Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chiasmus in Helaman 16? An Observation from My 16-Year-Old Son

The other night my wife, our youngest son (age 16) and I were reading Helaman 16 in the Book of Mormon. I was in a bit of a hurry and was expecting to just get through the chapter fairly quickly and move on to other things, but after a few verses my son commented on the parallels he saw among some of the opening verses, and as he looked more closely, he asked me if this might be an example of chiasmus - the inverted parallelism (e.g., A-B-C-C-B-A) that modern scholars have found to be a common poetical form in ancient Hebrew writing and other ancient Middle Eastern writings.

Before I explain my reaction to his on-the-fly suggestion, here's some background: Chiasmus was noticed in the Book of Mormon in the 1960s by John Welch, and has since become a significant tool in appreciating some of the carefully crafted poetic passages of the Book of Mormon. The abundance of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon is, in my opinion, one of many Hebraic elements that support the plausibility of ancient origins for the text. Chiasmus is very foreign to us and is often difficult to recognize, especially since translation and modern typesetting can obscure the underlying structure. But it's a beautiful thing when recognized. And perhaps the most beautiful example known is found in Alma 36 in the Book of Mormon. But that's another story.

A problem with chiasmus is that if you're looking for it, you can find it in places where it probably wasn't intended. For example, you can find repeated words and phrases all over the place in any text, and by cherry picking can come up with inverted parallel structures. John Welch has provided guidelines to judge the chiastic nature of a passage, and these guidelines help rule out many discoveries of enthusiasts trying to spot chiastic structures. For example, it should be relatively tight in structure - not one word ever couple of paragraphs, and should show signs of being intentional (enhancing the message, etc.).

As my son suggested there might be a chiasmus in Helaman 16, I scanned the text quickly and didn't see anything interesting, and didn't recall this passage being cited as an example of chiasmus, so, while I was proud of him for having paid attention when I discussed chiasmus in the past, I was about to launch into a paraphrase of John Welch's warnings about chiastic quality to help my son understand that the few repeated words he saw were probably just coincidence and not to get too excited, etc. But first I asked again what he was seeing - and then as he pointed out the places and terms he thought were significant, it hit me: maybe he's right. And as I looked more, it seemed possible that there might be an intended chiasmus here. Not sure, but maybe. Interesting!

Below is a proposed structure, based on what my son spotted on the fly during a moment of family scripture study. The actual text from Helaman 16:1-8 then follows. The proposed chiasmus has a very logical focal point: the coming of Christ (like Alma 36, this is literally a Christ-centered passage). It begins and ends with Samuel on the walls of the city, setting the stage for his dramatic encounter with and departure from the Nephites.

Proposed Structure of a Tentative Chiasmus in Helaman 16:1-6

A. Samuel the Lamanite speaks from the walls of the city (v.1)

B. Those who believed him seek for the prophet, Nephi, and do not deny their sins, to come unto the Lord. (v. 1)

C. As many as did not believe Samuel were angry and cast stones and arrows at him. (v.2)

D. Many went away to Nephi and were baptized. (v.3)

E. Nephi was prophesying and working miracles (v. 4)

F. "That they might know" (v.4)

G. "That the Christ must shortly come." (v. 4)

G'. "Things which must shortly come" (v.5)


F'. "That they might know" (v.5)

E'. The time of the coming of various things had been made known unto them beforehand (v.5).

D'. As many as believed on the word of Samuel went forth to Nephi to be baptized (v.5)

C'. The more part did not believe Samuel and became angry when they saw they could not hit him with their stones and arrows.

B'. Those who do not believe Samuel called upon their captains to arrest him (instead of seeking out the prophet Nephi, they seek their police to arrest a prophet) and accuse him of serving the devil. (v.6)

A'. Samuel cast himself down from the wall. (v. 6)


The Text: Helaman 16: 1-8

[1] And now, it came to pass that there were many who heard the words of Samuel, the Lamanite, which he spake upon the walls of the city. And as many as believed on his word went forth and sought for Nephi; and when they had come forth and found him they confessed unto him their sins and denied not, desiring that they might be baptized unto the Lord.

