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A Review of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon
(Part 4)

Part 1 ⎜ Part 2 ⎜ Part 3A ⎜ Part 3B ⎜ Part 3C ⎜ Part 3D ⎜ Part 3E ⎜ Part 4 ⎜ Part 5 ⎜ Part 6 ⎜ Part 7 ⎜ Part 8 ⎜ Postscript

Parallelomania

At its most basic definition, “parallelomania refers to a phenomenon (mania) where authors perceive apparent similarities and construct parallels and analogies allegedly without historical basis.”[1] In literary criticism, including biblical criticism, parallelomania has been described as “that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction.”[2] The Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (AEBOM) engages in parallelomania throughout its pages. It attempts to draw comparisons between North American indigenous peoples (including their dress, writing, and cultural practices) and Jews to prove the Heartland theory. These comparisons and parallels, however, are largely illusory, or lack any justifiable historical basis. Examples of parallelomania in the AEBOM include:

  • On page 91 the AEBOM attempts to show parallels between the so-called Anthon Transcript and Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs.[3] The claim made by Hocking and Meldrum is that “some of the characters from the Book of Mormon plates resemble the hieroglyphs of the Mi’kmaq First Nation (MicMac), an important Algonquian tribe that occupied” portions of Eastern Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island). Comparison between what is generically called “hieroglyphs from ancient Egyptian” and Mi’kmaq script is also made attempting to show “similarities and meanings” between the two. This, Hocking and Meldrum seem to be arguing, provides evidence for the Book of Mormon in the “heartland.” The problem here with this is twofold. First, some of the “ancient Egyptian” symbols identified by Hocking and Meldrum are not at all what they claim they are. One of the figures they point to looks like sign O41 from Gardner’s sign list (qȝy). Contrary to the definition provided, however, it does not mean “exalted one” but rather “hill” (or an undefined determinative for “stairs, ascent, height”). Another sign identified as “heaven” is not the Egyptian word for heaven (Gardner’s N1; sky, pt), and a third sign (F35; lung or windpipe, nfr) does mean goodness or beauty as claimed in the AEBOM, but neither “truth” nor its supposed Mi’kmaq equivalent “holy” (which would be Gardiner’s D45; arm with hand grasping the nḥbt-wand, ḏsr). The second problem is that Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs are a modern script effectively invented by Chrestien Le Clercq and Pierre Maillard, Catholic missionaries in the 17th century.[4] The comparisons made by Hocking and Meldrum (at least those that are actually based on textual evidence[5]) are thus fallacious.
  • In several places the AEBOM attempts to draw parallels between modern Native American dress, hairstyles, and even physical features with those of Jews and Europeans. For example, Jewish payot and tefillin (misspelled “Teffillin” in the AEBOM) are said to evoke similarities with the hairstyles of modern Native Americans (253). Likewise, Jewish tzitzit are compared to “similar fringes” found in Native American clothing (146). Absolutely no justification is given by Hocking or Meldrum for why they chose to draw these specific comparisons over others. The parallels appear haphazardly and at random, lacking any kind of methodological consistency or rigor. Fringes or tassels are, in fact, commonly found in the clothing of various cultures down to the present day. If the presence of fringes on nineteenth century Native American dress somehow proves they are descendants of ancient Jews, then does such prove the same for Woodstock hippies from the 1960s?
  • The AEBOM highlights “early 1868–1898 photographs of direct descendants of the American Cherokee Nation” with what the editors claim are “facial features of the Cherokee men and young women show[ing] European/Middle Eastern hallmarks” (132). Besides this being an inherently subjective (and borderline racist) argument that is, literally, in the eye of the beholder, Hocking and Meldrum never pause to consider the possibility that these European “hallmarks” might be the result of at least two centuries of European admixture with native North American peoples,[6] and not from a supposed Lehite migration to the “heartland” in antiquity. Again, absolutely no justification for this subjective line of argumentation is provided.
  • The execution of Colonel William Crawford in 1782 is presented as a parallel to the martyrdom of Abinadi in Mosiah 17 (175). After being captured by Delaware Indians, Crawford was executed by being burned with faggots and hot coals. This “parallel” with the Book of Mormon, however, overlooks the fact that capital punishment by means of scourging with faggots is a practice documented among the ancient Maya.[7] The parallel cited by the AEBOM post-dates the event described in Mosiah 17 by nearly two millennia, whereas the Mayan evidence dates much more closely to Abinadi’s life and even more closely matches the description offered in the text of Mosiah 17.[8] So while the parallel offered in the AEBOM in this instance is supportable, it is far weaker than comparisons that can be made between the Book of Mormon and ancient Mesoamerica.
  • A chart provided on p. 542 lists “words and phrases” that are shared by “Indians of America” and biblical Hebrew. The first problem with this chart is that it does not specify which “Indians of America” are being discussed, so it is impossible to verify which language to check to see if the parallels are valid. The short citations of two eighteenth and nineteenth sources to give some kind of credence to the chart are woefully inadequate, as they offer no genuine anthropological or linguistic insight, but rather reflect what is now widely considered to be thoroughly out of date speculation, at best, about Native American origins.[9] Besides this problem, the chart also suffers from the fact that many of the Hebrew words listed aren’t actually Hebrew. “Jehovah,” for instance, the first word cited as parallel to the “Indian” word “Yohewah,” is not actually Hebrew, but the English mispronunciation of the German mispronunciation of the Latin mispronunciation of a deliberate Hebrew mispronunciation of the tetragrammaton (YHWH),[10] which is believed to have originally been pronounced something like ya-weh.[11] “It was never actually pronounced ‘Jehovah’ in antiquity.”[12] Additional non-Hebrew words (or badly confused words) in the chart include, but are not limited to, those for Heavens (shamayim, not “Shemin”), Wife (ʾishah, not “Eweh, Eve”), His wife (ʾishto, not “Lihene”), nose (ʾaf, not “Neheri”), Winter (choref, not “Korah”), Do (ʿasah, not “Jannon”), and Assembly (qahal, not “Grabit”). The last phrase on the chart, Waiter of the high priest, has no known correspondence in Hebrew or Aramaic. It is obvious that Hocking and Meldrum are clueless to even the basics of Hebrew, and have merely passed on spurious parallels they uncritically accepted from thoroughly outdated sources.

