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Hebraisms In The Book of Mormon | Donald W. Parry

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00.780] - Don Parry

...was discovered in a legal deed in a cave.

[00:00:05.720] - Scott Christopher

These are Hebraisms that Joseph Smith would never have known about.

[00:00:10.330] - Don Parry

And here they are in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith absolutely, certainly translated the Book of Mormon by the Power of God.

[00:00:28.080] - Scott Christopher

I am here with Don Parry, author of Preserved in Translation, and a lot of other books. I can probably attest that this is the narrowest book that you've possibly ever written.

[00:00:43.340] - Don Parry

Probably so.

[00:00:44.370] - Scott Christopher

You are a researcher, an author, a professor at BYU. Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you've done, I want to make sure we establish your credibility here.

[00:00:59.210] - Don Parry

I teach the Hebrew Bible, which is the Old Testament, but it's in the original language. I studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, earned a PhD in the topic, and I've lived in Israel three times. I do Hebrew Bible. I research and publish things for scholars and scholarly works in international presses on the Hebrew Bible. It's what I do. It's my job.

[00:01:32.060] - Scott Christopher

You've just said the word Hebrew seven times right there. We're here to talk to you about, if I'm saying this right, Hebraisms. Yes. What are Hebraisms and why would it matter to us on our quest to find evidence for the Book of Mormon.

[00:01:48.320] - Don Parry

We're talking about Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon. Hebraisms are Hebrew-like structures, poetic parallelisms. They are figures of speech or literary techniques and other Hebrew-like constructions that survive the translation and that are in the Book of Mormon.

[00:02:12.900] - Scott Christopher

I mentioned this book a minute ago. I read this last night, I'll be honest with you. It is very digestible. I love the way you talk about how it's accessible to lay people like myself. Clearly, you could get very detailed and technical, but I loved how... I had no idea there were so many Hebraisms in the book. I mean, there's 25 or 30 within this book.

[00:02:36.580] - Don Parry

There are 30, 30 categories, and I'm astounded at how many categories there are. 30 categories, 3-0, and some of the categories present... There are hundreds of one category in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is filled with Hebraisms.

[00:02:58.200] - Scott Christopher

What are some of your favorite Hebraisms from the Book of Mormon?

[00:03:01.470] - Don Parry

A very simple Hebraism is the many "ands." "And" the conjunction "and" is found hundreds of times in the Book of Mormon.

[00:03:15.600] - Scott Christopher

And that's a Hebraism?

[00:03:16.330] - Don Parry

It's a Hebraism.

[00:03:17.560] - Scott Christopher

How do you know that? What makes that a... I mean, "and" sounds like just a regular conjunctive word.

[00:03:22.850] - Don Parry

Let's turn to a verse, and I'll just show you the verse. I'd like to turn to... How about the Book of Helaman 3:14? And it'll just give you an example. 3:14.

[00:03:39.070] - Scott Christopher

By the way, while he's looking this up, here where we are, we do have a copy. We have one of the original Book of Mormon, a copy of the Book of Mormon right there from Grandin, the first couple of thousand that they... I'm not even going to look at it.

[00:03:57.140] - Don Parry

So here's an example of many "ands." And this is not English. In English, I'll read it quickly. So it says, "And their wars." I'm just reading part of it. "And their wars and contentions and dissensions and their preaching, and their prophesies, and their shipping, and their building of ships, and their building of temples..." And, and, and, and. That's not English. If someone wrote this for a high school English research paper and had so many "ands", they would be marked down.

[00:04:31.250] - Scott Christopher

It's really unnecessarily redundant. Wouldn't they set them off with commas? Wasn't that-

[00:04:37.700] - Don Parry

Sometimes they set them off with commas. Of course, ancient Hebrew did not have commas. The two most common words in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, are "and" and "the." The two most common words in the Book of Norman are the same, "and" and "the." "The" and "and." It's just a Hebrew thing to connect sentences with "and."

[00:05:04.430] - Scott Christopher

And just keep going. And keep going. And, and, and, and. And see, that was one of those that I read. And this morning, as I was reading through the Book of Mormon, some of the things that are in here, I started to see for myself and it just helped to crystallize the idea that these are Hebraisms that Joseph Smith would never have known about, even if he had flat out copied them from the Bible, or at least the style of the Bible, he would have to get lucky on so many points.