[2] But as many as there were who did not believe in the words of Samuel were angry with him; and they cast stones at him upon the wall, and also many shot arrows at him as he stood upon the wall; but the Spirit of the Lord was with him, insomuch that they could not hit him with their stones neither with their arrows.

[3] Now when they saw that they could not hit him, there were many more who did believe on his words, insomuch that they went away unto Nephi to be baptized.

[4] For behold, Nephi was baptizing, and prophesying, and preaching, crying repentance unto the people, showing signs and wonders, working miracles among the people, that they might know that the Christ must shortly come --

[5] Telling them of things which must shortly come, that they might know and remember at the time of their coming that they had been made known unto them beforehand, to the intent that they might believe; therefore as many as believed on the words of Samuel went forth unto him to be baptized, for they came repenting and confessing their sins.

[6] But the more part of them did not believe in the words of Samuel; therefore when they saw that they could not hit him with their stones and their arrows, they cried unto their captains, saying: Take this fellow and bind him, for behold he hath a devil; and because of the power of the devil which is in him we cannot hit him with our stones and our arrows; therefore take him and bind him, and away with him.

[7] And as they went forth to lay their hands on him, behold, he did cast himself down from the wall, and did flee out of their lands, yea, even unto his own country, and began to preach and to prophesy among his own people.

[8] And behold, he was never heard of more among the Nephites; and thus were the affairs of the people.

Well, what do you think?

Update: A question was raised in the comments about whether this could possibly be chiasmus, since chiasmus involves short introverted phrases and not long passages. While many discussions of chiasmus, including Wikipedia's, focus on very short couplets or simple A-B-B-A patterns with a couple of words, many scholars recognize that ancient writing in the Near East sometimes had much more extensive passages of chiasmus. The existence and importance of extended chiasmus is now attested, though there was nothing in Joseph Smith's day that would have guided him in fabricating such extensive Hebraic poetry as we find, for example, in Alma 36. The leading work of scholarship on such chiasmus is Chiasmus in Antiquity, edited by John Welch (Provo, Utah: Research Press, Brigham Young University, 1981). Yes, John Welch is LDS and it's a BYU publication, but before you make the instant assumption that you can dismiss the evidence because a Mormon was involved, please note that this volume brings together the scholarship of some significant non-LDS writers, all of whom recognize the existence of ancient chiasmus that goes well beyond the very simple forms of introverted parallelism you might encounter in Wikipedia or in the relatively obscure works dealing with parallelism in the Bible that existed in Joseph Smith's day (and which were probably completely unavailable to him). The scholars writing in Chiasmus in Antiquity include:
  • Dr. Joseph Fraenkel, Senior Lecturer in Hallakhic and Aggadic Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  • Dr. David Noel Freedman, Director of Program on Studies in Religion, University of Michigan, and General Editor of the Anchor Bible and Biblical Archaeologist.
  • Bezalel Porten, Senior Lecturer of Hebrew and Aramaic Ancient Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
  • .
  • Dr. Yehuda T. Radday, Associate Professor of Bible and Hebrew, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.
  • Dr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Department of Hebrew, Trinity College, University of Dublin.
Update: Here's another useful resource: Does Chiasmus Appear in the Book of Mormon by Chance? by Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, BYU Studies, Vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 103-130 (2004). A hat tip to "Wells."

40 comments:

lirik1980 said...

This is a GREAT CHIASMUS. I was never seen it before.

Anonymous said...

O' You Mormons and your family studies you are having all the fun. Keep up the good fun.

jayleenb said...

Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

So how pleased are you that your son not only listened and learned but picked that out? Pretty pleased I bet! Good on him. I love it when young people grasp the love of the Scriptures and seek more than just a cursory read.

I love the Book of Mormon!

That is very cool. You've inspired me to ponder those verses again. And you may want to send an email to Church teaching materials personnel (?) to let them know.

richdurrant said...

Looks like a great find! That's impressive that your son found that.

