Monday, February 1, 2016

None to Give Room for Them in The Inns (Joseph Smith Translation Luke 2:7)

Perhaps you, like me, have sensed Christmas wonder in the wording of Joseph Smith Translation Luke 2:7. The inspired translation speaks of inns in the plural:

"And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was none to give room for them in the inns."

The inspired fullness echoes the new prophetic reading of Isaiah 50:2 (as translated in 2 Nephi 7:2):

"Wherefore, when I came, there was no man; when I called, yea, there was none to answer."

That prophetic echo resounds even more clearly in the Greek: ouk en (lit. not + it was; there was none, there was not: LXX Isaiah 50:2 and Luke 2:7).

In that Christmas wonder, you have certainly also sensed Luke's point about Christ's rejection and humility. If Joseph and Mary had gone from inn to inn, and found rejection, for whatever reason, at every place, then that is rejection indeed. Truly there was no place for Christ, no place in the inn, no place in any inn anywhere.

"There was none to give."

We need a little giving--and that said--it wouldn't take much to slide a little didonai in place: dioti ouk en didonai autois topon en toi katalumati (for there was none to give them, or yield to them, place in the inn; cf. Luke 14:9).

The wonder of Christmas is not found, of course, in the moment of rejection--really, the round of rejection--it is found at the moment when Mary places "her firstborn son" in the manger. There He rests, and there the shepherds--angel-stunned--find him.


Elder Bruce R. McConkie, responding to both the KJV and the JST says: "It was the traveling hosts of Judah generally, not just an innkeeper or an isolated few persons, who withheld shelter from Joseph and Mary. Though her state was apparent, the other travelers--lacking in courtesy, compassion, and refinement--would not give way so she could be cared for more conveniently and commodiously. This rude rejection was but prelude. . ." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 1:92)

Professor S. Kent Brown shares the following:

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Laban the White and the Wizardry of Allusion

Laban first comes to us in a grammatical nexus that shows possession. Lehi tells Nephi "Thou and thy brothers should go unto the house of Laban, and seek the records." Laban "has" the records; he "keeps" the records. Nephi's breathless account speaks many times of the house of Laban, as well as the servants of Laban, including Zoram, the servant of Laban, of the hands of Laban (those rapacious hands), the garments of Laban, the treasury of Laban, and even the voice of Laban. Thereafter, throughout the Book of Mormon, we meet the sword of Laban. Nephi, wearing the garments of Laban, and his armor and sword, goes to the treasury of Laban, and craftily speaking in the voice of Laban commands the servant of Laban to bring the records. 

As a personal name in the Hebrew Bible, Laban appears only in the patriarchal narratives (as the nephew of Abraham). He is the kind of relative that helps you one minute and tricks you the next. Rebekah is a beauty: "And Rebekah had a brother, and his name was Laban." There's always a catch. Laban had the plates. Genesis gives us Rachel, the daughter of Laban, the sheep of Laban, Laban's flocks, the flock of Laban, Laban's cattle, and Laban's sons. We also behold "the countenance of Laban," an inconstant countenance. Nephi's Laban, who is a famous kinsman, also possesses his tens of thousands and his fifty, that last battalion being, says Hugh Nibley, Jerusalem's "permanent garrison." While there is room for comparison between Genesis and 1 Nephi, Laban, the military strongman, is his own man set in his own time. What Nephi gives us in Laban is "an eloquent commentary of the ripeness of Jerusalem for destruction" (Hugh Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 96-98). 

Though Nephi's vividly narrated encounter with his own kinsman need not be read in light of distant Jacob's encounter with his crafty father-in-law, the Laban of Nephi shares something of his namesake's character. Nephi doesn't drop literary allusions pointing us back to the patriarchal schemer; he doesn't really need to: the name alone evokes the man. The Encyclopaedia Judaica sums things up nicely--or not so nicely: "Laban cheated Jacob." "Laban emerges as a greedy and crafty man" (EJ 12:406-407). He chases people down in pursuit of his stolen property--or is it their property? So, too, Laban cheated Nephi. Laban emerges as a greedy man, who himself exhibits something of that easy, lulling hospitality mingled with craft. As his name is, so is he (1 Samuel 25:25).

Hugh Nibley refers to "the pompous Laban": "He was a large man, short-tempered, crafty, and deceitful, and to the bargain cruel, greedy, unscrupulous, weak, and given to drink" (Lehi in the Desert, 97). Crafty? Laban invited Lehi's sons into his house on two occasions, and invited them to sit and talk in cousinly comfort, before springing the trap. Here is craft and a sudden, overt violence: Laban blazes with anger, lusts after property, issues accusation and sentence; then, sends others to do the chasing. In his wrath, he's as much Nabal as he is Laban--a fool and a lazy drunkard. Laban ("white," or even "exceedingly white"), say the rabbis, signifies "shining in wickedness" (EJ 12:407). Shining in wickedness Nephi's Laban may be, but he is decidedly not a bride-switcher: that takes true craftiness. Crafty Laban ultimately meets his match in Jacob the trickster. Practical Nephi is no trickster: he finds Laban dead drunk in the streets and lops his head off with his own sword. 

Nephi's justification for so doing points a careful reader back to the story of David and Nabal, that Nabal who famously denies David and his band of wilderness brothers their polite request for hospitality. Rashi famously takes Laban as anagram of Nabal (fool). Whether Nephi himself ever thought of these things is beside the point; Scripture invites intertextual reading at every turn of the page, and the wise student keeps his eyes open for both comparison and difference. (The article to read is Alan Goff, "How Should We Then Read? Reading the Book of Mormon after the Fall," FARMS Review, 21/1 (2009): 137-78.) 

