Sign in to follow this  
Carborendum

Isaiah Translation

Recommended Posts

My missionary daughter has found herself being the teacher in her MTC class.  The instructors as well as the other students have a hard time understanding Isaiah.  And they are going through the section of Second Nephi where he's quoting Isaiah a lot.  So, Hermana Carbette is translating a lot for them.

When she pointed out the differing wording of 2:9

Quote

And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.

They pointed out the differing wording from Nephi

Quote

And the mean man boweth not down, and the great man humbleth himself not, therefore, forgive him not.

2 Ne 12:9

They had a lot of questions about this. I've found that when there are differences like this, there is an alternate meaning that explains both passages as being correct.  I suggested that we take a look at the interlinear Bible (Hebrew) and the Blue Letter Bible to help us out here.

I first assumed that the common interpretation of the verbiage in the KJV simply meant that 

Quote

The mean man boweth down to these idols, and the great man humbleth himself before these idols.

This sounds perfectly logical and an acceptable explanation.  I theorized that obviously, if you had idols, you would bow down to them.  And doing so should bring down the wrath of God.  At the same time, if you're bowing down to those idols, then you won't be bowing down to the Lord.  No man can serve two masters.  So, both translations are true.

HOWEVER...

The interlinear bible was not helpful to one unfamiliar with Hebrew.  Either way could be considered a valid translation depending on what "filler words" you add to the literal word for word translation.

Quote

And bow down People and humbles himself each man therefore not do forgive them.

 -- LIteral word-for-word translation from Hebrew 

Meanings are rather interesting.

  • "People" in this context refers to the "common man".  We may say "average Joe."  It also refers to the lowly rather than the noble or celebrity.  Other uses of the word can also mean "mankind."
  • "Each man" in this context is the "man of worth".  We can say "noble" or "celebrity" or something similar.
  • "Bow down" and "humbles himself" are rather interesting literal translations because other Biblical translations mean something else.

Here are some alternative translations.

Quote

New International Version
So people will be brought low and everyone humbled-- do not forgive them.

New Living Translation
So now they will be humbled, and all will be brought low— do not forgive them.

English Standard Version
So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them!

Berean Study Bible
So mankind is brought low, and man is humbled—do not forgive them!

New American Standard Bible
So the common man has been humbled And the man of importance has been abased, But do not forgive them.

Christian Standard Bible
So humanity is brought low, and each person is humbled. Do not forgive them!

Contemporary English Version
And so, all of them will be ashamed and disgraced. Don't forgive them!

Good News Translation
Everyone will be humiliated and disgraced. Do not forgive them, LORD!

Holman Christian Standard Bible
So humanity is brought low, and man is humbled. Do not forgive them!

International Standard Version
"So mankind is humbled, each human being is brought low, and you won't forgive."

A Faithful Version
And men will be brought low, and humbled--forgive them not.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
People will be brought down. Everyone will be humbled. Do not forgive them.

New American Standard 1977
So the common man has been humbled, And the man of importance has been abased, But do not forgive them.

American Standard Version
And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is brought low: therefore forgive them not.

Brenton Septuagint Translation
And the mean man bowed down, and the great man was humbled: and I will not pardon them.

Darby Bible Translation
And the mean man shall be bowed down, and the great man shall be brought low: and do not thou forgive them!

English Revised Version
And the mean man is bowed down, and the great man is brought low; therefore forgive them not.

World English Bible
Man is brought low, and mankind is humbled; therefore don't forgive them.

There were only a few (aside from the KJV and alternate KJV) which read as the Authorized Version reads.  But look at this llist.  All of them indicate that the people in question will be COMPELLED to be humble.  And we know what Alma said about that. 

So, which is it?  They are unforgiven, but why?  Because they bow down to idols?  Or because they Don't bow down to the Lord?  I'd say it is both.

Consider celebrities engaging in cancel culture.  They, themselves, have been caught up in the web of their own idolatry.  They've said a word out of line and have been brought low.  Their apologies sound like confessionals begging for their god's forgiveness.  And yet, they refuse to bow to the God of Israel.

This led us to reading the next few verses.  And this indicates how sometimes, the answer to a forced dichotomy is "both".

Quote

And upon all the ships of the sea, and upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.

  -- 2 Ne 12:16

It is interesting to note that the Greek translation says the first bolded phrase (sea) the Hebrew says the second (Tarshish).  But the Book of Mormon says both.

Now, I have to wonder what the possibility is that an uneducated farm boy (who could barely dictate a well thought out letter) knew about two foreign language translations and decided to combine them into a third translation that he supposedly made up out of whole cloth.  What are the chances?

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think a person can certainly make sense out of both readings, but I think there's more going on in the Hebrew. In my own translation of Isaiah, I treat the second and third clauses as a bit of a word play. וישפל־איש is literally just "a man is/becomes low." While most translations render "humbles himself," I think a better rendering is "is abased." It's playing off of the fact that they're bowing down, and not just to idols in general, but to the products of their own industry, which Isaiah frequently mocks as powerless. Their bowing down thus abases them. Then the root so commonly translated "forgive" is just נשא, which means "to lift, bear, or carry." While it can be used in reference to removing blame, it's generally far more generic than that. I render "do not raise them up." Thus, they are bowing down in worship, which abases them, and the command is to not raise them up from their lowly and abased state. That imagery I think does more justice to Isaiah's use of contrasts and his rhetoric in this chapter about the people trying to hide in lowly places. I would also say I don't think there's significance to the use of אדם and איש. They're just generic words for "human" and "man." I don't see how one gets the suggestion that one is a commoner and the other is a "man of worth." 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@maklelan,

Thanks for your comments.

First, I need to start off by admitting that I don't know Hebrew.  I am looking at various Bible study tools and looking at the English in various verses and various translations.  As I put them all together in my head, there is a clearer picture that arises in ENGLISH.  And once in English, I'm fairly confident in the multitude of different meanings that we could derive from it.  I'm also a student of many modern languages (though only fluent in three of them).  The Biblical languages are foreign to me.  In these many modern languages, I'm familiar with the linguistic quirks that various languages may have.  And I use this knowledge to help advise me on alternative readings of various words.  If I'm off, it is because the language I'm working with is so dissimilar to the languages I know that someone would have to inform me of it.

That said, here is my response.

4 hours ago, maklelan said:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think a person can certainly make sense out of both readings, but I think there's more going on in the Hebrew. In my own translation of Isaiah, I treat the second and third clauses as a bit of a word play. וישפל־איש is literally just "a man is/becomes low."

The slight differences in the English has a significant meaning.  You say "becomes low."  In English this would imply an "effect" rather than any effort or choice.  Whereas, the idea that he "is abased" implies an outside force causing it to happen.  Then the "humbles himself" would mean that he chooses the abasement.

This is why I say that the Hebrew is not clear in its meaning.

Quote

While most translations render "humbles himself,"  I think a better rendering is "is abased."

I did list many translations.  Only a few (which I did not list -- to make a point) used the reflexive.  In agreement with your idea here, the passive is the more common translation in English.  But that is quite different than "becomes low."

Slight differences in wording in English is rather significant in meaning, especially when parsing words as I am. And the fact is that in other languages the passive and reflexive are the same.  Not so in English.  I don't know how it is in Hebrew.  You're the expert there, so perhaps you can comment further on this linguistic idiosyncrasy.

Quote

It's playing off of the fact that they're bowing down, and not just to idols in general, but to the products of their own industry, which Isaiah frequently mocks as powerless. Their bowing down thus abases them.

In today's world I'm not sure this is a distinction.  Based on many general conference addresses, the worship of our own industry is synonymous with idolatry. And again, a new wording:

Their bowing down abases them.  So, the "outside force" idea and the "effect" idea are unified.  It's possible.

Quote

Then the root so commonly translated "forgive" is just נשא, which means "to lift, bear, or carry." While it can be used in reference to removing blame, it's generally far more generic than that. I render "do not raise them up."

Again, I'm not going to claim greater knowledge of Hebrew, since my vocabulary is in the 2 digit range.  But if your translation is correct, why do ALL of the widely used translations render it "forgive" (or pardon)?

And if you are right, how does that effect the reading of Nephi?  They don't abase themselves, so don't lift them up?

Quote

I would also say I don't think there's significance to the use of אדם and איש. They're just generic words for "human" and "man." I don't see how one gets the suggestion that one is a commoner and the other is a "man of worth." 

It certainly is more common to render it as "a man" or "people", no doubt.  The reason I went with my translation is because:

a) That is the way it is written in the KJV and the BoM.

b) I noticed the usage in Ezekiel 23:42, where we'd say "average Joe."  I realize it is because it is in conjunction with רֹב.  But the fact it is so rendered in a few other translations for Isaiah, it leads me to believe it is the intended meaning.

c) Then there is the implied compare/contrast of אדם and איש.  If they both mean "man" in general, then where is the compare/contrast?  So, I see the usage in 1 Sam 17:4 & 23 to describe Goliath (rendered "champion").  Then they describe Goliath again in verse 51 using גִּבּוֹר which by any account is not an average man.

