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Friday, May 9, 2008

Writing Style of the Bible VS. Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham

The Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are both canonized scripture in the LDS church. Both are purported to be translated by Joseph Smith. Critics of Mormonism will point out that both books were written and not translated by Joseph Smith. If that were the case, you would see a similarity in writing style between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and this writing style would differ from the Bible.

Writing Style of the Old Testament

I am not a linguist or an expert by any stretch of the imagination on literary writing styles. However, as you read the books in the Bible it is clear that it is for the most part a narrative.

Genesis 1:1-7

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
Even though the first 5 books of the old testament are called "the 5 books of Moses" it is clear that the books of Moses are not direct translations from writings of Moses. Moses is referred to in 3rd person by the narrator.

Exodus 18:7
And Moses went out to meet his father in law, and did obeisance, and kissed him; and they asked each other of their welfare; and they came into the tent
And of course I am sure that Moses did not write his own funerary text after he died.

Deuteronomy 34:6-7
And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
Now, THAT would certainly be an amazing feat if Moses was able to write the words "and Moses died". Obviously there was a narrator. This has led me to believe that the 5 books of Moses were probably not written by Moses himself, but the books were a recount written by someone else later on. At the very least, it is certainly not a literal translation of an original document penned by Moses. Either way, at some point there was a narrator.

Writing Style of the New Testament

The New Testament is the same. The writings from each book in the new testament refer to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or Paul in third person.

Revelation 1:1
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John
Even the epistles open with a third person reference before reading off the actual epistle.

1 Corinthians 1:1-2
Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, Unto the church of God which is at Corinth...
This leads me to believe that the books in the Bible, both old and New Testament are not literal translations word for word of original writings from the original authors, but that whoever translated them injected narration. It does not say "I, Moses..."

Writing Style of the Book of Mormon

The writing style of the Book of Mormon is different than the Bible. Even though Mormon is a narrator, the actual books are written in 1st person. The book of Nephi is written in 1st person.

1 Nephi 1:1-3
I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents, therefore I was taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days; yea, having had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days. Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians. And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.

Writing style of the Book of Abraham

If the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon both came from Joseph Smith, we would see a writing style similar in nature. Like the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham is written in 1st person.

Book of Abraham 1:1-2,31
In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence; And, finding there was greater happiness and peace and rest for me, I sought for the blessings of the fathers, and the right whereunto I should be ordained to administer the same; having been myself a follower of righteousness, desiring also to be one who possessed great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness, and to possess a greater knowledge, and to be a father of many nations, a prince of peace, and desiring to receive instructions, and to keep the commandments of God, I became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers... But the records of the fathers, even the patriarchs, concerning the right of Priesthood, the Lord my God preserved in mine own hands; therefore a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record, for the benefit of my posterity that shall come after me.

It is interesting that both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are written in 1st person. The first verse in the Book of Mormon commences with the phrase "I, Nephi" and the first verse in the Book of Abraham starts with "I, Abraham". The bible refers to Moses, or Paul, or John in 3rd person. The first verse of the Book of Mormon and The Book of Abraham sound almost identical. And of course we have the little problem that the residence of Abraham's father, or the land of Chaldeans did not exist until hundreds of years after Abraham himself died. Oops. Add that to another list of anachronisms.

When I compared the opening verses between the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, it is apparent to me that they are both of the same author.

Disillusioned Mormon

18 comments:

Rich Gitschlag said...

There is Nehemiah (in the O.T.) that is written first-person. But even that is not so conspicuously self-centered and self-praising.

Zelph said...

Rich, thank you for pointing that out. Even with that, the first chapter of the first verse we read:

Nehemiah 1:1

"The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah..."

So even though that book is written in first person, it is clear that there was still a narrator.

Jeremy said...

Wow, I've never really noticed that before. Research will be done...

Anonymous said...

Don't you have anything better to do than to try to tear down people's faith, you piece of shit? Why aren't I an anti-Mormon? Oh yeah, because I have too much dignity. We have something called freedom of religion, get it? You don't have the right to go to church each Sunday then come on here complaining about it. If you don't like the church, why don't you just leave? Get it? And why can't you just leave the church alone? Get it?

Mormon Heretic said...

Anonymous, nice language! Didn't Pres Hinckley tell you not to use curse words? Wow, you are a sterling example of a good Christian. And, why don't you follow your own advice? "Why don't you leave this blog alone? You can leave the church, but why do you bother reading anti sites--don't the GA's warn you against that?" Why can't you just leave this site if you don't like it? Get it?

(It's fine to disagree, but at least do it without the profanity, and at least make some kind of intelligent point. What is your point, other that mormons are persecuted? Get it? Get it? Either make an intelligent point, or quit reading this so-called garbage.)

Zelph, while I find your parallelisms intriguing, I enjoy finding counter-examples. For one, we know that 1 and 2 Nephi were written on the Small Plates, and that Mormon later abridged the rest. There is plenty of narrative in Alma, Mosiah, Helaman, Ether, just to name a few. It is also interesting to note that Joseph did not translate 1 Nephi as the first book.

Another counter-example shows that Paul speaks in first person in Philemon chapter one. An obvious example is verse 19, "I Paul have written [it] with mine own hand, I will repay [it]: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides."

I'm curious as to why you are so intent on being "disillusioned." Perhaps you feel lied to all these years? I guess I just don't understand your seemingly negative tone.

On the one hand, I enjoy your perspective. On the other, I am fine with things being not quite as mythical as I was told growing up. For some great biblical criticism, I encourage you to check out David Wolpe, John Dominic Crossan, and Bart Ehrmann, (a rabbi, former catholic priest, and academic). All 3 of these guys take great exception to some things in the Bible, but they do it in a way that is still faith promoting. (Now some may argue with my characterization, but I find they enjoy the Bible, and what it can teach us.)

Incidentally, Crossan is a big wig in The Jesus Seminar, which many Christians find highly heretical. However, I find his analysis very intriguing.

Zelph said...

Anonymous, I am not going to dignify your post with a response. (other than this response)

Mormon heretic,

You do draw a good point regarding the small plates, and my hats of to you for digging up the example in Philemon, that one is buried in there, so I credit you for your data mining skills.

I think that partly I do feel betrayed and lied to by the church leadership. I know that mistakes are made in any organization, however, I feel that the church continues to purposefully withhold information that might not be "faith-promoting". I wish that the church was more open about historical facts.

Thank you for the references, as I will surely pursue their perspectives.

Speaking of controversy, have you ever listened to Van Hale? He is an LDS talk show host and brings up a lot of controversial topics and his most recent episode entitled "Rethinking the Old Testament" he says:

"I discuss a number of points from my study of the Old Testament which have contributed to the formulation of my conclusions regarding what it means to me and my religious tradition.The Old Testament is not a book of history.

It is not a book of Science.

Genesis 30 - the speckled and spotted sheep and goats.

Extreme Views of the Old Testament

It is entirely, word-for-word, God’s word. I find this unbelievable for many reasons.

Joseph Smith explained that some of the Old Testament pertains to us, but much does not.

There has never been anything like universal consensus as to the list of books which belong in the Old Testament. It has never been settled and appears that it never will be.

Discussion with callers on what to believe regarding supernatural claims in the Old Testament and elsewhere in our religious tradition, addressing some specifics such as the Book of Abraham, Book of Mormon and the miracles of Jesus."

Gospel of Christ said...

If Joseph Smith used the same writing style for all the scriptures he translated, then why isn't the book of Moses in the pearl of great price also written in first person? Surely, if Joseph Smith started the Book of Mormon with "I, Nephi" and the Book of Abraham with "I, Abraham", then surely we would see a similar introduction in the Book of Moses. Nope, it's not there. Why don't you think. That is your problem, you don't think.

Mormon Heretic said...

Zelph, thanks for the link. I am new to the bloggernacle, and do not know all the stuff out there. I'll look into it.

I'm sorry you feel lied to. I think another blog puts it well with "Delusions of Candor", as he puts it. Check it out at http://sanfordbarrett.blogspot.com/2008/05/delusion-of-candor.html

All of us, including religions, want to put our best foot forward, and we try to hide the ugly stuff. I don't think the mormons hide from their history any more than catholics hide from priest sex scandals, muslims hide from Muhammed's polygamy with underage girls, Jews hide from the Exodus not being told as in the Bible.

In this sense, mormons are no different than any other religion. Heck, you've probably done things that you don't want others to know. Would your wife and family be disillusioned if they knew every thing you did wrong? Probably so. Does that mean you are a bad person? Probably not.

I just think we need to get over mythologizing our prophets, our scriptures and everything else. Sure, it's nice to believe that prophets are perfect, that the scriptures are literal in every sense of the word, but it's just not reasonable to assume so.

I heard a saying about the 3 levels of Santa once. We believe in Santa. We don't believe in Santa. We are Santa.

I think the scriptures, and religion are the same. I don't want this to sound condescending, but it seems like you are stuck in step 2, and are trying to ruin Christmas for everyone. However, step 3 can be just as much fun as step 1 was (in some ways more enjoyable), even when we understand the real truth.