According to Professor Goff: "If we are going to see in the Nephi/Laban story an allusion, we must grant that the record is textually sophisticated and view the connection as intentional rather than incidental. Allusion presupposes intention, as 'an inadvertent allusion is a kind of solecism.' I assert that the connections between the Laban story in the Book of Mormon and the Laban/Nabal stories in the Bible are intentional and that the ideal reader of the book will recognize the allusions."

I like what Brother Goff is saying because I enjoy reading Robert Alter, James Sanders, and Michael Fishbane, though I'm just as sure Nephi had no such aim in mind: he's telling us what happened to him one night in Jerusalem. Nephi was aware of how God had delivered Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, and, true, he came to see his deliverance as being like that of the fathers. He speaks to his brothers about Moses in the wilderness so often that the reader wonders whether Nephi saw his own desert encampments as proximate the very places where "Israel's tents [did] shine so bright." Such identification with tenting Israel goes beyond mere allusion, as Noel Reynolds and others have noted. Even so, the idea that Nephi intentionally and artistically worked a subtle allusiveness into his narrative runs contrary to his forthright nature and style.

I spent a lot of time in Robert Alter's books--once upon a time. I recommend them, but the magic wears off readily. It's life itself, especially the life of old Jerusalem, that runs deep and gives us books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. And the written record of the race, especially Scripture, comes a running brook. Culture does its own work: it weaves its own patterns, some of great complexity. A divine purpose stands over all. The Book of Mormon came first to a people drenched in Bible story, as Nephi himself noted (1 Nephi 12-13). That 19th century culture was neither sophisticated nor clever; it was biblical. Nephi gives a plain narrative; the manifold gems studding his work simply reflect the rich cultural heritage of one who walked in a land of prophets and kings. Hugh Nibley saw in Laban the Levantine governor, Zakar-Baal, arrogantly receiving "as he sat in his house." We might catch glimpses of Laban elsewhere, but we find him "in his house" only in a particular cultural milieu. Nephi's Laban, in concrete narrative, passes the high test of what Nibley calls the "peculiar" and the "specific" (see Since Cumorah, Chapter 9 n. 80). As diligent readers, everything goes into the mix; even so, guiding principles such as the peculiar and the specific ought to control what we ultimately present about the Book of Mormon.

On the other hand, Nephi does see and note likenesses, quotations, and allusions everywhere in the prophetic word: Isaiah, Zenos, Neum. Nephi was learned, "somewhat," he says--it could get worse, he's telling us--in all "the learning of the Jews." 1 Nephi 22 thus affords a rich prototype of rabbinic commentary. 

Alan Goff offers students of the Book of Mormon the keys to the "treasury of Laban." Once the records are in our own hands, and one in our hands with the blessed Bible, we turn the pages as led or as we will. 

Of one thing we may be sure, the sons of Lehi must have been asleep at the switch to parade so much of gold, silver, and precious things before the eyes of Laban. They had just learned of his touchiness and imperious anger--he had "thrust" Laman from his house--yet they never suspected his rapaciousness or his alcoholism. We must turn to cultural folkways to explain their surprising attempt to dazzle Laban with the family wealth. Their naivete only reveals their own touchiness in honor, a touchiness born of "goodly parents": they were trying to prove a point of honor. Laban likely owed Lehi a gift or two for past favors, and Laman, who had first politely requested the records from Laban, was not, as accused, "a robber"; the brothers, though amazed at Laban's lack of cultivation in the games of reciprocity, were willing to pay an exorbitant price to show good faith. But the old ties of kinship meant nothing to Laban: killing and taking was his way.

So why Laban--that unexpected name? For that, we go not back to the patriarchs nor to the moon, but to the moment of birth. Surprised at such an "exceedingly white" and large baby, the parents hit on Laban. The Chinese favor the baibai pangpang, the baby born to prosperity and beauty: white white fat fat. But Laban's whiteness, though not leprous, was rather an oddity--milky, chalky. The voice, too, had its unique quality of command: the voice of Laban. The whole episode comes to a head--Laban's head--in the dream of a Jerusalem night. The surprising whiteness of the countenance of Laban is now no concern to Nephi: the garments of Laban, the sword of Laban--that shining sword of fine steel, with brilliant golden hilt--the voice of Laban, these suffice to work the trick. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Mystery of Identity in Book of Abraham Facsimile 2 And The Eclipsing Binary Star, Algol, in New Findings from Helsinki University

December 24, 2015

The round Egyptian hypocephalus, brings within its compass--though opposites sharply demarcated--the realms of night and day, darkness and light, the netherworld and the sidereal heavens. The hypocephalus, which is also a circle within a circle, also represents the solar pupil and iris-cum-corona (the hypocephalus rim), even the Eye of Re. It reflects or contains all that the sun sees and governs as he rounds the universe and sets its boundaries.

Which brings us--perhaps--to Algol, an eclipsing binary star. . .

"In this eclipsing binary, the dimmer star partially covers the brighter star with a period of 2.867 days." "These eclipses, says Lauri Jetsu, "last about ten hours and they can be easily observed with unaided eyes" (Renu Rangela, "Ancient Egyptian documents may carry records of important astronomical events," Ibtimes, 21 December 2015).

