Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Authentic Egyptian Names in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon claims a close tie to all things Egyptian (1 Nephi 1:1-2, Mosiah 1:2-4). Indeed, the very script that Mormon used in abridging the plates was, according to him, an Egyptian script called amongst the Nephite scribes "reformed Egyptian" (Mormon 9:32). Because of this, and considering that 1) Lehi was a descendant of Joseph of Egypt (1 Nephi 5:14) and 2) Egypt had a strong cultural and religious connection with Israel during Lehi's time, we should not be surprised to find strong Egyptian influences amongst the peoples of the Book of Mormon.

One such influence can be seen in the names of several people in the Book of Mormon. These names, as have been noted by Latter-day Saint scholars, are authentic ancient Egyptian names. The following comes from Dr. Hugh Nibley's classic work Lehi in the Desert (pages 25-30) and can be accessed online on the website of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.

Aha (BM), son of Nephite commander in chief.
Aha (OW), a name of the first Pharaoh; it means "warrior" and is a common word.

Aminadab (BM), Nephite missionary in time of the judges.
Amanathabi (OW), chief of a Canaanite city under Egyptian domination. The name is "reformed" Egyptian.

Ammon (BM), the commonest name in the Book of Mormon.
Ammon (Amon, Amun) (OW), the commonest name in the Egyptian Empire: the great universal God of the Empire.

Ammoni-hah (BM), name of a country and city.
Ammuni-ra (OW), prince of Beyrut under Egyptian rule.

Cezoram (BM), Nephite chief judge.
Chiziri (OW), Egyptian governor of a Syrian city.

Giddonah (BM), a) high priest who judge Korihor, b) father of Amulek.
Dji-dw-na (OW), the Egyptian name for Sidon.

Gidgiddoni and Gidgiddonah (BM), Nephite generals.
Djed-djhwt-iw-f and Djed-djhwti-iw-s plus ankh (OW), Egyptian proper names meaning "Thoth hath said: he shall live," and "Thoth hath said: she shall live," respectively. On this pattern the two Nephite names mean "Thoth hath said I shall live," and "Thoth hath said: we shall live," respectively.

Gimgim-no (BM), city of Gimgim, compare Biblical No-Amon, "City of Amon."
Kenkeme (OW), Egyptian city, cf. Kipkip, seat of the Egyptian dynasty in Nubia.

Hem (BM), brother of the earlier Ammon.
Hem (OW), means "servant," specifically of Ammon, as in the title Hem tp n 'Imn, "chief servant of Ammon" held by the high priest of Thebes.

Helaman (BM), great Nephite prophet.
Her-amon (OW), "in the presence of Amon," as in the Egyptian proper name Heri-i-her-imn. Semitic "l" is always written "r" in Egyptian, which has no "l." Conversely, the Egyptian "r" is often written "l" in Semitic languages.

Himni (BM), a son of King Mosiah.
Hmn (OW), a name of the Egyptian hawk-god, symbol of the emperor.

Korihor (BM), a political agitator who was seized by the people of Ammon.
Kherihor (also written Khurhor, etc.) (OW), great high priest of Ammon who seized the throne of Egypt at Thebes, cir. 1085 B.C.

Manti (BM), the name of a Nephite soldier, a land, a city, and a hill.
Manti (OW), Semitic form of an Egyptian proper name, e.g., Manti-mankhi, a prince in Upper Egypt cir. 650 B.C. It is a late form of Month, god of Hermonthis.

Morianton (BM), the name of a Nephite city and its founder, cf. the Nephite province Moriantum.
Meriaton and Meriamon (OW), names of Egyptian princes, "Beloved of Aton" and "Beloved of Amon" respectively.

Nephi (BM), founder of the Nephite nation.
Nehi, Nehri (OW), famous Egyptian noblemen. Nfy was the name of an Egyptian captain. Since BM insists on "ph," Nephi is closer to Nihpi, original name of the god Pa-nepi, which may even have been Nephi. (Note: I have covered the name "Nephi" in an earlier post. See "Some Notes on the Name Nephi".)

Paanchi (BM), son of Pahoran, Sr., and pretender to the chief-judgeship.
Paanchi (OW), son of Kherihor, a) chief high priest of Amon, b) ruler of the south who conquered all of Egypt and was high priest of Amon at Thebes.

Pahoran (BM), a) great chief judge, b) son of the same.
Pa-her-an (OW), ambassador of Egypt in Palestine, where his name has the "reformed" reading Pahura; in Egyptian as Pa-her-y it means "the Syrian" or Asiatic.

Pacumeni (BM), son of Pahoran.
Pakamen (OW), Egyptian proper name meaning "blind man"; also Pamenches (Gk. Pachomios), commander of the south and high priest of Horus.

Pachus (BM), revolutionary leader and usurper of the throne.
Pa-ks and Pach-qs (OW), Egyptian proper name. Compare Pa-ches-i, "he is praised."

Sam (BM), brother of Nephi.
Sam Tawi (OW), Egyptian "uniter of the lands," title taken by the brother of Nehri upon mounting the throne.

Zemna-ri-hah (BM), robber chief.
Zmn-ha-re (OW), Egyptian proper name: the same elements as the above in different order—a common Egyptian practice.

Zeniff (BM), ruler of Nephite colony.
Znb, Snb (OW), very common elements in Egyptian proper names, cf. Senep-ta.

Zenoch (BM), according to various Nephite writers, an ancient Hebrew prophet.
Zenekh (OW), Egyptian proper name; once a serpent-god.

The reader must remember that in Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Egyptian, vowels do no exist, and thus the more important factor are the consonant roots, which are spot on in the names of these figures in the Book of Mormon and other Egyptian names. Furthermore, the presence of a variation in vowels in these names is, as Nibley notes, "...strong confirmation of their common origin, since names are bound to undergo some change with time and distance, whereas if the resemblance were perfect, we should be forced to attribute it, however fantastic it might seem, to mere coincidence. There must be differences; and what is more, those differences should not be haphazard but display definite tendencies. This brings us to a most impressive aspect of Book of Mormon names."

In summation, the presence of Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon is not only something that should create appreciation on behalf of the reader for the context from whence the Book of Mormon came (i.e. the ancient Near East) but is also strong evidence of its antiquity. Egyptian was not understood in Joseph Smith's antebellum America. Indeed, only a select few scholars in Europe could barely read Egyptian. For Joseph Smith to get any authentic Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon if he were simply writing it is beyond credulity. The presence of Egyptian names in the Book of Mormon can force only one conclusion: that whoever wrote the Book of Mormon was familiar with an ancient Near Eastern background.

For further reading, see the following: