Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mirroring Ani-Anti

In my notebook for Book of Mormon 101, I find the following:

"Ani-Anti (I am facing thee)"

So read Hugh Nibley the name of a Lamanite village in Alma 21:11--at least that was his "guess," as my notebook of his class goes on to record. (Anti here registers the 2nd person Semitic pronoun atta or anta; you, in Hebrew, literally means the person in front of you; ani means I).

And I can't help but note a like name from the Jewish colony at Elephantine:

I Anani have given it to Yehojishma my daughter (M. Weinfeld, "The Covenant of Grant," 71, in Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East, (ed) F. E. Greenspahn).

The Egyptian record also yields 'Anta or 'Anti in both place and personal names: Bayta 'Anta (House of Anta), 'Antarama (Heights of Anta), Bint or Bitti 'Anta (Daughter of Anta), and the like (see James Hoch, Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts of the New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period, #113, #118, #120, #146, #278, etc.). All these names seemingly combine a Semitic noun with 'Anta/'Anti, an attested Egyptian personal name, which in turn derives from the Semitic goddess Anath (Ranke, PN II 272, 9 = Hoch #278). Although similar in sound and worth a glance, Anath is certainly not the origin of our Book of Mormon Anties.

For Hugh Nibley the Book of Mormon name Anti (which also recalls the name element -anda from Hurrian) matches -ondi in the place name Adam-Ondi-Ahman, the land where Adam dwelt (Doctrine and Covenants). Adam-ondi-Ahman, according to our teacher, shows "Adam facing, or in the presence of, God." No less than President John Taylor, a witness to the Prophet Joseph's revelation about the place, taught that Adam-ondi-Ahman signifies "the valley where God spoke to Adam, and where he gathered his righteousness posterity." They gathered to stand face-to-face with God: "And men did live a holy race/And worship Jesus face to face/in Adam-ondi-Ahman" (Mediation and Atonement, 69-70).

Brother Nibley further considered the Egyptian word khenty (perhaps khanty) to answer to both Anti and ondi, as well as to Greek anti and Latin ante. But it wasn't just Hugh Nibley (which itself is an ancient name, said he, meaning hot air); my own professor of Egyptian at UCLA, a renowned linguist, also considered xnty/khenty/anti/ante to be one of those few words belonging to both the Indo-European and Afroasiatic families of languages.

Students of Indo-European consider *hent-i (in front) to derive simply from *hent- (face). Proto-Indo-Iranian yields hanti, Hittite, hanza or hant-s (front side), and Sanskrit, anti (adv. before, near, facing). We've already mentioned the Greek and Latin--but consider the Armenian form -ond (like ondi). (Lubotsky, Indo-Aryan Inherited Lexikon; Pokorny, Indogermanisches Etymologischer Woerterbuch, 48).

Back to Ani-Anti, and along with twinned Ani-Anti (one village facing another, or facing the traveller from an elevation), we have Antum, Antiomno, Antionah, Antipas, Antipus, Antion, Anti-Nephi-Lehi, and--for all we know--Antimormon. These names gush from the pages of the Book of Mormon (and from the pages of Hoch).

Can their etymology be derived and translations given? Names, in the spirit of poetry, elude translation. The best we can do is to probe. . .

Consider the Egyptian use of xantj in name-building. To begin with, the Egyptians faced South; the Semitic peoples, East. We draw maps with North at top, and yet face nowhere at all--being carried about with every wind of doctrine, as predicted by Paul.

South, accordingly, is the xanty side of things, the front side; North, the back of the world, the ph.ww (drawn with animal haunches). Think of the hypocephalus (Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham). Who is at top? The governing star, Oliblish, who strides across the zenith and opens the way for all to follow. The top marks the xanty side of the worlds, even the South, or source of the Nile, the place of origin. (For the Hebrews this would be qedem, the East, the place of sunrise, of Eden.) On the hinder or phww side, the North, we find, upside-down, another governing planet, Enish-go-on-dosh. This facing planet and all its world are upside-down, for this is the netherworld, even "the nethermost parts of the vineyard," as the Book of Mormon prophet Zenos would say.

And earth reflects bright heaven: Upper Egypt (southernmost Egypt) is the t3 hr xntj=f (the Land upon his southern-side, or the Land Southward = Anti-Nephi-Lehi, this last being a special name that replaces "Lamanites" and, at once, mirrors, from the South, the northern people of Nephi); Lower Egypt, the t3 hr ph.wj=fy (the Land Northward). The Lehites used the same expressions to describe their facing, opposing, fronting landscapes. They also called the Land Northward, to which they "went down," Mulek; the Land Southward, "to which they went up," Lehi. And yet they faced East--Qedem--toward Jerusalem.

How confusing.

The Egyptians not only divided Egypt, they also divided its parts. Districts (Counties or Nomes) often show both a southern and a northern designation. The County of Cusae (3tf) thus consists of both 3tf xnt.t and 3tf phw.t, everything split by facing--or not-facing--halves (Woerterbuch III, 305, 6). And this divvying-up of the world also reaches into the temporal order of things. Ph.wj marks the end of time, of life, of the year, doomsday, the thread running out--and there's an end on't. Just so, the two lower panels of the hypocephalus (just below Figure 5), according to Hugh Nibley, mark utter staticity: even the hieroglyphs on these panels get so sluggish they can barely be read. The end of all flesh has come.

On the other hand, the combination of front and back form an eternal ring. A papyrus scroll is read from (m) its h3.t (replacing xntj) to (r) its ph.wy=fy--the book holds in its compass a reflection of the world entire: m h3.t r ph.wy, like the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon, which contains a revelation about the world from the beginning to the end thereof. God, says the Book of Abraham, knows "the end from the beginning."

So now to that half of the Book of Mormon we hold today.

While we cannot hope to "translate," let us sound the depths with the Egyptian, Semitic, and Indo-European evidence.

The place name Antum (like Hebrew Qedem) invokes that First Place, the Best Place, as also that Place Standing Opposite and Facing us from the South.

Manti, standing out front, recalls Egyptian mxntj = m + xntj, as also (says Nibley) the Egyptian god Month and the place Hermonthis (Book of Mormon Manti and Hermounts [where the wild things are]).

Antipas and Antipus command attention: it's a Greek name derived from the same root, anti. But the final element -pas/-pus swerves from Greek back to the Semitic. The element -ps calls to mind the Egyptian word for division p-sh-s or p-s-sh, and, indeed, the (soon to be published) Book of Mormon Onomasticon informs us that -pas (part, portion, division) is a common Semitic element (Nabatean, pas). Mount Antipas in the Book of Alma can, accordingly, be read both as mirroring the half or the whole: Anti (Facing, Opposing, Mirroring) the -pas (the Other Half), or as the South Part of somewhere or other. Perchance Mount Antipas even marks the Southern Border (or in Semitic fashion the qedem), throwing its reflection tauntingly northward, or westward, or in every direction. Or, Mount Antipas perhaps is a Twin Peaks, one mountain reflected in another. The glare from the peak obscures our view as we face opposite: does the name connote the idea of division, or of a reflected whole?