You've said some things about the Old Testament that I don't really dispute, but I don't want you to think the New Testament is perfect either. Crossan believes in the resurrection, but not the same as most Christians. In studying the crucifixion, he says that the reason the tomb was empty is because the Romans left Jesus to rot on the cross, leaving the dogs and other animals to devour what was left of his carcass.
there were no bones, because there was nothing left to find. Now, it doesn't sound as magical as our Bible resurrection story, does it? Is Crossan right or wrong? I don't know. Am I open to the possibility? Yes, I'm open, but I think there are more compelling stories to believe in a literal resurrection, and I choose to follow these more inspirational stories, understanding that I could be wrong. Either way, Crossan is still a Catholic believer, and I am still a mormon believer, but my eyes are open to all the possibilities.

Are you saying that churches should teach these disturbing facts about Christ? The Da Vinci Code has some interesting facts too--should we talk about those in Sunday School? I think not, but I'd like to hear what you think.

Mormon Heretic said...

My link got chopped. Here it is again.

http://sanfordbarrett.blogspot.com/2008/05/delusion-of-candor.html

Zelph said...

Mormon Heretic,

Thank you for your comments, and I believe you are correct. It is only human nature to try to hide all the bad and only show the good. This is true in any organization. It is also human nature to feel betrayed and lied to when one discovers things that are factual. This blog serves as an outlet and a place I can discuss certain matters, without facing ridicule with people I know, thanks to the anonymity of the internet. However, because of the anonymity, people can tend to be a little more "honest" about what they really think, but I don't take it too personally. However, I think you do draw a good point.

You said "I just think we need to get over mythologizing our prophets, our scriptures and everything else."

I think you are correct, and I believe that we are in the process of doing so. I also think that it can be a very painful experience, especially when your mind is so entrenched that something is true, when it turns out that your faith was based on a selective 10% on the facts. I think that we are moving into the age of reason and logic and moving away from superstitious and supernatural thinking.

Your analogy of Santa Claus is correct. It is like going through that all over again, only my parents are still stuck in stage 1. I probably am like that kid on the playground that went around telling all the kids there is no Santa, then with tears in my eyes, my mom had to explain to me that the kid was wrong and assure me he was real. (repressed memories)

I agree with you that most likely most of the supernatural things in the Bible probably did not actually happen. There is some debate as to if Jesus was even a real person. There is just so much out there to learn, I am always interested in learning more.

I appreciate your thoughts and your post.

Mormon Heretic said...

Zelph,

I really appreciate your perspectives, and encourage you to continue to do research, and keep bringing up these interesting points. I just hope that you can do it without so much bitterness, and can show more empathy for the church. I don't think it is so much that they are lying, but rather the church disproportionately emphasizes certain aspects, and disproportionately de-emphasizes others.

I'm pretty sure you've been following Mormon Stories podcast. If not, I highly recommend it. In it John Dehlin gives an example of the RLDS church, and how their membership numbers have decreased dramatically since their change in emphasis on the scriptures, and being more honest as you would like the LDS church to do. I can't remember exact numbers, but it seems to me that the membership fell from something like over 1 million to 250,000 members. For the LDS church to change as you suggest is quite unhealthy for the organization.

Don't get me wrong--I greatly wish we could be more candid in church. It drives me nuts how uninformed I was prior to my introduction to Mormon Stories. In the past 2 years, I have read Rough Stone Rolling, and An Insider's View of Mormon Origins, and listened to pretty much every one of John's podcasts. But I guess all along I've also been watching Mysteries of the Bible, studying the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gospel of Judas, Da Vinca Code, and other heretical things, so the mormon omissions don't seem any worse than some of the other omissions I've been learning regarding the Bible too (and this stuff goes back more than 10 years for me.)

Honestly, the Catholic church has done more to shape Christianity than any other sect, and they've done their share of "lying" and inquisitions. Mormon "lying" and inquisitions pale in comparison.

Zelph said...

Mormon Heretic,

That was well put, and I try to stay informative and try not to offend. I understand that no matter how angry I am or bitter, if I come across too negative, I can just as easily be dismissed as being "anti-Mormon" when in truth my intention is not to offend, but to inform.

I think you are correct about the RLDS, now known as the Community of Christ. I think that if the church did such a thing that more mainstream members would turn to Mormon fundamentalism. I would venture to say you would see entire stakes succeed from the mainstream church.

I love listening to John Dehlin's podcasts and I hold him in high regards and high respect. I haven't read "Insider's view" but I have read "rough stone" and I just bought "no man knows my history" by Fawn Brodie but I haven't read it yet.

I agree with you about other religions, and this has made me question the very nature of God, or if he even exists. I am highly suspect of any religion and even question if Jesus was real.