A team of scientists and egyptologists at Helsinki, in an intriguing though not fully convincing study, now "present evidence indicating that the period of Algol was 2.850 days three millennia ago. For religious reasons, the ancient Egyptians have recorded this period [along with the lunar period] into the Cairo Calendar (CC) [a register of lucky and unlucky days], which describes the repetitive changes of the Raging One" (Lauri Jetsu, et al., "Did the Ancient Egyptians Record the Period of the Eclipsing Binary Algol--the Raging One?"The Astrophysical Journal, 773:1 (10 August 2013), Abstract; the latest article is L. Jetsu, S. Porceddu, "Shifting Milestones of Natural Sciences: the Ancient Egyptian Discovery of Algol's Period Confirmed," PLoS ONE, 10 (12), 17 December 2015).

"We show that n ≈ 200 good prognoses would induce PMoon and PAlgol in CC, even if the remaining n ≈ 700 good and bad prognoses had aperiodic origins (Leitz 1994; e.g., diseases, floods, feasts, winds)" (L. Jetsu, 2013, 1).

In other words, not only did the Ancient Egyptian scribes discover and measure the period of Algol (if not its binary nature), they also paired the symbolism of the lunar cycle with that of the star and applied both to the workings of the Calendar. Whether the findings convince egyptologists elsewhere, measure and analogy were no small thing for the Egyptians. The priesthood held as sacred duty "the measurement of time by observing stars while they conducted the proper nightly rituals that kept the Sun safe during its journey across the underworld. The timing of these rituals was important, because it had to appease the terrible guardians, who opened one gate of the underworld at each hour. The Sun was reborn at the 12th hour, but only if Ancient Egyptian Scribes performed the rituals absolutely right. The risk that the Sun would never rise again was imminent" (L. Jetsu, 2013, 10-11, italics added). There comes to mind a classic scriptural moment of astronomical observation and subsequent portrayal in the form of a cosmic circle or sphere: "And I saw the stars" (Book of Abraham 3:2).

We return to the round hypocephalus, which itself depicts the moment of sunrise at the morn of creation. The Latter-day Saint reader will here recall how the Prophet Joseph Smith's Explanation of the hypocephalus begins with "the measurement of time"; even "the measurement of celestial time" "according to the measurement of the earth" (which the authors note varies by season, as the days and nights wax and wane). It is the moment in which the celestial kicks off the earthly time clock. The Prophet further discerns "numerical figure[s]" in the mythological representation of the stellar firmament "answering to the measurement of the time" of a great star, which then perfectly accords with the "revolution" and "measuring of time" of another, like star. Hugh Nibley sorts the Prophet's "brief explanation" under the following headings: Cosmology, Measurement and number, Transmission of power or energy, Hierarchy or dominion (intelligence and purpose), Ordinances and procedures (Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 240, 244ff., 256). Ritual procedure thus accords with cosmic measurement to ensure the continuing downward flow of divine power--that's the Egyptian picture and that's the Egyptian practice.

Where does the eclipse come in? Hugh Nibley gives us a lead in his commentary on the Book of Breathings, or Sensen Document, this last a ritual serving to unite (snsn) the deceased with his solar father, which is also analogous to the reunion of the solar Ba-spirit and the Osirian corpse:

That he might enter the horizon along with his father Re;
To cause his Ba to appear in glory in heaven
(and) in the disk (itn) of the Moon
that his corpse might shine in (or as) Orion
in the womb (or body) of Nut (ll. 2-3)

The Egyptian verb that commonly describes the fusing of the Ba-spirit of the king with Re is hnm: and "one wonders," says Nibley, "if the meeting or fusing (hnm) of the disks [in the above and related passages] could be anything but an eclipse" (Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 83)?

Note the following phases of funerary ritual, which also mark phases of fusing, as that which is celebrated on earth matches, in timed precision, what unfolds in heaven (cf. Moses 6:63 = Hugh Nibley, Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 256).

1) "In the darkest moment of the royal funeral in the deepest and darkest of chambers, the restoration process begins to take place, with the Ba assuming the most tenuous of forms, that of smoke provided by scented candles"(Nibley, Message, 82).

2) "The rites of royal burial ended exactly at sunrise, when the Ba of the dead king joined his father on the horizon" (81). This last is also "The meeting of Re and Osiris in their astral aspects" (Philippe Derchain on the secret ceremony of the Uniting of Re and Osiris in the House of Life = Nibley, Message, 83).

The discerning reader will draw the connection between the dim star--the ghoul of Algol, as the Arabs have it--and the scented smoke. (Or between the darkened moon and the scented smoke.) Here is the Ba of Re on the shadowy night journey to join its corpse, in the form of Osiris, the god of the underworld. The Egyptian scribes who penned the Amduat (the Book of What is in the Underworld) do picture the night sun as traversing, at once, both underworld and stellar expanse (in the form of a star). As for the sunrise, Cannot the event also be figured in the bright star of Algol, as it emerges from eclipse? Would it were true! What a find that would be!

The scenario would certainly evoke the appearance of glory in the disk (itn) of the moon--another eclipse, says Nibley. The disk of the sun and the disk of the moon both figure the place and moment of hnm. Meeting in one disk, or meeting in one star or in a single constellation, so signifies the fusing of two (or more) Ba-spirits. Thus the Ba of Isis famously is the star Sothis (Sirius); that of mighty Horus, the constellation Orion. Hugh Nibley sums it up thusly: "The idea that the Ba of one exalted being may unite with that of another is the ultimate expression of the mystery of identity" (Message, 82).