On an off the topic note, but one that should be of great interest, I received an email about a possible find of more evidence to support the Book of Mormon so I thought I should pass it on. I searched on the web to b e sure it wasn't legend material and found this article in science daily about the discovery of an ancient iron ore mine in Peru. I didn't find anywhere that you had seen this, Jeff, so my apologies if this is a repeat of old news.

Tracy Keeney said...

Wow-- a 16 year old boy recognizing chiasmus in the scriptures! It's one thing to have it SHOWN to you and be able to recognize the pattern, it's another thing entirely to find it on your own. It's not that easy! That's really awesome Jeff!
It also says alot about your son and your family.
Well done thou good and faithful servant!!

Mormanity said...

Rich, thanks for the link. Yes, I've seen that and was initially excited until I realized that as far as we know, they were just using the iron ore as a pigment and not for smelting iron.

Because iron rusts, it is often difficult to find traces of iron technology in places where it was present. The iron among the ancient Jaredites and Nephites may have largely been meteoric iron which the ancient Olmecs used in large quantities.

The article (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080129125405.htm) mentions that metals were largely used as riches for the elite, and that's consistent with the Book of Mormon, where by 100 B.C. iron is listed as a precious metal (Mosiah 11:8) rather than a common utilitarian material.

Mormanity said...

Thanks for the kind comments about my son. Like my other three sons, he's quite an embarrassment to his father, always making me look bad in comparison with his many musical, athletic, academic and spiritual talents. But he's still a keeper and we love him. Plus he's socially well adjusted, has a tremendous personality, a lot of charm, good mental health, and no nasty habits like blogging -- but I still honestly believe that he is my biological offspring, as unlikely as that seems.

CV Rick said...

I think it's interesting that you and your family are examining prose structural elements in your study. However, I think the use of Chiasmus in this instance is quite a stretch. Chiasmi are reversed order clauses, not entire passages. And while relatively ancient, they are prevelant in Latin and only incidentally found in older languages.

What you've found is a common prose technique for wrapping narrative which goes back to oral traditions and is prevalent in every strong narrative regardless language or age. It's the way we tell stories, not evidence of ancient origins.

Mormanity said...

CV Rick, your statement would be relatively correct if Wikipedia were the final word on scholarly knowledge. Based on your statement, I assume you've read Wiki's article on chiasmus, which focuses on very short introverted parallelism and the occurrence of these little fragments in Latin. But modern scholarship has opened up much deeper respect for the profound role of chiasmus in more ancient writing, especially from the Near East. Several books and many articles have been written on the use of chiasmus over long texts in the ancient Near East. Chiasmus in Antiquity ed. by John Welch has contributions from some of the leading scholars in this area. One easy-to-access online source is "Chiasmus: An Important Structural Device Commonly Found in Biblical Literature (PDF) by Brad McCoy, or view an HTML version.



Excerpts:

[R]enowned Johannine scholar, Raymond Brown . . . has identified chiasms both in short passages and in longer pericopes in the Gospel of John (including 6:36-40; 15:7-17; 16:16-31; 18:28-19:16a; 19:16b-42). [Raymond E. Brown, John 1-12, AB, ed. William Foxwell Albright and David Noel Freedman, vols. 29-29A (Garden City: Doubleday, 1966-70), 1:276;
2:667, 728, 858-63, and 910-16.]

He has also written on the chiastic structuring of Matthew 27:62-28:20. [Raymond Brown, "The Resurrection in Matthew 27:62-28:20," Worship 64 (January-March 1990): 157-70.] . . .

One scholar who has specialized in the literary form and structure of the Old Testament is convinced Genesis through Deuteronomy plus the book of Joshua (all six of which he collectively labels "the Hexateuch") form one enormous macro- chiasm with the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 19:3-Numbers 10:10) as the central and climactic (X) component. [David A. Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999), 47-102.]


For the purposes of this introductory discussion, two prime examples of biblical chiasmus will be displayed, one from the Old Testament (Genesis 17:1-15) and one from the New (the Prologue of the Gospel of John). The two examples demonstrate the superb literary beauty of these theologically seminal passages. In addition, they indicate how recognition of the chiastic structure of such pericopes reveals their flow of thought and their focus upon a central concept. [See the structure of these lengthy passages in the article.]