Let's try again: Antionah. Hebrew does not have the root hanti/anti (facing, opposite); Hebrew and Akkadian turn to their own word for face(s) (panim). But the root ayin-nun-heh intrigues. It means "to return an answer" "to respond" "to sing." Here comes the perfect antiphony. One element answers to the other: Anti--Onah, like two children shouting to each other across the valley floor. Our Anti becomes an echo of ancient things, what the Hebrews again call qedem (for one faces the past--as my Professor of Hittite used to say). And let's consider the Aramaic (Daniel 2:27): oneh daniyel qadam malkah (And Daniel answered before the King).

But I'm not convinced. Both Egyptian and the Semitic languages give another twist to the verbal root 'on or 'onah: that which turns back, turns away from, or answers (demotic: 'n-wshb). Here is a re-flection of re-sistence not a mirroring of unity. Anti (Facing)--Onah (Turning, Facing back) invokes an opposition in all things. Over-against-and-away: a good name, I think.

And here's a possible key to a most bizarre name: Angola. A speculative reading, Anti--gola, given that the Old Testament in English (following the Greek Septuagint) usually gives us a good old Indo-European g for Semitic ayin, yields: Anti--ayin-lamed ('al, to be high, up there; 'alah, movement upwards). Angola means Over and Up; Up Against--Facing--and moving upwards--like a massif. No wonder the Nephites, on their last run, chose that place as a fort.

I'm not convinced. A better try at Angola, one which partakes of "the specific and the peculiar," as Nibley would say, comes from Hoch's collection of Semitic names and words in Egyptian records: '=n=Da=-r, or *'anzara, *anSara, which, with its determinative sign of fortified walls, might well signify "Enclosure" or "Court" (or even "Fortress"), James Hoch, Semitic Words, #82. The word is attested as a Semitic word in Papyrus Wilbour B7, 20 and dates from the Twentieth Dynasty. 'Anzara/'AnDara for Angola? The final r can just as readily glide into an l, and the D + aleph (Da/ja/za/Sa or Do/jo/zo/Sa) strikingly recalls the element -go. Hugh Nibley is often at pains to point out that the match between Book of Mormon names and their presumed ancient counterparts becomes most convincing when least exact, given the laws of phonetic change and so on.

The determinative sign of fortress, which accompanies *'Anzara in the Twentieth Dynasty papyrus, does suggest the following verse in Mormon, chapter 2:

4 And it came to pass that we did come to the city of Angola, and we did take possession of the city, and make preparations to defend ourselves against the Lamanites. And it came to pass that we did fortify the city with our might; but notwithstanding all our fortifications the Lamanites did come upon us and did drive us out of the city.

We end on a happy note--Antiparah--for p-r-h, p-r-', and p-r-x are the Semitic (and Egyptian--prj) roots for fruitfulness and the bud and the blossom: a reflection of flowers. Of interest is the Egyptian hieroglyph for Life, the Ankh: both bouquet and mirror. This moves us forward (Eg. prj). We are facing glorious prosperity--as the Nephites often did. Prosperity proved their downfall. When we face Bountiful let us choose Antiparah: "prosperity in Christ" (4th Nephi).


In the circular, global, depiction of the Fayyum (both sea and oceanic world), the ends of opposing ships nearly describe a completed circle. In this case, the ship at bottom is that of the South, the top, North. But note how the northern ship hangs, umbrella-like, upside down, while the Ship of the South, right-side-up and yare, rocks gently on the wave (Horst Beinlich (ed), Das Buch vom Fayyum, 87; Abb. 26: Der Fayum-See).

Anti-Nephi-Lehi: See also the discussion in the (soon to be published) Maxwell Institute's Book of Mormon Onomasticon. Here is how Hugh Nibley understood the matter: The "Anti-Nephis" are Lehies (descendants of Lehi) that face toward the teachings of Nephi, rather than the traditions and names of Laman. In Nibley's view it hardly matters whether "anti" is understood as the Indo-European (Greek) word or the Afroasiatic: it's all one--and it's all ancient. And that's quite right. (For an earlier brief summary of Nibley's take on the name, see Daniel H. Ludlow, A Companion to Your Study of the Book of Mormon (Deseret Book, 1977), 209-210).

Daniel 2:27: The verse also speaks of the gazrin or astrologers (diviners). Published statements of Hugh Nibley and the as yet unpublished Book of Mormon Onomasticon both suggest a look at the Aramaic evidence in divining the meaning of the name Gazelem, which labels a prophet with a seer stone (Alma 37). The Semitic root g-z/gzr signifies the action of cutting, including the cutting of stones, so let's start with Jastrow's Talmudic (Aramaic) lexicon. Here we find a reference to the cut sapphires that make up the foundation stones of the future Temple (to which compare Hugh Nibley's chapter "Jewel of Discernment" in One Eternal Round, and esp. ps., 448-9). Gazelem certainly reflects the Aramaic idea of diviner, discerner, cut sapphire, a secluded place or setting (set off from the world). 

But there's more: As Antonio Loprieno points out in his book, La pensee et l'ecriture, the Egyptian word d-s-r (to cut off, to set apart, to make sacred) finds a match in g-z-r and related Semitic roots. "To make sacred" in Egypt, as well as elsewhere, is an act of dedication by removal. But can d-s-r be a name? Hugh Nibley, pointing to the Old Kingdom king Djoser, derives Book of Mormon Zeezrom/Seezoram from that root. Indeed Zeezrom and Gazelem share a similar consonantal root base: z-z-r/g-z-l/d-s-r/g-z-r. The name also appears in the Canaanite onomasticon. "My servant Gazelem" (as the phrase reads in both Alma and the Doctrine and Covenants) may thus signify, as title: one cut off or made consecrate. Gazelem is the "consecrated servant" of the Lord, "one set apart or consecrated" to discover or reveal secrets (r-z), with piercing gaze, by means of a cut jewel or stone. The name applies not to Joseph Smith alone but to seers of all times and places who work by means of the Urim and Thummim. It is the consecrated priesthood of the latter-days, with authority to use the Urim and Thummim, who, according to the Isaiah pesher on chapter 54 (a chapter which Latter-day Saints are enjoined to study), make up the number of sapphire foundation stones for the Temple community, a community set apart from the world (One Eternal Round, 448-9, following research by Y. Yadin). Gazelem thus reveals the assembled society of saints, the panegyris, the royal priesthood and peculiar people of chosen Israel.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ziff in the Palaces of Kings Noah and Sennacherib

Among the very few words in the Book of Mormon that the Prophet Joseph Smith leaves without translation comes ziff. In Mosiah 11 the word shows up in a list of metals. King Noah taxed "a fifth part of their gold and of their silver, and a fifth part of their ziff, and of their copper, and of their brass and their iron; and a fifth part of their fatlings; and also a fifth part of all their grain" (11:3).