And of all identities, that of Re and Osiris is the most paradoxical; the ceremony that works the meeting in the House of Life thus becomes the most prohibitive, the most mysterious, and the most sacred event in the Egyptian view of the universe (Papyrus Salt 825). The gist of the matter is not, as the Helsinki scientists describe it, the daily return of the sun on the horizon--things are much more fraught with moment than that! The purpose of the ceremony is to work the unity of the sun with its own dark twin and thus to effect the continuation of all life, despite all death, as manifest in Re-Osiris, the ultimate and ineffable power of the universe.

The work at Helsinki, with its cargo of statistical formulae, remains speculative (see links and the brief, dismissive comments in Electronic Egyptian Forum News 905). Grasp of the intricacies of Ancient Egyptian religion appears tenuous. One might also hope for the discovery of a second reference to Algol, or to its period, in the textual corpus. Still all such work ought to be encouraged. As Professor Barry J. Kemp points out, modern students of the Egyptian writings may stumble across ideas and connections very much in line with the sort of thinking pursued by the ancient scribes themselves (Kemp, Ancient Egypt: Anatomy of a Civilization). Perhaps the ancient tradition lives on in suchlike discoveries, though we must tread with care.

To identify Algol with Horus, the living king, or with the Eye of Horus, in "his" (read, her) benign and wrathful aspects, intrigues, while it also falls short of the textual evidence. Not that the Calendar holds no surprises. Fascinating is the description of Re viewing the world through the Eye of Horus, as if through a special instrument, or, as described in other places, through a special messenger traversing the expanses (cf. the Explanation of Facsimile 2, no. 7; or even Abraham 3:2). He then invites the "great ones" (wr.w) to see what he has therewith seen. They cower before the flaming wrath of the Eye in the presence of Re. Fascinating, but what has it to do with Algol? Nothing. Besides, it is Sirius in her (read, his) form as Horus Sopdet that flares as the "raging one."

The formulae and the theories equating Algol and royal Horus do not take into full consideration the Egyptian fondness for analogy, multiplicity, fusion, and, well, fuzziness. Just like anything else in the Egyptian cosmos, Algol cannot not be boxed into a sole star. Neither can Horus: various planets, famously including red Mars, all take the name of Horus. In this case, we speak principally of Horus the Eldest, the prehistoric falcon that encompasses the universe in his revolutions. Horus the child and royal Horus, though tethered to the Eldest in a manner not altogether clear, come into a different story.

According to the Coffin Texts (VII 491h), Horus the Eldest paradoxically stands both in the middle (Hrj-jb = "over the heart") of the stars in the northern hemisphere and also in the middle of all the southern stars. The wording in the Coffin Texts is "in the middle of the stars of the upper region and of the opposing lower region," a view of the cosmos something recalling the schema of the opposing halves of the spherical hypocephalus. The four Sons of Horus the Eldest also make their appearance in the heavens, one of whom appears as the red star, Dosh-iati-imi-hawt-ins (the One whose two eyes are red, who dwells in the House of Scarlet, that is, the Horizon; for Horus Smsw, see Bernard Mathieu, "Les enfants d'Horus, theologie et astronomie," ENIM 1 (2008), 7-14).

For the Latter-day Saint reader, the Eldest Star standing "over the heart" evokes Kolob as "Heart Star" (qrb; Kolob is fig. 1 in the hypocephalus), while Dosh-iati-imi-hawt-ins suggests Enish-go-on-dosh (figure 5), this last both a star and also the sun, according to the Egyptians--so Joseph Smith. The four-headed ram (fig. 1)--Daniel Klotz names the figure the Cosmic Amun--in like manner "depicts [both] the creator god in its most powerful manifestation, and thus also the sun at the peak of its glory," according to the very latest study (Gyula Priskin, "The encounter between the sun and the moon on hypocephali," Birmingham Egyptology Journal 2015 (3:24-41), 26). We, here, recall the configuration of the hypocephalus as a circle within a circle, pupil and iris, the dark pupil and the blazing corona. Do we see a solar eclipse here as well?

Kolob and Enish-go-on-dosh make up the dominant celestial figures in their respective hemispheres (see Explanation of Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham). The n in go-on-dosh, as far as that goes, hints at the Egyptian imi, thus imi-dosh, as the one who is in the dosh, or red horizon, or even the hw.t dSr, the house of red. Enish-go-on-dosh thus suggests something along the lines of insi.t q3j.t imi dSr.wt, the Exalted Scarlet One, that is the Scarlet Eye, who is in her Red Resplendence.

Hathor, the Feminine Sun at Dendera, takes the epithet 'n.t x'w, the One who is beautiful [on-] in her manifestations [-go = x'w?], that is, in her manifestations as the solar Eye. Other readings for Enish-go-on-dosh, which takes the form of the Hathor cow on the hypocephalus, spring to mind. Consider ond- dosh(t): 'n.t or 'jn.ty dSr.ty (the One whose Wedjat Eye is red--with anger). 'n.t dSr(.ty) matches the divine epithet dSr or dSr.ty ir.ty (dosht-iat), previously mentioned in connection with one of the sons of Horus. I favor reading Enish-go-on-dosh as either the Red Solar Eye (jns.t) or as the Living Solar Eye ('nx.t) in her exaltations (-go = q3j.t), even the Beautiful Eye in her Red Resplendence ('n.t dSr.wt). In other words, the fused name(s), Enish-go-on-dosh, signifies the conceptual unity of the Solar Eye at the moment of both rising and setting.

