Wednesday, December 21, 2016

It’s Very Good Hebrew – Part IV

Continuing from the previous post regarding the difficulty with the English grammar in Joseph Smith’s translation, but how, unbeknownst to most, excels in Hebrew grammar. We have pointed this out and continue to point it out in this post that not only is the Book of Mormon an authentic book of what it proclaims to be, an English translation of an ancient work by Hebrew-speaking and Hebrew-writing people (recorded in Reformed Egyptian), but it should convey to those who try to bend or alter its meaning from north-south to east-west, or from other alterations that the way the book is written and its many meanings are verifiable with a certain knowledge of Hebrew adding to our better understanding of Mormon’s abridgement of the several ancient writers. 
    As an example, in Hebrew there is no equivalent for the normal English phrasing of comparisons, such as “she is more beautiful,” “he is stronger,” “Joey is much shorter,” or “they are better suited, richer, or kinder,” etc.
Instead, of using more, or better, taller, smarter, etc., Hebrew uses the term “above all” (מעל הכל) a phrase that is quite familiar to Book of Mormon readers since it appears 35 times in the current edition. Phrases such as: "choice above all other lands" (2 Nephi 1:5); "sweet, above all that I ever before tasted" (1 Nephi 8:11); “desirable above all other fruit” (1 Nephi 8:12,15), and “for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all” (1 Nephi 11:6), as well as “shown unto me the tree which is precious above all” (1 Nephi 11:9), and “most beautiful and fair above all other virgins” (1 Nephi 11:15). It is used even in the negative, “formation of a church which is most abominable above all other churches” (1 Nephi 13:5). There are numerous verses which state that this land is choice “above all” other lands (2 Nephi 1:5; 10:19). In 1 Nephi 13:30, “above all” occurs twice in one sentence: "and have been lifted up by the power of God above all other nations, upon the face of the land; and in Alma 32:42, it occurs three times in one sentence: “sweet above all that is sweet…white above all that is white…pure above all that is pure.”
    Also, in Hebrew, the words translated into English as "in" and "to" are sometimes interchangeable in Hebrew sentence structure. Could this explain an interesting "error" in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon? In that edition, 1 Nephi 7:12 read, "Let us be faithful in him."
    In addition, Hebrew, unlike English, consists of verbs immediately followed by a noun derived from the same root, called “cognate accusative.” In English it would be like saying, “He helped me a with a great deal of help,” but such repetition is considered poor grammar, and would be more proper to say, “He gave me a great deal of help,” yet in Semitic languages it is considered good style, as in: “The watch ticked twice,” “Be patient, a beautiful patience,” “the thief was whipped ten whips,” or “his head inclined a full inclination.”
In the Book of Mormon, we find numerous uses of “cognate accusative” language, such as "they are cursed with a sore cursing," instead of “sorely cursed”; "work all manner of fine work" instead of “do fine work”; “he did judge righteous judgments" instead of “judge righteously”; "Behold I have dreamed a dream" instead of “I had a dream”; and "taxed with a tax" Instead of “taxed.’ In Hebrew, such use is for emphasis—after all, “I have had a vision,” simply does not convey as much emphasis as, “Behold, I have dreamed a dream.”
    In English, we create emphasis on a word by stressing the first syllable of a key word; lowering the pitch on a word from the previous level; speaking a key word more slowly; stretching a vowel sound; pausing after the word is spoken; or accompanying a word stated with body language. However, none of these work in written language, and other than italics, bolden, or all caps, there are few ways to emphasize a written word other than stating it as such, while in Hebrew, the cognate accusative accomplishes that fact quite easily. All of which adds to the case for authenticity of the Book of Mormon and that it is what it claims to be, an authentic work of an ancient Hebrew text and there are so many Hebraisms to point that out if you know what you are reading.
Consider these other Hebraisms that point out the correctness of the Book of Mormon, which holds consistently true to the Hebrew method in all things:
Numerals: we hyphenate numbers in English as in twenty-five, sixty-two, but in Hebrew, the word “and” is used as the joiner, such as “twenty and five,” sixty-and two.”
Compound subject: when one speaks of himself or others in proper English, the reference to the speaker should always come last. In Hebrew, this is reversed. Thus, "my brother and I" would be "I and my brother,” “my uncle, aunt and me ate together,” would be “Me and my uncle and my aunt ate together,” or “My mother, brother and I went to the store, and she bought a dog for my brother and me," would be “I and my mother and brother went to the store and she bought a dog for me and my brother.”
Repeated prepositions: in Hebrew when a preposition refers to multiple objects, it is usual for the preposition to be repeated with the mention of each object. In English we might say, "I was pleased with the work of Tom, Dick, and Harry." In Hebrew this would be: "I was pleased with the work of Tom, and of Dick, and of Harry." It might even be: ". . . the work of Tom, and the work of Dick, and the work of Harry." This can be seen in 2 Samuel 6:5, where we read, "Even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals." This construction is also common in the Book of Mormon.
For example, in Lehi's instruction to his son, Jacob (2 Nephi 2:5), he says: "And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever." “And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance“ (2 Nephi 5:15).
Compound prepositions: while rare in the English Bible, the Hebrew compound preposition is found throughout the Book of Mormon. Here are some examples: by the hand of your enemies instead of "by your enemy's hand"; by the mouth of all the prophets instead of "said by all the prophets"; or "by the prophet's mouth"; “down into the land of Nephi instead of "down to Nephi," or "down to the land of Nephi"; fled from before my presence instead of "fled from me," or "fled from my presence."
Name the name: in 1 Nephi 2:8, the following appears: "And it came to pass that he called the name of the river, Laman. . . . " In English, we would ordinarily expect to read "he called the river Laman," or "he named the river Laman." However, in both Hebrew and Arabic the construction of this phrase would be similar to the cognate accusative: "he named…the name." This construction is seen throughout the Book of Mormon. Almost always it's the name that is named.
Prophetic Perfect: in Hebrew there is no past, present or future—an action is either completed or uncompleted, thus they have only called the perfect (when speaking of the past) and the imperfect (when speaking of the future) tense. Yet in Hebrew, there is an exception to this rule and that involves prophetic matters, which has been labeled “prophetic perfect.”
This occurs when a prophet will describe a future event as if it had already occurred, such as when Isaiah said: "For unto us a child is born. In the Book of Mormon this pattern is followed from beginning to end as Nephite prophets continually speak of Christ as if he had already come. They continually speak of the atonement as if it had already occurred. They continually speak as if they were Hebrew prophets.
• In Hebrew, two nouns alone can form a complete sentence, such as “Jesus God,” “Moses man,” “David king.” However, in English an indefinite article (a coupler or determiner) is required, such as “Jesus is God,” “Moses is a man,” “David is king.” So while “Moses man,” is good Hebrew, but poor English, “Moses is a man” is good English but unnecessary Hebrew.
(See the next post, “It’s Very Good Hebrew – Part V,” for more on how the Book of Mormon fails in English but excels in Hebrew.


  1. “The watch ticked twice”. Would the semitic form instead read as "The watch ticked two ticks"? I understand the other examples, but can't wrap my mind around this one.

  2. The watch ticked with two ticks