CV Rick said...

Oh come on. Everyone who disagrees with you must necessarily be so inept and lazy as to rely on wikipedia for their knowledge?

I'm actually relying on both my English Literature and History of Literature college coursework. I'm also relying on my autoididactic education in the methods, forms and history of writing. If one strives to write, one ought know something about writing, wouldn't you agree.

Since I'd never heard of John W. Welch, I did some internet searching. It seems his claim to authority is . . . lacking. He's a Mormon who needed to rationalize his faith.

So I went further and did a little research on Johannine scholar, Raymond Brown. Firstly, it's extremely controversial that there ever was a Johannine society of which this "renowned" scholar is an expert. Secondly, his work is incomplete and far from behind "renowned," it's oft-discredited. It seems from my brief research that he's considered an incomplete researcher who shied away from the logical trail his theories would have taken him.

So, to say that a Mormon apologist and a Catholic controversialist are the authorities on the use of a literary device is quite a stretch. I'll stick to my classical education and reading literary scholarship, thank you.

tiredmormon said...

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, is my favorite example of Chiasmus. Of course, her Chiasmus structure encompasses the entire novel, and not just random clauses. Boy, I knew that women was ancient, but now I know that she was also inspired. Thanks, Jeff!

I am going to ignore CV Rick who is trying to destroy my faith in the truths of Frankenstein. Back to FLK with thee, Rick!

Frankie said...

G. "That the Christ must shortly come." (v. 4)

G'. "Things which must shortly come" (v.5)


Relax!

SteSmo said...

cv rick:

Some notes on your comments, if you don't mind. First, you wrote:

"Since I'd never heard of John W. Welch, I did some internet searching."

Okay. We are off to a good start here.


"It seems his claim to authority is . . . lacking."

Um, okay. I thought a J.D. from Duke and a chair on the executive committee of the Biblical Law Section of the Society of Biblical Literature was worth something, but then I guess that I was wrong. Perhapse you could enlighten me on how Prof. Welch somehow lacks authority.

"He's a Mormon who needed to rationalize his faith."

Here is when we get into a snag. This is a classic example of argumentum ad hominem in geneal and also argumentum had hominem circumstantiae in specific. In other words, instead of dealing with Prof. Welch's arguments, you have sought to discredit him by attacking his personality by saying, "he is a Mormon who needed to rationalize his faith." Or, in other words, you took his circumstances (being a Mormon) and used that to attack his character.

The fact of the matter is that Prof. Welch has a good standing in the (non-LDS, I might add) academic community for his work on ancient chiasmus.

Aside from that, not only are chiasmus present in the Book of Mormon, but other peculiar ancient Hebraisms and (what Dr. John Gee has called) Egyptianisms in the Book of Mormon. A good reference for this is the book "Testaments: Links between the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Mormon" by John Tvedtnes and David Bokovoy.

Other good references can be found here:

http://farms.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=&chapid=63 (Oh, but I guess Dr. Parry is just another Mormon trying to rationalize his faith too. Dang, too bad he wasted all that time getting his PhD in Biblical Hebrew and acting in the Princeton Dead Sea Scrolls Society, the Society for Biblical Literature, the International organization for the Study of the Old Testament, and the national association for Professors of Hebrew.)

http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/bookofmormonview.php?subcat=111&cat=3

And then of course there is Jeff's site:

http://www.jefflindsay.com/chiasmus.shtml

KingM said...

This isn't ancient writing, it's just bad fiction.

Despite its tireless narrative energy, despite its relentless inventiveness, the book is bloated, grown to elephantine proportions...Repetition is the problem; the same stories are told several times, accruing more detail with each telling.

This is from a NY Times review of The Witching Hour, by Anne Rice, but it could have easily been talking about the Book of Mormon. At least Joseph Smith had an excuse, this being his first major attempt at a novel. Also, stylistic conventions were somewhat more relaxed in the 19th Century. Anne Rice simply needs a good editor.

jayleenb said...

