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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Lehi, the Visionary Man

John A. Tvedtnes' short note, "A Visionary Man," provides some insight into one of many phrases in the Book of Mormon that sound odd in English but make a lot of sense when the Semitics origins of the text are considered (see also the PDF version of the article to see John's transliteration of a few Hebrew words). While providing Semitic insights into the statement that Lehi was a "visionary man," he discusses the awkward (in English) statement of Lehi, "I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision" (1 Nephi 8:2). Here is his analysis:
The idiom "dreamed a dream" is clearly an example of the cognate accusative, known from Hebrew and other ancient languages, in which the verb is followed by a noun (here used as direct object or accusative) deriving from the same root. From this, it also seems likely that the words "seen a vision" represent another cognate accusative. We can illustrate this by rendering the English as "seen a scene," "vised a vision," or "envisioned a vision." It is likely that the original read , using a verb and noun deriving from the same root as , "visionary." The fact that this Hebrew root is found in cognate constructions in both Isaiah 1:1 and Ezekiel 12:27; 13:7, 16 adds strength to this suggestion.
Just one of many examples of Hebraic influence in the Book of Mormon.

Update: This example is actually not one of the more interesting ones because the term "dreamed a dream" is also present in Genesis, as BYU Alter Ego points out in a helpful comment. But there are much more interesting Hebraisms that cannot be "explained" by their presence in the Bible. More interesting in the present case is the "visionary man" concept that Tvedtnes discusses in the original article.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or does "seen a scene" sound like engineering and "envisioned a vision" sound like marketing?

I don't mean to pick on your translations, but "seen a scene" (to me) sounds like someone describing a factual (or what they interpret as factual) happening where "envisioned a vision" sound like "I just had this great idea pop into my head" hmmm...

Daniel Peterson said...

Another way of putting what Lehi's original comment may have been into English is "Behold, I have dreamed a dream or, in other words, I have seen a seeing."

In Arabic, for instance -- a language closely related to Hebrew -- the verb to see is ra’aa and the noun for vision or dream is ru’yaa. Both words are from the same Arabic root (r’y) and are found under the same entry in Arabic dictionaries.

Since the Norman invasion of England in 1066, English has been a dual-natured language, with an elevated Latin-French level descending from the Norman French aristocracy and a German level deriving from the subjugated Anglo-Saxons. This is seen in such equivalent pairs as Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost, divine/godly, and manual/handbook (with manual coming from the Latin manus ["hand"]).

Vision derives from Latin, whereas sight, seeing, and the verb to see are all clearly Germanic. (The modern German verb to see is sehen.)

It is this dual Latinate/Germanic character of English that obscures the cognate accusative that was almost certainly present in the original of "seen a vision" and that remains clearly apparent in "dreamed a dream."

Daniel Peterson said...

Another way of putting what Lehi's original comment may have been into English is "Behold, I have dreamed a dream or, in other words, I have seen a seeing."

In Arabic, for instance -- a language closely related to Hebrew -- the verb to see is ra’aa and the noun for a vision or a dream is ru’yaa. Both words are from the same Arabic root (r’y) and are found under the same entry in Arabic dictionaries.

Since the Norman invasion of England in 1066, English has been a dual-natured language, with an elevated Latin-French level descending from the Norman French aristocracy and a German level deriving from the subjugated Anglo-Saxons. This is seen in such equivalent pairs as Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost, divine/godly, and manual/handbook (with manual coming from the Latin manus ["hand"]).

Vision derives from Latin, whereas sight, seeing, and the verb to see are all clearly Germanic. (The modern German verb to see is sehen.)

It is this dual Latinate/Germanic character of English that obscures the cognate accusative that was almost certainly present in the original of "seen a vision" and that remains clearly apparent in "dreamed a dream."

Frank said...

Daniel Peterson

"It is this dual Latinate/Germanic character of English that obscures the cognate accusative that was almost certainly present in the original of "seen a vision" and that remains clearly apparent in "dreamed a dream."