Of one thing we may be sure: Egyptian cosmology is more than what the handbooks say.

So where does Algol, a blue star, fit in? The keen-eyed Egyptians could not have failed to spot the ghoulish star. The question remains Whether it signified? Perhaps Algol, like Sirius, like Orion, like the moon, may yet unfold as "ultimate expression of the mystery of identity."

Now to find the Egyptian name for the star!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Zerahemnah, Zarahemla and the l/n phonological variant

For the student of Semitic phonology, the Book of Mormon name Zerahemnah trips the wire. Little bells start to ring.

The record first gives us Zarahemla, the leader of the Mulekites and the namesake of their city. Then, suddenly, in Alma's book, we find the chief captain of the Zoramites, Zerahemnah.

Are Zarahemla and Zerahemnah variants of the same name? Professor Jo Ann Hackett, in light of the prominence of Zarahemla, "suggested [Zerahemnah] was either a mistake or a confusion in pronunciation," on the part of the modern scribes or typesetters (BYU's Book of Mormon Onomasticon, q.v. Zerahemnah). Because the record keepers place so much emphasis on the tribal diversity of the Nephites, not to mention the Mulekites, with whom they later united, we can rest assured that Zera- or Zarahemnah is neither mistake nor confusion, but simply dialect. There would have been more phonological variety among the Nephites than we can imagine: the Mulekites likely pronounced Zarahemla one way, and each of the four "Nephite" tribes, another. The Zoramites, the reader will recall, maintained a separate identity throughout the centuries: the pronunciation Zerahem-nah leaves a trace of that separateness. And doubtless many other students have come to the same conclusion about Zerahemnah.

Royal Skousen, in his textual analysis of the Original and Printer's Manuscripts of the Book of Mormon, notes four separate spellings for Zerahemnah, including Zarahemnah and Zerahemna--but even Zarahemlah (Alma 44:12, Original Ms.; Analysis of the Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 4:2456). Before we credit Joseph or Oliver or both with the l/n mix-up, we first should consider the ear of Alma. Alma writing Zarahemlah for Zarahemnah, if but once, is the very thing a Zoramite would expect of a Nephite. 

Mormon diligently edited Alma, yet given the tribal tally, it would come as a surprise if traces of dialect did not pop up. Consider the following reference, not to Alma's ear, but to his mouth and to his tongue: "Behold my beloved brethren, seeing that I have been permitted to come unto you [in the Valley of Gideon], therefore I attempt to address you in my own language; yea, by my own mouth" (Alma 7:2; cf. Hebrew lashon, tongue, speech, language). I remember hearing Hugh Nibley speak of this verse as referring to dialects. After all, Alma and his people had lived apart from the main body of the Nephites for a couple of generations, and many of the same people had later chosen the Valley of Gideon as their new, and separate, home.

So what of Zerahemnah? All students of Semitic languages, and of many other language families, are aware of the fluidity of the consonants (or even semi-vowels) r, l, and n. We note the variation l/n in Mandarin: leng v. neng (cold). Some even take r, l, and n for allophones of a sole original Proto-Semitic phoneme. But not only does the lengthy record attest many instances of shift between Semitic l and n, Edward Lipinski assures us that "The variation l/n is a surviving feature of Afro-asiatic," Semitic Languages: Outline of a Comparative Grammar (2001), 142 (see pages 139ff.). So common is the l/n variation, especially in dialects, that its absence in a large record like the Book of Mormon would be baffling. The example Professor Lipinski gives for the "surviving feature" really nails it: it's the word for speech itself. The Hebrew word for speech is lashon. While the corresponding Egyptian word appears as ns, both Demotic and Coptic show the spelling las. (The word, from the earliest times, likely was pronounced /las/, but /nas/ would also have been heard.)

If you have Zarahemla, you've simply got to have Zerahemnah too. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gidanah or Giddonah (Alma 14:3)--What Might The Name Mean

"I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi"--so Amulek introduces himself to his neighbors in Ammonihah.

Giddonah is an odd name. Odder yet, the Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon shows not Giddonah, but Gidanah: "I am Amulek; I am the son of Gidanah." "For some reason the 1830 typesetter altered Gidonah, the spelling in [the Printer's Manuscript] to Giddonah," Royal Skousen, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, 3:1774; BYU Book of Mormon Onomasticon.

Either way, it's the same name.

Amulek, Ishmael, Aminadi: these names accord with Aramaic and Hebrew--but what might Gidanah mean? Proto-Semitic *gVdVn (*gadan, or maybe *gidan) signifies "to become rich" (see no. 903 in "Semitic etymology," Arabic attests the root as jdn (to be prosperous, rich), as in jadan (gift, bounty; F. J. Steingass, English-Arabic Dictionary).

But is Gidanah attested as a Semitic name? In CAD G we find the archaic (Ur III) personal name, Gidanu, which, we are told, is "probably West Semitic." 

