6,8). By the time Nimrod comes along, Noah’s sons, Ham, Japheth, and Shem, had already divided and their children spread out “every one after his tongue.”
    Thus, as we read of Nimrod, the second generation after Noah’s sons began to spread out, as they were commanded, and there were several languages already among the descendants of Noah. Chapter 11 then begins by following one of those great grandsons, one named Nimrod, who by this time was the head of an extended family and perhaps others that he had persuaded to join him—an overall group that all spoke one language as “they journeyed from the east, and “found a plain in the land of Shinar” where they settled down “and they dwelt there” (Genesis 11:1).
    This extended family, or people, controlled by Nimrod, decided to “build a city and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4). How many years had passed since the ark came to rest is unknown. The Lord blessed them to be fruitful and fill the earth (Genesis 8:17; 9:1,7). Noah not only lived a long life (950), but lived 350 years after the flood, so it is a little difficult to place exact time frames or generational dating during this time from Noah to Nimrod.
In this area of settlement in Shinar, which was called Babel, the first of Nimrod’s kingdom. It would appear from the wording in verses 9 thru 14, that several cities had been built by the time the tower was under or near completion, i.e., that is, as far completed as it was to become.
    At this time we read the intervention of the Lord when he “came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded," i.e., Nimrod and his people built. It should not be confused by the language used that Noah, Shem or even Ham were involved in the building of the tower that went against God's Plan.  Certainly, the Jaredites at the time were not involved in that building, though they lived nearby and knew of it (Ether 1:33-35).
    At this time, whatever amount of people were involved in the tower, we may be talking 100 years or more (because of the longevity of the people at this time) of population increase. The Lord, being displeased with those who were building the tower in Shinar said “Behold the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do, and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Genersis 11:6).
    Thus, we learn that when people work together and can communicate easily with one another, speaking one language, and being willing to work together for a common purpose, that they can accomplish whatever it is they desire. Obviously, at this time in the Earth’s development, that was not part of the Plan, and the Lord “scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth, and they left off to build the city” (Genesis 11:8).
So we see that Shem, Japheth and Ham’s children already started to speak different tongues (Genesis 10:5), and the one group, under Nimrod, who were trying to thwart the development Plan of the Lord, by working together under one unrighteous man who convinced the people they did not need God, but could protect themselves by building a tower to reach the heavens and avoid any future calamity the Lord might cause, were a threat to that Plan—so the Lord intervened. Now, in addition, the entire clan of Nimroad were broken up into small groups, each speaking a different tongue (Genesis 11:9).
    From this limited but specific information, it seems difficult to claim that a specific language was spoken by all at one time and up to the confounding of the language. That the immediate prophets within the Priesthood of Noah did for a short time (second generation) does not tell us what the Jaredites spoke at the time of the confounding of the language, certainly they were well past the point in time of Noah's son's children who spoke different tongues (Genesis 10:5).


  1. Del, Thanks for your little discussion of the Adamic language. I think you need to make the giant leap though and use all the clues you have to say definitely that the Adamic language is ancient Hebrew and is the language of God. No there is not a scripture that says definitively this is the case but the clues are all there. I suspect that the Jaredites spoke Hebrew because their language was not changed as it says in the BOM.

    You mentioned the temple ceremony which has 3 words that we are told is the Adamic language and those words are indeed Hebrew =mouth to God. Of course languages change over the years, but ancient Hebrew is the Adamic language. The prayer of Adam to God which was used in the temple ceremony, and which the participants repeated was a very brief three syllables, peh le el. Peh or pah means mouth or lips. Le means toward or to, and el means God. So the phrase means mouth to God. We have to fill in the rest. They interpreted it as an evocation and prayer, “Oh God, hear the words of my mouth.” While this is what it means, it is not what he is saying, except in greatly abbreviated form. We have to fill in some things when we read these names.

    Abraham is generally considered to have spoken Hebrew, and even that he was the first Hebrew speaker. That language and the people were named after Eber, his great great-grandfather, however.

    Abraham spoke the same language as Noah who spoke the only language in the world until the Tower of Babel. This language was spoken continuing from the ten generations from Adam down to Noah. That language was, as I said, Ancient Hebrew. It was spoken by the descendants of Abraham because their language was not confounded at the tower earlier. This is the language they spoke when they left Egypt and entered the Holy Land. The ancient scriptures from Moses down were spoken and written in Hebrew.

    Hebrew became a dead language after the destruction of the Jews in 70 A.D. when they were scattered throughout the world although it was already disappearing. The Greeks had caused the Septuagint Bible to be translated from the Hebrew, however, and that was used for a long time since most of the world, including the Jews, spoke Greek. In the seventh century the Masoretes tried to recover the original Hebrew scriptures. Most had disappeared and they mostly had to rely on the Septuagint to retranslate the language back to Hebrew.