I readily admit I could be wrong.  And I understand you've got a lot more knowledge of Hebrew than I do.  But there is a lot of historical momentum supporting my renderings.

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Carborendum and @maklelan  - as a armature student of textual criticism I am aware of reading and variant readings of various ancient texts as well as the constant evolution of words and concepts.  All of these thing can give greater understanding to scripture.  However, I believe there is another context of the idea of bowing down, or abasing one's self.  It is my understanding that bowing down or kneeling before a Supreme Suzerain or Magistrate of the law is a chiastic display of covenant of obedience to law.  Bowing is also involved in the finalizing of covenant - a signature on the contract so to speak.  I believe it is related to bowing one's head (bending of the nick) in acknowledgement of covenant - which is also related to the references in the Book of Mormon to "stiff nick".

This would imply that those that do not humble themselves toward or to become subject the covenant (or Law of the Covenant) - cannot be lifted up by that covenant - regardless of their "high, average, or low standing" in the society or citizens of the covenant.  In short we are debating the symbolism of covenants by focusing on the literal actions involved in covenant making rather than realizing the reference to and importance of covenant.

 

The Traveler

Edited by Traveler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Traveler said:

In short we are debating the symbolism of covenants by focusing on the literal actions involved in covenant making rather than realizing the reference to and importance of covenant.

I'm not, actually.  I think many different interpretations can be correct even if they appear to be in contradiction with one another.  I haven't said anything about Maklelan's interpretations to be incorrect.  I'm not sure if they are.  They're probably perfectly valid.

The reason I'm looking at all these different meanings of the passage is to investigate the many ways we could apply the principles in our lives.  With different readings/interpretations come different perspectives, applications, principles which could all be correct.  And sometimes, by accepting many interpretations, we can get a fuller understanding of the meaning the Lord has for us.

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Carborendum said:

The slight differences in the English has a significant meaning.  You say "becomes low."  In English this would imply an "effect" rather than any effort or choice.  Whereas, the idea that he "is abased" implies an outside force causing it to happen.  Then the "humbles himself" would mean that he chooses the abasement.

I disagree that "is abased" necessarily indicates an outside force. One can abase themselves by the actions they choose. In fact, that's the prototypical use. The Oxford English Dictionary indicates "abase" is "chiefly reflexive." The Hebrew verb here can be used as a stative, meaning it describes a state rather than an action. The semantic focus then is simply on the state rather than on the agent that caused it. It nowhere occurs in the passive, either, so in the absence of a separate subject acting on the object of the verb, a reflexive sense is most likely. 

Quote

This is why I say that the Hebrew is not clear in its meaning.

I don't know that the Hebrew is that unclear. This verb would have to be piel or hophal or something in order to understand it to clearly mean someone else put them in that state.  

Quote

I did list many translations.  Only a few (which I did not list -- to make a point) used the reflexive.  In agreement with your idea here, the passive is the more common translation in English.  But that is quite different than "becomes low."

Slight differences in wording in English is rather significant in meaning, especially when parsing words as I am. And the fact is that in other languages the passive and reflexive are the same.  Not so in English.  I don't know how it is in Hebrew.  You're the expert there, so perhaps you can comment further on this linguistic idiosyncrasy.

There are verbal forms that are passive/reflexive (niphal), and others that are purely reflexive (hithpael), but it has a lot to do with the nature of the verbal root, too. Here, it's a stative, as described above.

Quote

In today's world I'm not sure this is a distinction.  Based on many general conference addresses, the worship of our own industry is synonymous with idolatry. And again, a new wording:

Their bowing down abases them.  So, the "outside force" idea and the "effect" idea are unified.  It's possible.

Again, I'm not going to claim greater knowledge of Hebrew, since my vocabulary is in the 2 digit range.  But if your translation is correct, why do ALL of the widely used translations render it "forgive" (or pardon)?

Translators can stick with traditional interpretations for lots of reasons. A widespread. consensus among translations of the Bible doesn't necessarily indicate much, especially when they're all rather conservative translations. These translations all get Genesis 1:1 entirely wrong, too, just like they do 

Quote

And if you are right, how does that effect the reading of Nephi?  They don't abase themselves, so don't lift them up?

It doesn't. The text in Nephi is altering the King James Version of the Bible, so it's not necessarily a reflection of the underlying source text. Frequently it's just trying to make sense of an English text that's problematic, either logically or theologically. When we start using the English text of the Isaiah chapters as commentary on the original text of Isaiah, we enter some incredibly complex territory where our theory of Book of Mormon translation has the potential to be very distorting.  

Quote

 

It certainly is more common to render it as "a man" or "people", no doubt.  The reason I went with my translation is because:

a) That is the way it is written in the KJV and the BoM.

b) I noticed the usage in Ezekiel 23:42, where we'd say "average Joe."  I realize it is because it is in conjunction with רֹב.  But the fact it is so rendered in a few other translations for Isaiah, it leads me to believe it is the intended meaning.

 

The KJV and other translations are assuming verses 11 and 17 out to be used to interpret verse 9. Incidentally, in verses 11 and 17, the KJV interprets in the passive the exact same verbal root as is found in verse 9. 

Quote

c) Then there is the implied compare/contrast of אדם and איש.  If they both mean "man" in general, then where is the compare/contrast?

  It's not about contrasting, it's about repeating. It's synonymous parallelism. It's repeating the same thing over again in slightly different terms. This convention has been described as "A, and what more, B." In other words, there's repetition that frequently also builds on the meaning. This is the single most basic feature of Biblical Hebrew poetry. 

Quote

So, I see the usage in 1 Sam 17:4 & 23 to describe Goliath (rendered "champion"). 

1 Sam 17:4, 23 uses the phrase איש־הבנים, which literally means "man of mediation," and refers to the single soldier who fought another single soldier as a proxy for the whole battle. That is precisely the concept of the "champion." Without knowing the Hebrew we can misunderstand the occurrence of איש to be standing on its own, but it's not.

Quote

Then they describe Goliath again in verse 51 using גִּבּוֹר which by any account is not an average man.

In Biblical Hebrew it refers to someone who is vigorous or mighty, so "hero" or "warrior" usually in the Hebrew Bible. In Modern Hebrew, however, it's the generic word for "male." Translating it the same way we translate איש־הבנים is misleading. 

Quote

I readily admit I could be wrong.  And I understand you've got a lot more knowledge of Hebrew than I do.  But there is a lot of historical momentum supporting my renderings.

I'd be careful about using "historical momentum" as an argument. It's always good to see someone trying to dig deeper into the text, and I hope to encourage more of that, but one of the reasons we have the saying that someone knows "just enough Hebrew to be dangerous" is because having a small number of resources can cause more problems than it solves if we don't also know the rules, conventions, and boundaries of the language. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Traveler said:

@Carborendum and @maklelan  - as a armature student of textual criticism I am aware of reading and variant readings of various ancient texts as well as the constant evolution of words and concepts.  All of these thing can give greater understanding to scripture.  However, I believe there is another context of the idea of bowing down, or abasing one's self.  It is my understanding that bowing down or kneeling before a Supreme Suzerain or Magistrate of the law is a chiastic display of covenant of obedience to law.  Bowing is also involved in the finalizing of covenant - a signature on the contract so to speak.  I believe it is related to bowing one's head (bending of the nick) in acknowledgement of covenant - which is also related to the references in the Book of Mormon to "stiff nick".

This would imply that those that do not humble themselves toward or to become subject the covenant (or Law of the Covenant) - cannot be lifted up by that covenant - regardless of their "high, average, or low standing" in the society or citizens of the covenant.  In short we are debating the symbolism of covenants by focusing on the literal actions involved in covenant making rather than realizing the reference to and importance of covenant.

 

The Traveler

Bowing before a suzerain could certainly be a part of a covenant requirement, just like it's a part of Tae Kwon Do tournaments, but I'm not aware of any convention that identifies bowing in and of itself as diagnostic of covenant. That would be like saying the word "bow" in any given text indicates they're at a Tae Kwon Do tournament.  Could you point me to the texts support your position?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Maklelan.  That was very educational.

I have to say that I have a bit of a problem with one issue.

1 hour ago, maklelan said:

It doesn't. The text in Nephi is altering the King James Version of the Bible, so it's not necessarily a reflection of the underlying source text. Frequently it's just trying to make sense of an English text that's problematic, either logically or theologically.

Are you saying that what is currently written in the BoM is NOT a translation from the Nephi's small plates or the Brass Plates?  OR What series of events would you suppose could have put these words into the Brass Plates which were NOT the original intended meaning of Isaiah's own words?

And one more question:

1 hour ago, maklelan said:

Translators can stick with traditional interpretations for lots of reasons. A widespread. consensus among translations of the Bible doesn't necessarily indicate much, especially when they're all rather conservative translations.

I can understand that many translators can make incorrect translations out of ignorance. But if the text is that clear (as you seem to indicate) I'm having difficulty with believing that educated people translating a clear text incorrectly.  I had always believed that when a text is translated in different ways it is because the text is NOT that clear or something is lost in the translation.

