The name Enos derives from a poetic Hebrew word for "man, mankind." This raises the possibility of subtle wordplay in the opening phrase of Enos's introduction: "Behold, it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man." When we compare the introductory phrases of Enos and Nephi, the wordplay becomes more evident. The language and structure of the phrases are too similar to be happenstance, and require little elucidation:Some of the many Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon can be argued away as things that Joseph Smith could have absorbed from the Bible. But wordplays, names, and poetical structures that build on a knowledge of Hebrew are much harder to explain since Joseph did not begin studying Hebrew until long after the Book of Mormon. They still do not make a slam-dunk case for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but I think it's fair to suggest that they at least, like chiasmus itself, add a little spice to the Book of Mormon. And that "spice" can help us better appreciate what the various authors were trying to achieve in their writings.
I, Nephi, I, Enos, having been born of goodly parents knowing my father that he was a just man therefore I was taught somewhat for he taught me in all the learning of my father in his language
The name Nephi apparently derived from a Middle Egyptian word, nfr, meaning "good, fine, goodly." Where Nephi interplayed his name with an adjective that Joseph Smith translated as "goodly," Enos interplayed his own name with a repetition of "man." Thus Enos adopted and then adapted Nephi's rhetorical device, cleverly switching the wordplay from the adjective to noun. The parallelism of goodly-just, parents-father, taught-taught, and language-learning reveals the intricacy of Enos's imitation.
This careful use of Nephi's words as a literary model suggests the reverence that Enos and Mormon had for their common forefather and his words. Enos's introduction, with its clever adaptation of Nephi's wordplay is a striking example of the subtleties of the Book of Mormon text, and is additional evidence of its antiquity.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
In a 2006 FARMS publication, Insights (Vol. 26, No. 3), Matthew L. Bowen makes a case for an interesting Hebraism in the opening words of Enos, where we may have a Semitic wordplay in parallel to a possible wordplay in Nephi's famous opening words. Here is an excerpt of his article (read the original to see footnotes and additional insights):
Posted by Jeff Lindsay at 5:24 PM