[00:05:34.770] - Don Parry

Yes, 30, 30 different points.

[00:05:37.540] - Scott Christopher

That's amazing. You've brought some-

[00:05:39.680] - Don Parry

No way he could have just copied all of these from the Book of Mormon.

[00:05:44.170] - Don Parry

For example,

[00:05:45.160] - Scott Christopher

From the Bible, you mean?

[00:05:46.140] - Don Parry

From the Bible. But one was not even known until the 1950s, when a Jewish scholar, whose name was Moses Seidel, he figured out a certain thing in in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament, and he published it. And the article was in Hebrew. Not everyone knows about this. And it's a way the ancients would quote earlier prophets. When we quote someone, we will say, "And President so and so" or "Professor so and so said this", and we'll use quote marks, and then we'll have a bibliographic footnote. But one way the ancients would do it is they would switch some keywords. I'll just give you one example from the Book of Mormon. There are many in the Book of Mormon. The example is... Let me just make sure I get it right here so I don't misstate it in front of the camera. Hold on. Sorry. All right, here's an example. So Isaiah wrote, "precept upon precept, line upon line." Oh, that's- Isaiah 28. "Precept upon precept, line upon line." So Nephi cited Isaiah, and he switched the key elements. And he said, "line upon line, precept upon precept."

[00:07:11.620] - Scott Christopher

I was going to say, you're saying it wrong.

[00:07:13.000] - Don Parry

So that's where you'll switch some key elements. And that's one way they would quote an ancient prophet without saying, And Isaiah said, or Amos said, or Joel said. That's in the Book of Mormon. And a Jewish scholar found it in the 1950s and published it in Hebrew. Now, I introduced this idea to a group of professors a couple of years ago. None of them had heard about it, even as recent as a couple of years ago. So this is astounding. That's a Hebraism.

[00:07:44.290] - Don Parry

Yeah. Wow. It's just fascinating to me because there are people with so many letters and degrees and education from all walks of life in different faiths who come upon these truths. What is someone like that? Do we know what he said about... Do we know if this guy knew anything, that Moses Seidel knew anything at all about the Book of Mormon?

[00:08:07.740] - Don Parry

No. He was dealing with the Old Testament, strictly the Old Testament. Only the Old Testament? Yes. And so we looked For those examples of those, we call them Seidel's Law, named after him.

[00:08:20.980] - Scott Christopher

Named for him.

[00:08:21.160] - Don Parry

And I never met him.

[00:08:21.970] - Scott Christopher

He wouldn't want to call it Moses's Law because that would be the Law of Moses.

[00:08:25.840] - Don Parry

That's right.

[00:08:26.700] - Scott Christopher

As far as I'm concerned. How many did you find? How many Seidel's Laws?

[00:08:29.890] - Don Parry

I found maybe eight or ten. That's without doing a thorough search. Someone needs to write a book about it, or a master's thesis, or something to see just how many there are in the Book of Mormon.

[00:08:43.780] - Scott Christopher

Just gave some ambitious student, perhaps. I hope so. They'd get an A right away from you.

[00:08:49.920] - Don Parry

That's right. Already.

[00:08:51.810] - Scott Christopher

Have you brought any other examples?

[00:08:54.030] - Don Parry

Another example of a Hebraism or Hebrew-like item is our names. There are some Hebrew names in the Book of Norman that were unknown to the world when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. I'll give you one example that I really, really like, and it's the name Alma. Now, when Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, as you know, the name Alma appears many, many times there. And some of the people who didn't understand the Book of Mormon thought maybe Joseph had borrowed the Alma from the Latin or the Spanish. Is it also in the Spanish?

[00:09:34.560] - Scott Christopher

Alma means soul.

[00:09:35.680] - Don Parry

Soul, yes.

[00:09:35.970] - Scott Christopher

Yes. Spirit.

[00:09:37.160] - Don Parry

And they thought, okay, he must have borrowed it from the Latin. But the name Alma was discovered in a legal deed in a cave.

[00:09:49.980] - Don Parry

You're making this up.