A first question comes to mind: Is it all six metals that are separately taxed here or do we have a tax on two classes of metals: gold and silver; ziff, copper, brass, iron? Given the specificity with which Mosiah notes the taxes on fatlings and "all" their types of grain, I posit for two classes of metals in the Nephite economy. After taxation, it was Noah alone who ended up with "all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper" (11:8). Note the sequences as given in these two verses because they yield a clue as to the general type of metal ziff registers: a) gold, silver; ziff, copper, brass, iron; b) gold, silver, iron, brass, ziff, copper.

What ziff means can be pieced together from an entry in Professor Stephen A. Kaufman's study of Akkadian loanwords into other Semitic languages (The Akkadian Influence on Aramaic, Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, Assyrian Studies 19, page 113).

Kaufman, the doyen of Aramaic studies, traces the origin of a very odd word found in the Targum Onqelos (Aramaic translation) of Exodus 32:4. The word is zyp' or, omitting the article ', zyp. The Hebrew text tells us that Aaron took golden earrings "and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf" [lit. and he formed it with a heret and he made it into a molten calf]. A heret is an instrument used for cutting or engraving (it's what Nephi would have used on his gold plates), but is the Aramaic zyp' a heret? According to Kaufman, zyp' is a loan word from Akkadian zipu, and he gives three changing or nuanced definitions for the word as it was used throughout the centuries: 1) mold; 2) impression; 3) cast coin.

In other words, the Targum Onqelos, by-passing the heret as engraving pen, understood the passage as follows: "and Aaron formed it in a mold [ve tsar yataya bi-zifa'a] and he thus made it into a molten calf," which gives a logical order to things and thus makes better sense. Professor Robert Alter's new translation of Exodus also yields: "and he fashioned it in a mold," with no mention of an engraving pen. (Alter clearly took a peek at Targum Onqelos.) Of his reading, Alter says: "Perhaps a term associated with a different image-making process was then applied idiomatically to all kinds of metalwork image-making," The Five Books of Moses, 494 n. 4.

Professor Kaufmann has this to say: "To my knowledge no one has previously interpreted zyp' in the Targum Onkelos passage as 'mold' (but see Aruch III 311). This interpretation is proven correct by the translation of BH hrt in our passage given in Targ. Y II and Neofiti, twps' [with emphatic t phoneme], and the medieval dictionary of Ben-Janach, dpws, and David ben Abraham al-Fasi, "mold" (for which see C.C. Torrey, "The Foundry of the Second Temple of Jerusalem," JBL LV [1936], 259f.)."

There is no one like Professor Kaufman: catch your breath and read his statement again. But, in a jiffy, the thing to catch is "This interpretation is proven correct," that is, there is an Akkadian loanword in Aramaic, and it means "mold," "impression," and "cast coin."

But could zyp' or twps' or dpws spell ziff? Or are we pursuing a false lead?

One thing for sure: we're chasing down a "false coin," what the Arabs call a zif [z-long e-f]. Professor Kaufman continues: "The semantic development "(coin) mold"; "false coin"; 'false' is perfectly paralleled by the development of the English word 'bogus': an apparatus for coining money; counterfeit money; anything not genuine, a development which is said to have taken place in the course of a mere twenty-five years." The same thing holds for the word fabricate. Meanings change quickly; language is not cast in a ziff.

But another sequence in the development of the word from Akkadian to Aramaic and Arabic is what matters here: mold to molten metal to cast bronze. Turning to Akkadian ze'pu (zipu), which likely derives from the verb zabu (to dissolve, melt), we find it to mean 1) clay tag with a seal impression; 2) mold for casting metal objects (Sennacherib's History only); 3) impression (on clay); 4) cast coin (Late Babylonian only).

Now let's consider what Sennacherib says in light of Mosiah's King Noah (Sennacherib was the Assyrian opponent of righteous King Hezekiah an exact century prior to Lehi's march):

I executed with superior artistry cast bronze-work [pitiq eri] (for the figures of large animals), (and) upon an inspiration from the god (Ea), I built clay molds [zi-'-pi titti abnima], poured bronze into each [era qiribshu ashtappaka], and made their figures as perfect as in casting [ki pitiq] half-shekel pieces.

Again: Upon an inspiration from the god, I made clay molds for all necessary bronze objects which I cast for my palaces [ekallateja] in Nineveh, and I poured copper [era: the same word used by the Romans] into them (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, vols P and Z).

Now Noah in Mosiah 11: [I] built many elegant and spacious buildings; and [I] ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things, of gold, and of silver, and of iron, and of brass, and of ziff, and of copper; and [I] also built [me] a spacious palace, and a throne in the midst thereof, all of which was of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass.

And [I] also caused that [my] workmen should work all manner of fine work within the walls of the temple, of fine wood, and of copper, and of brass. And the seats which were set apart for the high priests . . . [I] did ornament with pure gold [cf. Heb. nouns efudat, ornament, and zeppui, covering, Is. 30:22].

No need to pour it on. All this boasting can be summed up as follows: "I executed with superior artistry cast bronze-work for my palaces." All of which evokes Arnold Friberg's lavish throne-room, complete with Noah's living jaguars. Which is where Friberg goes wrong: they should be ziff and bronze beasts a la Sennacherib: "I artfully fashioned (the lion colossi) of cast copper" (CAD, vol. P). After all, don't all kings have their metallic lions? Why not Noah? But Friberg, with his stylus, fashions a golden calf. (We admire but need not worship Friberg's images!)

The palatial boasting rings in a point for the Book of Mormon: Noah and Sennacherib fit the job description for ancient despots. But despite the stunning parallel, the Akkadian zipu (mold)--at the time of Sennacherib's History--still doesn't yield true ziff (the molten). The expression Sennacherib uses for "cast bronze" is pitiq siparri, not zipu--but human language is marvellous in its fashioning, so hold on.

Siparri, a loanword from Sumerian ZABAR--and all names for metals are loanwords--does resemble ziff, and it is all together possible the ancients melded and conflated siparr and zip, brass and its mold. But let's postulate, even as Kaufmann asserts, that as zipu comes to mean "cast metal" (pushing pitiq siparri aside), so too with the loanword zyp'. Arabic zif clinches the matter. When we see a list of bronze, ziff, copper, iron, and then learn that the processes of casting metal required the use of a zip(-um) or zyp in order to produce a zif, we must be on the right track for Ziff. But how about its bizarre double f? The forms dpws and twps' show the second consonant, which could easily dissimilate from a sibilant to a fricative: zEEff or zEEfef.

Coin of the realm.


For the Aramaic translation of Exodus 32:4 see also The Aramaic Bible Series: Targum Onquelos to the Torah: Exodus, Bernard Grossfeld (tr.) and Targums Neofiti 1 and Pseudo-Jonathan: Exodus, Martin McNamara, Robert Hayward (notes), and Michael Maher (eds). B. Grossfeld translates zip' in light of Heb. hrt, but the other Targums clearly read mold.

I've also consulted the Aramaic texts on Hebrew Union College's The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon (CAL) on the Internet.