"CV Rick, your statement would be relatively correct if Wikipedia were the final word on scholarly knowledge."

I busted up laughing when I read that. lol Thanks, I needed a good chuckle.

Andrew said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ishmael said...

Jeff, maybe you can explain something to me that I've always wondered about regarding chiasmus. If the D&C is full of it as well, then why is chiasmus in the Book of Mormon so significant?

Mormanity said...

CV Rick, you can nitpick at the easy-to-access article I pointed out (just one of many examples one could point to) which provides multiple examples of lengthy chiasmus, and cites a variety of scholars who find evidence for lengthy chiasmus - but what evidence do you offer for your original assertion that chiasmus is limited to short phrases, not entire passages?

You said, "Chiasmi are reversed order clauses, not entire passages. And while relatively ancient, they are prevelant in Latin and only incidentally found in older languages." But beyond Wiki and whatever you recall from past coursework, what evidence can you cite to support you statement? I can cite numerous other respected authorities who find chiasmus to be much more extensive - and the article I cited provides some mapped out examples that I think you would be hard press to deny as chiasmus. So please, what is the basis for your assertion? There is prima facie evidence for longer, more complex passages. Have they been refuted as simply coincidence?

Mormanity said...

I deleted a comment that was a bit too ad hominem against CV Rick. He's raising a worthwhile issue and I don't think people should get too upset about that or about his approach. Let's examine the merit of the arguments and welcome the chance to explore and maybe debate.

There was a jab about the misspelling of autodidactic, which is what I think CV Rick intended - but I object to that. If it's wrong to make a man "an offender for a word," then for a letter is even worse. I hope you'll all be patient with my frequent typos, and we should accept them from others, especially on a casual medium like a blog.

Mormanity said...

By the way, I am all for autodidacticism. I even signed up for a course on the topic, but the teacher never showed up.

Mormanity said...

The leading work of scholarship on such chiasmus is Chiasmus in Antiquity, edited by John Welch (Provo, Utah: Research Press, Brigham Young University, 1981). Yes, John Welch is LDS and it's a BYU publication, but before you make the instant assumption that you can dismiss the evidence because a Mormon was involved, please note that this volume brings together the scholarship of some significant non-LDS writers, all of whom recognize the existence of ancient chiasmus that goes well beyond the very simple forms of introverted parallelism you might encounter in Wikipedia or in the relatively obscure works dealing with parallelism in the Bible that existed in Joseph Smith's day (and which were probably completely unavailable to him). The scholars writing in Chiasmus in Antiquity include:

Dr. Joseph Fraenkel, Senior Lecturer in Hallakhic and Aggadic Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;

Dr. David Noel Freedman, Director of Program on Studies in Religion, University of Michigan, and General Editor of the Anchor Bible and Biblical Archaeologist;

Bezalel Porten, Senior Lecturer of Hebrew and Aramaic Ancient Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem;

Dr. Yehuda T. Radday, Associate Professor of Bible and Hebrew, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa; and

Dr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Department of Hebrew, Trinity College, University of Dublin.

Impressive as that seems to me, I recognize that one might argue that their credentials are also "lacking," but even if you feel that way, I suggest you examine the evidence they provide and see if there actually is a reasonable argument against extended chiasmus. I think they offer a compelling case.

KingM said...

I don't doubt that Jack Welch has excellent credentials, I just question where he's coming from. Here is a man who knows the church is true and is actively looking for support for that position.

It does not have anything to do with the scientific method, which is equally invested in discarding a theory. If Welch had not found chiasmus to support an ancient origin for the Book of Mormon, he would have kept searching until he found something that did.

That's why they call it apologetics.

Bookslinger said...

Again, the nay-sayers are trying to confuse the issue and raise a straw-man by pointing at LDS efforts of presenting evidence of plausibility, and falsely characterizing them as being attempts to provide proof of the Book of Mormon.

As others have said, these evidences of plausibility "give room for faith" and are not to supplant faith.

Chiasmus and other Hebraisms do not prove, but definitely lend support to the possibility that Joseph and his contemporaries did not cook up the Book of Mormon on their own.