But you're not saying anything was "lost in translation."  You're saying that they knowingly perpetuated an incorrect translation even though they clearly re-translated a lot of other words/phrases completely differently.

So, what is the reason people would do that?  Pick and choose which words they leave (knowingly incorrect) and yet change others (believed to be incorrect)?

My dependence on consensus is that I have an assumption that a greater majority of translators agreeing would indicate greater level of accuracy in the translation.  Why would this be a bad assumption?

For the Bible in general, we know that things were lost because of either ignorance of the true gospel or because of intentional mistranslation.  Yet these don't fit into these categories.  Or do they?

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, maklelan said:

Bowing before a suzerain could certainly be a part of a covenant requirement, just like it's a part of Tae Kwon Do tournaments, but I'm not aware of any convention that identifies bowing in and of itself as diagnostic of covenant. That would be like saying the word "bow" in any given text indicates they're at a Tae Kwon Do tournament.  Could you point me to the texts support your position?

It is not directly in scripture text -  I assumed that you have made covenants at the temple.

 

The Traveler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Traveler said:

It is not directly in scripture text -  I assumed that you have made covenants at the temple.

 

The Traveler

I have. I've also been in Tae Kwon Do tournaments. What is the relevance of a generic act as employed in contemporary temples to the same generic act being used in completely unrelated contexts in first millennium BCE West Asia?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, maklelan said:

 

Translators can stick with traditional interpretations for lots of reasons. A widespread. consensus among translations of the Bible doesn't necessarily indicate much, especially when they're all rather conservative translations. These translations all get Genesis 1:1 entirely wrong, too, just like they do

 

Though I see what you are saying (and the literal translation is contested between the traditional, not just in Genesis 1:1, but in many places throughout the Bible) I think there are several factors to consider before tossing the traditional translations or understanding.  We do not have the original documents of the Old Testament, and the context in which they were understood may not be as easily understood from a modern mind as it was from those who looked at documents older than what we have today and either transcribed or translated them.  The Greek indicates that the traditional form could reflect the way it was understood even by Hebrews in the 4th century (which does not necessarily mean it is how it was understood originally, but is something that is closer to the times than we are, though it could also be argued that due to lack of modern measures they could have also had a more flawed understanding as well).  This holds true for many other portions of the Bible which have turned more into questions today.

Something that I wonder about at times is that at times the expressions used in regards to deity are the plural forms, rather than the singular that are reflected in other translations, but we default to the singular expression in our readings and translations in English in almost all those instances.  If we contest Genesis 1:1 in it's modern traditional translation, how far do we go in contesting many of the other traditional understandings regarding the translations of the Bible today, both in English and other languages?

14 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Thanks, Maklelan.  That was very educational.

I have to say that I have a bit of a problem with one issue.

Are you saying that what is currently written in the BoM is NOT a translation from the Nephi's small plates or the Brass Plates?  OR What series of events would you suppose could have put these words into the Brass Plates which were NOT the original intended meaning of Isaiah's own words?

And one more question:

I can understand that many translators can make incorrect translations out of ignorance. But if the text is that clear (as you seem to indicate) I'm having difficulty with believing that educated people translating a clear text incorrectly.  I had always believed that when a text is translated in different ways it is because the text is NOT that clear or something is lost in the translation.

But you're not saying anything was "lost in translation."  You're saying that they knowingly perpetuated an incorrect translation even though they clearly re-translated a lot of other words/phrases completely differently.

So, what is the reason people would do that?  Pick and choose which words they leave (knowingly incorrect) and yet change others (believed to be incorrect)?

My dependence on consensus is that I have an assumption that a greater majority of translators agreeing would indicate greater level of accuracy in the translation.  Why would this be a bad assumption?

For the Bible in general, we know that things were lost because of either ignorance of the true gospel or because of intentional mistranslation.  Yet these don't fit into these categories.  Or do they?

I can think of many reasons why translations continue as they are or in an incorrect manner.  The Bible has many parts that when modern scholars look at it today, do not necessarily expressly mean what or how it has been rendered in English or other languages.  Genesis 1:1 is a decent example (as @maklelan has pointed out).  A down and dirty look by me, in a brief glance (which probably could be contested deeply in it's relation by scholars, so this is not actually a scholarly look, just giving it out as an example of what is meant for the matter of relating to this discussion and my points below).

Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'aretz.

Beginning created (masculine in regards to create and as follows, normally seen as he) gods/deities the everything/universe/sky and the earth.

This could be understood in different ways than how we read it.  For example, though we translate it in the singular, it actually could mean a council of Deities, or a group of them, and it does not necessarily mean in the Beginning, it could mean at the beginning, or a beginning.  Even what is written with the cheap translation there is not actually purely accurate for a translation as it misses context, a more in depth understanding of the words and how they are presented, and various other measures. 

The Deities are the ones enacting the creating, though with a literal English placement it is in the middle of the sentence, and even with that brief and cheap translation, you can see my Biases already regarding what understandings we should have of the words and placement, meaning that a more literal translation would probably not even take the liberties I have which reflect a more traditional understanding of them. 

That said, THIS is one reason why I appreciate the Book of Mormon and other translations and revelations of Joseph Smith so much.  The Bible that we read is reliant upon many traditions and ideas passed down from age to age.  We normally do not have the original texts of many of these Books or even those that are reliably copied from the originals and even when we do, at times the way we translate it can be flavored by the biases of the ones doing the translations and reliant upon how well they may or may not understand the original context that was going through those who wrote it down originally.  It could be that there have been misunderstandings and changes to these books of the Bible throughout the years (and indeed, we used to be taught in the Church that there were actually some times where doctrines and ideas were intentionally changed to mislead the children of men in the Bible's current forms).  Thus, the Bible could be seen as useful, but not necessarily absolutely reliable in the doctrines it taught or gave us. 

With the Book of Mormon we have the direct translation to Joseph IN ENGLISH.  Because of this, it is the original translation, and as it was inspired and revealed by the Power of God, we KNOW that it is probably the most accurate translation of scripture ever done.  THIS is why it is the most correct book and the one that is probably the truest in regards to the message of the Lord.  In addition, Joseph received direct revelations on the gospel and the church which we find in the Doctrine and Covenants.  This does NOT need a translation from any other language as Joseph was the one who received most of these (with a few from others) directly, and it was overseen by him when transcribed by others into scripture. There have been a few changes later, but currently it is probably the most accurate of all scriptures when read in English.  Finally, we have Joseph's Translations and revelations which are found in the Pearl of Great Price, which once again, as with the Book of Mormon, are directly led by the Holy Spirit and the Lord in the process of revelation.

These books of Scripture are for us and help to clarify the misunderstood (or even worse, changed) words or ideas that we find in the Bible (at least in my belief and faith).  In this way, I'd probably ALSO favor an understanding of Nephi's relation of Isaiah similarly to the ideas you have presented, though I understand how that could be problematic from several other points of view (as have also been presented in this thread).  It also is enlightening to see the translations of the Pearl of Great Price in relation to that given in Genesis, as I feel the form Joseph translated and revealed are a much more pure idea to our English understanding of the creation than what we have in Genesis...for example.

Edited by JohnsonJones

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Are you saying that what is currently written in the BoM is NOT a translation from the Nephi's small plates or the Brass Plates?  OR What series of events would you suppose could have put these words into the Brass Plates which were NOT the original intended meaning of Isaiah's own words?

Like I said, this has a lot to do with our theory of Book of Mormon translation. The KJV was not what was on the brass plates, but it's indisputably what's in our English Book of Mormon, along with some revisions. No text has inherent meaning. All meaning resides entirely and exclusively in the minds of hearers, readers, and viewers. So why is it the KJV that is mediating the meaning Isaiah intended? "Goddidit" is just methodological punting. 

And one more question:

Quote

I can understand that many translators can make incorrect translations out of ignorance. But if the text is that clear (as you seem to indicate) I'm having difficulty with believing that educated people translating a clear text incorrectly. 

I'm not suggesting it's phenomenally clear, I'm suggesting that there is imagery that is being used that is easy to overlook, but that I find value in preserving. Educated people translate clear texts incorrectly all the time, though. Like I said above, meaning exists entirely and exclusively in the minds of hearers, readers, and viewers, and it is mediated by our interpretive lenses, which are just as much about dogmatism and identity politics as they are about education. Genesis 1:1 has been knowingly translated wrong for centuries by English speakers because to translate it correctly is to abandon a critical prooftext for creation ex nihilo. Job 19:26 has also been knowingly translated incorrectly for centuries by English speakers because to translate it correctly is to abandon a critical Old Testament prooftext for the resurrection. There is no Bible translation that unilaterally prioritizes what the text says over and against all considerations of theological acceptability or reception. People translate with their readerships in mind, and they frequently massage their translations to meet the expectations, sensitivities, and interests of those readerships. 

Quote

I had always believed that when a text is translated in different ways it is because the text is NOT that clear or something is lost in the translation.

Very few biblical texts are clear. There are always judgment calls to make about what kind of weight to give different considerations. 

