Thursday, December 22, 2016

It’s Very Good Hebrew – Part V

Continuing from the previous post regarding the difficulty with the English in Joseph Smith’s translation, but how, unbeknownst to most, excels in Hebrew. 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, but it should convey to those who try to bend or alter its meaning, 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 eample, and generally speaking, nouns in Hebrew have gender, they can be masculine or feminine, they also have number, they can refer to one thing (singular) or more than one thing (plural)—however exceptions do occur, such as in Eloheim, which is a masculine noun in plural form, but singular in meaning.
Plural forms: the plural form of Hebrew would seem strange and equivocal to most of English-speaking people. As an example, Hebrew plural masculine nouns always end in the same ending, while plural female nouns always end in a different ending:
Now, in Hebrew, there are words that are always plural, such as: hayyim ("lives"); samayim ("heavens"); mayim ("waters"). This comes from the original meaning of –ayim added to a word ending (suffix), which makes it a “pair,” as in “ears,” “eyes,” “hands,” “arms,” “legs,” etc. On the other hand, some words, like head, mouth, tongue, and voice are generally singular, even when referring to more than one person.
Plural amplification: in addition, Hebrew uses plural often to show emphasis on a word, such as: “there shall be bloodsheds” (2 Nephi 1:12); “the understandings of the children of men” (Mosiah 8:20); “great condescensions unto the children of men” (Jacob 4:7) labor with their mights (Jacob 5:72); “great slaughters with the sword” (1 Nephi 12:2). Thus, in Hebrew, rather than to bolden a word or italicize it for emphasis, the word is made plural. This is seen in: "I did exhort them with all the energies of my soul" (1 Nephi 15:25); "and did reap with your mights" (Alma 26:5 - 1830 edition); "by the voice of his angels" (Alma 10:20, 21); "by the mouth of his holy prophets" (2 Nephi 9:2).
Plural form: in Hebrew plurals are sometimes used to show importance of a word, such as in the name Yerushalayim, which is plural ofJerusalem,” and rendered in the plural by adding the plural –ayim suffix to the name, which is for the same reason that a proper noun is capitalized in English. Thus, in Hebrew, Yerushalayim is pluralized to show the importance of the nation’s capital, which is also capitalized like in English for a proper noun.
    On the other hand, "Samaria" is spelled Shamrayin in Aramaic but called Shomron in Hebrew, and the Hebrew Mitzrayim is Mtzrm in Phoenician, we may conclude that these place names do not actually denote a pair, or being given emphasis, but rather they are transliterations from foreign languages and the –ayim is simply from the original name.
    Such usage of plural for various purposes is so far from English usage that any translator whose primary language was English would be expected to convert these plurals to standard English form; however, if this translator had limited education, perhaps not sufficiently familiar with his mother tongue to even compose an intelligible letter, then what? In the case of the Book of Mormon, Joseph simply read what he saw in the words of the record and his educated, yet humble, scribe, Oliver, just wrote as he was told. So we have:
Conditional clause: there is a frequent expression in the Book of Mormon that does not fit English speech pattern but makes complete sense in Hebrew. In English, one might say “If you come, then I will come,” with the word “then” an optional inclusion, but in Hebrew such a conditional clause would be stated: “If you come and I will come,” which does not make sense in English. There are fourteen such Hebrew conditional clauses in the Book of Mormon.
Circumstantial (Hāl or Qal) clause: is a special kind of Semitic construction that allows one to indicate that the action (or event or state) mentioned in the hāl clause is occurring at the same time as the action (or event or state) mentioned in the main clause. As an example, in the beginning of his record, Nephi uses the circumstantial clause four times in the very first sentence: “I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days” (1 Nephi 1:1, emphasis mine). This allows the writer to state and the reader to understand several things about the writer in a single introduction. Very typically Hebrew, but not English, Nephi gives us a lot of information about himself during the course of his stating what was going on in a storyline form.
    Stated differently, English employs structures like after/since; I have/had eaten, while Hebrew and Egyptian often employ Hāl- clauses, for which the structure having eaten is the most efficient translation, since a Hāl-clause does not need conjunctions like after/since and is tenseless, showing only its relative time as preceding the featured event or as a perfect aspect (past) relative to the main event.
This, again, is seen in: “I, Nephi, being exceedingly young” (1 Nephi 2:16); “I, Nephi, being a man large in stature” (1 Nephi, 4:31); “I, Nephi, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (1 Nephi 7:8); “I, Nephi, having been afflicted with my brethren because of their having hardened their hearts…” (1 Nephi 16:21), or the case of Lehi, “cast himself upon his bed being overcome with the Spirit” (1 Nephi 1:7). Obviously, the background information or accompanying circumstance quite naturally precedes the featured event in order for it to be an attending circumstance or background. For example, Nephi's having been born of goodly parents, having seen afflictions, and having had knowledge of the goodness of God were all prior events that created a background still in effect when he made his record.
    A certain man, being called Amlici, he being a very cunning man, yea, a wise man as to the wisdom of the world, he being after the order of a man that slew Gideon by the sword who was executed according to the law—now this Amlici had, by his cunning drawn away much people after him” (Alma 2:1-2). In this case, the three being participial phrases add background information or accompanying circumstances and are thus a prime language environment for hāl-clauses in Semitic or the Hebrew language. This is also found in the Old Testament, such as “When God began to create heaven and earththe earth being unformed and void, with darkness [being] over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the waterGod said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light” (Genesis 1:1-3); compare to the KJV in English in which the translators converted the Hebrew circumstantial clauses into simply and-clauses: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light" (Genesis 1:1-3).
    This latter shows how the English conversion of the hāl-clause to “and”-clauses undermines the critics claims that Joseph Smith merely copied out of the Bible his Old Testament (Brass Plates) quotes, because the translators rendered circumstantial clauses inconspicuous. There would have been no way Joseph Smith could have known that and made the conversion with his minimal knowledge of Hebrew at the time.
(See the next post, “It’s Very Good Hebrew – Part VI,” for more on how the Book of Mormon fails in English but excels in Hebrew.

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