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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Some Notes on the Name Sariah

In a few previous posts, I have discussed how the names Alma and Nephi, to name a few, are authentic ancient names from the Near East. The name Alma, for example, has been discovered in the Bar Kokhba texts as being a male Semitic name, and the name Nephi is attested in Egyptian texts. 

This morning, as I was browsing through some books of mine, I came across an interesting essay in the book Pressing Forward with the Book of Mormon. It was written by Jeffry R. Chadwick of BYU and is entitled Sariah in the Elephantine Papyri (pages 6-10). In this essay, Chadwick notes how the Book of Mormon name Sariah has also been discovered in ancient texts from Egypt. He writes that "The reference to Sariah of Elephantine is found in Aramaic Papyrus #22 (also called Cowley #22 or C–22) and appears in Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. Although the language of the documents is Aramaic, A. E. Cowley specifies that the names are in fact Hebrew.1 Line 4 of C–22 lists the personal name, transliterated śry[h br]t hwś' br rmn. The probable vocalization is Sariah barat Hoshea bar arman, and the text means "Sariah daughter of Hoshea son of arman.""

Chadwick further notes that the Elaphantine papyrus was not discovered until 1903, so there is no possible way that Joseph Smith could have had access to it. Furthermore, Chadwick discusses how the name Sariah, while normally a masculine name in Hebrew, has been verified as a feminine name. Much like the name Alma, this name breaks the gender barrier and has been shown to be both a male and female name. 

Although this is by no means proof of the Book of Mormon's authenticity, this evidence of the authenticity of the name Sariah as an ancient Semitic feminine name is just another piece of the puzzle that fits the Book of Mormon right at home in the ancient Near East. 

To read the full article, see here: http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=&chapid=619