These notes, prepared by Royal Skousen for publication elsewhere, summarize several of the highpoints of the excellent presentation that he delivered in the Hinckley Center at BYU this evening:
Learn More About Parts 5 and 6 of Volume 3 of the Critical Text Project of the Book of Mormon
About these new publications:
The King James Quotations in the Book of Mormon (KJQ), 2019
Royal Skousen, with the collaboration of Stanford Carmack
In this part 5 of volume 3 of the critical text, we identify one more use of Early Modern English– in fact, a very specific one – in the original text of the Book of Mormon, namely, quotations from the King James Bible. Some of the important questions that we will consider here in KJQ are the following:
What counts as a literal biblical quotation in the Book of Mormon?
Are all the biblical quotations from the King James Bible?
Yes, except for one phrase from the 1535 Coverdale Bible in 2 Nephi 12:16: “and upon all the ships of the sea” (which quotes Isaiah 2:16 from the Greek Septuagint rather than from the Hebrew Masoretic text).
What edition of the King James Bible does the Book of Mormon cite from?
It is difficult to be precise here, but taking all the substantive differences in the history of the King James text into account, we find that it dates from the 1670s or later. When we include differences in the accidentals (in particular, changes in the use of italics), the King James text seems to date from the 1770s or later.
Did Joseph Smith hand over a marked-up Bible to Oliver Cowdery when he came to the biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon?
When Joseph Smith produced his “New Translation” of the Bible in 1831-33 (now known as the Joseph Smith Translation), did he hand over a copy of the 1830 edition to the scribe to correct the biblical text from?
In this case, we have clear evidence that this is precisely what Joseph Smith did (unlike what he did when he dictated the Book of Mormon text in 1828-29). There is at least one clear case of this procedure, and perhaps others as well.
Are there any significant differences in the biblical quotations in the Book of Mormon?
Yes, and some are not only quite surprising but are also supported by other ancient textual sources.
How much of the textual differences in the biblical quotations rely on the use of italics in the King James Bible?
Not a lot. Only about 23 percent of the differences involve italics. And of the italicized words themselves, only about 38 percent of them show differences. Even so, there are a few clear cases where differences are related to italics (or to the Hebrew original), in particular, six expressions that involve the linking be verb. But overall, there is little evidence for the role of italics, as can be seen when the Sermon on the Mount is quoted in 3 Nephi 12-14, where there are numerous differences without any influence from italics.
Do anachronistic elements show up in the King James biblical quotations?
Yes. For instance, there are mistakes in translation, such as “instead of a girdle, a rent” (Isaiah 3:24, quoted in 2 Nephi 13:24), where rent is an error for rope (thus “instead of a belt, a rope”). In addition, there are cultural translations (that is, translations that made the reading understandable to Early Modern English speakers), but which were nonetheless wrong, such as “do men light a candle?” (Matthew 5:15, quoted in 3 Nephi 12:15), which should read “do men light a lamp?”
How do we deal with the problem of more than one Isaiah?
Scholars have argued that Isaiah 40-55 was written by some unknown Second Isaiah who lived after the Jews were taken away into Babylonian captivity in 586 BCE, yet according to the Book of Mormon text this portion of Isaiah was on the plates of brass which Lehi and Nephi took away from Jerusalem prior to its fall. Although there are ways to deal with this problem, it isn’t necessary to do so.
All of this quoting from the King James Bible is problematic, but only if we assume that the Book of Mormon translation literally represents what was on the plates. Yet the evidence in The Nature of the Original Language (parts 3 and 4 of volume 3 of the critical text) argues that the Book of Mormon translation is tied to Early Modern English, and that even the themes of the Book of Mormon are connected to the Protestant Reformation, dating from the same time period. What this means is that the Book of Mormon is a creative and cultural translation of what was on the plates, not a literal one. Based on the linguistic evidence, the translation must have involved serious intervention from the English-language translator, who was not Joseph Smith. Nonetheless, the text was revealed to Joseph Smith by means of his translation instrument, and he read it off word for word to his scribe. To our modern-day, skeptical minds, this is indeed “a marvelous work and a wonder”.
Part 6, Spellings in the Manuscripts and Editions (SPL), to appear in early 2020 Royal Skousen, with the collaboration of Stanford Carmack
Many will naturally suppose that nothing of any importance can come out of studying misspellings in the Book of Mormon, but they would be mistaken. One purpose of this book, dedicated entirely to the spellings in the manuscripts and the editions, is to show the numerous ways in which spelling issues have had an important impact in the critical text project of the Book of Mormon. Here is a sample of just what simple spellings errors can tell us:
Joseph Smith’s pronunciations of names
Amalickiah was pronounced with stress on the first syllable, not the second
Mosiah was pronounced like Messiah (with an s rather than a z) based on Joseph’s own misspelling of Messiah as Mosiah in 1 Nephi 12:18
Joseph Smith’s pronunciation of a word can lead to a scribal error:
scourge was pronounced as scorge, not as scurge, so scorched in Mosiah 17:13 was misheard as scourged (thus “scorched > scourged with fagots”)
the dialectal pronunciations of the scribes (perhaps also Joseph Smith’s): Oliver Cowdery: wage pronounced like wedge; grievious instead of grievous
Martin Harris: deaf pronounced as deef
Christian Whitmer: Nazareth pronounced as Nathareth
the written form in the original manuscript was misread by Oliver Cowdery when he copied it into the printer’s manuscript:
Christian Whitmer’s prJ sing in 1 Nephi 8:31 was misread as feeling
Cut was misread as Put in Alma 5:35, thus Oliver Cowdery wrote in the printer’s manuscript: “ye shall not be putdown”
a name was misinterpreted because of preceding examples in the text:
Muloch in Helaman 6 and 8 was twice misinterpreted as Mulek because of preceding examples of Mulek in Alma 51-52 and Helaman 5
Ramah in 2 Nephi 20:29 (Isaiah 10:29) was changed to Ramath because of the preceding Hamath (verse 9) and Ajath(verse 28)
- difficulty in determining what word a spelling refers to: does strait mean straight or strait? does striped in Alma 11:2 mean stripped or striped?
detecting forgeries in the University of Chicago acquisition (Alma 3-5), dating from the early 1980s and intending to be in Oliver Cowdery’s hand:
reccord was never used by Oliver, only reckord (12×) and record (181×); yet reccord was used once by Martin Harris (along with record) and twice by Hyrum Smith
To be continued.