In the footnotes of the LDS edition of The Book of Mormon (cv ziff) we read: "HEB related words: adjective, "shining" [zhh, etc., zohar!]; verb [zph], "to overlay or plate with metal." I've also examined the entry for ziff in the unpublished version of The Book of Mormon Onomasticon (Maxwell Institite), which gives the sources for George Reynolds earlier readings and lists some Biblical sound-alikes: the Personal and Place Name Ziph, the Month Name Zif [Ziw], all of which have clear etymologies of their own. Tsippui [tsippwi] something recalls ziff. Even closer to tsippui come Targumic dpws and twps. Yet neither the etymology nor the form of the noun tsippui (derived from the Pual stem of the root z-p-h, Qal stem: to order, arrange; Piel stem: to overlay, plate with gold, silver, etc., and cf. Egyptian db for bricks, bars of gold, silver] or its usage in the Hebrew Bible match Targumic zyp (and certainly neither Kaufman nor other Targumic editors make such a link).

Conceptually, however, the processes of metallurgy (including plating and melding) come together. Isaiah 30:22 may be of some relevance to Mosiah 11: "You will profane the silver covering of your silver idols and the ornamental-coat (or gold-leaf) of your images of molten gold ["molten": Heb. covered about? cast metal image]." The King James Version gives: "and the ornament of the molten images of gold," and it is the translation ornament for ephudat that something recalls the use of the verb ornament in Mosiah.

I do not think the Book of Mosiah to have been written in quite the Biblical Hebrew we know today (that is, "don't know today"), still, I like the idea of ephudat, a word related to the priestly ephod (coat, covering), being used by way of word play in Mosiah 11. The faint possibility of such a word play does remind us that many ideas from the ancient world indeed stand at conceptual combat within the texts--and doubtless the Book of Mormon runs rich in many veins thematic, verbal, and conceptual, at which we can but guess.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Prophet and the Unicorn

In the Joseph Smith Translation of Isaiah 34:7 we encounter the unicorn and meet the Re-em. The reading unicorn comes to us thanks to the Vulgate (Latin) Bible, to Wycliffe, and the rest, and perhaps simply references the rhinoceros [Lat. rinoceros; monoceros; unicornis]--but you never can be sure. Those were the days when unicorns ran free.

But the Prophet will have none of that. Old Testament Manuscript 2, plum in the middle of manuscript page 106, yields:

Verse 7 re
[crossed out] Re-em

Re-em replaces unicorns in: And the unicorns [Re-em] shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls.

Wycliffe follows the unicorns of the Vulgate:
And vnycornes schulen go doun with hem, and bolis with hem that ben myyti.

Robert J. Matthews (A Plainer Translation, 213), noting that Re-em answers to the Hebrew word [pron. ruh-AIM, later raim] for wild ox, admits the possibility the Prophet added the word to the manuscript after beginning his study of Hebrew in 1836. But if that were the case, the correction would not appear where and how it does (note well the mise-en-page), as part of the steady unfolding of the Old Testament translation completed in July 1833.

Now that's rum: that is to say, the Ugaritic word for the beast is rum, plural rumm!

Plural? And so to another matter: the KJV of Isaiah 34:7 gives us not one, but many unicorns. Yet Re-em denotes a singular noun in Hebrew, the plural would read re'emim or remim. For one thing, here's evidence the Prophet is not using a Hebrew Bible or lexicon--he doesn't own one in 1833. So why the mistake?

I see no mistake, or in other words, I see some odd mistakes. For instance, what the Hebrew reveals as singular reem, the translators of the King James Version often render as a whole herd: "his horns are like the horns of the reem becomes "their horns are like the horns of unicorns."But things get even more baffling: the Samaritan Pentateuch yields the plural: re'emim. So which is right? the Hebrew? the English, purposely veering from the Hebrew? or that remnant of Ephraim, the Samaritans? Again, note how Deuteronomy 33:17 in the English version of The Midrash on Psalms renders the verse: "like the horns of the reem," an Anglicized reading that likely now appears, or must appear (and as collective plural), in the Oxford English Dictionary. In Yiddish slang: Reem! spells "You dummy! Big Ox!" And talk about Reems! Puzzling comes the recollection that anything with horns, cannot possibly be a unicorn! Or even a monoceros.

The Prophet's Re-em, to set the unicorns straight, need not match a Hebrew plural anyhow. In English, singular nouns often refer to animals in a collective sense: the deer and the antelope play, as do bison and buffalo; the wild ox can even collectively step in for the archaic plural ox-en. And I think that's what Re-em is all about (and note the manuscript correction from lower-case to caps, and especially the dash that reveals the glottal stop aleph separating the consonants: Re-em). Re-em is Anglicized Hebrew, just as the noun Hebrew is itself Anglicized ivrit--take your pick. And note how the Hebrew of Isaiah 34 gives the older, more archaic reading re-em or Resh-Aleph-Yod-Mem rather than the later Biblical spelling Resh-Yod-Mem. Reading Re-em as an Anglicized collective noun makes sense, and again shows the prophetic inspiration, and the touch of genius withal, that characterizes modern prophets in our day.

But couldn't the Prophet have come across Re-em in a reference book or marginal notes? To be sure--and certainly no claim appears in Old Testament Manuscript 2 that the word came by inspiration, or by inspiration absent looking things up. On the other hand, none of the nine appearances of the unicorn in the Prophet's Phinney Bible (KJV) supplies a marginal notation about the beast. Other contemporaneous Bibles, such as an 1836 Bible from Philadelphia (R.P. Desilver), gloss Isaiah's unicorns: "Or, rhinoceros"--and do note the singular noun. Buck's Theological Dictionary, which the Prophet later owned, has no pertinent entry, although Sidney Rigdon, scribe and counselor to the Prophet, may well have been acquainted with the doughty Clarke's Commentary, in which the following gloss for Isaiah 34:7 appears: "Or, rhinoceroses." We turn to Job and his reems, where after endless sermonizing on the mythical nature of the unicorn, just for fun and besides the point, given that unicorn reflects, in Latin, merely rhinoceros, Clarke spills the beans: "The animal in question, called reim [a poor transcription], is undoubtedly the rhinoceros [which it isn't], who has the latter name from the horn that grows on his nose. The rhinoceros is known by the name of reim in Arabia to the present day. He is allowed to be a savage animal" (3:176). Deep waters: but if Brother Rigdon, the former preacher, was really coaching Brother Joseph, wouldn't he just have prompted: "Ahem! Rhinoceros!" Under Psalms 22:21 we find: "the unicorns, remim [reflecting the later Hebrew plural, without the glottal stop: raimim], (probably the rhinoceros,) the Gentiles;" Psalms 92:11: "reeym" [Resh-Aleph-Yod-Mem], much closer to Re-em. Now I have no objection to the Prophet's receiving intelligence on the Bible from any source whatsoever--all knowledge comes by revelation, says Brigham Young. But as things stand, we can hardly allow Clarke's lower case reim, or even his reeym, to be quite our savage Re-em, an animal that stands proud.