This is more commonly called "B.S." in modern slang American English.

And I believe that you are too intelligent to take Jeff's grasping at straws seriously.

Daniel Peterson said...

Frank: 'This is more commonly called "B.S." in modern slang American English.'

Perhaps. I haven't done the fieldwork to find out for sure. If I were planning on it, though, I think that I would concentrate on people who know nothing about Semitic languages. They seem the most likely to use the term B.S. to describe a cognate accusative. (The Arabic equivalent of cognate accusative is tamyiiz, which may also, for all I know, be rendered B.S. in one or more substandard dialects of uneducated English.)

Frank: 'And I believe that you are too intelligent to take Jeff's grasping at straws seriously.'

It would be interesting, Frank, to see the argument that an obvious linguistic sophisticate such as yourself would make against regarding 1 Nephi 8:2 as, quite likely, a translation of an underlying Hebrew cognate accusative. Please do share. I realize that such points as this one are far beneath you, but, as a favor to us lesser mortals, it would be nice if you could lay out the philological arguments that undergird your rejection.

Daniel Peterson said...

Oooh. Maybe I misunderstood. Perhaps Frank meant to deny the dual Latinate/Germanic character of English, or to claim that the Norman Conquest never occurred.

I do hope that he will elaborate. Merely asserting that 1 Nephi 8:2 doesn't reflect a Semitic cognate accusative, simply declaring the idea "B.S.," doesn't seem quite . . . enough.

Anonymous said...

"While providing Semitic insights into the statement that Lehi was a "visionary man," he discusses the awkward (in English) statement of Lehi, "I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision" (1 Nephi 8:2).

Is "dreamed a dream" considered awkward English?

Walker said...

Arguably so. Thanks to Les Miserables, however, the phrase has become more accepted.

Another example which is far more "awkward" is in Mosiah 27:30 ("creatures of his creating"). While this is not technically the "cognate accusative," it is highly Hebraic in its use of both forms of the root within the same sentence.

Frank said...

"dreamed a dream" sounds like the awkward writings of a charismatic cult-leader with his face buried in his hat.

Comments such as "since the Norman invasion of England in 1066, English has been a dual-natured language, with an elevated Latin-French level descending from the Norman French aristocracy and a German level deriving from the subjugated Anglo-Saxons" prove that you are educated but not intelligent.

BYU alter ego said...
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BYU alter ego said...

Genesis 37: 5-10 of the King James Bible reads:

5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

In Joseph's 1832 account of the first Vision he states:

"At about the age of twelve years my mind became seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to Searching the Scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God..."

So a man who had studied the Bible(King James Version) at least since he was twelve couldn't have picked up a phrasing that is used in the very first book of the Bible?

What's the simpliest scenario?

Did Joseph translate a record of a people with Hebrew/semitic origins that seem to have left no discernible Hebrew connection in the archeological/biological record?

Or did Joseph copy phrasing from a story in Genesis he had probably read a few times?

Anonymous said...

Frank, how does one draw such interesting conclusions from three little words, "dreamed a dream"? Is a hat really implied?

Walker said...

That scenario could be more plausible, except that "dreamed a dream" is not an isolated incident of Hebraisms. One chiasmus or phrase in isolation is ascribable to chance. That chance decreases as the quantity increases.

Also, considering that Joseph's dictation was essentially uninterrupted (when it was, he was busy doing other things besides sitting in a corner figuring out how to concot ancient SEmitic texts), it would exceedingly difficult to integrate
even Biblical examples into a foreign text while on the fly w/o manuscripts. The plausibility factor is next to nihl, considering Joseph's intellectual heritage.

Given that Joseph's mother noted that he seldom read books, we cannot assume that Joseph was an erudite of the Bible

Simplest scenario, psychologically (Joseph's mental capacity) and linguistically, --"creatures of his creating" and other such phrases are of SEmitic origin.

