Monday, October 20, 2008

7 Wonders of the Book of Mormon

The following Mormon Times article summarizes a presentation given by Don W. Perry, a professor of Hebrew Bible studies at BYU, at the Book of Mormon Lands conference held a week or so ago. I thought it was very much worth posting here and hope it helps others in their personal study and testimony of the Book of Mormon. Enjoy!

Donald W. Parry, a BYU professor of Hebrew Bible studies, translates the familiar passage of Isaiah 29:14 not as "I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder," but as "I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder."

"And the Book of Mormon does that," Parry said at the Book of Mormon Lands Conference on Saturday. "It has wonder upon wonder upon wonder. And the people who are humble enough to read it and research it will see the wonder upon wonder. Some of them are physical evidences; others are internal or external evidences. But certainly the most important are the spiritual evidences."

Parry presented several of these "wonders" at the conference -- most dealing with his area of expertise in translation and biblical Hebrew.

1. Book of Mormon names

For 130 years critics ridiculed the name "Alma" being used for a man in the Book of Mormon. According to Parry, the critics said it was a girl's name and obviously stolen from Latin as in "Alma mater."

Parry projected a picture of an ancient land deed from the "Cave of the Letters" in Israel. The land deed, as translated by the Jewish archaeologist Yigael Yadin mentions "Alma the son of Judah."

Other Book of Mormon names that Parry says have been found in ancient Hebrew documents include Hagoth, Sariah, Aha, Ammonihah, Chemish, Himni, Isabel, Jarom, Josh, Mathoni, Mathonihah, Muloki and Sam.

2. Translation speed

Parry is a member of the International Team of Translators of the Dead Sea Scrolls. About 65 members are working on the translation of the scrolls into English. It has taken 50 years to translate 40 volumes, about 2,000 pages. This is approximately one page every nine days.

The King James Version of the Bible took 54 translators seven years to finish. That is about one page a day.

Parry contrasts the scholarship and painstaking efforts of large teams of translators with the efforts of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who finished the Book of Mormon in about 12 weeks. That is about eight pages a day.

3. Poetic parallelisms

Isaiah is rich with what Parry calls poetic parallelisms. Isaiah would write a line, then repeat it in other words. Parry gave Isaiah 1:2 as an example:

Hear, O heavens
And give ear, O earth

"Hear" in line one corresponds with "give ear" in line two. Likewise "O heavens" corresponds with its opposite "O earth" in line two.

Parry said that sometimes parallel lines are restatements, other times they are contrasts.

Parallel patterns can also get more complex when several lines are arranged together in a sequence that repeats the lines' parallels in reverse order. These types of parallel structures are called chiasmus.

"There are 325 good examples (of chiasmus) in the Book of Mormon. This is one of the most remarkable internal witnesses of the Book of Mormon. Three hundred and twenty five! There is no way any of us in 12 weeks -- I don't think even if you know what chiasmus is -- could come up with 325 excellent examples," Parry said.

4. Filling in missing parallels

The Book of Mormon doesn't just quote long passages of Isaiah. Parry said that in at least 20 instances the Book of Mormon fills in missing parallels -- places where the Isaiah in the Bible has a "line one" without a corresponding "line two."

One example is in 2 Nephi 12:5. Isaiah 2:5 only has line one:

O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.

In 2 Nephi 12:5 line one is followed by a restored line two:

Yea, come, for ye have all gone astray, every one to his wicked ways.

"It's a perfect parallelism found in the Book of Mormon, but it is lost in the Dead Sea Scrolls and it's lost in the King James Version," Parry said.

5. Literary forms

A Bible scholar in the 19th Century, Ethelbert Bullinger, identified 20 different literary forms in the Bible. Parry said he has found 18 of them in the Book of Mormon so far.

One form is called "climactic poetry" where a passage will repeat key words to a climactic point. Mormon 9:12-13 follows this pattern:

Behold he created Adam
And by Adam
Came the fall of man
And because of the fall of man
Came Jesus Christ, even the Father and the Son
And because of Jesus Christ
Came the redemption of man
And because of the redemption of man, which came by Jesus Christ
They are brought back into the presence of the Lord

Parry joked, "Joseph Smith learned about (these patterns) when he was earning his Ph.D. at Oxford."

6. Double meanings

Parry said that sometimes the scriptures will intentionally use a word that has more than one meaning. He explained how Isaiah 53, also found in Mosiah 14, has multiple occasions where a word has two definitions in the original Hebrew.

For example, in Isaiah 53:4 and Mosiah 14:4, it says "Surely he has borne our griefs." The word translated as "borne" or "carry" also means "lifted up," a common phrase for the atonement. Which translation is correct? Parry says both.

7. Testimony

Parry ended his presentation by extolling the power of the Book of Mormon to bring the spirit to people and to help them in their lives, "Brothers and sisters, the Book of Mormon is the word of God. It was translated by a prophet, a seer and a revelator: the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know it."

Scripture of the Day: D&C 4:4

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