CV and kingm: Relax. No one is trying get people to join the LDS church based on linguistic evidence and arguments.

By the way, a correlation study that I'd like to see is if the nay-sayers' purported sources of the Book of Mormon (The Golden Pot, View of the Hebrews, and the Spaulding story) also had any chiasmus, and to what degree if they did. Jeff: do you know if there are?

And since there are parallels between Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" and the Book of Mormon, and it appears that Walt Whitman extensively borrowed from the Book of Mormon, are there any chiastic passages in "Leaves of Grass"?

KingM said...

I think Joseph Smith wrote it and see no need to explain this as miraculous or cribbed from other sources. The Book of Mormon is only considered great literature by Mormons; the rest of the world pays it no real attention. Forget the divine origins, if the book were a great example of literature, theology, etc., then it would be studied for its literary merits. As it is, the consensus seems to follow Mark Twain's review: chloroform in print.

I would even argue that most Mormons don't think it's particularly interesting either, otherwise most people wouldn't have to force themselves to stay on a reading schedule.

Regardless, it's a book. People write them all the time. Some are good and some are bad and you can't predict which will be which based on the education level of the writer.

Bookslinger said...

Kingm: you sound like a disaffected or former Mormon. If so, then your logic against LDS apologists just looking for anything until they find something to back up their beliefs might just as well apply to you, in the other direciton.

NM said...

Does chiasmus exist in Joseph's original 1830 inspired version of the Book of Mormon? You know, before the thousands of ammendments were made?

=P

Huston said...

Nobody's responded to Ishamel's question yet, and it's a decent one: if chiasmus appears in the D&C, might that be evidence that it's a reflection of Jospeh Smith's "style" more than evidence for ancient origins?

The answer is no for two reasons: first, chiasmus in the D&C can be expected because it is largely composed of revelations from Jesus Christ, who lived and spoke among a culture that used this technique frequently (see Matt. 13:13-18 for a good one). It would be surprising if Jesus DIDN'T use it!

Also, Joseph Smith and his contemporaries clearly weren't aware of it: there's absolutely none in Smith's sermons, letters, or diaries. That's a huge body of work; if Smith did it as fluently as in the Book of Mormon, you'd expect to see some somewhere.

By the way, all chiasms are not created equal. The examples in the Book of Mormon are far more complex and creative than those in the D&C. If Smith just made up both works, you'd expect to see a roughly equal level of use.

NM, regarding the "thousand of changes," you do understand that that's ultimately an evidence FOR the book, right? The Book of Mormon's English grammar is often awkward. Its original language was based on Hebrew, and is a very literal translation. For example, the first edition had several occurrences of "if-and" statements, such as, "if he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, and it shall be earth" from 1 Nephi 17:50. This "and" and many others like it were later deleted to make the language clearer; but the English "if-then" statement is rendered "if-and" in Hebrew. Makes sense if the Book of Mormon is true, but the critic will have a hard time explaining how Joseph Smith not only knew the rules of Hebrew grammar, but kept them straight as he dictated spontaneously.

Jeff, congrats on having such an awesome son. I told my very bright 11-year-old about this, and she was excited to read the post, too, so tell your boy he's inspiring another generation! And your "autodidact class" joke was appreciated by at least one of us!

Anonymous said...

What changes have been made to the Book of Mormon since its first publication? What are the really cotroversial changes? I understand some grammar has been changed.

Thanks,

Daniel

NM said...

Thanks Houston =)

pepektheassassin said...

Good post. As I understand it, chiasmus can be reversed order passages as well as sentences. Nice work, you guys!

Andrew Miller said...

I highly recommend "Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted" by Donald W. Parry.

That there are great examples of chiasmi and other parallelisms in the Book of Mormon is of little dispute to anyone who really wants to know.

Mormanity said...

Houston, thanks. I suspect, though, that there are examples of chiasmus that can be found in one searches diligently in the writings of Joseph, but they would probably be random or of a very short variety. If we did find artistic, poetically crafted examples in his writings or in the D&C, akin to that of Alma 36, then we'd have some more thinking to do.

