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BYU Studies Quarterly Vol. 55 (2016)
This article focuses on three common English terms—atonement, salvation, and redemption; their usual Hebrew equivalents as rendered in the King James Version of the Bible (KJV); and their associated conceptions found within the Hebrew Bible. In general, ancient Israelites understood redeem primarily in terms of kinship and family law and secondarily as a covenantal term. Salvation was found more often in political or martial contexts. And atonement was primarily a priestly term, dealing with ritual purity and pollution. The semantic lines between these Hebrew terms have been blurred in modern English usage, if not erased entirely; they have also become highly theological, eschatological, and heavenly, whereas their conceptual Israelite linguistic origins are often grounded in the concrete, this-worldly, and practical. The article suggests that recovering the Hebrew sources of the three terms yields more clarity about the theology of atonement.
The 2015 publication of an Ensign article on, and especially photos of, one of Joseph Smith’s seer stones still owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints caused quite a sensation in the blogosphere. Mormon studies as a discipline has struggled to make sense of seer stones too. These responses are understandable, considering how often communities tend to presume little change in ritual practice over time and how identity groups tend to see others’ actually quite similar practices—separated by time or culture—as superstitious and our own as pious and commonsensical. This essay, by folklorist Eric Eliason, seeks to bring to bear the insights of both folklore scholarship and folklore-informed ancient Near Eastern scholarship on the issue of early Mormon seer stones in particular and American frontier folk magic in general.
One way to read the Book of Mormon is to be attentive to ways in which it comes across as a translated text. Being mindful of this is wise, because all translations—even inspired translations—lose something of the primary language, particularly as meanings shift when words are rendered into the vocabulary or idioms of the target language. While the exact nature of the original language used by Abinadi, Ammon, Aaron, or Mormon is unknown, the English text of the Book of Mormon gives helpful hints. Two passages (1 Ne. 1:2 and Morm. 9:32–33) suggest that Egyptian and Hebrew elements were found in the language used by Book of Mormon speakers and writers, which allows present-day scholars to look for places where the current translation displays these elements. This article suggests a possible connection between three Book of Mormon passages and a Hebrew word with a wide semantic range—a range that appears to be reflected quite purposefully in the English translation of these three passages in the books of Mosiah and Alma. That Hebrew word is netzach.