    When the Jews began migrating back to Palestine around the turn of the nineteenth century, some scholars tried to resurrect Hebrew, most notably Eliezar Ben Yehuda. He is generally considered the father of modern Hebrew. When the state of Israel was formed 60 years ago, they adopted Hebrew as the national language and scholars recreated the new language, Modern Hebrew, from Biblical Hebrew which had not been around for over 2000 years. And that is what we have today.

    While there have been some changes, the language is very close to ancient Hebrew because it was created from the ancient Hebrew scriptures and because it had been a dead language and if no one is speaking it, it does not change.

  2. Another example I want to share is from the term Adam-ondi-Ahman. What does it mean? This is something I gleaned from the writings of Dr. Robert Smith a Hebrew scholar. I’ll quote from his commentary on the D&C. Reference D&C 107:53-55 and 116:1 for this discussion.

    From these descriptions, we get some understanding of the place and what the name might mean generally. The quote from D&C 107 seems to imply that when Adam got his posterity together to bless them, the place was already called Adam-ondi-Ahman. Section 116 indicates that the Lord named it that before this original meeting with Adam and his posterity. It is a special place the Lord designated long before the first meeting and six millennia before the great last meeting and council. This is what the Lord means by his having established the foundations of Adam-ondi-Ahman long before.

    Adam, of course, knew the meaning of this term, but the Lord may not have told him until just before the meeting that this was the name of the place. Our people, who spoke Hebrew, have always named things according to their significance. This is the beauty of the language, as we see in this name.

    The first part, Adam, means “man.” In English and most languages, it always means the first man, Adam. But in Hebrew it is man and adam uncapitalized, is merely man. Here, of course, it means the first man, Adam.

    The beauty of Hebrew as I said is that you can make up new words and they can be immediately understood. New words are invented in any language, but then people have to learn the meaning before they can understand and begin using it. Not so in Hebrew. A long time ago, I looked for the word “ondi” in Hebrew but without success. I have never found any such usage either anciently or in more modern Hebrew. But we can look at the word and figure it out quite easily.

    In the first place, it is probably some action because we expect that Adam is doing something here and the last word is also a noun, so there has to be some act. The first thing we notice is the word “on” which I hope is becoming familiar to you. It is the major component of the word Zion. Actually, Zi- is merely a prefix meaning beautiful or desirable. On is the name of the city where Joseph established the first righteous people of the sun, of whom he was the sun or king. Judah was not the ruling tribe at this time. On means the righteous people or the pure in heart. So we recognize the first part of this little word.

    Di- is what gives us the action. Di means to gather together into one body. So if we put them together, we get that Adam gathered his righteous posterity into one body. This is precisely what D&C 107 says as I quoted above. The name describes what is taking place and who is doing it. Adam blessed his posterity there. Afterward, the Lord himself appeared to the group and they all rejoiced and blessed Adam.

    The final word really jumps out at us with its two letters a, one h and an m. A stands for God. The I am. H is also a name for divinity, meaning father or god, and this is why the letters h were added to Abram’s and Sarai’s names making them Abraham and Sarah. M always stands for the Messiah. The letter n means everlasting. If we put them together then, Ahman means the divine, everlasting Messiah and God. Adam-ondi-Ahman then simply means Adam gathered his righteous people together into one group before the Lord or in the presence of the Lord or whatever preposition we want to use. Hebrew often leaves such things out and we understand them.

    Thanks again for the discussion.

  3. Well said. Thank you. My only point is that we do not know that the Adamic language is the only language of Heaven, or of the Celestial Kingdom, etc., or even if it is that language we all spoke in the pre-mortal sphere. We only know that this language is the first language spoken on earth, from God to man. It may hold that these two are one, but my point is we do not know that and I am unaware of anything that tells us that. I suspect that language, to God, is not the same as language to man--we cannot communicate without it, but God can and does. I consider this issue unanswerable at this point in our existence and though I suspect we will all be speaking a single language at some point in time, I don't know what that language is or even if it is anything like the languages we use. I’m not even certain that we will be speaking a single language in the post-mortal life until after the resurrection, etc.

    1. point well taken Del. The one thing I think we can say with certainty though from all the evidence is the language of Adam is Hebrew. These are only clues however but the evidence points to that fact. Personally I believe Hebrew is the language of heaven but as you've pointed out there is no proof of that.

      Great little discussion. Something that can't be explored in great depth HP group meetings. Thanks, Ira