Many more examples of parallelomania could be cited and discussed (e.g. 120, 142, 152, 450, 540). The point here should be sufficiently clear: the AEBOM is riddled with spurious “parallels” that do not pass even the slightest scrutiny.

Endnotes

[1] See “Parallelomania” online at Wikipedia.

[2] Samuel Sandmel, “Parallelomania,” Journal of Biblical Literature 81, no. 1 (Mar., 1962): 1.

[3] For more on the Anthon Transcript, see Stanley B. Kimball, “The Anthon Transcript: People, Primary Sources, and Problems,” BYU Studies 10, no. 3 (1970): 325–352; FARMS Staff, “Martin Harris’s Visit with Charles Anthon: Collected Documents on the Anthon Transcript and ‘Shorthand Egyptian’,” FARMS Preliminary Report (1990); Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Robin Scott Jensen, “The ‘Caractors’ Document: New Light on an Early Transcription of the Book of Mormon Characters,” Mormon Historical Studies 14, no. 1 (2013): 131–152.

[4] Sarah Rivett, Unscripted America: Indigenous Languages and the Origins of a Literary Nation (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2017), 55–58, 74–88, 201–206. Le Clercq was evidently “inventing or adapting” his system partly off of pre-existing Mi’kmaq pictographs, since at least two glyphs pre-dating Le Clercq have been identified, but they appear not to have been alphabetic signs but rather mnemonic ideograms, and in any case, they date to no earlier than AD 1500. Rivett, Unscripted America, 77–78.

