Friday, August 21, 2009

Joseph the Seer—or Why Did He Translate With a Rock in His Hat?

From the ever erudite Brant Gardner comes this watershed article on the question of the translation process that Joseph Smith used in translating the Book of Mormon. A MUST read!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's All Greek To Me! On Greek Words and Names in the Book of Mormon

A standard criticism by anti-Mormons against the Book of Mormon is in regards to the presence of Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon. From Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry to Richard Packham of the Ex-Mormon Foundation, the critics make merry over the fact that there are Greek names such as Timothy and Lanchoneus in the Book of Mormon as well as Greek words like "Church", "Baptism", "Christ" and "Bible". Obviously these are blunders for the ignorant knave Joseph Smith, they inform us, and clear evidence against the Book of Mormon's authenticity.

But are Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon really hazardous to the claims of the Book of Mormon? Let us explore this criticism a little further. As shall be clear by the end of this post, there is no problem with the presence of Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon.

Timothy & Lanchoneus

Hugh Nibley put this silly accusation to bed ages ago.

The occurrence of the names Timothy and Lachoneus in the Book of Mormon is strictly in order, however odd it may seem at first glance. Since the fourteenth century B.C. at latest, Syria and Palestine had been in constant contact with the Aegean world, and since the middle of the seventh century Greek mercenaries and merchants, closely bound to Egyptian interests (the best Egyptian mercenaries were Greeks), swarmed throughout the Near East. Lehi's people...could not have avoided considerable contact with these people in Egypt and especially in Sidon, which Greek poets even in that day were celebrating as the great world center of trade. It is interesting to note in passing that Timothy is an Ionian name, since the Greeks in Palestine were Ionians (hence the Hebrew name for Greeks: "Sons of Javanim"), and—since "Lachoneus" means "a Laconian"—that the oldest Greek traders were Laconians, who had colonies in Cyprus (BM Akish) and of course traded with Palestine.[1]

[R]emember...that in Lehi's day Palestine was swarming with Greeks, important Greeks. Remember, it was Egyptian territory [prior to being seized by Babylon] at that time and Egyptian culture. The Egyptian army, Necho's army, was almost entirely Greek mercenaries. We have inscriptions from that very time up the Nile at Aswan-inscriptions from the mercenaries of the Egyptian army, and they're all in Greek. So Greek was very common, and especially the name Timotheus.[2]

Thus, as explained by Nibley, there was a known Greek influence and presence in the Levant by the time of Lehi. Thus, there is nothing out of order with the presence of Greek names in the Book of Mormon.

Greek Words

But what of the presence of Greek words in the Book of Mormon? Richard Packham quotes Joseph Smith in the Time and Seasons to demonstrate that the presence of Greek words in the Book of Mormon are a problem for the book's claimed historicity:

There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself.[3]

However, this is fallacious reasoning for several reasons. The first and most important thing we must remember is that the Book of Mormon is a translation. Thus, as such, it would be foolish to think that the Greco-English words that appear in the text such as "Christ", "Church", "Bible", etc. were on the original plates. As the Prophet continues to note, the underlying script of the Book of Mormon was "reformed Egyptian" (Mormon 9:32). Accordingly, the script of the Book of Mormon seems to be the usage of Egyptian characters to express and write Hebrew words. Thus, there wasn't any Greek words on the plates but in the translation of the plates. This is an important difference. As Irish biblical scholar Robert Boylan explains,

The Book of Mormon purports to be a translation. Therefore, it stands to reason that the language into which it was translated is not the language from which, according to its very own claims, it was translated. The fact that Joseph Smith used words with a Greek etymology (e.g., “Christ”) does not mean that the word “Christ” was on the very plates of the Book of Mormon. For someone with a long career in languages, Packham really should know better.[4]

This applies as well for the other words in Greek that the critics point to as "problems" for the Book of Mormon. Take the popular target "Christ". The Greek Christos is nothing more or less than the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Mashiach. Both are nouns meaning "anointed one" and both carry the connotation of the two English synonyms Christ and Messiah.[5]

"Bible" is from the Greek Biblios, or books, is equivalent to the Hebrew Cepher.

"Church", from the Greek Ekklesia, is comparable to the Hebrew Qahal. Alfred Edersheim explaines:

Nor would the term 'Church' sound strange in Jewish ears. The same Greek word [ecclesia], as the equivalent of the Hebrew Qahal, 'convocation,' 'the called,' occurs in the Septuagint rendering of the Old Testament, and in 'the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach' (Ecclus, 24.2) and was apparently in familiar use at the time.[6]

"Alpha and Omega" is another Greek phrase used in the Book of Mormon that the critics criticize. However, the ever erudite Robert Boylan has once again offered a succinct rebuttal to this accusation:

“Alpha and Omega” in the Book of Mormon is an accepted English expression and we may view it as the best way of conveying the meaning of a certain Nephite expression to English readers. The purpose of a translation is to transmit meanings, not words. “Alpha and Omega” makes more sense and is more recognizable to English readers than the Hebraic equilivant “Alepha and Taw.”[7]

By now it should be obvious the point I am trying to make. The presence of Greek names and words in the Book of Mormon are not harmful to its claims of authenticity. The attestation of Greek influence in Lehi's day has been documented. Further, because the Book of Mormon is a translation, the presence of these Greco-English words can be attributed to Joseph Smith best approximating the words in reformed Egyptian to words that he understood and was familiar with. Those who insist otherwise are either ignorant of how translations work, desperate anti-Mormons, or both.


[1]: Hugh Nibley, Collected Works of Hugh Nible volume 5, Lehi in the Deseret/The World of the Jaredites/There Were Jaredites, eds. John W. Welch, Darrell L. Matthew, Stephen R. Callister (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 31.