The editors of the Latter-day Saint Bible clearly favor the idea of a prophetic reading: the new translation re'em, they point out (loading the argument), matches the Hebrew word re'em. But what error everywhere! The Joseph Smith Translation, although marking the glottal stop with a nice dash, knows no re'em, only the unprecedented Re-em, which is not to be found in any book. We are further informed by footnotes that the re'em is a wild ox--but isn't it really a wild bull? or, to be exact, the Bos primigenium Bojanus? The reem of the Bible is hardly a Latin classification. Much more than that, the beast takes on mythic proportions--so we're back to the unicorn. The Biblical reem looms so large its horns can push Israel's exiles to the four quarters of the earth; God Himself has the strength of a reem; fresh, kingly anointing oil flows from the horn of this mighty reem. Indeed the unicorn has nothing on the reem of Medieval Jewry: David, tending lambs, once found a reem 100 cubits high, on whose pattern he designed Solomon's lofty temple structure.

A Prophet, says President Spencer W. Kimball, need not be a linguist--but Joseph, as seeric Translator, had something of the linguist. Re-em blends well with the Prophet's other strange animal names, the famous Cureloms and Cumoms, all of which show, says Hugh Nibley, the archaic Semitic feature of mimation, that is, the nominal case ending of -um (here: -om; Akkadian rimum shows the m twice, which might signal linguistic "hypercorrection"): "The correct use and sequence of mimation and nunation in the Book of Mormon speaks strongly for the authenticity of the record, for the principle is a relatively recent discovery in philology," The World of the Jaredites, 242. Neither the Prophet nor Professor Seixas knew anything about archaic case-endings. And note how the "plurals-challenged" Prophet, after supplying the recently discovered case ending, purposely Anglicizes Curelom and Cumom in the Book of Mormon's oddest sentence (from the archaic Book of Ether): "and elephants, and cureloms, and cumoms." What would you have done?

Like all these, the Reem is a linguistically early beast: Mythical Gilgamesh stood supreme "like a wild bull" (again, Akkadian rimu(m)--note the long i). Shamash, the sun god, was himself the wild bull, the head of the herd. And this Babylonian beast was indeed a commanding and destructive behemoth (or should we say behemoths?). Finally, there is something familiar in how students transcribe the cuneiform pattern of the word, which shows the long i (or e) vowel: Sumerian AM = ri-i-mu. If AM (which likely is not "simple Sumerian" but a borrowing) conjures up visions of Cum-OM and Curel-OM, the transcription of Akkadian Ri-i-mu looks for all the world like our dashing Re-em. All of which recalls the Prophet's use of dashes in rendering names, as found in both the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. However puzzling the sophisticated editors at Doubleday found Anti-Nephi-Lehi, there is something "modern" and "scientific" about such notation. The Prophet always wanted to get the transcription of perfectly formed, and wonderfully significant, Ancient Near Eastern names just so. . .

The Prophet kept on. He employed Professor Seixas [Shashius], a jolly and ebullient grammatical drill master, bought a Hebrew Bible, grammar, and lexicon, and studied assiduously; he also tried his hand at Classics and German--then still more Hebrew under Alexander Neibaur. With all this additional work, would the Prophet have stuck to the translation of unicorns as Re-em or might he have changed the word to plural re'emim? Given a respite from governors, mobs, and members, the Prophet would have loved to have looked over the full corpus of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Bibles by combining hard-won linguistic knowledge with seeric insight. This he eventually would have done. Still, I'm sure he would stick to Re-em or Reem over re'emim (and maybe even over Wild Bulls, conjure 'em up as you will). It's the better reading for English.

I have to laugh at John Bernhisel's note on the Re-em. (Bernhisel, as clever a Latter-day Saint as ever came off the dock, made a partial copy of the New Translation and carried it to Utah). Notes Bernhisel: Re x em---(this I not comprehend) [Matthews, A Plainer Translation, 213 n. 17].

And any one of us would say the same: Cureloms? Cumoms? This I like, but this I not comprehend.

(I do allow the reem to be a savage animal, if it has a mind to be.)


Brother Frederick G. Williams: was the scribe who wrote the dictation for Isaiah 34:7 (Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts, Faulring, Jackson, and Matthews (eds), 586).

Professor Joshua Seixas: "You recollect how Seixas [he calls him Shashius] used to drill us--that laughter loving man" (James H. Fairchild to Mary Kellogg, 2 June 1840); "I never saw any man talk and have so much to say as Mr. Seixas in recitation in my life," Ms Journal of John Buss, see History of Oberlin College, 368-370. After teaching on the frontier, Seixas returned to the Sephardic Synagogue in New York, founded by his famous father; organized America's first Sephardic choir, and taught Hebrew, living on through the 1870s. Professor Louis Zucker (who all but ridicules the Prophet Joseph for even thinking about studying Hebrew, then for daring to use intelligently what knowledge he was able to glean), while noting that Joshua Seixas was (somehow) related to the famous Gershom Mendez Seixas (his grandfather, in fact), records how Seixas, after Kirtland, walked into the mists. Indeed, for Zucker, for whom Sephardic transcriptions of Hebrew into English letters are not up to scholarly par--a sad old bias--Professor Seixas is a lost soul: dour, ashamed, hiding in self-imposed exile from his Jewish family, and vanishing without a trace ("Joseph Smith as a Student of Hebrew," [ie: How Dare Anyone Study a Language Under a Sephardic Jew Without My Permission], Dialogue 3).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Joseph Smith's New Translation and the Rejection of the Song of Solomon as "Inspired Writings"

From Old Testament Manuscript 2 of the Prophet Joseph's New Translation of the Holy Bible comes the declaration:

The Songs of Solomon are not Inspired writings

(Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts, 785).

And certainly every Latter-day Saint, at one time or another, has heard that famous declaration.

But why did the Prophet so declare?

We glibly say, "It is because the Song of Solomon is an extended love poem. And what can love poetry possibly have to do with Scripture?" Go to the head of the class. Yet the Song of Solomon has ever been considered as scripture most holy. And it is precisely because countless generations of commentators, Jewish and Christian, have considered the love poetry of the Song as the very quintessence of Holy Scripture, at its metaphorical finest, that the Prophet avers as he does.

Consider the chapter headings for that song which is Solomon's as found in the edition of the Bible owned by the Prophet and read by him in his act of translation (the Phinney Bible: Cooperstown, New York, 1828).

The Song of Solomon

Chapter One
1 The church's love unto Christ....5 She confesseth her deformity

Chapter Two
The mutual love of Christ and his church

The church's fight and victory in temptation

Christ setteth forth the graces of the church

Christ awaketh the church with his calling

The church professeth her faith in Christ

A further description of the church's graces

The love of the church to Christ.....8 The calling of the Gentiles

Now we don't know whether the Prophet read or merely glanced at these several title headings in his Phinney Bible; perhaps he didn't even read the Song before the word of inspiration came to him, a word nullifying centuries of supposed allegorical inspiration. But that he knew all about the Interpreter's Songs there can be no doubt. The entire Christian world so read, so intoned the Songs of Solomon: myrrh, spikenard, saffron, and cinnamon in solemn and mystical measures. The interpreters have looked at the wine when it was red. . .