That another well-born Giddonah, contemporary to the first, sits as high priest in the land of Gideon, shows us that we are on the right track. Gadan or Gidan, and perhaps in some constellative, semiotic sense also Gideon, ultimately springs from the Proto-Semitic root signifying that which is strong, big. Gideon's job description is, after all, to hew wood. The Book of Mosiah features the king's captain, Gideon, all full of wrath and boldness; another warrior, in Alma, bears the name Gid. Gid, or the root gid-, thus names the sinew, the source of strength--and of prosperity. I see the same root, attested throughout Semitic languages, in the name of the Jaredite king, Amgid (people of sinew). The Jaredite rulers, you will recall, were all "strong and mighty men." As Alma's contemptuous contemporary Korihor cynically notes in a deft but elusive turn of phrase, which may or may not subtly play on words: "therefore every man prospered according to his genius, and that every man conquered according to his strength" (Alma 30:17; Professor Jo Ann Hackett has mulled over Gid as sinew: see BYU's Book of Mormon Onomasticon, q.v. "Gid"). 

Giddonah of Gideon, as the high priest at Korihor's trial, is a bulls-eye for the Book of Alma. Mormon even gives us Gidgiddonah (see comments in Skousen, 3:1774). Such names and offices seem to resonate with a cultural depth, an encyclopaedic significance, just beyond our reach. The Book of Mormon points us toward many a green dale. Whether we can capture the elusive meaning, we should yet align ourselves with the signal.

Gidanah (or Giddonah) certainly reflects Proto-Semitic *gVdVn, and the name does fit what Alma tells us of the family of Amulek, i.e., they were rich. A principal trait of the Ammonihahites was, in fact, the fast grab for easy money--a game of glib lawyers--and Gidan-ah suggests a prosperous land, city, or family. Gidanah signifies her (its) bounty, her gift, or as an abstract noun: a bounty, a rich gift. It's a great baby name. True, better to avoid Gadianton.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bright Zion, "Orbed in a Rainbow"

Part II of "Marked with Red in Their Foreheads," posted 10 May 2010  

"Orbed in a Rainbow" (Hodie, Ralph Vaughan Williams = John Milton, "Ring Out, Ye Crystal Spheres")

We are "to liken" all scripture unto ourselves. What modern practices might correspond to the action of the rebellious Amlicites in marking their foreheads with red? Modern prophets warn against the practice of marking the body with tattoos. Tattoos "defile" the temple of God, for the body is intended to be the dwelling-place of the Holy Ghost (1 Corinthians 3:17; 6:19). As followers of Christ, we manifest a constant love for all; neither do we seek to judge anyone who marks their body. At the same time, we share the prophetic warning about sanctifying the temple of God in our own bodies.

Another practice reminiscent of marking the forehead with red is the use of color in social media as a sign of allegiance to claims of equality not in alignment with the will of God. To superimpose symbolic colors onto one's own photograph on Facebook or Twitter, as a sign of allegiance and of dissent--even if that is a quiet dissent--does something recall the practice of the Amlicites.

The substance that makes up discipleship is a thing of many days and, likely, even many jarrings. Every six months we come together in General Conference. We look for peace and comfort and love; we may find testing and rebuke. Learning at the feet of prophets and apostles was never easy. A disciple may be jarred into painful outcry for a day, but what is a day? As we continue in the covenant path, we must "hold on [our] way" by often also holding our tongues, meanwhile striving to tame our hearts. Loyalty, pure and undiluted, in both public and in private, should be the aim of every true disciple of Christ.

To follow Christ we must love and serve without distinction of persons--"charity is the pure love of Christ"--but as Latter-day Christians and Saints, we must also recall how the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis presents the rainbow, with its comprehensive spectrum, as a symbol of God's eternal priesthood covenant with His chosen people. Section 97:21 of the Doctrine and Covenants defines the community of Zion as "THE PURE IN HEART." The bow further signals for the faithful that promised moment in which latter-day Zion and the Zion of Enoch will unite in purity, glory, and peace. Here is the full separation from the world. Here is Ralph Vaughan Williams's stunning rainbow scene in the Christmas cantata Hodie. In the hope of the rainbow, promised tomorrow will dawnToday:

"Orbed in a rainbow, and, like glories wearing,
Mercy will sit between,
Throned in celestial sheen,
With radiant feet the tissued clouds down steering;
And heaven, as at some festival,
Will open wide the gates of her high palace hall."

"And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant, which I made unto thy father Enoch; that, when men should keep all my commandments, Zion should again come on the earth, the city of Enoch which I have caught up unto myself. And this is mine everlasting covenant, that when thy posterity shall embrace the truth, and look upward, then shall Zion look downward, and all the heavens shall shake with gladness, and the earth shall tremble with joy" (see JST Genesis 9:21-24).

James Thomas Linnell's richly beautiful painting, "The Rainbow," found in the annex of the Salt Lake Temple--And the bow shall be in the cloud, and I will establish my covenant unto thee--carries that same message to the hearts of all who enter there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Defining the Christian Family in Recent LDS Policy and Handbook Updates

The Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now stipulates that children whose primary residence is with "adults who choose to enter into a same-gender marriage or similar relationship" cannot be blessed and named upon the records of the Church nor can they be considered for baptism and membership in the Church until the age of 18 (First Presidency Letter of 13 November 2015; for the study, prayer, and revelation leading to the policy, now also see President Russell M. Nelson, "Becoming True Millennials," 11 January 2016, 

