There are 8 thoughts on “Now If This Is Boasting, Even So Will I Boast!”.

  1. BTW, it may be prudent to compare the strenuous and detailed efforts of Stanford Carmack and (by close association) Royal Skousen re: Understanding the nuances of three- to four-centuries-old Early Modern English found in the Book of Mormon (and championed happily by the Interpreter) vis-a-vis the twenty-five centuries-old assumptions proffered in this essay.
    The author states that “The language of Lehi’s and Nephi’s culture was clearly Hebrew,” but – to mirror the author – “I assume” Nephi did not speak (or write) in the more modern Hebrew the author uses to analyze, interpret and help us understand. To wit, the prophet Moroni, in his (nearly) final message to his readers, states:
    30 Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words.
    31 Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.
    32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.
    33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.
    34 But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 7:30-34, emphasis added).
    I hopefully join many of us in thanking God for ancient and modern prophets, seers and revelators!
    [Note: The “Add Comment” format may not allow “emphasis added” highlights, but I did such to Moroni’s words “written,” “speech,” “hath been altered by us,” “the Hebrew hath been altered by us also,” etc.]
    In this same context, according to a (notedly non-Semitist) linguist in a recent Interpreter essay, “Ancient written Hebrew contains only a fraction of what was in the spoken language.” Continuing, he states: “It is therefore important to understand why Semitists [the author (&/or Prof. Bowen)?] find it necessary to include related forms from other Semitic languages [e.g., more modern Hebrew?] for comparison” [1].
    And so, beloved brother (and respected Interpreter editors), please “Block that [21st-century-leaning] pun!”, looking ever to “Christ and him crucified.”

    Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 37 (2020): 237-292

  2. An eloquent, erudite, educational, and enlightening essay, to be sure – and, please, forgive the trite alliteration.
    BUT, as with other contributions to “Interpreter” – Matthew L. Bowen’s similar essays come to mind (even these two as co-authors!) – assumptions may be sandy soil on which to build a gospel-study foundation; to wit: “[n]2. I assume Ammon’s original words carried Hebrew linguistic and grammatical characteristics”.
    Brother Joseph never told how he translated the Book of Mormon’s “language of the Egyptians (1 Nephi 1:2)” into English (although after doing so, he did study Hebrew intently, didn’t he? Hmm).
    But to “assume” Ammon meant what the author here poses – Hebrew puns and wordplay to the max – just may be “looking beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14).
    After searching the phrase on “,” and finding that the Brethren have repeatedly warned against it, I – as a spectator inside the world-renowned “COVID-19 Stadium,” and with perhaps limited years or days left to read – loudly stand up and chant, “Block that pun! Block that pun!”)

    • DanB, I always welcome comments and feedback, especially when these are less than affirmative. First, a couple of questions for you, and then a brief explanation of my reasoning and methodology.

      Question 1: You wrote: “After searching the phrase on ‘,’” What phrase did you search on the church’s website? You are not clear on this point.

      Question 2: Without knowing what phrase you may be referencing above it is impossible to respond to your comment that “the Brethren have repeatedly warned against it.” So, what is it that you discovered that “the Brethren” repeatedly have warned against?

      A quick Google search of “wordplay and puns in the Hebrew Bible” (or something similar) yields thousands of results, many from scholarly articles. Jewish and Christian scholars are united in their recognition of abundant wordplay in the Hebrew Bible. Wordplay in Isaiah is particularly mentioned by scholars. is a very good resource for those interested in understanding foundational linguistic concepts of the Hebrew Bible. On their site we read the following:

      “The Hebrew scriptures are filled with various kinds of wordplay. In addition to some humorous play on words (i.e., puns), you will discover alliteration, acrostics, parables, similes, metaphors, hyperboles, gematria, and other literary devices used in the Hebrew text. Some scholars even suggest that the first two words of the Torah (i.e., בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא / bereshit bara) were intentionally spelled using the same initial three letters ( בּ.ר.א ) for the sake of “alliteration” (i.e., repetition of sound).” (

      Just as you began your comment with wordplay (alliteration) it is possible that the author of Genesis did the same thing. In truth, we find wordplay from the beginning to the end of the Hebrew Bible. You literally cannot escape it. Perhaps this is in part what Nephi meant by “the learning of the Jews.”

      The language of Lehi’s and Nephi’s culture was clearly Hebrew. It was the language of their daily lives, as it was for all living in and around Jerusalem during pre-captivity times. We also learn from Nephi’s own hand that the record which he kept consisted “of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.” While the words may have been written in an Egyptian script – if that is how we should interpret the phrase “language of the Egyptians” – it was definitely a “Jewish” record since it was comprised of “the learning of the Jews.” At best, only the outward form of the record would have been Egyptian, but the core was still Jewish (Hebrew). A book of Hebrew poetry, no matter the language in which it is rendered, should still bear the marks and linguistic characteristics of its source language. Nephi’s long citations from Isaiah – even though he may have used Egyptian script to record them – would undoubtedly still have carried Isaiah’s distinctive wordplays.

      We know that the Hebrew language was preserved among the Nephites down to the very end of Nephite civilization (see Mormon 9:33). Moroni knew Hebrew, and the sons of King Mosiah some 500 years earlier most certainly did too. So, why would it be surprising for Ammon to have structured his response to Aaron in a way that carried Hebrew/Semitic wordplay? Almost certainly what Ammon wrote was not his original, unrehearsed, word-for-word response to Aaron. Ammon, as Alma and others, would have recorded his interaction with his brother at some later time. While remaining faithful to the intent of his original message, most certainly Ammon took the time to craft his written response in an eloquent and purposeful way. What better way to do this than the way that it had been done throughout time by prophets and scribes in the Hebrew Bible, with wordplay?

      For the record, and not to embarrass him, but I believe Matt Bowen to be an innovative LDS scholar and consider him a mentor. His research has served as an inspiration for my own.

  3. Thank you! The level of Hebraic influence in the Book of Mormon amazes me. It is amazing enough to contemplate the time line and circumstance by which Joseph Smith brought forth the Book of Mormon. To read more and more of the internal structures and language that sustain what the Book is presented to be is likewise amazing. And humbling. Thank you for your insight.

  4. This is a significant finding, adding some delightful examples of apparent wordplays in the original text of the Book of Mormon. Nicely explained. Many thanks for your work!

      • Dr./President/Brother Spendlove,
        I appreciate your courteous response to my earlier “Comment,” and apologize if it seemed personal against you and/or Professor Bowen; that was not my intent.
        The “phrase” I referred to on the Church’s website, which I had referenced (and cited) in my previous sentence, was “looking beyond the mark.” (Even ‘Googling” the phrase leads one directly to many LDS General Authorities’ warnings.)
        My definition of “mark” is “Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Nephi may have understood more about Hebrew’s “humorous play on words (i.e., puns), … alliteration, acrostics, parables, similes, metaphors, hyperboles, gematria, and other literary devices” than any of us, yet chose to stay within the mark to “talk,” “preach,” and “prophesy of Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26).
        Esoteria may be the language of academia and the intelligentsia, but if it goes “beyond” – or falls short of – “the mark” (which happened for me in your essay) it does little to turn hearts to the Savior.

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