Quote

But you're not saying anything was "lost in translation."  You're saying that they knowingly perpetuated an incorrect translation even though they clearly re-translated a lot of other words/phrases completely differently.

No, I'm saying they didn't give adequate consideration to what I believe to be a salient bit of figurative language. I mentioned that people frequently and knowingly translate things incorrectly to demonstrate that agreement among a bunch of translations is not necessarily evidence the translation is correct.  

Quote

So, what is the reason people would do that?  Pick and choose which words they leave (knowingly incorrect) and yet change others (believed to be incorrect)?

They sometimes think the more literal meaning might be difficult to comprehend. They sometimes think the translation they prefer offers more important hermeneutic help. They sometimes think translating it a different way might be theological problematic or might undermine a specific theological agenda. They might not want to depart from a consensus and draw negative attention to a passage that is ultimately not that critical. There are lots of things that could compel a translator to render a text one way and not another.

Quote

My dependence on consensus is that I have an assumption that a greater majority of translators agreeing would indicate greater level of accuracy in the translation.  Why would this be a bad assumption?

Yes, I would say it doesn't necessarily indicate accuracy. I recognize that it's a very common assumption and that the overwhelming majority of readers don't have access to the resources to be able to interrogate a given translation choice much beyond comparing different modern language translations, but it's an assumption I try to help folks avoid. 

Quote

For the Bible in general, we know that things were lost because of either ignorance of the true gospel or because of intentional mistranslation.  Yet these don't fit into these categories.  Or do they?

There are so many more reasons that translations might miss the mark on a given passage, and the overwhelming majority of them have nothing to do with ignorance or malice. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, maklelan said:

Like I said, this has a lot to do with our theory of Book of Mormon translation. The KJV was not what was on the brass plates, but it's indisputably what's in our English Book of Mormon, along with some revisions. No text has inherent meaning. All meaning resides entirely and exclusively in the minds of hearers, readers, and viewers. So why is it the KJV that is mediating the meaning Isaiah intended? "Goddidit" is just methodological punting. 

What I was referring to was the statement 

Quote

The text in Nephi is altering the King James Version of the Bible, 

The reason I'm hung up on this is that once upon a time someone told me that Joseph didn't actually translate the Isaiah chapters (exactly) from the plates.  The theory put forth was that he just transcribed the KJV and then compared it to what he was translating, and made some corrections as needed.

By the quote above, you "seemed" to be saying something along those lines.  As an example, if the Brass plates had an earlier (probably more accurate) version, then Nephi didn't "alter the KJV".  But rather the KJV contains an altered version of an earlier version.

That's what I was trying to unearth.

Quote

I'm not suggesting it's phenomenally clear, I'm suggesting that there is imagery that is being used that is easy to overlook, but that I find value in preserving. Educated people translate clear texts incorrectly all the time, though. Like I said above, meaning exists entirely and exclusively in the minds of hearers, readers, and viewers, and it is mediated by our interpretive lenses, which are just as much about dogmatism and identity politics as they are about education. Genesis 1:1 has been knowingly translated wrong for centuries by English speakers because to translate it correctly is to abandon a critical prooftext for creation ex nihilo. Job 19:26 has also been knowingly translated incorrectly for centuries by English speakers because to translate it correctly is to abandon a critical Old Testament prooftext for the resurrection. There is no Bible translation that unilaterally prioritizes what the text says over and against all considerations of theological acceptability or reception. People translate with their readerships in mind, and they frequently massage their translations to meet the expectations, sensitivities, and interests of those readerships. 

Very few biblical texts are clear. There are always judgment calls to make about what kind of weight to give different considerations. 

Well, that sounds just like what I did, but...

Quote

No, I'm saying they didn't give adequate consideration to what I believe to be a salient bit of figurative language. I mentioned that people frequently and knowingly translate things incorrectly to demonstrate that agreement among a bunch of translations is not necessarily evidence the translation is correct.  

I suppose the weakness in my methodology was that I was depending on this very thing -- consensus on the translation into English by a field of supposed experts -- as a guide to the "more correct" meaning.  I really didn't see much of a flaw in that methodology... until now.

It seems the only way out is to learn Hebrew, myself.  That will take a while.

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 minutes ago, JohnsonJones said:

Though I see what you are saying (and the literal translation is contested between the traditional, not just in Genesis 1:1, but in many places throughout the Bible) I think there are several factors to consider before tossing the traditional translations or understanding.  We do not have the original documents of the Old Testament, and the context in which they were understood may not be as easily understood from a modern mind as it was from those who looked at documents older than what we have today and either transcribed or translated them.  The Greek indicates that the traditional form could reflect the way it was understood even by Hebrews in the 4th century (which does not necessarily mean it is how it was understood originally, but is something that is closer to the times than we are, though it could also be argued that due to lack of modern measures they could have also had a more flawed understanding as well).  This holds true for many other portions of the Bible which have turned more into questions today.

Yes, that's certainly a factor we have to consider (though it would be 3rd century BCE for the earliest translations of the Septuagint), but at the same time, we can point to thousands of examples of the Septuagint translators either getting things wrong, or intentionally changing the translation to reflect theological preferences. They were frequently less disciplined about their hermeneutics back then, which means their take is not necessarily any more reliable than what critical scholars are able to reconstruct today. In fact, in some ways, our knowledge of early Biblical Hebrew today is superior to that of third century Jewish folks translating the Bible into Greek. In other ways it's not. We try to consider all these factors.

Quote

Something that I wonder about at times is that at times the expressions used in regards to deity are the plural forms, rather than the singular that are reflected in other translations, but we default to the singular expression in our readings and translations in English in almost all those instances.  If we contest Genesis 1:1 in it's modern traditional translation, how far do we go in contesting many of the other traditional understandings regarding the translations of the Bible today, both in English and other languages?

I've written about that here: https://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/why-is-elohim-plural/

I've written on the Church and Bible translation as well, which discusses some of these issues: https://rsc.byu.edu/vol-20-no-2-2019/far-it-translated-correctly-bible-translation-church  

Quote

I can think of many reasons why translations continue as they are or in an incorrect manner.  The Bible has many parts that when modern scholars look at it today, do not necessarily expressly mean what or how it has been rendered in English or other languages. 

Genesis 1:1 is a decent example (as @maklelan has pointed out).  A down and dirty look by me, in a brief glance (which probably could be contested deeply in it's relation by scholars, so this is not actually a scholarly look, just giving it out as an example of what is meant for the matter of relating to this discussion and my points below).

Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve'et ha'aretz.

Beginning created (masculine in regards to create and as follows, normally seen as he) gods/deities the everything/universe/sky and the earth.

This could be understood in different ways than how we read it.  For example, though we translate it in the singular, it actually could mean a council of Deities, or a group of them, and it does not necessarily mean in the Beginning, it could mean at the beginning, or a beginning.  Even what is written with the cheap translation there is not actually purely accurate for a translation as it misses context, a more in depth understanding of the words and how they are presented, and various other measures. 

The Deities are the ones enacting the creating, though with a literal English placement it is in the middle of the sentence, and even with that brief and cheap translation, you can see my Biases already regarding what understandings we should have of the words and placement, meaning that a more literal translation would probably not even take the liberties I have which reflect a more traditional understanding of them. 

One of the biggest issues here is the use of the definite article in reference to "beginning." The Masoretic text very clearly does not use the definite article, and preserves the use of "beginning" in construct with the verbal root that follows, creating a temporal clause that continues into verse 2. The verse doesn't say, "In the beginning, God created X, Y, and Z . . ." It says, "When God began to create X, Y, and Z . . ." The overwhelming majority of translations are too theologically dogmatic to translate it correctly. 

Quote

 

That said, THIS is one reason why I appreciate the Book of Mormon and other translations and revelations of Joseph Smith so much.  The Bible that we read is reliant upon many traditions and ideas passed down from age to age.  We normally do not have the original texts of many of these Books or even those that are reliably copied from the originals and even when we do, at times the way we translate it can be flavored by the biases of the ones doing the translations and reliant upon how well they may or may not understand the original context that was going through those who wrote it down originally.  It could be that there have been misunderstandings and changes to these books of the Bible throughout the years (and indeed, we used to be taught in the Church that there were actually some times where doctrines and ideas were intentionally changed to mislead the children of men in the Bible's current forms).  Thus, the Bible could be seen as useful, but not necessarily absolutely reliable in the doctrines it taught or gave us. 

With the Book of Mormon we have the direct translation to Joseph IN ENGLISH.

 

So Joseph didn't do any translating? It was a translation given to Joseph that he just dictated? Why is it so clearly based on the KJV?  

Quote

Because of this, it is the original translation, and as it was inspired and revealed by the Power of God, we KNOW that it is probably the most accurate translation of scripture ever done.

But it presents the KJV's translation even in places where the translation is incorrect. On what grounds can we argue that it is the "most accurate"? That seems pretty arbitrary.  