And that's the point. It is not the inspired Song itself (in the Homeric sense of the word) that is the object of the Prophetic rebuke; it is the Christian world and "the interpretation thereof," from Genesis to Revelation, that he rebukes: the Joseph Smith Translation is there to prove it. A better day has come--the day of Revelation. After all, as Janne Sjodahl and George Reynolds noted a century ago in their Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, the Lord himself quotes from the Song of Solomon in describing the Church: clear as the moon, fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. Which plainly shows that the Church can be described in the superlative imagery found in the inspired Song (inspired per Muse, not Scripture).

What is objectionable then, clearly, is the involved allegorical reading of the entire work, in which allegory becomes a means of encoding divine revelation, a reading that flows from the idea that the Song is nothing more nor less than the holy mystery, the Song of all other Songs, even a love poem that never was love poem, but only so carefully disguised as such that it might, decoded, stand revealed as the Great Love Poem, the Poem of God and Israel, of Christ and His Church. And as anybody knows who has looked into the targumic renderings of this poetic masterpiece, here is the quintessence of literary interpretation indeed: masterpiece yielding masterpiece, the very glory of all midrashic endeavor.

Posh, says the Prophet. The Song of Solomon is not inspired allegory about God and Israel or Christ and the Church. Put aside your mysticism, he seems to call.

But love for beauty is quite another thing. And where is there anything more beautiful (or unusual) than the Song, or the Jewish commentary that clusters about it? Yet here I recall Charles Schultz's brilliant send-up of the every-word-inspired Minnesota Bible: Linus solemnly reciting how "thy hair is as a flock of goats, that appear from Mount Gilead."

Put aside your mysticism, says the Prophet; yet in the same breath comes Nauvoo the Beautiful, from an expression ma-navu or navu (how beautiful!) occurring only in the Song (1:10) and Isaiah (52:7), and again in the same breath, the word of the Lord about His latter-day Church, wrapped, enfolded, "comely with rows of jewels," in the poetic splendors of Solomon's Song:

In this the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness--clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners (Doctrine and Covenants 5:14).

But first let my army become very great, and let it be sanctified before me, that it may become fair as the sun, and clear as the moon, and that her banners may be terrible unto all nations (105:31).

(Joseph Smith delights in true poetic non-conformity; the Authorized Version of Songs 6:10 reads: fair as the moon, clear as the sun: the fair moon, the clear sun.)

And finally from the dedication of the Holy Temple itself (at Kirtland):

That thy church may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners;

And be adorned as a bride (109: 73-4: a favorite reading of President Gordon B. Hinckley).

And, as any observant reader knows, the Scripture come replete with allegorical whisperings of Christ and His Church, all the way from Genesis to Revelation: There is a Great Love Poem in that Bible.

So may we then sing of the Church, or even Nauvoo, "as a flock of goats, that appear from Mount Gilead?" Why not? Let's rhapsodize all we wish (if we must: see Linus had it right!)--and let Interpretation fall by the wayside.

So who is She, after all? Who is she that looketh forth on the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners? (Song 6:4) Well, it's certainly not the Church of Christ: unless He so chooses to describe her.

Not as the scribes indeed, this Joseph--yet a Poet.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 16, Part One: Beer-la-hai-roi

The Prophet Joseph Smith's New Translation of Genesis 16 brings rich surprises. Among these the idea that the name Beer-la-hai-roi applies first to the angel who visits fleeing Hagar and, only second, "for a memorial" (Heb. le-zikkaron) to the nearby well, where Isaac later camped. The idea shocks. Since be'er (buh-AIR) signifies well in Hebrew, how can the word name an angel? Yet the Prophet insists on the matter: "Hagar saw the angel and the name of the angel was Beer-la hai roi wherefore the well was called Beer la hai roi for a memorial" (see OT Mss. 1 and 2; Mss. 2 gives both Beer-la-hai-roi and Beerlahairoi, etc.).

So what does the name Beer-la-hai-roi mean? Open the book and the answer comes readily--you don't even have to think:

"The well of him who liveth and sees me" (LDS Bible footnote)

"Well of the Living One who sees me" (E.A. Speiser, The Anchor Bible: Genesis, 117)

"the Well of the Living One of Vision" Robert Davidson, who also refers us to the standard:

"the Well of the Living One who sees me."

Now what I like about the Joseph Smith Translation is that it invites further reflection. "It feels so good not to be trammeled," says the Prophet in response to the High Council trying good old Brother Brown for his (incorrect!) views on the Bible. Latter-day Saints, Brother Joseph is saying, are free to think.

In light of this invitation--and why else have a New Translation if we're never going to think about it?--I wish to explore the name Beer-la-hai-roi further.

The compound name consists of three elements: Noun (Well) + the preposition l + Noun Phrase (the participial + infinitival forms are nominal in function):

Well + l + the Living One sees me.

The preposition, la, can be understood in two ways: first, as marking possession (thus the reading "well of the Living One"); second, as marking the transition, or setting the relation, of a logical apposition.

The organization of the compound Beer-la-hai-roi matches that of dedications found on objects. We recall the seals stamped on the handles of jars in ancient Israel. These jars were dedicated lhmlk or la ha-melek "to the king", whatever that means. In like manner, certain objects said to be associated with the Jerusalem Temple (although of disputed origin), bear the signature of dedication l-yy, which signifies "consecrated to the Lord." And that's exactly how we can and should read the name Beer-la-hai-roi, if we so please: "Well consecrated as a memorial to the Living One who sees me," that is, made consecrate by the visionary event. More simply, and thereby losing much of the nuance of the Hebrew, we could also read with the commentators: Well belonging to the Living One who sees me, and thence: Well of the Living One.

Back to my earlier point. The translation of the phrase Well + l + Living One can be rendered (weakly!) with the genitive of--and there's an end on't. But isn't it boring just to meekly copy millennia of biblical interpreters? Can't there be any new ideas? Joseph Smith's New Translation is a well-spring of the new.

A second way of organizing the compound name considers the preposition as marking a relation of apposition. In other words, the preposition, l, organizes the bipartite name as logical apposition. In this reading the noun (Well) is considered in relation to, or in respect of, etc., the action or event described by the noun phrase: The Living (God) sees me.

Perhaps: Well where the Living One sees me, or Place + Event.

Or: Well-in-that-the Living One-in action-of-seeing-me.

This last reading affords one way in which we could consider the angel as the well, or well-spring of the revelation that consists in the phrase Living God seeing me: Well-Spring of the Revelation, the Living God sees me. We recall here that both "spring" and "eye" share one name in Hebrew (ayin). A reading Well ~ Living God sees me" shows the name to be the revelation of God, if not theophany, then reflection--an angel of the Presence.