[00:09:51.370] - Don Parry

No. South of the Dead Sea Scrolls caves. And it was discovered, and it has the name "Alma, the Son of Judah", written in Hebrew.

[00:10:04.980] - Scott Christopher

So there it is.

[00:10:06.310] - Don Parry

It's a Hebrew word. Now this letter or deed is dated to around 132 AD. So it's centuries before Joseph Smith brought forth the Book of Mormon. Centuries. But it's the name Alma, and we know it's a boy's name because it says Alma, the Son of Judah.

[00:10:24.780] - Scott Christopher

Oh, that's cool.

[00:10:25.550] - Don Parry

It's so fun to look at it in Hebrew.

[00:10:27.460] - Scott Christopher

Well, and there's so many proper names in the Book of Mormon. One reading it for the first time ago, somebody could have made that sounds like a silly name, Aminadab, or Aminadab.

[00:10:41.830] - Don Parry

That's right.

[00:10:42.910] - Scott Christopher

It makes you wonder if you could find some of... Have you found other names also besides Alma?

[00:10:48.290] - Don Parry

Two of my scholars have, two of my colleagues have, John Gee and a couple of others have found about 10 or 12 in different seals and documents that came forth after the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It's just... It's astoundingly wonderful. It's powerful. It's powerful.

[00:11:11.210] - Scott Christopher

Jinx, you owe me a free Book of Mormon.

[00:11:14.310] - Don Parry

What do I owe you? Okay, there's one right here. I know. It's a first edition.

[00:11:18.810] - Scott Christopher

Let me just wash my hands before I touch it. Yeah. So one of the ones that I really liked, and there's so many that are so cool in here that I had never heard of, and I can't find it right now, but I remember it had to do with cognates or cognate. There it is. Cognate verbs and objects. Explain to me what that is or explain to us.

[00:11:37.300] - Don Parry

That's a grammatical form where the noun and the verb are the same root. For example, to build buildings, to dream a dream, to sing a song, to curse with a curse.

[00:11:50.440] - Scott Christopher

Let me remind you of some you've got in here.

[00:11:51.770] - Don Parry

Okay, thanks.

[00:11:53.850] - Scott Christopher

Taxed with a tax, fear exceedingly with fear.

[00:11:59.100] - Don Parry


[00:12:00.370] - Scott Christopher

Shielded by shields, judged righteous judgments, on and on. Now, those are the ones that you found in the Book of Mormon. Yes.

[00:12:08.720] - Don Parry

This is very, very Hebrew. That's how they do it in the Hebrew Bible. For example, We'd never say we are taxed with a tax in English.

[00:12:18.630] - Scott Christopher

It doesn't sound right.

[00:12:19.540] - Don Parry


[00:12:20.450] - Scott Christopher

It sounds biblical.

[00:12:21.450] - Don Parry

Yeah, it's very biblical. Here they are in the Book of Mormon, and they survive the translation into English, showing Joseph Smith was an amazing translator. He translated by the power of God.

[00:12:36.310] - Scott Christopher

Thank you. I mean, there's 15 or 20 right there. And I read those every day in the Book of Mormon. And now I know, yeah, that's how they did it in Hebrew.

[00:12:45.650] - Don Parry

Let me tell you one more.

[00:12:47.590] - Scott Christopher


[00:12:48.490] - Don Parry

And it came to pass. That seems so innocent, "and it came to pass" and yet it is a Hebraism. I teach my BYU students, the biblical Hebrew that about the third week of the semester, "and it came to pass." That is very Hebrew.

[00:13:08.030] - Scott Christopher

It's so ubiquitous in all of the scriptures. But I mean, what makes it so Hebrew? Because it's worked its way into the English lexicon, at least from a biblical or religious standpoint. So how would I know that that really is?

[00:13:24.520] - Don Parry

It's found in historical narratives, not so much in poetry. So it's found in Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Chronicles, Chronicles, and those books, not as often in Isaiah or Psalms or Proverbs, the poetry, and it has to do with narrative. This happened, "and it came to pass." This happened, "and it came to pass." This happened. Very Hebrew.

[00:13:49.420] - Scott Christopher

Yeah. Not exactly 19th century- No. North American English. No. That's awesome. All right, what else can you? What else can you share with me? I mean, I've read all these ones in the book, but I know you have so many more, too.