Frank:

Simply because analysis employs a high level of linguistic knowledge does not mean it should dismissed as "B.S." What evidence do you have to invalidate Daniel's claims?

Walker said...

"of Semitic origin" meaning that Joseph translated the phrase from its Semitic roots rather than ripping it off from the Bible.

BYU alter ego said...

"Also, considering that Joseph's dictation was essentially uninterrupted (when it was, he was busy doing other things besides sitting in a corner figuring out how to concot ancient SEmitic texts)... "

It's true that both Emma and Oliver describe the translations as coming in a continous fashion. The exact pace that they came is something we'll never know.

Do you think that the four years from when Joseph saw the Angel to when he started translating might be relevant here?

Walker: "Given that Joseph's mother noted that he seldom read books, we cannot assume that Joseph was an erudite of the Bible."

I'm not a biblical erudite either, but I remembered the Genesis passage right away. I didn't even have to Google...lol

Besides, we know he read the Bible. He says he read the Bible in his younger years in multiple accounts.

I'm actually not familiar with that Lucy reference, is it in the biography? I have a copy of that.

Truman G. Madsen in his "Joseph Smith the Prophet" describes Joseph as having such an intimate knowledge of King James language that Joseph "thought" in King James language.

So when did Joseph develop this talent? Who knows, but it's well within reason to believe that he could have had it by age 22.

In "American Apocrypha" (signature books) Scott C. Dunn has an essay titled, "Automaticity and the Dictation of the Book of Mormon."

I think he puts forth a good argument for how Joseph's translation experience could have been done with divine help.

He points out other complicated, scripture like texts such as: "Oahspe," "Course in Miracles," "Urantia books" and "Patience Worth books" which were written by "sub-erudite" individuals in an "ad hoc" fashion.

So Joseph would not be unique.

Speaking of old Ma Smith remember her famous entry from her biography on her son:

"During our evening conversations, Joseph would occasionally give us some of the most amusing recitals that could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of travelling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life among them."

The problem here, is that the events she relates here occured before Joseph started translating.

BYU alter ego said...

I meant to say "without" divine help btw...doh!

Daniel Peterson said...

Frank: '"dreamed a dream" sounds like the awkward writings of a charismatic cult-leader with his face buried in his hat.'

Perhaps, though you present no evidence to support your claim.

The fact remains that "dreamed a dream" sounds exactly like a literal translation of an Arabic tamyiiz or, more broadly, of a cognate accusative in any number of Semitic languages, ancient and modern.

Frank: 'Comments such as "since the Norman invasion of England in 1066, English has been a dual-natured language, with an elevated Latin-French level descending from the Norman French aristocracy and a German level deriving from the subjugated Anglo-Saxons" prove that you are educated but not intelligent.'

I can understand how that statement might lead one to suspect that I'm educated, but I'm at something of a loss to figure out how it would demonstrate that I'm not intelligent. (I may well be unintelligent, of course, but I'm not sure how that might be deduced from the quoted comment.)

Is there something wrong or illogical in my statement? If so, please be so kind as to point it out. Otherwise, I'm inclined to think that you have nothing substantive to share, but merely want to engage in name calling and insubstantial sneers.
 

Bookslinger said...

BYU Alter: I've always assumed that Joseph got the descriptions of the Nephite dress, transportation, cities, etc, from Moroni. Either at the annual meetings at the stone box or other meetings. Joseph said he met Moroni annually at the box, but he didn't say that those were his only meetings with Moroni. Nor did he say that Moroni was the only resurrected being to visit him. I wouldn't be surprised if a resurrected Nephi and Mormon visited him also. Nephi started it, and Mormon did most of the abridgement, and it bears his name. If I were them, I'd like to meet the man who was going to bring the book to light.

Given the three books that detractors claim are sources of material for the Book of Mormon (Spaulding manuscript, View of the Hebrews, and The Golden Pot), and given Joseph's state of not being fully literate at the time, I have to conclude that if the Book of Mormon is not a true translation, then Oliver Cowdery and Emma must have been in on the hoax, and Oliver must have been the primary author.