Quote

THIS is why it is the most correct book and the one that is probably the truest in regards to the message of the Lord.  In addition, Joseph received direct revelations on the gospel and the church which we find in the Doctrine and Covenants.  This does NOT need a translation from any other language as Joseph was the one who received most of these (with a few from others) directly, and it was overseen by him when transcribed by others into scripture.

So you're suggesting that Joseph's articulation and supervision of the dictation, transcription, and redaction of these revelations was inerrant?

Quote

There have been a few changes later, but currently it is probably the most accurate of all scriptures when read in English.  Finally, we have Joseph's Translations and revelations which are found in the Pearl of Great Price, which once again, as with the Book of Mormon, are directly led by the Holy Spirit and the Lord in the process of revelation.

But the Joseph Smith Translation and even the Book of Moses are products of revision of the course of many years conducted by numerous different people who weren't supervised by Joseph Smith. There's even a JST revision in our footnotes that was written by Joseph Smith III. Latter-day Saints rejected the JST for generations. It wasn't until the late 70s that we even decided to give the JST a shot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
48 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

What I was referring to was the statement 

The reason I'm hung up on this is that once upon a time someone told me that Joseph didn't actually translate the Isaiah chapters (exactly) from the plates.  The theory put forth was that he just transcribed the KJV and then compared it to what he was translating, and made some corrections as needed.

That's not what I'm suggesting.

Quote

By the quote above, you "seemed" to be saying something along those lines.  As an example, if the Brass plates had an earlier (probably more accurate) version, then Nephi didn't "alter the KJV".  But rather the KJV contains an altered version of an earlier version.

On what grounds could someone argue that the KJV somehow reproduces a slightly altered version of a 600 BC edition of Isaiah?

Quote

 

That's what I was trying to unearth.

Well, that sounds just like what I did, but...

I suppose the weakness in my methodology was that I was depending on this very thing -- consensus on the translation into English by a field of supposed experts -- as a guide to the "more correct" meaning.  I really didn't see much of a flaw in that methodology... until now.

It seems the only way out is to learn Hebrew, myself.  That will take a while.

 

While that would be helpful, I don't think it's absolutely necessary. Not everyone has the time or the resources to do that. There are plenty of other resources that the lay member can access to help them get underneath the translations they're working with. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, maklelan said:

I have. I've also been in Tae Kwon Do tournaments. What is the relevance of a generic act as employed in contemporary temples to the same generic act being used in completely unrelated contexts in first millennium BCE West Asia?

I am not personally a student of marital arts beyond initial training I received while in the military.  It is my understanding that Tae Kwon Do is a modern marital arts form somewhat based in more ancient traditions of Eastern Culture - most of which come from Buddhist traditions.   While working in Japan I became friendly with an engineer that was a lay Buddhist monk from Zen tradition.  I spent a great deal of my leisure time becoming more familiar with Buddhists rites and traditions.  Walking through a Buddhist cemetery and being familiar with rites associated with the transition from mortal life to a "next" existence - a Latter-day Saint can easily realize that there are connection between poses of Buddhists statues (particular to hands and arms) and sacred covenants of the restoration.

I do admit that I am not a Tae Kwon Do expert but I have some experience with the bowing tradition of Eastern Culture.  Bowing is not just a greeting but a recognition of respect not just of the person being greeted but a promise to to behave, maintain and uphold rules or principles of "good" behavior.   In short bowing is a act which demonstrates a personal commitment to a covenant.  Sometime bowing is a simple lowering of one's head.  I have assumed that the Book of Mormon references to a "stiff nick" person, people or generation  is symbolic of someone that refuses to submit themselves to G-d and his covenants.

If there is another purpose in bowing that you have encountered - I would be most interested in what you have learned that it means.

 

The Traveler

Edited by Traveler

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
31 minutes ago, Traveler said:

I am not personally a student of marital arts beyond initial training I received while in the military.  It is my understanding that Tae Kwon Do is a modern marital arts form somewhat based in more ancient traditions of Eastern Culture - most of which come from Buddhist traditions.   While working in Japan I became friendly with an engineer that was a lay Buddhist monk from Zen tradition.  I spent a great deal of my leisure time becoming more familiar with Buddhists rites and traditions.  Walking through a Buddhist cemetery and being familiar with rites associated with the transition from mortal life to a "next" existence - a Latter-day Saint can easily realize that there are connection between poses of Buddhists statues (particular to hands and arms) and sacred covenants of the restoration.

I do admit that I am not a Tae Kwon Do expert but I have some experience with the bowing tradition of Eastern Culture.  Bowing is not just a greeting but a recognition of respect not just of the person being greeted but a promise to to behave, maintain and uphold rules or principles of "good" behavior.   In short bowing is a act which demonstrates a personal commitment to a covenant.  Sometime bowing is a simple lowering of one's head.  I have assumed that the Book of Mormon references to a "stiff nick" person, people or generation  is symbolic of someone that refuses to submit themselves to G-d and his covenants.

If there is another purpose in bowing that you have encountered - I would be most interested in what you have learned that it means.

 

The Traveler

As a symbol it can have literally any meaning anyone assigns to it. In cultic settings in first millennium BCE Israel, the most common sense was subservience and worship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, maklelan said:

On what grounds could someone argue that the KJV somehow reproduces a slightly altered version of a 600 BC edition of Isaiah?

That seems the reverse of what I was interpreting.

The common (LDS) wisdom is that

a) What we have today is altered from the original.
b) The Book of Mormon is supposed to be the best translation (by the gift and power of God) from the 600 BC edition of Isaiah.

But when you said, 

Quote

The text in Nephi is altering the King James Version of the Bible, 

It would imply that the words which we have in the BoM today are an altered version of the KJV, not an earlier version.  By your reaction, I guess that's not what you were saying.  So, I'm asking for clarification on what you meant by this.

Quote

While that would be helpful, I don't think it's absolutely necessary. Not everyone has the time or the resources to do that. There are plenty of other resources that the lay member can access to help them get underneath the translations they're working with. 

Like what?

It seems that whatever source I look to for to help with the translation while I can get directly to the studying will depend on the accuracy of the translator in question.  And I would personally have no way of knowing how good it is without knowing the Hebrew myself.

So, what are these other alternatives you speak of?

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Carborendum said:

That seems the reverse of what I was interpreting.

You said the following:

Quote

As an example, if the Brass plates had an earlier (probably more accurate) version, then Nephi didn't "alter the KJV".  But rather the KJV contains an altered version of an earlier version.

So what "earlier version" are you suggesting the KJV contains? Earlier than what?

Quote

 

The common (LDS) wisdom is that

a) What we have today is altered from the original.
b) The Book of Mormon is supposed to be the best translation (by the gift and power of God) from the 600 BC edition of Isaiah.

 

What, precisely, does it mean that the translation was done "by the gift and power of God"? Does it mean that the translation is inerrant? Does it mean Joseph Smith didn't actually translate anything? Does it mean he just dictated a translation that was shown to him? Why is it so clearly linked to the KJV, including the KJV's errors? If the translation is ultimately a more original text shone through the filter of the KJV, what does that say about the resulting text? If Joseph Smith's own mind exercised any influence at all on the articulation of the text, what does that say about the resulting text? There are so many more questions that these premises raise that don't get addressed at all.

Quote

 

But when you said, 

It would imply that the words which we have in the BoM today are an altered version of the KJV, not an earlier version.  By your reaction, I guess that's not what you were saying.  So, I'm asking for clarification on what you meant by this.

 

There are differences between the KJV and the Book of Mormon text, but they're comparatively small differences that still show directly dependence on the KJV. That means something, but few people want to engage what it means.

Quote

Like what? 

It seems that whatever source I look to for to help with the translation while I can get directly to the studying will depend on the accuracy of the translator in question.  And I would personally have no way of knowing how good it is without knowing the Hebrew myself.

So, what are these other alternatives you speak of?

There are plenty of study Bibles and commentaries that peel back a lot of the linguistic, historical, and rhetorical complexities. The Anchor Bible commentary series is very good, as is the Hermeneia series, although the latter is not yet complete. Robert Alter's recent translation of the Hebrew Bible has some very good notes, too. New Oxford Annotated Study Bible is decent, but the notes are kinda sparse. Same is true of the Jewish Study Bible. Yes, it will depend on the accuracy of the translation, but as long as you understand that absolutely ALL translations are just rough approximations, and absolutely NEVER a complete and perfect reflection of the intended semantic content, the squishiness of the accuracy shouldn't bother you too much. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, maklelan said:

So what "earlier version" are you suggesting the KJV contains? Earlier than what?

Please don't take the following the wrong way. I'm finding this discussion to be most educational and edifying.  I appreciate your participation.  But I'm finding myself sloshing back and forth a bit.

This is the second time you've reversed my words on this very issue.  I said that the brass plates were earlier than the KJV.  Not the other way around.  Could you take a minute to reconsider what I've written about this?  I believe it is somehow backwards in your mind.  I'm wondering if you're adding some assumption from your own mind on this issue.  I don't know.