The noun Well anticipates the action of vision. Indeed, the angel is the well-spring of God's revelation to Hagar, the searcher (hqr) after God. What is a well, after all? (And what is an angel?) It is refuge, oasis, rescue, salvation, nourishment, place of greeting, of shalom, of finding, of safety. In light of the revelation of God through His angel, the well becomes for Hagar all of the above and more. The well becomes a manifestation, in the spiritual desert, of God's presence and watch care. It is wholeness, or shalom; it is love.

And any of these nouns could also name the messenger of revelation.

Read the name how we will, the imagery of the well is that of God's manifest wellspring: the name Well marks the manifestation of God by means of symbol, just as the concrete well marks the place of manifestation. And which idea comes first notionally and logically? The action of divine manifestation? or the place where it occurs?

Yes, there is logic in reading the name of the well as the name of the vision and of the one who brings that vision, both angel, and, ultimately, God Himself: "He is the Well-Spring, even the Spirit or Power of the Living God in whose continual Presence I dwell." In the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants we read that "light proceedeth forth [the heavenly well-spring] from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space" and further that that "light giveth life to all things."

Such a reading differs but little from the way the Jews understood the Beer-la-hai-roi (Targum Neofiti 1): "Therefore the well was called: 'The well beside which the One who sustains all ages was revealed'" (or, following Neofiti's marginal gloss: "above which was revealed the glory of the Shekinah of the Lord"). The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan yields: "For [Hagar] said, Behold, here indeed the Glory of the Shekinah of the Lord was revealed, vision after vision. Therefore the well was called 'The well at which the Living and Enduring One was revealed' " (The Aramaic Bible Series, vols. 1a and 1b).

Vision after vision, indeed: just three verses later comes the Theophany to 99-year old Abram wherein he is promised a rebirth of vitality in begetting Isaac and also receives, being now newly-made, the name Abraham. Given the proximity of the verses, who can help not view the vision-drenched names in one light: Beer la hai roi and Abraham; Beer la hai roi ~ Abraham.

Following up on this theme of vitality, a third possibility for reading Beer-la-hai-roi comes to mind. For a moment, let's drop the idea of la as preposition all together, and instead read it as a noun of divine power or strength (as in Ugaritic la-smm = the powers of heaven"; Hebrew lax), a noun which also conveys the idea of refreshment and moisture or vitality: Well-Power-Living-Sees-Me.

Now, by dropping la as preposition, I'm not trying to rewrite the perfectly good grammar of the compound name as it stands (or as it has been understood). I just wish to point out, with sensitivity, what Hagar's Semitic ear would be hearing and how that hearing conveys enough ambiguity to allow for more than one interpretation of the sacred name Beer-la-hai-roi.

From the well flows what the ancients called la--virtue, strength, salvation, vitality. It is the Powers of Heaven. It is the promise of Ishmael (God hears as well as sees) and of Isaac. He restoreth my soul.

At any rate, let's leave boring of by the wayside and consider the following readings:

Well consecrated as a memorial to the vision of the Living One who sees me

Well that stands in apposition to (and identity with) the revelation of the Living God who sees me (in whose Presence I am = Angel of the Presence)

Well--Power of Life--my Seeing God (or Being Seen--and Heard--and Quickened--of God).

And: Well = Power--Life--God sees me [in the Presence of God],

which again corresponds notionally with the revelation to Joseph:

"which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space--the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:12-3).

The Well of God is in the middle of all things, it is the generous bosom of Eternity.

Beer la hai roi also typifies Jesus Christ: "This is the light of Christ" (88:7).

Angels, which "speak by the power of the Holy Ghost" [la = power, spirit], also proceed forth from the presence of God and fill immensity with the "words of Christ." And Christ it is who also proceeds from the Father and thus becomes Himself The Well-Spring, the Bright and Morning Star, Refuge and Meeting-Place and Reconciliation (Shalom) of our Salvation (see 2 Nephi 33).

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ophar in Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 10 and the name Ephraim

My fruit is better than gold
(Proverbs 8:19).

The Prophet Joseph Smith in his New Translation of the Bible at times makes the tiniest of changes. And no change is more wee that that of Ophir to Ophar (Gen. 10:29), which rings in one-vowel-net-weight of change, and nothing more--not a gram.

Of all the wildly archaic names in the Tables of Nations (Genesis 10), why this one? and only this one? Why did it matter to him? and is there any philological evidence for the change? Old Testament Manuscript 1 of the Joseph Smith Translation reads: "and Sheba and Ophar and Havilah and Jobab," and Ophar persists in Manuscript 2.

All traditional commentators follow the only lead ever followed (with one exception: V. Christides), and "simply" connect the name with an unknown gold-bearing locale in Arabia, East Africa, Zimbabwe, India, or "Eldorado" (Anchor Bible Dictionary, V, 26: David W. Baker). The etymology of the name may not be clear to all (Fruitful Land seems likely--metals were sometimes seen as organic in growth and nature by the ancients), but etymology sometimes gets trumped by the swirl of th'event: Ophir registers gold in Biblical Hebrew any way you slice it.

Ophir as place name appears elsewhere in the Old Testament, but there it differs in spelling (in Hebrew) from the personal name Ophir, and this difference is what causes Christides to reject the identification of the place Ophir with the personal name found in Genesis 10. The place name demands the i-vowel, given the yod added to the root after the stop p (the ph reflects the later post-exilic pronunciation); all assume the personal name follows the same pattern of vocalization--yet who's to say for certain? Variant readings of ouphir in LXX Gen. 10:29 yield: oupher (long e), oupher (short), and ioupher (long again), and ioupheir, some of which reflect Opher or Ophar rather than Ophir.

The consonantal base of Ophir is Aleph-Peh-Resh, a root, or root homonym, that conveys more than one meaning in Hebrew and neighboring Semitic languages. One outcome is "soil" or "dust", hardly a name for an Arabian patriarchar ; far better is the reading fruitful, in light of the paronomasia on the name Ephraim found in Genesis. Joseph called him Ephraim because God had made Joseph and Asenath fruitful by adding to them a second son. "Most scholars consider this to be the correct derivation, and hold that the name means 'fertile land'" (Encyclopaedia Judaica, 6:456).

Ephraim and Ephrat (and Ephratah) seem to derive from the same root as Ophir or Ophar. The only difference lies in the postfixes. For Proto-Semitic, students posit an original nominative case-ending for both nouns and personal names in -m; -ay(i)m seemingly answers to a locative ending (indicating place). Others, noting there is no real evidence for such a locative form, read the ending -ay(i)m as a marker of the dual (see James E. Hoch, Semitic Words in Egyptian, 190). The name Ephraim, at any rate, remains a prime example of mimation, a phenomenon not well understood later on: "In non-Hebrew words, mimation, which was no longer understood, was vocalized as a plural ending [as with Urim and Thummim]" (Anton Jirku, "Die Mimation in den Nord-Semitischen," Biblia 34 (1953), 80 = Nibley, One Eternal Round, 450 n. 119; see also discussion in Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites). Ephraim, or Epar[a]/Epra, is not then a "Hebrew" name but one belonging to an older stratum within, or even without, the family of Semitic languages.