[2]: Hugh Nibley, Teachings of the Book of Mormon (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1993), 1:431. Both of these citations can also be found on the FAIR wiki. Link here. LDS Irish biblical scholar Robert Boylan reminds us that the name "Timothy’s Hebrew equilivant is Heqar’el, meaning God-fearer. However, for transaltion purposes and style, the Prophet used “Timothy” because of the familiarity of the name in our culture." See Robert Boylan, "Linguistics and Mormonism", found online here.

[3]: "Correspondence", Times and Seasons, May 15, 1943, vol. 4, no, 13, 194.

[4]: Boylan, "Linguistics and Mormonism".

[5]: For a general discussion, see the entry under "Messiah" in Dennis L. Largey, ed., The Book of Mormon Reference Companion (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2003), 536

[6]: Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Hendrickson Publ., Peabody, Mass., 1993, pp. 531-532. Found online here.

[7]: Boylan, "Linguistics and Mormonism".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: The Holy Bible & Mormonism

Here is a book review I have written on a book by Christopher Mills entitled The Holy Bible & Mormonism. Feel free to download the PDF and read it, send copies to friends, etc.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kerry Shirts FAIR Conference Videos

Kerry Shirts filmed a number of people at the FAIR Conference, including yours truly, in connection to a number of subjects. The most prominent subject in his interviews was about the Book of Mormon. He spoke with Scott Woodward, Brant Gardner, Daniel C. Peterson and myself concerning Book of Mormon topics. Here are the videos for your enjoyment.

P.s. for those who wish to see some notes taken on the conference presentations, head on over the Blair Hodge's "Life on Gold Plates" website.

And now for the videos:

*Note that the portion of Dan Peterson speaking about the Book of Mormon starts at around 4 minutes into the below video.*

Saturday, August 8, 2009

FAIR Conference Pics!

These are the pics I took at the FAIR Conference. Hope you like 'em!

Kevin Barney, Blair Hodges and Mike Parker are happy for a successful conference.

Me with Greg Smith and Blair Hodges.

And now just the two.

Roger Nicholson is this year's John Taylor Defender of the Faith Award winner for his work on the FAIR wiki.

Brant Gardner with Blair Hodges

Paul McNabb, FAIR auctioneer, ruined my chances of winning a 16 volume set of the FARMS Review for way cheap. Thanks a lot Paul!

Scott Gordon with Richard Berghammer

Allen Wyatt with Scott Gordon. They are Vice-President and President of FAIR, respectively.

Matt Roper speaking with Brant Gardner and Dan Peterson at lunch.

Kerry Shirts interviews Dan Peterson for a new Youtube video.

Kevin Barney has some amazing research on a number of topics. From the scriptures to theology to LDS history, Kevin is a true renaissance man of apologetics.

Tyler Livingston, Dan Peterson, Brant Gardner and myself.

Now with Kerry Shirts.

The Three Stooges of Mormon apologetics.

Jan Anderson, Juliann Reynolds and Sharon Blackburn prove that apologetics isn't just for dudes.

Me with John Gee. Professor Gee is a walking Egyptological encyclopedia, and I greatly enjoy reading his works and speaking with him on what his new research is revealing about the Book of Abraham.

Brant Gardner takes time from writing/presenting more amazing research on the Book of Mormon to take a picture with one of his undying acolytes.

Matt Brown, the self-proclaimed indentured servant of Covenant Books, smiles with me for the camera. Anything written by this man is worth its weight in gold.

John Lynch, one of the head honchos at FAIR, smiles for the camera.

Blair Hodges, aka "Life on a Plate", is one hilarious dude. Look for his upcoming review of Shawn McCraney in the FARMS Review.*
*I would like my money now, Blair, for the shameless plug I promised.

Bob Vukich or Bob the Anti-anti-Mormon. Me and Bob go way back to debating Street Preachers at General Conference. Bob has eviscerated many of Shawn McCraney's ridiculous claims on his website.

Scott Gordon, president of FAIR, has done amazing work setting up the conference and leading FAIR into the future.

Wade Miller, who spoke at the conference, presents his new book "Science and the Book of Mormon".

Mike Ash is a cool dude, and has written two fantastic books entitled "Shaken Faith Syndrome: How to Strengthen One's Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt" and "Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith".

Matt Roper, that FARMS Pseudo-scholar, takes a minute to strike a pose with me.

Louis Midgley really isn't that bad of a guy when you get to know him. Just don't ever allow your back to be turned from him. That's when he attacks!

Louis Midgley looks as confused as always.

Craig Foster, an LDS historian and FAIR volunteer, has written some excellent works on Mormon history.

David Keller looking as enthusiastic as Greg Smith.

Greg Smith is much funnier when he speaks than when he takes pictures. Seriously dude, smiling is good for you! ;^)

Kerry Shirts with Margaret Young. Margaret recently worked on a new DVD entitled Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Considering that I am, according to some online anti-Mormons, a veritable "DCP Jr.", I like this picture a lot.

Tyler Livingston and Allen Wyatt harass conference attendees registering on the first day of the conference.

Dana Repouille shows off his pearly whites.

Tyler Livingston has filmed Brant Gardner for some FAIR videos, including the newly released DVD by FAIR "The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon: A Closer Examination".

Mike Parker was our registration guru this year.

Kerry Shirts with John Gee. These two have done excellent work defending the Book of Abraham from the critics and providing new insights into that extraordinary book of scripture.

George Cobabe is FAIR's resident Danite. Don't mess with him... or else.

David Ferguson, who just returned from his mission, adds spunk and youth to FAIR.