I'll try clarifying my postion:

  • Whatever records were available in 1600 AD were certainly later than 600 BC.  Thus the KJV would be from a later source than the BoM was. 
  • If those 1600 AD documents were different than the 600 BC version, there must have been some altering between 600 BC and 1600 AD.
  • Then I said your statement implied (or at least I inferred) that Nephi's words in the BoM were an altered version of the KJV.  Thus the BoM was NOT taken from the 600 BC version, but started with the 1600 version and altered it.
  • My position is that the BoM was translated from the 600 BC version with a few transcriptions in between which were "no more dimmed by time." 
  • Thus the BoM translation came from an earlier document of Isaiah's words than the KJV did.  If earlier, there was no "consulting the KJV" for the wording in the BoM, unless it was done after the translation into English.
  • If a message was translated from an earlier document, it is more probably a more accurate translation -- if we're trying to ascertain Isaiah's original message.

Now, knowing where I'm coming from, can you guide me to your position so I can understand it better?

Quote

What, precisely, does it mean that the translation was done "by the gift and power of God"? Does it mean that the translation is inerrant? Does it mean Joseph Smith didn't actually translate anything? Does it mean he just dictated a translation that was shown to him?

That's a good question.  And from a scholarly/secular position, no one knows.  Joseph Smith, himself, said that the world was not meant to know the method of translation.  If we're not meant to know, then we probably don't know.

From a spiritual position, it means that "a man can get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book."  This doesn't really get into translations and hermeneutics.

Personally, my initial assumption is that whatever words the Nephites wrote on the Golden Plates were translated into 19th century American English in the most efficient and accurate method possible (by the guidance of God).

Having said that,

  • We don't know how accurate the Brass Plates were since they were obviously copied from a still earlier version of Isaiah's words (unless we assume the Brass Plates have Isaiah's own handwriting).
  • We have the promise that the Brass Plates would be "no more dimmed by time." 
  • So, whatever errors were in the Brass Plates by 600 BC would remain unless Divine Intervention made it otherwise.
  • Since all the hands which translated or transcribed those words from Nephi to Joseph Smith were all prophets,  we can assume that there were no "additional errors."
Quote

Why is it so clearly linked to the KJV, including the KJV's errors?

I don't know. Would you care to expound?

Quote

If the translation is ultimately a more original text shone through the filter of the KJV, what does that say about the resulting text?

The bolded is exactly what I thought you meant.  But then you said that was not what you were saying.  For my part, I can't say I've received any revelation on it, but I tend to believe not.  I could be persuaded otherwise.

Quote

If Joseph Smith's own mind exercised any influence at all on the articulation of the text, what does that say about the resulting text? There are so many more questions that these premises raise that don't get addressed at all.

Again, this is an area that no one really knows.  Many people say that it was only translated in Joseph's mind, so the words were Joseph's just Joseph's verbiage of the concepts given by God.  But Joseph never confirmed this as far as I know.  David Whitmer said it was word-for-word.  Again, unconfirmed.

If we can draw a parallel to patriarchs: My patriarch and several of my children's patriarchs all made it a point to say that the "wording and phrasing" were from the patriarch.  But the concepts and ideas and blessings were from the Lord.  Additionally, a patriarch recently told me that the "revelation" portion does not end when he says "amen."  During transcription of the recorded blessing, he will often get impressions to change the specific wording to something else than what occurred to him at the time of the verbal pronouncement.  So, he makes changes as the Spirit dictates.

If we were to assume a similar process with Joseph and the BoM (and I'm not saying this is definite) then that would still imply that even then, the translation is "correct" according to the Lord.

Quote

There are differences between the KJV and the Book of Mormon text, but they're comparatively small differences that still show directly dependence on the KJV. That means something, but few people want to engage what it means.

What do you think it means?  "Direct dependence on the KJV."  I thought I knew what this meant.  I offered what I thought you were saying.  But you said that was inaccurate.  So, what are you saying?

Quote

There are plenty of study Bibles and commentaries that peel back a lot of the linguistic, historical, and rhetorical complexities. The Anchor Bible commentary series is very good, as is the Hermeneia series, although the latter is not yet complete. Robert Alter's recent translation of the Hebrew Bible has some very good notes, too. New Oxford Annotated Study Bible is decent, but the notes are kinda sparse. Same is true of the Jewish Study Bible. Yes, it will depend on the accuracy of the translation, but as long as you understand that absolutely ALL translations are just rough approximations, and absolutely NEVER a complete and perfect reflection of the intended semantic content, the squishiness of the accuracy shouldn't bother you too much. 

I'll be sure to check those out.  Thank you for the suggestions.

But again, I'm depending on someone else's knowledge of Hebrew.  Whether trusting a single translation or trusting the notes and explanations of why they chose a specific translation, I'm still depending on someone else's knowledge of the language than my own.

So, it's still incomplete.

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For what it's worth, here is my measly 2 cents. I am of the opinion that the translation of any scripture or sacred text does not have to be what we would call 100% accurate in order to also be considered "correct". If we take the Book of Mormon for example, Joseph Smith made the remark that "...the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth..." I believe it is not just the actual words that caused the prophet to make that remark, but it was more so the correctness of the doctrine contained in the text that makes the Book of Mormon the most correct of any book on earth. I could be mistaken, but I don't believe the Lord really cares about a changed verb or adjective here and there, as long as His defined doctrines are clearly understood. This is the main problem with the Bible...truth has been removed and transfigured due to the follies of man. Sometimes intentional...and sometimes unintentional. Different people may use different words to describe certain things, and adding in different languages only adds to the complexity. It is only natural to expect a small bit of difference between the BOM and KJV, or even the Bible written in Hebrew or Greek. Suffice it to say that Joseph translated from the small plates what Nephi wrote, and Nephi wrote what Isaiah wrote. The translation is correct.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, scottyg said:

For what it's worth, here is my measly 2 cents. I am of the opinion that the translation of any scripture or sacred text does not have to be what we would call 100% accurate in order to also be considered "correct". If we take the Book of Mormon for example, Joseph Smith made the remark that "...the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth..." I believe it is not just the actual words that caused the prophet to make that remark, but it was more so the correctness of the doctrine contained in the text that makes the Book of Mormon the most correct of any book on earth. I could be mistaken, but I don't believe the Lord really cares about a changed verb or adjective here and there, as long as His defined doctrines are clearly understood. This is the main problem with the Bible...truth has been removed and transfigured due to the follies of man. Sometimes intentional...and sometimes unintentional. Different people may use different words to describe certain things, and adding in different languages only adds to the complexity. It is only natural to expect a small bit of difference between the BOM and KJV, or even the Bible written in Hebrew or Greek. Suffice it to say that Joseph translated from the small plates what Nephi wrote, and Nephi wrote what Isaiah wrote. The translation is correct.

You know, it is all about balance.

I agree that the primary benefit if for us to find a testimony of Christ through the Book of Mormon.  And while it may come through reading it and praying about it.  I can't quite verbalize the balance point between "forgetting about the meaning of any of the words" vs. parse every single word to the uttermost senine until we finally get it right.

Yes, we can take exegesis too far.  If we rely on scholarly evidence too much to point to a spiritual truth, then where is there room for Spiritual impressions?

OTOH, if we make interpretations that don't even remotely relate to the text, then why bother having the book at all?

It is a balanced walk that many end up falling on one side or the other.  And sometimes it is difficult to determine where that balance is.  The answer, though obvious, is difficult to apply sometimes by us fallible mortals:  Rely on the Spirit to guide you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Carborendum said:

Please don't take the following the wrong way. I'm finding this discussion to be most educational and edifying.  I appreciate your participation.  But I'm finding myself sloshing back and forth a bit.

This is the second time you've reversed my words on this very issue.  I said that the brass plates were earlier than the KJV.  Not the other way around.  Could you take a minute to reconsider what I've written about this?  I believe it is somehow backwards in your mind.  I'm wondering if you're adding some assumption from your own mind on this issue.  I don't know.

I'll try clarifying my postion:

  • Whatever records were available in 1600 AD were certainly later than 600 BC.  Thus the KJV would be from a later source than the BoM was. 
  • If those 1600 AD documents were different than the 600 BC version, there must have been some altering between 600 BC and 1600 AD.
  • Then I said your statement implied (or at least I inferred) that Nephi's words in the BoM were an altered version of the KJV.  Thus the BoM was NOT taken from the 600 BC version, but started with the 1600 version and altered it.
  • My position is that the BoM was translated from the 600 BC version with a few transcriptions in between which were "no more dimmed by time." 
  • Thus the BoM translation came from an earlier document of Isaiah's words than the KJV did.  If earlier, there was no "consulting the KJV" for the wording in the BoM, unless it was done after the translation into English.
  • If a message was translated from an earlier document, it is more probably a more accurate translation -- if we're trying to ascertain Isaiah's original message.

Now, knowing where I'm coming from, can you guide me to your position so I can understand it better?

