Recently one of my readers gave me a “heads up” regarding a recent podcast that he thought I would enjoy.
He was right. I did enjoy it.
The title of the podcast is “Intertextuality in the Book of Mormon with Nick Frederick”
You can play the podcast or read the transcript at the link provided above.
I suspect that my reader felt I would enjoy the topic of intertextuality since I have been doing intertextual keyword searches between the four standard works of the church for along time and I feel that it is an integral and indispensable tool in gospel study.
I have stated many times that I believe that God intentionally used King James English and exact phrases from the Old Testament and New Testament in the Book of Mormon for the express purpose of enabling the student of the gospel to SEARCH the scriptures more precisely, effectively, and efficiently. By doing so, it becomes easy to do word and phrase links between canons of scripture.
Shared terminology between texts is extremely helpful when intertextuality is being employed in scripture study.
Here is a statement by Nick that I found interesting
Quotation, allusion, and echo are the standard terms that biblical scholars use when they talk about the intertextual relationship between the New Testament and the Old Testament. And those are useful for the New Testament because a lot of their criteria are based upon consecutive words.
Five consecutive words and more equals a quotation, and four consecutive words or less equals an allusion. Maybe one or two words equals an echo.
You’re not going to have that in the Book of Mormon. It has some consecutive words, but a lot of the great interactions are ones where there are maybe four or five words from a sentence that are spread out over a verse, and they’re key identifiable words, but they’ve been deconstructed and reconstructed to form a new sentence. And so, quotation, allusion, and echo didn’t really seem to work because we’re not relying upon consecutive words.
I was a little surprised when he said you are not going to find a lot of “consecutive words” to link up between the Book of Mormon and the Bible. I have found quite a few.
One of the reasons that I like using Google when searching the Internet is because it still allows the user to use Boolean operators in a search, although they do not encourage users to use their own operators.
Boolean searches allow you to combine words and phrases using the words AND, OR, NOT and NEAR in caps (otherwise known as Boolean operators) to limit, widen, or define your search. Most other search engines don’t allow you to control the search because they want to control it.
George Boole, an English mathematician in the 19th century, developed “Boolean Logic” in order to combine certain concepts and exclude certain concepts when searching databases.
Listed below are a few of the most prolific operators
- The Boolean search operator AND (in caps) is equal to the “+” symbol.
- The Boolean search operator NOT (in caps) is equal to the “-” symbol.
- The Boolean search operator OR (in caps) is the default setting of any search engine; meaning, all search engines will return all the words you type in, automatically.
- The Boolean search operator NEAR (in caps) is equal to putting a search query in quotes, i.e., “sponge bob squarepants”. You’re essentially telling the search engine that you want all of these words, in this specific order or this specific phrase.
Back in the day, the use of Boolean operators in search engines was quite common. However it is now quite rare for them to be employed so that the user could control them.
Most of the other Internet search engines besides Google claim that they have simply built Boolean operators into their search algorithms and therefore don’t allow the user to enter their own, but the truth is that they want to control and prioritize the operators in the search instead of letting you control it.
By doing so, they largely control the information that shows up during a search. I suspect that in some situations they partner with sites that will monetize them for directing traffic to them.
I once had scripture searching software that allowed the extensive use of Boolean operators but my computer crashed and I have lost the software and it is no longer sold. Unfortunately the online LDS scripture searching software provided by the LDS church does not allow such sophisticated searches, although it seems to allow some simple two part Boolean searches.
Did Joseph transfer an exact text from one language to another?
Another reason that I enjoyed the interview is because for many years I have expressed my belief that the word “translate“, when used by Joseph Smith in the early 1800’s, and the scriptures he brought forth, does not mean to literally transfer an exact text from one language to another.
Rather, it means transfer an inspired “interpretation” of a text into another language.
Interestingly, some of the definitions for “translate” in the 1828 Websters dictionary reveal that translate can mean To interpret…to express the sense of one language in the words of another, to explain.
There is a big difference between the act of doing a scholarly attempt to literally transfer the exact text from one language to another as opposed to simply providing an inspired interpretation of a text from one language to another.
In the case of the Book of Mormon, one of the best ways for God to provide inspired interpretations of what the Book of Mormon prophets were saying, is to couch or reformulate the text in similar King James verbiage and word phrases that are found in the Bible.
Perhaps because during the time of the LDS restoration, many or most investigators would have been biblical Christians and were intimately familiar with Biblical linguistics. To them, the Biblical text in the King James English was God’s language.
As an example of similarities found between the text in the Book of Mormon and the New Testament, compare the following keyword verbiage in Moroni 7 with the keyword verbiage found in 1 Corinthians 13.
Those who believe that joseph Smith was doing a literal word for word translation from one language to another during the translation process might have tremendous indigestion to think that Moroni is using such similar phraseology in the Book of Mormon to that of Paul in the New Testament.
Skeptics of the Book of Mormon are quick to point out that it is unlikely that the Book of Mormon prophets would use the exact same phrases as the New Testament apostles.
This seems particularly true when italics are employed in the King James version. Italics are used to indicate where translators would occasionally put their own words into the text to make the English more readable.
I personally do not find it unfathomable that God could inspire the thoughts and words of both Biblical prophets and Book of Mormon prophets to be very similar. After all, we are informed in holy writ that no prophecy of the scriptures is given of any private will of man. (2 Peter 20 JST)
Nor is it unfathomable that He inspired the words of the King James translators when adding their own words for clarity.
Nevertheless, from a practical point of view, one could argue that since Moroni and Paul spoke different languages, living in different cultures, it is doubtful that a literal scholarly translation would result in the exact phrase in a King James english. The truth is that Paul wasn’t speaking in the King James English either.
I believe it is more likely that God took the words of Moroni and provided an inspired interpretation of what was being said, using words and phrases that were used in the King James version of the New Testament.
By doing so, the words of the Book of Mormon prophets would be complemented by the language and literary style in the King James New Testament that the reader would already be familiar with.
Because I feel the way I do about the translation process, I enjoyed the following statement by brother Frederick wherein he postulated that the text in the plates was not the same text in the Book of Mormon.
(I took the liberty of inserting the text in red for greater clarity and accuracy):
Too often when I hear Latter-day Saints talk about the Book of Mormon, they talk about the Book of Mormon and the gold plates as if they’re the same text. I wonder if it would be useful for us to conceptualize them as two different texts. The Book of Mormon is an English document that was produced in the 19th century by [by the gift and power of God through the prophet] Joseph Smith…, And the gold plates are a record that was written 2,000 years ago by Moroni, by Mormon, and by Nephi. They’re not the same text. One is a translation [inspired interpretation] of another one.
All of these issues should be viewed with the thought in mind that God has admonished us multiple times to search the scriptures.
Does it not make sense that he would provide an inspired translation process that facilitates the process?
“Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away but shall all be fulfilled…” (D&C 1:37-38)
“Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words• of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them—“ (3 Nephi 20:11)
“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)
“And it came to pass that peace and the love of God was restored again among the people; and they searched the scriptures, and hearkened no more to the words of this wicked man.” (Jacob 7:23)
“And it came to pass after he had made an end of speaking unto the people many of them did believe on his words, and began to repent, and to search the scriptures” (Alma 14:1)
“Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first• appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had bsearched• the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.” (Alma 17:2)