FairMormon is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing well-documented answers to criticisms of the doctrine, practice, and history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Question: Could Joseph Smith have learned about Hebraisms from Gilbert Hunt's "The Late War"?
Could Joseph Smith have learned about Hebraisms from Gilbert Hunt's "The Late War"?
There are several things wrong with assuming that he could.
Other than the fact that the Late War left a n-gram footprint of 0.16 % in the Book of Mormon, we can examine a few other important details to strengthen the argument that Joseph could not have learned how to create hebraisms before translation by using the Late War.
- We don’t know a lot about Gilbert J. Hunt. We know he was around 45 years old when we wrote the book, that he was educated, but we don’t know in what. He tells us that the Late War was written “in the ancient style”. This may suggest that he had some knowledge of how to write with this style.
- There is no evidence that Joseph knew about this work or that it was used in a school near him. Joseph did not have any formal schooling except for (we assume) maybe “one winter” with the Stowell children when he was 17 years old. He also may have received some frontier education from his father or brother and a nearby minister. As he says, he was merely instructed in the basic grammer and the ground rules of arithmetic. There is also no evidence that the Smith family knew of this work. Even if we assume that they did, why did none of his family never call him out on his fraud?
- Even if we do assume that it was used in a school near him, we need to assume that a teacher would stop to teach the class about these ancient literary styles. Remember, this was a children’s textbook. Is there any reason to assume that a teacher would stop and teach children about these styles of Semitic writing? Is there any way to explain hebraisms in a simple way so that children can understand? Is there any need to?
- We must also assume in a strange way that Joseph Smith would study these complex hebraistic structures and employ them in his “creation” of the Book of Mormon and then, 6 years after the Book of Mormon, do it again by taking Hebrew under Joshua Seixas.
- As it stands, not every Hebraism employed in the Late War is employed in the Book of Mormon. Of those that Chris and Duane Johnson cite there are: chiasmus, cognate accusatives, negative questions, construct state, compound prepositions, and adverbials. Even these do not account for all hebraisms in the Book of Mormon. See the FairMormon evidence page on the Book of Mormon for more information on Hebraisms .
So no, the Late War does not, as one critic put it, “completely obliterate the Hebraism argument.” In fact, with the lack of evidence to support this assumption, it strengthens it.
Below is a brief analysis of Chiasmus in the Late War. "Their 'chiasmus' includes a bunch of phrases that never exist, phrases that are not at all similar, parts of different combined verses, and include phrases that show up dozens or hundreds of times throughout the book."
See also Book of Mormon Central's evidence video of Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon
- "The Late War Against the Book of Mormon", Ben McGuire; Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/the-late-war-against-the-book-of-mormon/
- Gilbert J. Hunt to Thomas Jefferson, 30 January 1816 [ https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-09-02-0270]
- Conflict of Justice, "Did The Book ‘Late War Between The United States & Great Britain’ Influence The Book Of Mormon?" <http://www.conflictofjustice.com/late-war-between-the-united-states-great-britain-book-of-mormon/> (accessed 7 February 2019)