I am sure you can understand that it is a very painful process and sometimes I can be in different moods. I like the church, I am fine with the church, I hate the church, I try to be respectful to my wife and attend each week, but it is very difficult.

Mormon Heretic said...

Zelph,

Good luck in your journey. Just remember that the purpose of the church (or religion in general) is a good purpose--to make us all better people. Yes, the church isn't perfect, because it is run by imperfect men trying to do the best they can. We all fall short, and rely on the grace of God to cover our imperfections.

It is possible to be informed, and still exercise childlike faith. I encourage you to look for the good things in the church, as well as the controversial things. When you start looking for the good, you'll probably be surprised how many good things are there.

As for going to church, bring a good book to read. Most people probably haven't heard of Fawn Brodie, so you're probably ok there. That's what I do (although I haven't read her book yet--it's on my to-do list.) I used to teach Gospel Doctrine, Old and New Testaments, but I think the bishop got too many complaints about me showing video clips of Mysteries of the Bible. Oh well. He replaced me with a guy who hates teaching, so instead of trying to sit through his class, I just read books on BoM geography, or Hebrew DNA. I haven't quite dared bring the Gospel of Judas yet....I read that one at home, and it was fascinating.

Zelph said...

MH-

You do draw some good points about the purpose of the organization. I think that for the most part, with the exception of a few that I can think of, religion is there to try to make us better people. I do not believe there is some sinister plot of mind control, I think that leaders of the church truly believe what they are preaching. I do not think that they sit at their board meetings laughing at all the members for believing their big scam. I picture them sitting around just like any other priesthood meeting with an opening and closing prayer.

On the other hand, I don't know if it is healthy to mythologize things if it will only lead to disappointment, anger and bitterness down the road. One thing I have noticed is that the people that are most against the church are the ones that were the most deeply entrenched, because we have invested so much of our time, effort and energy into the organization.

So what is an organization to do? Just become either another Christian denomination, or instead of religious topics, meet each Sunday and give inspiring talks without invoking mythology?

Mormon heretic said...

Zelph,

You pose an interesting quandry for the church. I like John Dehlin's idea of inoculating the saints.

Looking specifically at medical vaccines, we all know that even vaccines carry risks. Not all vaccines are permanently effective (like chicken pox), and it does appear that some vaccines actually do contribute to autism.

So, inoculating the saints is not without risk, and I'm sure the leaders are aware of this problem. Even John Dehlin has lamented that some people have left the church due to his podcasts, in spite of his desire to simply inoculate them.

So, indeed the church has a fine line to walk. On the one hand, they don't want to fully endorse people like John, (1) for fear of the vaccine killing the patient, and (2) giving up some of their authority to teach correct principles to a "heretic."

On the other hand, I think John's work is excellent, and has helped many through rough patches. So, for the time being, I think the church is wise to remain silent on the issue of inoculation. For me, I know if I knew someone struggling with issues of mormon history, or DNA, or whatever, I'd encourage them to go to Mormon Stories, or blogs like yours or mine, but it probably isn't appropriate for the church to endorse these entities.

When we look at some good entities, such as the Alcoholics Anonymous, Boy Scouts, etc, the church readily approves of them. I doubt "inoculation websites" will ever gain the status of these other organizations, but perhaps it could one day be a step down from them. And the can leave the de-mythification to us.... :) (See it is fun being Santa Claus!) :)

Zelph said...

I am aware that in several instances that church leaders have directed confused members to sites like dialogue and sunstone, which I always thought sunstone was an apostate group, because that is what my parents told me.

Not much can be said about the dialogue, because Oaks is one of the founding members.

I understand that they should keep Sundays as faith promoting and inspiring as possible to fill people up spiritually. However, I think that the church should at least provide official sources online that members can go to if they have specific questions regarding doctrine and church history. Unfortunately, confused members are left with apologetic sites like FAIR, SHIELD and FARMS, which tend to give me more questions than answers and usually contradict each other and are filled with rampant speculation.

Cr@ig said...

If the church is all it claims to be... then it deserves all of our time, talents and everything which the Mormon God has blessed its membership with.

But if it just another man-made institution, built on a false foundation that requires inoculation to protect its members from difficult truths, it deserves absolutely nothing...even if it views itself as making bad men good and good men better.

For in the end…faith in fiction brings no eternal reward…no matter how dedicated we may be living its tenants or no matter how much we may want its false claims to be true. Faith in a fiction is just a false hope.

Zelph said...

Cr@ig-

You do draw an excellent point. In the temple, we learn about the law of consecration. According to the law, we do not vow to give all our time talents and energy to Jesus, or to God. We learn that the law of consecration is that we vow to give all our time talents and energy to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.