SteSmo said...

"I highly recommend "Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted" by Donald W. Parry."

I second that! I am reading it right now - I like to read different versions and editions of the Book of Mormon now and then - and can only say that it is a great resource for those wishing to find out more about Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon.

erelis said...

The Book of Mormon is only considered great literature by Mormons; the rest of the world pays it no real attention. Forget the divine origins, if the book were a great example of literature, theology, etc., then it would be studied for its literary merits. As it is, the consensus seems to follow Mark Twain's review: chloroform in print.

This brings to mind Thomas O'Dea's quote: "The Book of Mormon has not been universally considered by its critics as one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion of it."

His brilliant wit notwithstanding, I find that applicable to Mark Twain.

I find the criticism that the BoM is not great literature to be puzzling. Where does it make any claim to be such? Its authors even apologize at times for their weakness in writing. Instead, the book is simultaneously a written testimony and a history.

I suspect that the major reason why the rest of the world "pays it no real attention" is the very reason that kingm would have us casually dismiss: people cannot simply "forget the divine origins". The BoM and its origins cannot be separated.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Joseph Fraenkel, Senior Lecturer in Hallakhic and Aggadic Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Dr. David Noel Freedman, Director of Program on Studies in Religion, University of Michigan, and General Editor of the Anchor Bible and Biblical Archaeologist
Bezalel Porten, Senior Lecturer of Hebrew and Aramaic Ancient Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem
Dr. Yehuda T. Radday, Associate Professor of Bible and Hebrew, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa
Dr. Wilfred G.E. Watson, Department of Hebrew, Trinity College, University of Dublin


O' you Mormons are always showing off using those non-Mormon experts to prove your points. That is just not fair.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry - with a little luck they'll be impressed enough by the Book of Mormon to seriously consider it and then join the Church. Then we can dismiss them as being biased Mormon scholars just trying to rationalized their faith.

Bookslinger said...

"Don't worry - with a little luck they'll be impressed enough by the Book of Mormon to seriously consider it and then join the Church. Then we can dismiss them as being biased Mormon scholars just trying to rationalized their faith."

Like the Catholic priest who was studying the 2nd/3rd Century early Christian Fathers' writings on deification, and noticed how similar they are to LDS beliefs, then joined the LDS church?

dave d said...

I've read part of Chiasmus in Antiquity, and for someone without a strong background in literary criticism, it is a very technical read. However, I have gleened from it that chiasmus was probably developed in earlier semitic languages (sumero-akkadian and ugaritic were some examples) and by the time that biblical hebrew comes around, it is a full-blown literary device. There is not evidence of development of the device in the Bible, but it is also not solely a hebraic literary feature.

The scholars also seemed to be saying that chaisms are much more prevalent and complex in the earlier portions of the Old Testament and the use of this device seems to die out to a degree in the later biblical writings. Maybe there is a scholar in a later article in the book that contradicts this. I guess I'll find out if I can keep wading through it.

Wells said...

I forwarded this blog link to Jack Welch (my uncle), and he suggested the Edwards & Edwards BYU Studies article on the statistical improbability of chiasmus occurring by chance in the Book of Mormon: http://byustudies.byu.edu/Products/MoreInfoPage/MoreInfo.aspx?Type=7&ProdID=2089&zoom_highlight=edwards+chiasmus
He also was glad to see Don Parry's Parallelistic B of M referenced and suggested the Chiasmus Bibliography for further reading.
What a great teenager to pay attention to all this! Jack himself was only 20 (on his mission) when he discovered chiasmus in the B of M, so your son is well on his way :-)
Anita Wells

Brother Richard said...

Great website. My family really enjoys it.

Just came across some research from an LDS gentlemen named Jared Demke. Mr. Demke has analyzed over 40 extant letters, writings and recorded speeches of Joseph Smith, all of which contain chiasmus. Some of these are very interesting and complex. You can read these chiasmus at: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/3500/davow.html

My family's question to you is, did Joseph obtain his chiastic literary style from translating the Book of Mormon, or was it from being taught Hebrew?

Keep up the good work.