Thanks for the clarification, and my apologies for misunderstanding. What I understand you to be suggesting is that the Book of Mormon's version of the Isaiah passages represents the 600 BC version of Isaiah, with any differences from the KJV representing a more original text. You also seem to be suggesting that the overwhelming alignment of the Book of Mormon's translation of the Isaiah passages with the KJV version of Isaiah is entirely incidental, even despite the fact that the Book of Mormon frequently includes the KJV's own translation errors. That's mighty coincidental, especially in light of the fact that all the differences are matters of adding or subtracting text in order to clarify or ostensibly "correct" what is ambiguous or troubling about the KJV (such as fiddling with italicized words, which the Prophet hated). Additionally, if we backtranslate from the Book of Mormon text back into Hebrew, we're frequently left with a far different Hebrew text from the source text underlying the KJV. For instance, 2 Nephi 12:2 changes one word from the KJV of Isaiah 2:2: "it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established . . ." gets changed to "it shall come to pass in the last days, when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established . . ." The "that" is italicized in the KJV, since it's not necessary in the Hebrew and the translators had to provide it for the English future time clause to work. With the change of the italicized word to "when" the entire meaning of the sentence is fundamentally overturned. The "it" is no longer a constituent element of the common prophetic phrase "it shall come to pass." Rather, it independently refers backwards to the "word" that Isaiah saw. "It shall come to pass in the last days" now means, "it [the word Isaiah saw] will come to pass [happen, or be fulfilled] in the last days, when all this other stuff happens." So now the Hebrew has to be entirely reconstructed to move the temporal clause from the opening of the verse to the second clause, and the first clause has to be restructured to refer backwards to the word that Isaiah saw and to refer to its fulfillment, which requires entirely different Hebrew constructions. So altering the one single italicized word in the KJV's rendering of Isaiah 2:2 requires we entirely restructure the underlying Hebrew. That leaves us having to weigh the likelihood of two different situations: (1) the Book of Mormon is––whatever the origins of the changes––altering the KJV in small and incremental ways that are consistent with the way Joseph Smith would later revise the Bible, or (2) the text of Isaiah 2:2 was vastly different in antiquity, and that vastly different text happened to be translated independently of the KJV in a way that exactly matched the KJV in every single word except for the single italicized word. Option 1 is the only reasonable conclusion, barring some kind of evidence that can be adduced for option 2.

Quote

That's a good question.  And from a scholarly/secular position, no one knows.  Joseph Smith, himself, said that the world was not meant to know the method of translation.  If we're not meant to know, then we probably don't know.

But you're positing a theory and drawing conclusions from it. What I'm pointing out is that if you look at the evidence, the theory you're positing doesn't make much sense.

Quote

From a spiritual position, it means that "a man can get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book."  This doesn't really get into translations and hermeneutics.

Personally, my initial assumption is that whatever words the Nephites wrote on the Golden Plates were translated into 19th century American English in the most efficient and accurate method possible (by the guidance of God).

 

But it's not 19th century American English. It's 16th century British English. The KJV is a very conservative revision of other revisions going back to the translations of Tyndale and Coverdale. The language of the KJV was already out-of-date when the text was published in 1611, and the language of the Book of Mormon that aligns with the KJV is significantly archaizing and not natural, so it absolutely was not 19th century American English.  

Quote

 

Having said that,

  • We don't know how accurate the Brass Plates were since they were obviously copied from a still earlier version of Isaiah's words (unless we assume the Brass Plates have Isaiah's own handwriting).
  • We have the promise that the Brass Plates would be "no more dimmed by time." 
  • So, whatever errors were in the Brass Plates by 600 BC would remain unless Divine Intervention made it otherwise.
  • Since all the hands which translated or transcribed those words from Nephi to Joseph Smith were all prophets,  we can assume that there were no "additional errors."

 

  •  

But that attributes inerrancy to human prophets.

Quote

I don't know. Would you care to expound?

I think the situation I described above with Isaiah 2:2 pretty clearly shows how closely linked to the KJV it is. 

Quote

The bolded is exactly what I thought you meant.  But then you said that was not what you were saying.

No, what you said you thought I meant was that Joseph Smith had a KJV with him and copied stuff out of it and then made slight revisions to it. That's not remotely what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that the Book of Mormon elaborates on the KJV, but that can be done in any one of a number of different ways.  

Quote

Again, this is an area that no one really knows. 

All the more reason to follow closely after the evidence instead of formulating theories based on dogmas.   

Quote

Many people say that it was only translated in Joseph's mind, so the words were Joseph's just Joseph's verbiage of the concepts given by God.  But Joseph never confirmed this as far as I know.  David Whitmer said it was word-for-word.  Again, unconfirmed.

A word-for-word translation doesn't make any sense, linguistically. It leaves with far more questions than answers, and quite difficult questions. I think the linguistic data points firmly to the Prophet articulating the words of the translation.

Quote

 

If we can draw a parallel to patriarchs: My patriarch and several of my children's patriarchs all made it a point to say that the "wording and phrasing" were from the patriarch.  But the concepts and ideas and blessings were from the Lord.  Additionally, a patriarch recently told me that the "revelation" portion does not end when he says "amen."  During transcription of the recorded blessing, he will often get impressions to change the specific wording to something else than what occurred to him at the time of the verbal pronouncement.  So, he makes changes as the Spirit dictates.

If we were to assume a similar process with Joseph and the BoM (and I'm not saying this is definite) then that would still imply that even then, the translation is "correct" according to the Lord.

 

It's been my experience that "correct" is frequently hard to distinguish from "good enough" for a particular task or use. 

Quote

What do you think it means? 

I think it means we have to consider that Joseph Smith's cognition played a role in the articulation of the translation, but more than anything, I think it undermines tight control theories.

Quote

"Direct dependence on the KJV."  I thought I knew what this meant.  I offered what I thought you were saying.  But you said that was inaccurate.  So, what are you saying?

Hopefully I've made myself a bit clearer above.

Quote

 

I'll be sure to check those out.  Thank you for the suggestions.

But again, I'm depending on someone else's knowledge of Hebrew. 

 

Yes.

Quote

 

Whether trusting a single translation or trusting the notes and explanations of why they chose a specific translation, I'm still depending on someone else's knowledge of the language than my own.

So, it's still incomplete.

 

I think we have to abandon the notion that our knowledge can ever be "complete." We're always finding new ways the text can "mean," and that'll never change. I think being able to navigate the difficulties and the debates makes for much more informed engagement with the scriptures, though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, maklelan said:

 What I understand you to be suggesting is that the Book of Mormon's version of the Isaiah passages represents the 600 BC version of Isaiah, with any differences from the KJV representing a more original text.

As a theory, yes.

Quote

You also seem to be suggesting that the overwhelming alignment of the Book of Mormon's translation of the Isaiah passages with the KJV version of Isaiah is entirely incidental,

Suggesting, yes.  But there are plenty of other theories that have validity.  And the full truth may not be known in our lives.

Quote

even despite the fact that the Book of Mormon frequently includes the KJV's own translation errors.

I have my own theory about that.  But I'll get to that later.

Quote

That's mighty coincidental

...

So now the Hebrew has to be entirely reconstructed to move the temporal clause from the opening of the verse to the second clause, and the first clause has to be restructured to refer backwards to the word that Isaiah saw and to refer to its fulfillment, which requires entirely different Hebrew constructions.

Noted.

Quote

But you're positing a theory and drawing conclusions from it. What I'm pointing out is that if you look at the evidence, the theory you're positing doesn't make much sense.

Well, there's more to the story.  And I'm readily admitting, they are "theories."  And I admit there are "questions."  I'm not declaring that my conclusions are the simple facts.  But put a lot more other facts with it, and a clearer picture emerges.

Quote

But it's not 19th century American English. It's 16th century British English. The KJV is a very conservative revision of other revisions going back to the translations of Tyndale and Coverdale. The language of the KJV was already out-of-date when the text was published in 1611, and the language of the Book of Mormon that aligns with the KJV is significantly archaizing and not natural, so it absolutely was not 19th century American English.  

My comment was more of a "big picture" idea.  To illustrate, in the 1800s it was very common for a good Christian man to quote the Bible so often that it became part of their everyday speech.  Phrases and clauses were interwoven into the common language of everyday life.

This was by no means universal.  I don't mean to imply so.  But it was common enough that people spoke in such a manner and people understood exactly what they meant.

Compare that with today where the other missionaries are asking my daughter to "translate" the ENGLISH version of Isaiah to them.  We can pick apart the differences between 16th and 19th century.  But they are far closer to each other than 21st century apparently.

Quote

But that attributes inerrancy to human prophets.

Not so.  It expects God's promises to be fulfilled.  That does not require inerrant men.  It only requires God's guidance and protection.

Quote

I think the situation I described above with Isaiah 2:2 pretty clearly shows how closely linked to the KJV it is. 

Again, more to the story.

Quote

No, what you said you thought I meant was that Joseph Smith had a KJV with him and copied stuff out of it and then made slight revisions to it. That's not remotely what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting that the Book of Mormon elaborates on the KJV, but that can be done in any one of a number of different ways.  

"slight revisions to (the KJV)" (my words)

"elaborates on the KJV" (your words)

I've read a sufficient amount of your explanations now that, yes, I kind of see the nuanced differences.  But they are indeed very similar.

