Book of Mormon Nuggets

Supplementing Jeff Lindsay's Book of Mormon Evidences page.

Nugget #7:
Textual Criticism of the Book of Mormon:
More Evidence of Authenticity

Detailed analysis of the Book of Mormon is often needed to really appreciate the meaning and depth of the text. Tools of "textual criticism" that have been applied to gain insight into the Bible also yield similar insights into the Book of Mormon. Work by Robert F. Smith in this area is reported in Chapter 20 of Reexploring the Book of Mormon (ed. John Welch, Deseret Book Comp., Salt Lake City, UT, 1992, pp. 77-79). The following excerpt (pp. 77-78) reveals several subtle evidences of authenticity, beginning with a discussion of variants in Isaiah passages:
At 2 Nephi 20:29, for example, Joseph dictated Ramath instead of the usual "Ramah" of the parallel King James Isaiah 10:29. Indeed, there is no "t" in the Hebrew text, the Greek Septuagint, or even in the Syropalestinian Aramaic version. The "t" appears, however, in the later Jewish Aramaic translation known as Targum Pseudo-Jonathan, as well as in the Christian Syriac Peshitta version. The words there are Ramata and Rameta, respectively (as is also evident in the Old Syriac Rametha for New Testament Arimathea in Matthew 27:57). Neither source was available to Joseph.

Another difference from the KJV came when Joseph was dictating from Isaiah 48:11 in 1 Nephi 20:11. Among other things, Joseph added an "it" that does not appear in the Greek or Hebrew texts. However, the "it" is in one Syriac manuscript, in one Jewish Aramaic Targum manuscript, and in a scribal correction to the large Isaiah Scroll from Qumran Cave One (the latter being the earliest Hebrew text of Isaiah).

King James "Ariel," a poetic term for Jerusalem, is not to be found in the 2 Nephi 27:3 quotation of Isaiah 29:7. However, it is also absent from the Jewish Aramaic Targum - which replaces it with "the City." The Book of Mormon reads Zion instead. This fits well, however, since "Mount Zion" appears at the end of the verse (Isaiah 29:8), and "Zion" and "Mount Zion" parallel each other here.

As noted long ago by the late Professor Sidney B. Sperry, the Jewish Targum and Greek Septuagint texts of Isaiah 2:16 confirm the authenticity of the reading "and upon all the ships of the sea" in 2 Nephi 12:16, even though the line is lacking in the Hebrew and King James texts. fn

At 1 Nephi 7:11, the Original and Printer's Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, as well as the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon, all use the word how, which was changed in the 1837 and all subsequent editions to read what. However, even the King James translators could not decide, in translating a closely similar phrase in 1 Samuel 12:24, whether how or what was a more accurate translation of the Hebrew relative particle 'asher. They thus placed the one in the text and the other in the margin (the reasons for marginal readings are explained at length in the introduction to their 1611 edition of the King James Version). Exactly the same variant readings occur in the texts we have of the Title Page of the Book of Mormon.

There is an interesting confusion between things and words at 2 Nephi 6:8 and 33:4. While the Printer's Manuscript reads things at both locations, all editions (except the 1830 at 2 Nephi 33:4) have changed this to read words. Either variant is a good reading, and the Hebrew word debarim is accurately translated either "things" or "words."

There is much more to the story. For some details on the above-mentioned "ships of the sea" issue in 2 Nephi 12, see my new page, 2 Nephi 12 and the Septuagint: Evidence for Fraud or Authenticity in the Book of Mormon? I think it will be worth the dig; I am especially excited about my discovery, as reported on that page, of another authentic ancient Hebrew poetical form in the Book of Mormon that was only recently recognized and discussed by non-LDS Hebrew scholars, a form called paired tricola. It's a tentative finding but worth further exploration, in my opinion. And for a host of other evidences (Hebraisms and so forth), see Kerry Shirts' (online again at least!) newly restored page on Book of Mormon evidence.

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Created: Aug. 1, 2001. Updated: Oct. 1, 2001.
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