[00:14:01.340] - Don Parry

There's one that I just found fascinating, and that deals with the ancient prophets like Ezekiel and Isaiah and Jeremiah. They would act out or dramatize a prophecy. For example, Ezekiel, the prophet, was told by the Lord, "Cut your hair and cut your beard, and then divide the hair into three parts." Ezekiel did that, and everyone probably thought "That is super strange. What is our prophet doing? He's cutting this." Then Ezekiel took a knife and stabbed one-third of the hair. He took, he threw one-third in a fire, and the third third, he threw up into the wind. It's a prophecy that he dramatized, and here's what it represented. He was prophesying that Israel, one-third would be scattered to the winds like his hair, one-third would be destroyed by fire, and one-third would be killed by the sword. We have dramatic prophecies in the Book of Mormon. One example is a very famous example, but we overlook it, and that is the Title of Liberty. A lot of people think Moroni was just carrying the Title of Liberty, and everyone followed him. But there's a passage, and it's found in Alma 46:23. "Let us remember to keep the commandments of God, or our garments, shall be rent by our brother, just like the title was rent, and we be cast into chosen, or be sold, or be slain."

[00:15:48.060] - Don Parry

See, that was a dramatic action, and then he applied it. That's another item in the Book of Mormon. We have the Book of Mormon is filled with Hebraic forms and Hebrew-like structures and poetry. We haven't even talked about the poetry. The Book of Mormon came out of the ancient world. Lehi and his wife, and Nephi and others, were Hebrew speakers, Hebrew readers.

[00:16:27.220] - Scott Christopher

It makes sense.

[00:16:27.990] - Don Parry


[00:16:29.180] - Scott Christopher

It makes sense. Yeah, the Book of Mormon begins in Jerusalem. Jeremiah is a peer, if you will. I mean, all of those things that we're reading in the Pentateuch or whatever the first five are. I mean, it makes sense that you would find those. I'm so glad you guys, you guys, your ilk, do this work, because I'm sure there's so many people who are just thinking, Man, 30 or more Hebraistic comparisons to other ancient Hebrew writing, such as the Bible, is so significant.

[00:17:09.710] - Don Parry

Very significant. And when I read the Book of Mormon, I rejoice when I see that it's an ancient text, came out of the ancient world. I rejoiced that so many Hebrew-like structures and expressions and poetic passages. Again, I'm astounded. I'm astounded with the...Joseph Smith absolutely, certainly translated the Book of Mormon by the power of God.

[00:17:44.090] - Scott Christopher

Thank you so much, Don. It's so meaningful to me that I'm here with you. You know your business. You've done the homework. If you weren't a member of the church, you could say unequivocally, these things are real. These connections are true. But to be able to add to that your own spiritual witness, which ultimately is what's going to get you where you need to be, is just fantastic, and very gracious of you to be here with us. Thank you so much.

[00:18:15.400] - Don Parry

It's a privilege. And please let me just add this. Far more consequential than Hebraisms are these three things about the Book of Mormon. One, it's Jesus Christ-focused. It really is. Two, you can know of its truthfulness by the power of the Holy Ghost. And three, it changes lives. It's a life-changing work.

[00:18:40.910] - Scott Christopher


[00:18:41.650] - Don Parry

I brought a very important quote by our prophet, our beloved prophet, President Nelson, and he said, "The Book of Norman is rich with Hebraisms." That's a quote.

[00:18:53.610] - Scott Christopher

He did.

[00:18:54.250] - Don Parry

He said that. He talks about Hebraisms, too. I want everyone to know that Hebraisms constitute yet another significant evidence of the antiquity of the Book of Mormon, that it did come forth out of the Jerusalem Hebrew-speaker world.

[00:19:15.770] - Scott Christopher

I love that. Well, Don, once again, thank you so much. This has been really an honor. Even though I didn't know anything about you until I read this book last night, I want to know so much more, and I know that I can find more of your studies and research, and just really, really appreciate it. This is so great to be able to continue to amass this evidence. Thanks so much.

[00:19:41.080] - Don Parry

What a privilege and opportunity. Thank you.

[00:19:43.520] - Scott Christopher

You got it.