Quote

All the more reason to follow closely after the evidence instead of formulating theories based on dogmas.   

This is really the basis of some of the miscommunications we're having.  Note your use of the word "dogma".  I'm going to guess "as opposed to secular/scholarly research."  That's fine, but we must always remember your own words:

"No text has inherent meaning. All meaning resides entirely and exclusively in the minds of hearers, readers, and viewers. "

So, if the text itself isn't meaningful, then  I would say learning based on faith, study, and prayer is what helps us arrive at the whole truth.  I need to emphasize that I do agree that STUDY is an important part of that trifecta.  I hope that as a brother in Christ, that whatever scholarly research presents itself, it is always balanced with faith and prayer.

Quote

A word-for-word translation doesn't make any sense, linguistically. It leaves with far more questions than answers, and quite difficult questions. I think the linguistic data points firmly to the Prophet articulating the words of the translation.

Yes, I always had a hard time with Whitmer's account.  And I've always pointed out that it was secondhand.

Quote

It's been my experience that "correct" is frequently hard to distinguish from "good enough" for a particular task or use. 

I certainly agree.

Quote

I think it means we have to consider that Joseph Smith's cognition played a role in the articulation of the translation, but more than anything, I think it undermines tight control theories.

I'm certain it did.  But we still seem to be on opposing sides regardless of how much we seem to be agreeing.  Opposite sides of what?  I still haven't figured that out yet.

Quote

Hopefully I've made myself a bit clearer above.

Yes, you have.

Quote

I think we have to abandon the notion that our knowledge can ever be "complete." We're always finding new ways the text can "mean," and that'll never change. I think being able to navigate the difficulties and the debates makes for much more informed engagement with the scriptures, though.

Even if it will never be complete, we can at least get to the slope of enlightenment or plateau of sustainability.

dunning-kruger-0011.jpg.15482ba79857f1a876f293c28584381a.jpg

I was on the peak of Mt. Stupid.  You've shown me to the valley of despair.  I believe that to get to the slope of enlightenment, I need to learn Hebrew myself.

I've gone through this cycle many times over many issues.  Most recently, my newest client basically shoved me into a role I had very little experience in.  But he was confident I could figure it out.  The little experience I had prior to this put me on the peak of Mt Stupid.  And for the time, it was actually sufficient.  But this new role pushed me further into that space.  And I found myself floundering.  I admitted my weakness in this area and they told me to just keep pushing forward anyway because they had faith in me (or rather, they didn't have any other alternative since they had no expert on the topic).  So, I did.  And now I know enough for the job at hand.  But I also know that there are many more things involved that may or may not be in my scope.

So, Hebrew?  Ok.  Challenge accepted.  (to be clear: I'm not saying you challenged me.  It is more like "life" challenged me.)

As far as similarities to KJV vs Brass Plates:  

I have been an atheist where I depended only on my intellect to guide me.  I was always several standard deviations above the norm.  So, I did about as well as anyone I suppose.  But the very fact that I recognized that "I'll never have complete knowledge" kept itself clear in my mind, weighed on me.

After many spiritual experiences I realized that the things of real importance were never highly informed by what our five senses told us.  In fact, they can easily be fooled.  I am still one of the most educated people I know.  Yet, all that knowledge didn't amount to a hill of beans in determining what was of real importance.

So, yes, I always try to work from a position of prayer and faith first, seasoned with a healthy dose of scholarly investigation.  When they conflict, I have to accept that "I don't know the whole story."

Again, let me go back to the analogy of the Patriarch. 

As I understood it, after the translation from the Golden Plates, there was a period where Joseph and Oliver went over the translation written (mostly) in Oliver's hand.  I have no idea how many days were actual translation vs going over that translation.  (But only a total of 65 days from when Oliver arrived to when they took it to the printer.  That was some feat.)

If it were perfectly translated by the power of God, what was there to go over?  Well, there were apparently spelling mistakes and words which fell from Joseph's lips that were not properly heard by Oliver.

What else was there?  I don't know.  But it seemed all too much like the process the patriarch told me about his blessings.  So, it is entirely possible that for these chapters, instead of using the words of a farm boy, they sought out the verbiage in the KJV to re-word the same "messages" that had been translated.  But where the "message" was not the same, they had to alter the KJV so it reflected the "message" of the translated work.

That's my theory that fits all the secular facts as well as the oral history.  But still a theory.

Edited by Carborendum

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/24/2020 at 8:07 AM, maklelan said:

So Joseph didn't do any translating? It was a translation given to Joseph that he just dictated? Why is it so clearly based on the KJV?  

But it presents the KJV's translation even in places where the translation is incorrect. On what grounds can we argue that it is the "most accurate"? That seems pretty arbitrary.  

So you're suggesting that Joseph's articulation and supervision of the dictation, transcription, and redaction of these revelations was inerrant?

But the Joseph Smith Translation and even the Book of Moses are products of revision of the course of many years conducted by numerous different people who weren't supervised by Joseph Smith. There's even a JST revision in our footnotes that was written by Joseph Smith III. Latter-day Saints rejected the JST for generations. It wasn't until the late 70s that we even decided to give the JST a shot.

I think they are translations, obviously, but through the Power of the Lord, which makes them far more accurate than any other.

Of course, as you point out, why then does it seem so clearly based upon the KJV and why is it that there are places it copies the KJV even down to the writing where scholars feel that the translation is incorrect?

I would say it is the same as many other translators.  You pointed out early in the thread regarding Genesis 1:1 which in many ways could be seen as an inaccurate translation.  Much of what is translated into English is more a tradition regarding translation of the first portion of Genesis.  A LOT of this is due to tradition, but that tradition is also because it is what we are familiar with.  We start translating the Bible and we use the words in the way that we are familiar with, thus rather than take a purely academic approach to something (such as At the Beginning, or even more liberally, at the Start, during the Start, At First, etc) we normally say the words...In the Beginning.  It is what we are familiar with.

In that same vein, many theorize that Joseph read a great deal in the Bible and was familiar with much of how it was worded and phrased.  Thus, this is reflected in his own translation of things.  His familiarity with the way it is phrased and worded work their way directly into his own translation, much as it influences other translators.

Once again, this brings on the next problem...if his knowledge is based upon the KJV and he takes liberally of it in his own translation, how then can we know if the Book of Mormon is the most accurate?

Let us look at another work that is commonly translated with Virgil's Aenied. 

  Arma virumque cano

Which could be translated in many ways.  I tend to automatically say it as I sing of arms and a Man...but is that accurate?  Others could sing, Arms, and a man, I sing...or Of arms and a man I sing, or even I tell of a man and war...etc.

Which is the most accurate?  We could have various scholars argue various ways.  Which captures the authenticity of the words?  Which captures the phrasing?  Which captures the feel of the words?  Which is actually the direct translation?  They could argue till they are blue in the face (and at times have.  If one has knowledge of it, though the basics of the meaning are normally agreed upon (normally, not always) it really boils down to a matter of opinion regarding the rest of the facets of the translation in what is most important.

In the same matter, I would say the same applies to the Scriptures that Joseph Smith translated and the revelations he had.  In this, I feel Joseph stated that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book.

Quote

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.)

As something of a reference, in 1984 Monte Nyman discussed this idea and issue (and though aged, it probably relates to your department I'd imagine) in the Ensign.

The Most Correct Book, Ensign June 1984

If I may paraphrase and copy and past various paragraphs

Quote

However, “the most correct book” implies that it may not be absolutely correct, and in light of the Lord’s declaration, this may seem contradictory. But herein lies another significant principle: if there be any errors, they should not be attributed to the translation.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Joseph Smith taught that the Savior would adapt his language to the capacity of a little child (see History of the Church, 3:383), and undoubtedly he had to adapt the language of the Book of Mormon to our linguistic capacity.

Until the time arrives when the Lord will restore a pure language to fill the earth with sacred knowledge, the Book of Mormon represents the gospel teachings in the most correct form available to man. Furthermore, the book acts as a catalyst in obtaining even greater understanding of the gospel. As a person studies the written text with “real intent,” the power of the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of what he reads.

Thus, yes, there may be inaccuracies, but the gospel teachings are in the most correct form available from it.  I'd also extend this idea to that of the Doctrine and Covenants (as it is the closes we can come to direct revelations to a prophet of the Lord without being dependent in the intermediaries of time and other layers of translators and translation) and the Pearl of Great Price.  However, this obviously would not convince a scholar of another faith or another belief.

Which is why in the end it IS a matter of opinion, similar to how we favor our own versions of a translation.  However, in this, our opinion need not merely be based upon our own feelings, but upon an actual testimony revealed to us by the Power of the Holy Ghost.  Thus, it is on faith and by faith that we feel that we can rely upon the teachings of the Gospel found in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures that we use.  It is not really something that can be factually objectified (though I think we try) but in the end, if we really boil it down, it is a matter of opinion based upon faith for the members, or for those opposed, based upon opinion from what they know and understand already. 

So, weak as it may be, my argument is that it is based on Faith for the most part, or in whole, rather than a more substantive argument from a scholarly approach.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this