Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon
by Angela M. Crowell
Moroni who wrote in the Book of Mormon about A.D. 400, tells us that the book's authors wrote in reformed Egyptian; but if the plates had been large enough, they would have
written them in Hebrew to eliminate imperfections in the record (Mormon 4:98-99). It is not surprising that we find Hebrew idioms and syntax (i.e., the way words are put together to form phrases, clauses or sentences) in the English translation. This article gives only a sampling of Hebraisms found in the Book of Mormon; many more could be cited.
One prominent peculiarity of Biblical Hebrew is the frequent use of the conjunction "and," both in beginning a sentence and in the listing of a series within a sentence. In A. B. Davidson's, An Introductory Hebrew Grammar, the author states:
Hebrew syntax, though it has many subtleties of its own,is, broadly speaking, extremely simple, as a glance at any literal translation of the Old Testament, with its ever recurring and, will show.... The Hebrew habit is to coordinate rather than to subordinate, and one principal verb follows another with a regularity which reminds one of the simple speech of children [emphasis in original] (1954:2).
There seems to be a dislike among Hebrew writers to begin a sentence without "and"; even books begin with "and"-such as Leviticus and Numbers (Davidson 1950:184). In the 22nd chapter of Genesis, "and" begins the verse in 21 of the 28 verses [20 of 24 KJV] A similar pattern is found throughout the Book of Mormon. In the 11 th chapter of Alma, "and" begins the verse in 20 of 23 verses. In Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, the author states, "Contrary to English usage, which in lengthy enumerations uses the and to connect only the last member of the series, in Hebrew polysyndeton is customary" (1956:484) (i.e., "and" stands before each word or phrase in a series). A perfect example is found in Genesis 24:35 of the Old Testament.
And the Lord hath blessed my master greatly,
and he is become great;
And he hath given him flocks and herds,
And silver and gold;
And men servants and maid servants ...
Notice the structure of Enos 1:34 from the Book of Mormon.
And it came to pass that the people of Nephi did till the
land and raise all manner of grain and of fruit,
And flocks of herds and flocks of all manner of cattle of
And goats and wild goats and also much horses.