Whether or not Oliver participated in concocting the Book of Mormon, all 11 witnesses must have lied to their dieing day. I find it noteworthy that Martin Harris and the Whitmers who ended up being disaffected, still maintained their statements of seeing the plates.

Also noteworthy was that Emma, having broken with the main body of saints after Joseph's death, still maintained allegiance to the Book of Mormon, as did those others who separated from the main body and went on to found the RLDS church.

I would have thought that Emma would have repudiated it all after Joseph's death had the Book of Mormon been a hoax.

Daniel Peterson said...

Thanks, BYU AE, for the examples of translated Hebrew cognate accusatives from Genesis 37: 5-10 in the King James Bible. Unless Frank wants to insist that the King James Bible also represents "the awkward writings of a charismatic cult-leader with his face buried in his hat," his never very impressive "sounds-like" argument seems to have lost most of its already meager force.

BYU AE: 'So a man who had studied the Bible(King James Version) at least since he was twelve couldn't have picked up a phrasing that is used in the very first book of the Bible?'

He could have, certainly. I've never claimed that the presence of a seeming cognate accusative in 1 Nephi 8:2 is slam-dunk proof of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. However, it's consistent with such antiquity. And there are other Hebraisms that are not nearly so easily explained away.

However, you're probably exaggerating Joseph's Bible study by several orders of magnitude. His mother recalled that he was the least inclined to read of all of her children, and that he had never read the Bible through while he was living in her house.

And, though it rests only on plausible conjecture, the fact that an original-language cognate accusative is easily reconstructed from the English "seen a vision," yet is not actually present in the English, suggests that Joseph may not have derived it from English models. Had he done so, it would have functioned in English, and not merely in the presumed Hebrew original.

Walker said...

The exact pace that they came is something we'll never know.

It was impressive enough to convince Oliver and Emma both. Think of it. Oliver, a lawyer of all professions (and a well-respected one at that), being duped by a frontier yarn of biblicacl mish-mash? Even if he were, he ample opportunity to deny it, to cry foul after his excommunication in 1839. Never mind that Joseph managed to do the same thing to 10 OTHER people, all with an amalgam of story telling. If the B.O.M. were simply a construct of environmental influences, what made it so powerful? Certainly, the witnesses would have heard similar things in Church sermons, thus mitigating their supposed "desire" to be decevied.

Sure, he read the bible. I read the bible. I read it A LOT on my mission. In fact, I could even recognize when a verse was being quoted incorrectly. Recognition and reproduction, however are two very different things. Having a precise memory does not qualify one to concoct a 500-page history over the course of approximately two months.

"Do you think that the four years from when Joseph saw the Angel to when he started translating might be relevant here?"

Not particularly. Why come up with the story in the first place? The problem with all of your "parallel" books (Urantia, Patience Worth, etc.) is they like the testimony of first-hand witnesses. All their witnesses testified ex post facto or w/o material evidence. Newbrough simply said that spirits dictated to him. Worth never had any witnesses who would testify of her experience, even after being disenchanted with her. No plates or evidence were required for Newbrough. The Urantia books few concrete historical claims unlike the Book of Mormon, thus placing its contents within the abstracts of philosophy. Why would Joseph be so foolish as to create a more complex story than was necessary, if indeed these other texts are comparable.

The problem here, is that the events she relates here occured before Joseph started translating.

As Indy noted, there is no problem here. Evidence from Lucy's bio indicates that Joseph learned a great deal from the Moroni encounter. While it is a conjecture, it is a conceivable one, at least as conceivable as believing that Joseph was a veritable sponge of world literature (much of which he hadn't read). Said Lucy: While Joseph remained here, the angel SHOWED him, by contrast, the difference between good and evil, and likewise the consequences of both obedience and disobedience to the commandments of God, IN SUCH A STRIKING MANNER, that the impression was always VIVID IN HIS MEMORY until the very end of his days; and in giving a relation of this circumstance, not long prior to his death, he remarked, that ever afterwards he was willing to keep the commandments of God."
(page 81). This is all in the same time period as the quote you cited.

