Monday, December 19, 2016

It’s Very Good Hebrew – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the difficulty with the English in Joseph Smith’s translation, but how, unbeknownst to most, excels in Hebrew. Also continuing with the use of the word “and…”
Still another unusual construction using "and" is the Hebrew use of "and also." In this case, English also uses "and" but Hebrew must add "also." In Hebrew this construct, "and also," is used to denote a strong link between two things. Again, this structure is common throughout the Book of Mormon (it occurs 447 times). For example, in 1 Nephi 8:3 "and also" appears twice:
    "And behold, because of the thing which I have seen, I have reason to rejoice in the Lord because of Nephi and also of Sam; for I have reason to suppose that they, and also many of their seed, will be saved."
    It might be said, here, then, that Mark Twain’s complaint about using “and it came to pass” should be taken up with the Hebrew language and not with the Book of Mormon.
    Take, for instance, the “If…and,” which is yet another place where the Hebrew "and" shows up in a strange place. The Hebraic equivalent of the English "if-then" clause is the Hebrew "if-and" clause. This is not found in the current editions of the Book of Mormon, nor is it found anywhere in the English Old Testament. But, it was in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon. For example, this is how Helaman 12:13-21 appeared in that edition:
    "…yea, and if he sayeth unto the earth Move and it is moved; yea, and if he sayeth unto the earth, Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours, and it is done;…And behold, also, if he sayeth unto the waters of the great deep, Be thou dried up, and it is done. Behold, if he sayeth unto this mountain, Be thou raised up, and come over and fall upon that city, that it be buried up and behold it is done…and if the Lord shall say, Be thou accursed, that no man shall find thee from this time henceforth and forever, and behold, no man getteth it henceforth and forever. And behold, if the Lord shall say unto a man, Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be accursed forever, and it shall be done. And if the Lord shall say, Because of thine iniquities thou shalt be cut off from my presence, and he will cause that it shall be so."
[NOTE: Before going on, for those who have been trying to make a point out of how the Lord keeps things hidden, we should always keep in mind that the Lord commands and all the elements obey. If he wants something moved, it moves when he commands it, if he wants something unseen or unknown, his command ensures that, also. The idea of the Great Lakes Theorist claiming the Land of Promise had to be away, “hidden” from passers-by along the coasts of the New World” is utter nonsense. If the Lord does not want it found, he gives the command and it is not found—that is what this statement above in Helaman tells us]
    Now another part of the Hebrew grammar is the parenthetical insert, which though used extensively in English, is never used in Hebrew—which instead uses the “and” character to set off what in English would be a parenthetical phrase or comment. In the English Old Testament, the translation has regularly expressed this using the normal English practice of parentheses and commas (leaving the "and" character untranslated). But, the Book of Mormon, particularly the 1830 edition, used the Hebraic form, usually introducing a parenthetical statement with a now, and ending with and.
    For example, we read in 3 Nephi 12:1, "When Jesus had spoken these words unto Nephi, and to those who had been called, (now…the number of them who had been called, and received power and authority to baptize, was twelve) and…behold, he stretched forth his hand" (keep in mind that the punctuation was inserted by the printer).
An example of the "and…and" construction is found in the 1830 edition of 1 Nephi 10:17, which reads, "…which power was received by faith in the Son of God and…the Son of God was the Messiah who should come and it came to pass…" This is certainly not good English, but it is very good Hebrew.
    Also in Hebrew, the relative pronoun ’ašêr, (used to connect a clause or phrase to a noun or pronoun) and is typically translated as “who, whom, which, whoever, whomever, whichever, and that,” used, by the way, over 5,500 times in the Bible, and was used in place references in the Book of Mormon and has been the most common correction to the 1830 edition. As an example, in the Book of Mormon ’ašêr  was most often translated as “which,” but that was later changed in 891 times to the word “who,” and 66 times to the word “whom.” While “which” was the correct Hebrew translation, it was not the best English translation. As an example, in Alma 46:34, in the 1830 edition read, "Now, Moroni being a man which was appointed by the chief judges…" now reads more accurately in English as "Now, Moroni being a man who was appointed by the chief judges…"
    Another example is the use of the word “that,” where in Hebrew subordinate clauses begin with a preposition plus a word that translates into “that” in English. This results in such redundant English phrases as:
• "And because that they are redeemed from the fall" (2 Nephi 2:26)
• "because that my heart is broken" (2 Nephi 4:32)
    Generally such redundant phrases are eliminated in translation when the translator understands the grammar of both languages, the one being translated, and the one it is being translated into. In the case of Joseph Smith, he would have known very little if anything of Hebrew grammar, and not much more of English grammar, which arguably was not even understood by most American English speaking people of the time.
    Still another area of difference is that Hebrew, unlike English, has very few adverbs, thus the translation, especially the 1830 edition, has numerous prepositional phrases and few adverbs, as one would expect if they keep in mind that it is a translation of Hebrew-thinking and Hebrew-speaking people and not English-speaking people.
Examples would be: “with all diligence” instead of “diligently;” “with much slaughter” instead of “slaughtered;” "in righteousness" instead of "righteously;" "in haste” instead of “hastily;” "of faith" instead of "faithfully;" and "of a surety" instead of "surely."
    And also using prepositional phrases instead of adverbially, like in the use of the Hebrew “harebeh.” John Tvedtnes makes this further observation about Hebrew adverbs: "At least one adjective (harebeh, 'many, exceeding') is used adverbially, but more often a prepositional phrase is used. The Book of Mormon is replete with adverbial usage of the adjective 'exceeding' (as in 'exceeding great joy'--instead of 'exceedingly'--in 1 Nephi 8:12)."
    There is also the Hebraic involving the construct state, or status constructus, which is a noun-form occurring in Asiatic languages, and particularly common in Semitic lanauges (Hebrew as well as Arabic and Syriac).
    In the Hebrew nouns are placed in the construct state when they are modified by another noun in a genitive construction, i.e., a type of grammatical construction used to express a relation between two nouns, such as “Laban’s sword” (the “head noun” is "Laban," the dependent noun is "sword"), and in English, the head noun is given first, whereas in Hebrew, it follows the dependent noun, as in “the Sword of Laban.” This is seen in 1 Nephi 3:1, where Nephi writes that he “returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.” In English, we would place the head noun (father) first, and the dependent noun (tent) following or last, i.e., "to my father's tent."
    Thus we see in Hebrew the odd-sounding “skin of blackness,” “state of happiness,” “wrath of God,” “plates of brass,” "Sword of Laban,” and “words of plainness,” instead of the more proper sounding in English: “black skin,” “happy state,” “God’s wrath,” “brass plates,” “Laban’s sword,” and “plain words.” This is simply another Hebraism that shows the authenticity of the Book of Mormon since in Hebrew prepositions are commonly used to produce adverbs such as “with joy” instead of “joyfully.”
All of these are merely additional examples of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon that obviously bear out that the book is exactly what Joseph Smith claimed it to be—a translation of an ancient record of a Hebrew people.
(See the next post, “It’s Very Good Hebrew – Part III,” for more on how the Book of Mormon fails in English but excels in Hebrew.

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