[5] The sixth character down on the left-hand side of Figure 2 on p. 91 that Hocking and Meldrum claim comes from the Anthon Transcript in fact has no corresponding character on the Anthon Transcript.

[6] On which, see Ann McGrath, Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015). In fact, one of the very Cherokees the AEBOM draws attention to, John Ross (446), himself had a white wife, Mary Brian Stapler.

[7] See Mark Alan Wright and Kerry Hull, “Ethnohistorical Sources and the Death of Abinadi,” in Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise, ed. Shon D. Hopkin (Provo and Salt Lake City, UT: Religious Studies Center at BYU and Deseret Book, 2017), 209–230.

[8] Wright and Hull, “Ethnohistorical Sources and the Death of Abinadi,” 218–223.

[9] In fact, although the AEBOM cites Elijah Haines, The American Indian (Uh-Nish-In-Na-Ba): The Whole Subject Complete in One Volume (Chicago, Ill.: The Mas-Sin-Na-Gan Company, 1888), 100 for the chart, Haines himself reproduced the chart from Ethan Smith, View of the Hebrews, 2nd ed. (Poultney, VT: Smith and Shute, 1825), 90, who in turn was citing “Doct. [Elias] Boudinot [1802–1839], [James] Adair [c.1709–1783], and others.” Needless to say, the citation of a chain of two-hundred-year-old references who uncritically relied on others for their information inspires little confidence. It is also ironic that the AEBOM (unwittingly) cites View of the Hebrews, a favorite candidate for Joseph Smith’s alleged plagiarism among anti-Mormons.

[10] “While it is almost if not quite certain that the Name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh,’ this pronunciation was not indicated when the Masoretes added vowel sounds to the consonantal Hebrew text. To the four consonants YHWH of the Name, which had come to be regarded as too sacred to be pronounced, they attached vowel signs indicating that in its place should be read the Hebrew word Adonai meaning ‘Lord’ (or Elohim meaning ‘God’). . . . The form ‘Jehovah’ is of late medieval origin; it is a combination of the consonants of the Divine Name and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes but belonging to an entirely different word. Although . . . ‘Jehovah’ [is used] to render the Tetragrammaton (the sound of Y being represented by J and the sound of W by V, as in Latin) . . . the word ‘Jehovah’ does not accurately represent any form of the Name ever used in Hebrew.” Bruce M. Metzger, “To the Reader,” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, ed. Michael D. Coogan, 5th ed. (New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 2018), xvii.

[11] See Josef Tropper, “Der Gottesname Yahwa,” Vetus Testamentum 51, no. 1 (January 2001): 81–106. See further the comments by Dana M. Pike, “Biblical Hebrew Words You Already Know and Why They Are Important,” Religious Educator 7, no. 3 (2006): 106–109, quote at 107: “The consonants in the name ‘Jehovah’ are transliterated from the four Hebrew letters of the divine name yhwh (again, the Hebrew ‘y’ is represented in English as ‘j’). And the vowels in ‘Jehovah’ are derived from the vowels in the substitute title ‘ădōnāy, with a slight variation in the first vowel. Thus, the name Jehovah, which is very familiar to us, is a hybrid form that was written as early as he twelfth or thirteenth century, but is not well attested in English until the early sixteenth century. It was never actually pronounced ‘Jehovah’ in antiquity. Based on evidence such as the shortened forms of yhwh that appear in Israelite personal names and in the Hebrew Bible (for example, Yah/JAH in Psalm 68:4, and the last portion of the expression halĕlû-yāh, discussed above), scholars postulate that the divine name was originally pronounced ‘Yahweh’ or something similar.”

[12] Pike, “Biblical Hebrew Words You Already Know and Why They Are Important,” 107.

This article is cross-posted with the permission of the author, Stephen O. Smoot, from his blog at https://www.plonialmonimormon.com.

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