Incidentally, Joseph's reading habits are described on page 82.

Walker said...

Correction: "he had ample opportunity"

Walker said...

Nix the whole thing--too many typos.

Here it is (hopefully w/o typos)

The exact pace that they came is something we'll never know.

It was impressive enough to convince Oliver and Emma both. Think of it. Oliver, a lawyer of all professions (and a well-respected one at that), being duped by a frontier yarn of biblicacl mish-mash? Even if he were, he ample opportunity to deny it, to cry foul after his excommunication in 1839. Never mind that Joseph managed to do the same thing to 10 OTHER people, all with an amalgam of story telling. If the B.O.M. were simply a construct of environmental influences, what made it so powerful? Certainly, the witnesses would have heard similar things in Church sermons, thus mitigating their supposed "desire" to be decevied.

Sure, he read the bible. I read the bible. I read it A LOT on my mission. In fact, I could even recognize when a verse was being quoted incorrectly. Recognition and reproduction, however are two very different things. Having a precise memory does not qualify one to concoct a 500-page history over the course of approximately two months.

"Do you think that the four years from when Joseph saw the Angel to when he started translating might be relevant here?"

Not particularly. Why come up with the story in the first place? The problem with all of your "parallel" books (Urantia, Patience Worth, etc.) is they lack the testimony of first-hand witnesses. All their witnesses testified ex post facto or w/o material evidence. Newbrough simply said that spirits dictated to him. Worth never had any witnesses who would testify of her experience, even after being disenchanted with her. No plates or evidence were required for either. The Urantia books make few concrete historical claims unlike the Book of Mormon, thus placing its contents within the abstracts of philosophy. Why would Joseph be so foolish as to create a more complex story than was necessary, including the necessity for evidence and testimony when only "spirit talk" was necessary (especially since the claim is that the Book of Mormon is essentially the same as these works).

The problem here, is that the events she relates here occured before Joseph started translating.

As Indy noted, there is no problem here. Evidence from Lucy's bio indicates that Joseph learned a great deal from the Moroni encounter, including the possibility of visionary experiences about the Nephite way of life. While it is a conjecture, it is a conceivable one, at least as conceivable as believing that Joseph was a veritable sponge of world literature (much of which he hadn't read). Said Lucy: While Joseph remained here, the angel SHOWED him, by contrast, the difference between good and evil, and likewise the consequences of both obedience and disobedience to the commandments of God, IN SUCH A STRIKING MANNER, that the impression was always VIVID IN HIS MEMORY until the very end of his days; and in giving a relation of this circumstance, not long prior to his death, he remarked, that ever afterwards he was willing to keep the commandments of God."
(page 81). This is all in the same time period as the quote you cited.

Incidentally, Joseph's roundtable "storytelling sessions" are discussed very near to this, suggesting that we ought to relate the two passages. And his reading habits are discussed on page 82 (if my pagination is correct--gospelink might be off on this one).

Samuel said...

"Recognition and reproduction, however are two very different things."

Well said. As far as I have heard, the witnesses to the translation process have stated that Joseph had no Bible with him when he translated the Book of Mormon. So the inclusion of Hebraisms (some of which similar or even the same to ones in the Bible) would seem to be more an example of the writing in the BoM rather than simple copying from the Bible. Similarly with the changes between the Isaiah of the KJV and the BoM.

Daniel Peterson said...

As I expected, once he was asked to provide actual relevant arguments rather than merely striking dismissive poses, Frank disappeared.

I commonly see ex-Mormons and anti-Mormons chortling among themselves over how ridiculous and silly the arguments advanced by FARMS and other "apologists" are, and congratulating themselves on their superior intellects, but I rarely if ever see them actually engage serious arguments with evidence and analysis.

Roberto Iza Valdes said...
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