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Hugh Nibley Observed
Hugh Nibley:
A Prodigy, an Enigma, and a Symbol
Truman G. Madsen

Truman G. Madsen

“To those who know him best, and least, Hugh W. Nibley is a prodigy, an enigma, and a symbol. The origins he pursues as a historian are sometimes obscure. His own origins are clear. More dominant than recessive is his inheritance from one of the early Jewish converts to the Church, Alexander Neibaur: that brilliant gift for language and linguistics, that perfect ease with the subtleties and technicalities of word usage. The outcome is a man whose thinking vocabulary is five times that of Shakespeare, and in foreign language ten times that of most people. Superb tools! How he has used them is the story of his life.”

Part of our book chapter reprint series, this article originally appeared in Hugh Nibley Observed, edited by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Shirley S. Ricks, and Stephen T. Whitlock. For more information, go to


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About the Interpreter Foundation Book Chapter Reprint Series

The purpose of this reprint series is to make individual chapters from books published by The Interpreter Foundation more accessible to readers. Although in some instances the formatting and pagination may have been changed, the content of this chapter, like others in this reprint series, is identical to what appeared in its original book publication. It has not been updated to incorporate research that has appeared subsequently nor to reflect the current practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use the full name of the Church and to avoid terms such as “Mormon” and “LDS.”

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