Enrollment on Church records, the first step to baptism at the customary age of eight, would inevitably lead to a struggle--a tug-of-war--between the doctrine and practices of the Church and the choices of parents, with the child unwittingly and innocently caught in the middle. The result would be an unfair, and untenable, test of loyalty. "Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children," the presiding Brethren began the rigorous, "wrenching," "sacred process" of seeking divine revelation and of waiting on the Lord's Prophet, according to President Russell M. Nelson. "Our concern with respect to children is their current and future well-being and the harmony of their home environment" (First Presidency Letter). The updated policy aligns itself to "revealed doctrine" "that families are eternal in nature and purpose" (Letter) and "originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. . . We don't want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different," says Elder D. Todd Christofferson. He speaks of "difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years" ("Elder Christofferson Says Handbook Changes Regarding Same-Sex Marriages Help Protect Children,"

"All children are to be treated with utmost respect and love. They are welcome to attend Church meetings and participate in Church activities. All children may receive priesthood blessings of healing and spiritual guidance" (First Presidency Letter). While Church meetings remain open, enrollment requires teaching visits to the home and encouragement to participate in a progression of classes designed to teach children doctrine and the duties of membership. Such thoroughgoing instruction in the laws governing chastity, family, and marriage, as preparation for baptism, would persistently counter any parental teaching about chastity and forms of marriage being a matter of individual choice. Latter-day Saint scripture uses strong words to describe all sexual transgression: even what the Book of Mormon calls "so great a crime" (Alma 39:5, 7).

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob best describes that inevitable clash of cultures today in these words spoken long ago: 

"It burdeneth my soul that I should be constrained, because of the strict commandment which I have received from God, to admonish you according to your crimes, to enlarge the wounds of those who are already wounded, instead of consoling and healing their wounds; and those who have not been wounded, instead of feasting upon the pleasing word of God have daggers placed to pierce their souls and wound their delicate minds. 

But, notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must" (Jacob 2:9-10).

And prophets and apostles today, "notwithstanding the greatness of the task," and with love's "great anxiety even unto pain," teach "an everlasting hatred against sin" (Alma 13:27; 37:32). Yet the Church also upholds all parents in their right to raise their children as they please and to shield, as they please, "delicate minds," even "children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God" (v. 7). Children may yet suffer; for legalizing same-sex marriage, as all must acknowledge, is a social experiment in its very first stages. That being so, a question comes to mind: As same-sex parents come to discover in many of their children a refinement and a delicacy, even a longing for all that is chaste and all that is pure, how shall they reach them?  

Parental reassurances to children about the mindless bigotry of recoiling billions in every place and culture, prior to 2015--and far beyond 2015--will not convince the more thoughtful. The thoughtful mind resists social conditioning and inevitably comes to see "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13). Besides, does the record of humanity show any instance where parental immorality of any kind will not, later if not sooner, shame the tender, wound the refined, and distress the noble? Nor law nor loyalty can withstand shame. The Book of Mormon, which seems to consider every circumstance of human life, directly poses the question of whether posterity will "look with joy" upon their forbears or "shrink with shame."(Jacob 4:3; 2:6). That stark and staring dilemma will remain long after the conditioning fades.

These truths apply to every parent and in all circumstances. Even conscientious Jacob, who, "weighed down" with "desire" and "anxiety," labored to teach his own children "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord," worried whether his posterity would "learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their first parents" (Jacob 2:3; 4:3; Enos 1). Jacob thus teaches us first to set our own homes in order, and to repent if we fail, in any respect, "to bring up" our own children "in light and truth" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:40).

Yet to set our own homes in order, someone must define what a Latter-day Saint home is, what any Christian home is--and what it is not. With whom should the responsibility of defining the Latter-day Saint home and family rest? No matter deserves our closer attention, especially following the Supreme Court decision of June 2015 regarding same-sex marriage. The policy updates, as a thoughtful, apostolic response to the decisions of the Court, do serve to define and to set in order the Latter-day Saint family. Once defined to the view of all, in light of such sweeping and unprecedented judicial rulings, the Latter-day Saint family, secure in its identity and its purpose, may move forward in its divine mission to bless the lives of the whole human family. All parents will be upheld in their choices; neighbors will live in peace; children will play with children.

Despite the Church's avowed desire to safeguard children who otherwise might be caught in a fundamental conflict of loyalties, there are those who challenge the policy as being inherently unchristian. Some even proof text Luke 18:16: "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." 

We may charitably set aside the matter of citing scripture to oppose living oracles of God, who counsel together, in the sight of God, for the benefit of every Latter-day Saint family, to ask instead whether Luke 18:16 rebukes and forbids the Church's current policy on recording names or on baptism?

While the Lord calls little children, whom He also names holy, to come unto Him, additional scripture sheds light on the journey. The Book of Mormon: Another Witness of Jesus Christ addresses the nurture of children by righteous parents, parents who impart tender, chaste, and delicate teachings. We learn of Helaman, who specifically chose names for his sons to stir memory of ancestral "first parents," Lehi and his son, Nephi, as models of holiness (Helaman 5:6). (To whom will married same-sex parents point their own children as models of holiness?) Helaman, we are told, "did do that which was right in the sight of God continually and he did walk after the ways of his father. . . And it came to pass that he had two sons. He gave unto the eldest the name of Nephi, and unto the youngest, the name of Lehi. And they began to grow up unto the Lord" (Helaman 3:20-21).

If indeed a signal blessing for a little child to "come unto" Jesus during the days of His ministry, it is surely a greater blessing for any child, taught by righteous parents "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Enos 1), to begin "to grow up unto the Lord." Indeed how can any of us ultimately come unto Jesus until we grow up unto Him by enduring and following admonition (that is, clear warning against all sin), increasing in understanding, obedience, and faith? Those who "grow up unto the Lord," are His in every respect. They are transformed into Saints who follow His every command, being "converted unto the Lord." 