A longtime puzzler starts to become clear: if Ephraim is an archaic name, no wonder that the Jaredites, for whom mimation was the rule (so Nibley), should have a Hill Ephraim (the Bible also attests such a place name). In Ether the hill Ephraim was a fruitful mine of iron ore. To modern eyes what an eyesore: Why Ephraim long before Joseph in Egypt? Might it have been for Jaredites a rather typical name--with mimation in the case, or dual, ending? For many, the Hill Ephraim is a place name in Moroni's linguistic and geographic landscape that slips into his translation of the Jaredite record. Hugh Nibley thought so and it is a sound conclusion. As far as fruitful hills are concerned, the Book of Mormon also gives us the Hills Comron and Cumorah. The root k-m-r denotes a ramp or rampart; it also connotes a place of fertile black soil. In Syria we find the Gath Kumara, the fertile black soil of the wine-press. Hills are for planting, for the fencing in and protection of the press and the vineyard. (The reading Comron--not Comnor--comes thanks to Royal Skousen's sleuthing.)

Now for the brick wall. The latest scholarship (Anchor Bible Dictionary, II, 551: Siegfried Herrmann) tells us "The original etymology of the name Ephraim is unknown"--indeed that it never can possibly be known! A guess is a "derivation of 'eper in the sense of 'region' (cf. Akk 'eperu')." Such a determination seems to flow from two facts or notions. First, the Biblical lexicon attests no productive root Aleph-Peh-Resh (and without such a root and its exploitation, what can we know?). Second, any "derivation from Hebrew prh, to be fertile, is based on a popular etymology." And how do we know that? Because it comes from a Bible story and, as everybody knows, Bible stories are just stories. Now Latter-day Saints may not be exactly fundamentalists when it comes to reading the Bible, but we are believers. If Joseph of old was said to have named his son Ephraim as a response to God's making him fruitful, then he did name his son Ephraim for that reason. The name might not mean fruitful in its ultimate etymological outcome, and it is all together possible that the ending -ayim "indicates a place or geographical name" to begin with, yet it clearly connoted fruitfulness to Joseph, a real prophet of old. And that Latter-day Saints, who consider themselves in goodly measure of the tribe of Ephraim, should wish to understand his (their) name, comes as no surprise.

Indeed the older founts of scholarship do draw from the Biblical reading of the name. The Koehler-Baumgartner Lexicon (1953) says that Ephraim is "commonly derived from parah" and means Fruchtland, or corn-land (like Fruitland, Utah in the "mountains of Ephraim"), or Weideland, pasture-land, or pasturage. That Ephrat and Ephrata should derive from the same root as Ephraim is a given for the lexicographers. Thus Bethlehem Ephrata is the Fruitful Place of Bread (lehem); its inhabitants are indeed known as Ephraimites. That other doughty lexicographer, Gesenius, in light of the possible dual value of -ay(i)m, reads Ephraim as double land or twin land (fruitful on both sides of the valley?), a sort of comment on the notion of fertility and fruitfulness. He further compares the dual form of the name to Mitzraim, Egypt as the Two Lands. Indeed it is Mitzraim and her lovely daughter, Asenath, that spells the fruitful land(s): Mitzraim for Joseph becomes Ephraim. The notion is interesting because Ephraim thus becomes a rival, even a superior to Mitzraim: Joseph prevails. For Latter-day Saints the true heritage of Ephraim and Manesseh lies "over the wall" and across the waves by the side of the "everlasting hills": And are not the Americas a "double land"?

Joseph and Moses (and whatever other pre-exilic editors there were) were clearly as content with Ephraim as fruitful land and the root p-r-h (parah: to be fruitful) as is Koehler-Baumgartner. (There must have been an earlier or synonymous root: likely Aleph-Pe-Resh.) For derivatives of parah, we have, above all, peri, which means fruit or a fruit tree, a word also found in Egyptian (pr.t = fruit, seed, divine offspring).

Only traces of the root appear in Egyptian and Akkadian and Arabic--it must be old indeed, as old as the hills called Ephraim. Arabic does give us '-b-r: abara, which means, primarily, to prick or sting; but also to pollinate (ibra is a needle). It is a bee word, and a fruitful lead is on; for if Asenath, as Nibley notes, is a bee lady (see his Abraham in Egypt), why should not her children inherit her beehive fruitfulness? Ephraim also points to the resurrection from the dead. And was not Joseph raised from the darkness of the prison cell and exalted above all men? All typifies Christ, His birth in Bethlehem Ephrata and His resurrection.

For words signifying fruit, fruit trees, and sexual attractiveness or energy, Akkadian yields inbum, or plural (and collective) inbu, for which inib is the construct form in genitival phrases (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, VII, 144-6.) But how can inbum relate to Ephraim or Opar? To begin with the noun appear as a personal name. A good name for a woman is Inba (Fruitful). And who can forget Inib-Shamash (Sun Fruit) or Inbu-Mama?

Inbum, which later becomes a loanword for fruit into Semitic languages, doesn't come from the Proto-Semitic root Aleph-Pe-Resh but from Aleph-Nun-Bet, the same root that blossoms into waving fields of Hebrew grain: Abib (see Stephen Kaufman, The Akkadian Influence in Aramaic, p.58; Koehler-Baumgartner-Stamm Hebrew Lexicon). But, then, Akkadian also attests niprum or nibrum, which signifies sprout or seed (Spross and Nachkommen: von Soden, Akkadischen Handwoerterbuch II, 792). While not fruit, niprum is our root, plus the reflexive n- prefix. The n- is clearly a reflexive infix upon a root, that is an infix with reflexive or ingressive meaning: becoming fruitful, bearing fruit in itself, etc.

To add to the picture, we turn to Egyptian where we find npr or npri (n + prj), the name of the grain god, the god of the fruited plain, who something recalls Mama Inbum. Hans Bonnet, Reallexikon, 517-8, assures us the name is to be pronounced Neper not Neperi (the vowels are open to argument); a feminine variant Nepit recalls Nep-hi (as Nibley somewhere observes).

What then is the ultimate root behind all these Akkadian and Egyptian nouns and names, if any? It is: Aleph-Peh/Bet-Resh, with the resh dropping in Akkadian inb-, inbum and with the i representing what remains of the aleph. In Egyptian the aleph also all but disappears, though we presume that Neper is Inpar or Inpra, or perhaps just Napar or Nepr. The Egyptian word for fruit or seed, again, is pr.t, which is Coptic appears as ebra. And Ebra matches Opar (how Ophir would have originally been pronounced) and Ephraim (Epr-aym).

The Joseph Smith Translation sets us thinking, even about details. We can trace roots only so far, but what I find intriguing is the touch of authenticity, something no one can fake. Even the spelling of the name Ophar typifies and attests the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ.


We do find Epher on a Hebrew jar, but that name likely begins with an ayin, as does the Epher found in 1 Chronicles. (Epher: H. Nibley, Lehi in the Desert, 32, citing R.A. Stewart Macalister in "The Craftsmen's Guild of the Tribe of Judah," in PEFQ, 1905, 333.