Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Knowing How to Learn the Truth – Part V

Continued from the previous post regarding how theorists misstate the obvious when comparing or referring to the scriptural record and how it relates to understanding a specific meaning of the ancient writer’s description and narrative.
    This is seen in Nephi’s description of the events of Lehi’s landing: “And it came to pass that after we had sailed for the space of many days we did arrive at the promised land; and we went forth upon the land, and did pitch our tents; and we did call it the promised land. And it came to pass that we did begin to till the earth, and we began to plant seeds; yea, we did put all our seeds into the earth, which we had brought from the land of Jerusalem. And it came to pass that they did grow exceedingly; wherefore, we were blessed in abundance. And it came to pass that we did find upon the land of promise, as we journeyed in the wilderness, that there were beasts in the forests of every kind, both the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat, and all manner of wild animals, which were for the use of men. And we did find all manner of ore, both of gold, and of silver, and of copper” (1 Nephi 18:23-25).
    Thus, in the complete writing, we find that these four events were inter-connected without time delay involved:
1. They reached promised land;
2. They landed and pitched tents;
3. They tilled and planted seeds and harvested crops;
4. They traveled around their settlement and discovered animals, a forest, and precious metal ores.
    These four statements are connected with a “vav,” or “veyehi,” a Hebrew connecting link, which shows their successive connection and are used to signal the beginning of a new narrative, or beginning a new passage in a narrative, or to introduce a new element into the main narrative thread (Lászió T. Simon, Identity and Identification: An Exegetical and Theological Study, Gregorian Biblical Bookshop, Rome, Italy, 2000).
In Hebrew, the word “veyehi,” (”wa-yuh-HEE”), is the combining of “vav” (and) with “yehi,” (it was, it became, it existed, or it happened) we get vayehi (wa-yuh-HEE), וַיֶּ֑ה, a common sentence starter in Hebrew. Literally, it means “and it was,” or, in the parlance of the older English translators, "and it came to pass,” which can be translated as “and then this happened,” and is used to connect two ideas or events.
    That is, Lehi landed, and then this happened, they came up forth on the land and pitched their tents, and then this happened, they tilled the ground and planted their seed, and then this happened, they journeyed around their settlement and discovered a forest full of animals and found gold, silver and copper in the ground.
    That is, the initial letter “vav” is the conjunction “and,” while “yehi” is the third person singular masculine (Hebrew has no neuter gender for words) past tense conjugation of the verb “to be.” Hebrew does not actually state the verb “to be,” usually; so its presence in a sentence, especially at the beginning, is just an idiom, a cliche phrase, indicating the beginning of a new narrative, or a transition point in an existing narrative.
    In fact, “and it came to pass,” appears some 727 times in the King James Version of the Old Testament (it actually appears 1204 times, but the other listings are often translated simply as “and”). The expression “and it came to pass” is rarely found in Hebrew poetic, literary, or prophetic writings. Most often, it appears in the Old Testament narratives, such as the books by Moses recounting the history of the children of Israel. It is found in ancient Hebrew, Middle-Eastern, or Egyptian historical writings.
How many times “It Came to Pass” appears in the various books of the 1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon (for a total of 1476 times); including the percentage of phrases it appears in; and the average rate of occurrences per words

As in the Old Testament, the expression in the Book of Mormon (where it appears some 1,476 times) occurs in the narrative selections and is clearly missing in the more literary parts, such as the psalm of Nephi (2 Nephi 4:20-25); the direct speeches of King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma, and Jesus Christ; and the several epistles. The reason why “and it came to pass” appears more frequently in the Book of Mormon than in the Bible is that the King James Version translators did not always render “wayehi” as “and it came to pass.” Instead, they were at liberty to draw from a multitude of similar expressions, such as “and it happened,” “and it became,” “and it was.” In Hebrew, the term is used to begin a section or an idea and is a very common word. As an example, “veyehi bimay,” means “and it happened in the days…” (Vayehi Bimay Lehi” = “it came to pass in the days of Lehi”). Or “wayehi ‘ereb,” “and it was evening.”
    It should also be noted, in understanding this phrase, that ancient writing systems like Hebrew had no punctuation, and the policy of indenting the beginning of paragraphs became standard only in the 17th century. Ancient writers, therefore, devised symbols to indicate where words or ideas stopped and new ones began. As a result, the word or term or symbol representing “weyehi” was used by the ancient Book of Mormon writers exactly as it should be in Hebrew writing, as a structural marker to give order to the text and let the reader know to transist to a new or connecting thought. It is similar to the English “and then,” and “later.”
    We also find in the word “vav” (waw), meaning the connecting word “and,” sometimes written ‘vav hachibur,” meaning “the vav of connection,” that is “and.” It is frequently used as a prefix to words to mean “and” in the sense of adding things together. As a result, whether using vayehi or was/vav, the meaning is the same—connecting to words or two ideas together.
    To see this in a different light, yet still indicate the connecting ideas in a single verse, we find: “And it came to pass that when Lehonti received the message he durst not go down to the foot of the mount. And it came to pass that Amalickiah sent again the second time, desiring him to come down. And it came to pass that Lehonti would not; and he sent again the third time” (Alma 47:11). This illustrates the connecting purpose of “and it came to pass” where it could just as well have been translated as “and.” In each case, including the entire story line of this event covering verses 9-20, “it came to pass is used” is used 12 times in 12 verses, 3 times in verse 11. In each instance, a new sentence, or event is represented. There is no time elapse in these events, just a change in thinking from one person to another, or from one event to another.
Thus we read in the Book of Mormon when Nephi wrote the four thoughts mentioned above regarding what happened following their landing, these four events took place (\
1. Sailing;
2. Landing/pitching tents;
3. Tilling/planting/harvesting;,
4. Walking around/discovering.
    And in the original manuscript this is how they are presented, in a continuous manner without time delay, much like we might say today: “We found the house we wanted, put a down payment, signed the documents, and moved in.” While those events might have been spaced over a month or two, it is still a process of events that followed one another without a change in meaning or setting.
(See the next post, “Knowing How to Learn the Truth – Part VI,” for more on the original text of the Book of Mormon and how it affects our understanding of the scriptural record)

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