The question then arises What are the circumstances under which a child may "grow up unto the Lord?" Or, What may hinder such growth? Such questions are, properly speaking, "grown-up questions," and no blithe and simplistic repetition of "Suffer little children" or "Forbid them not" will suffice for an answer. No. Better to call to mind the words of Paul: "Brethren, be ye not children in understanding" (1 Corinthians 14:20). The New International Version translates: "Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children" (see

"Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children!"

For the laws, covenants, and practices governing Latter-day Saint families today, we turn to the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors. These are the words of the Lord Jesus to all families today.

From the Doctrine and Covenants we learn that Christ's commandments about teaching and raising children in His families and in His Church, which together make up His Zion, is no simplistic matter. Instead it requires--the Lord's own covenantal choice of words--an intense and thorough preparation. 

"Inasmuch as parents have children in Zion. . . that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. For this shall be a law unto the inhabitants of Zion. . . And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord" (68:25-8). 

What does Section 68 have to do with the specific updates in Church policy today? Everything! Again, the updates came only after the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriages. The policy is thus 1) a response to decisions giving the sanction of law to immorality and, more importantly, 2) an alignment of that response to the law of the Lord governing and defining family, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants. How can we know whether the decisions of prophets and apostles accord with the will of the Lord? The answer is simple: Do the living oracles align themselves 
with the canonized revelations, laws, and covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ?

Jesus commands all parents today "to bring up your children in light and truth" (Doctrine and Covenants 93:40). "Intelligence, or in other words, light and truth," we are instructed, "forsaketh that evil one" (93:42). What claim to light has apostasy? what claim to truth, abomination? "To grow up unto the Lord" is to be brought up in intelligence and then "to walk uprightly before the Lord" forever. 

When children live with parents whose lives contradict God's teachings about eternal marriage covenants, how can they be expected to learn the "doctrine of repentance" or to "walk uprightly before the Lord." How can they begin "to grow up unto the Lord" (Helaman 4)? The words of Jesus in the Doctrine and Covenants nevertheless reveal a saving pattern for loving friends, relatives, and grandparents who ponder and pray for answers: "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers" (112:10). "I know thy heart" (v. 11).

Smugly quoting Luke 18:16 in a campaign for permissiveness in the name of compassion veers from "the Savior's pattern. He always was firm in what was right and wrong. He never excused or winked at sin. He never redefined it" (Elder D. Todd Christofferson). 

Christians "mourn with those who mourn." They strive to befriend, to comfort, and to reclaim. But "sorrow and sighing" over "the blight man was born for" must "flee away" before the "joy and gladness" of the Zion road (Isaiah 35:10). Even as we so kindly serve, we must also be on our way, rejoicing. 

Demanding questions face all who might tell stories of Jesus to challenge His living apostles: Do I understand children? Do I understand kindness, justice, or mercy? Would there be any kindness "in misdirecting people and leading them into any misunderstanding about what is true, what is right, what is wrong, what leads to Christ and what leads away from Christ" (Elder Christofferson)? 

To think otherwise is a dodge. Those who challenge the apostolic directive regarding blessing and baptism certainly do not wish to subject children to wrenching stress over loyalties. What, then, do they seek? They seek for the Church of Jesus Christ cheerfully, graciously--gradually, if need be--to give up entrenched bigotry and to embrace change, change, change! But would this not be to surrender her high standards of purity? 

Such pleas for change parade as faithful dissent 
born of Christian kindness but inevitably unfold as "hard speeches" (Doctrine and Covenants 124:116). Jesus asks us to "lay aside" all our "hard speeches" (124:116). Appeals are made to the Brethren to recognize the great potential for suffering under current policies--as if policy rather than sin lay at the root of human sorrow. Some, as if posting their own 95 Theses, multiply reasons and cases, trace ramifications and delineate difficulties. The word of the Lord, quick and powerful, cuts through the sophistry (see Helaman 3:20).

The word of the Lord cuts through it all: "Be ye clean" 
(Doctrine and Covenants 38:42; Thomas S. Monson, "Preparation Brings Blessings," Conference Report, April 2010).

Others argue that the Church is digging itself in in the face of a sea-change. There is no more frontier, they say, no remaining refuge "far away in the West," and thus no escape from tidal social and generational change. 

They have forgotten Zion. Glorious things are sung of Zion! And glorious things will yet be sung: "And the wicked stood and trembled, filled with wonder and surprise." Zion will rise in wonder and her glory will surprise the world.

Service and teaching, nurture and admonition in a Latter-day Saint home is the model for greatness in Zion. Christ has provided home life for children "that great things may be required at the hands of their fathers" (Doctrine and Covenants 29:48). 

"Great things"? Great things will be required, must be required, at the hands of fathers and mothers in Zion. Great things signifies great teaching; it points our minds forward to a generation capable of building Zion; it culminates in teaching purity out of a pure heart.
 What is Zion? "And this is Zion: THE PURE IN HEART." In Zion, to the wonder and surprise of all the world, will yet remain parents who can teach their little children the words of the hymn "Dearest Children": "Cherish Virtue! Cherish Virtue! God will bless the pure in heart."

And, no matter the circumstances of the lives of His dearest children--poverty, hunger, war, even apostasy--God will ever bless the pure in heart