Thursday, March 13, 2008

More Mormon Musings

I took my Elder Buddies out to lunch today, so we could talk some more about my questions from last time.

There is a great wealth of conversations to relate here. I felt sad for these guys, who are very sincere and yet seem unable to really engage with the questions I am asking them. No doubt because they are trying to convert me. Ahem.

Anyway, I had read a brief passage of the Book of Mormon at their urging. It's a part where Jesus reveals himself to the Lost Tribe of Israel and they are all Very Impressed and line up to put their hands in his side (which I thought was weird, but we didn't discuss that today).

Me: You know what really bothered me about this? You have all these Semitic people -- and what language was the Book of Mormon translated from?

Elder J: Hebrew and Egyptian.

Me: Right. So you have these Semitic people, and somehow Jesus introduces himself as Jesus Christ.


Me: And Christ is a Greek word. We should expect that, at the least, it would say Messiah, and maybe it would be translated "annointed one." But for a Greek word to show up in the middle of a Hebrew text, that's just weird. And then it talks about "baptism" which is a Greek word, too. Both "baptism" and "Christ" are transliterated from Greek, not translated. So how do you explain that?

Elder J: That's a good question.

Elder M: I don't know the answer to that. But I know that God knows the answer.

Me: Okay.

Elder M: And if you pray and ask God to show you the truth of the Book of Mormon, I can guarantee he will do that.


  1. Hey Thaddeus! You missed one.

  2. Oh, sorry.

    Have you read the KJV? I personally find the Book of Mormon is generally easier to follow.

    I don't know everything about the translation process Joseph was involved in. I wasn't there and I haven't researched it in depth. I do know that it was different than the typical process of translating ancient manuscripts used by scholars today.

    There were at least three sources for the words Joseph dictated, the specific proportions of each I can only guess:
    1-The actual words on the gold plates, interpreted by the Urim and Thummim;
    2-The intended meaning or clarification through inspiration of the Holy Ghost; and
    3-His own vocabulary (putting abstract concepts into words and phrases he was familiar with--thus, the KJV language).

    So, while "Christ" is a Greek word, there was likely some word in the Nephite Hebrew that represented the same idea, such as "Messiah."

    What Do Mormons Believe?

  3. Sure, I've read the KJV. It's not really a matter of whether it's easier or harder to read. It's that stylistically, the Book of Mormon (is there an abbreviation that's acceptable... I don't want to offend if there's not) seems to be lacking. It reads more like someone trying to write KJ English (like someone writing for the Thor comics or something) rather than someone who speaks it naturally and well. Which I would assume in a regular translation would be because of the translator. But since Joseph Smith translated via supernatural means, I would assume that the language would be superior.

    Anyway, I'm sure that there would be a word (precisely like Messiah) that would translate into Christ, I just don't understand why it wouldn't have been translated as "Jesus the Messiah" if that's the case. It just seems like poor translation otherwise.

    A case in point would be the word "baptism" which in the KJV was transliterated from the Greek rather than being translated as "immerse". Since the church at the time practised sprinkling, they didn't want to translate Greek. But in the Book of Mormon there's a clear distinction made about immersion, and the word for baptism is still used.

    And of course all of this would be much easier to explore if there were an existing text we could all go take a look at together.