Question: Did Joseph Smith plagiarize a book by Charles Anthon to provide names for the Book of Mormon?

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Question: Did Joseph Smith plagiarize a book by Charles Anthon to provide names for the Book of Mormon?

There are a number of methodological problems to this that make the probability miniscule

A critic of the Church posted the following claim on his Facebook timeline:

PLEASE TAKE TIME TO READ - AS SUCH IS FURTHER EVIDENCE OF JOSEPH SMITH'S PLAGARISM OF CONTEMPORARY SOURCESin 1827 Charles Anthon (yes the guy Martin Harris takes the

'caractors' to for authentication) published a dictionary about ancient names in the old world. strangely many of these names are duplicate or extremely similar to proper names in the Book of Mormon.

#1 what is the chance that a contemporary book published three years before the Book of Mormon would share such duplication/close proximities?

#2 What is the chance such a book of duplication/close proximities being published in 1827 and only a small distance away?

#3 What is the chance that the author of that book would be the very guy that Joseph would have Martin Harris return from visiting?

#4 What are the chance that this very guy (Anthon) is the guy who fulfills Isaiah's prophecy in the the Bible and Book of Mormon?

LIST OF SIMILARITIES Take a look:

(Most of these are not found in the Bible)

Mormon Memnon (p.454) -- A war hero who lead 10,000 men to battle in the Trojan war and won. He later died in a subsequent war. He was known as a writer and inventor of the alphabet.

Cumorah Cremera (p.214) -- 300 people died there in a battle, only one remained alive

Helorum Helorum (p.334) Zenos Zeno (p.335,884-887)

Sidon Sidon (p.763)

Alma Alma- / Almamon (p.n17)

Melek Melek (p.668)

Teancum Teanum (p.763)

Pachus Paphus(p.578)

Antion Antion (p.106)

Antionum Antium (p.106)

Coriantum Corinthum(p.208)

Coriantumr Corinthium-br (p.208)

Chemish Chemmis (p.577)

Mosiah Mosa (p.504)

Omni omnis (p.557)

Pahoran Pavorane (p.220)

Helaman Haliacmon (p.325) Zarahemla Zamora (p.883) Egyptus (PoGP) Egyptus (p.105)

Curelom Curium (p.219)

Irreantum Erythraeum (p.284) -- Both terms are referring to the Arabian Sea

Nephites Nepherites (p.520)

Antiparah Antiparos (p.63)

Lachoneus Laconia (p.377)

Enos Ænos (p.19) Ether Æther (p.282)

Neas Nea (p.516) Morianton Marmarion (p.460)

Gadianton Gaditanum (p.305)

Corom Coron (p.210,378)

Moroni Morini(p.313,503)

https://archive.org/stream/1827classicaldic00lempuoft#page/n3/mode/2up There is also a lot of sections on Egyptian culture and Egyptian theology. Joseph Smith would by this book alone knew that the word Nephi was of Egyptian origin (page 520). This Charade is coming to an end with anyone who in the least degree wants to know the truth rather than hold comfortable beliefs.

Parralellomania? I dont think so.


First, it is important to look at historical sources that show that Joseph had access to this book. There is no evidence that Joseph ever saw this work. An accusation of plagiarism is only as good as the historical documentation that can be produced to move the character (Joseph) towards the objectives (Anthon's book)

Second, it is important to examine the names as they are described in this book by Charles Anthon and how they are used under their headings (or in a few cases, in passing under other headings). The book is a 923 page (!) book with over 13,000 (!) entries and most of them are greek and roman names, not Egyptian nor Hebrew names.

Third, it is important to establish that the argument should not be distilled to simply what names exist in the Book of Mormon but how those names are used. The Book of Mormon offers us many ways in which the names above are used authentically that have been discovered and elaborated on with solid onomastic scholarship. So, the question is, could Joseph plagiarize something in an authentic way? See the Book of Mormon Onomasticon for the etymologies.

In answer to the critic's questions:

"1. what is the chance that a contemporary book published three years before the Book of Mormon would share such duplication/close proximities?"

We can’t answer that question, and we don’t think the critic has anyway to answer it either. He is only counting “hits,” and some of those hits (those in the “a stretch” column) are pretty questionable. But, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and ignore the fact that 30% aren’t even name entries, over 93% aren’t Egyptian or Hebrew, and some of the matches are extremely strained.

Let’s be very generous and count all these as hits: 30 of them.

Anthon’s book is over 900 pages long. On the first page of names, we count 15 entries. The second page has 28 entries. The third has 19. Some others have only a few due to long entries (page 507 has 9; 885 has 1, for example) So, again, to be conservative let’s say there are only 10 entries per page on average. 900 pages x 10 entries per page = 9,000 entries (the critics’ “hits” make up around 0.3%). If you think that’s too generous, drop it to what you think reasonable, but even at 10 names/page we’re probably underestimating the total.

So, what are the odds that someone just making up names might match 30 out of 9,000? I think they are probably pretty good. It would be a virtual certainty, I suspect—especially if the “hits” are allowed to be as broad as these names. If we restrict it to the examples that are more plausible (the first two tables) then that’s 16 out of 9,000 entries (around 0.18%) : one of which is found in the Bible, and one (Egyptus) that takes hardly any imagination at all and isn’t in the Book of Mormon anyway.

But, let’s assume for the sake of argument that this is a significant bit of agreement. That really doesn’t help the critic unless we assume at the outset that Joseph is not translating an ancient record. If he is translating a record, then we might well expect a match to some ancient names. So, the critic’s argument is circular.

How many names does the Book of Mormon contain? This might be a more convincing argument if the Book of Mormon consisted only or mainly of names found in Anthon’s book. But, it doesn’t—Joseph produced a book with 337 proper names. Of these names, 188 are unique to the Book of Mormon, they are not found in the Bible. Thus, the critics are offering us the supposed source for at most 28 names[1] (less than 15%). If we include only the more convincing matches (the first two table) that drops to 13 (less than 7%).[1]

If Joseph can come up with dozens of names without the help of Anthon’s book (as the critics must argue that he does for those that he did not plagiarize) why do we posit that he required Anthon’s help to come up with the few that remain? We’re expected to believe that Joseph pored over this book of over 9,000 names, needed a bunch of names for his forgery project, and stole a few—almost all in the wrong languages. But, he didn’t steal 80–90% of them from it. Some he was smart enough to change around a bit, but others he was dumb enough to copy directly.

This is simply not a plausible reconstruction.

"#2 What is the chance such a book of duplication/close proximities being published in 1827 and only a small distance away?"

It's doubtful the author can answer this question. There were many books published in New York. But, the critic needs to demonstrate that Joseph had access to the book. We have absolutely no evidence of that.

"#3 What is the chance that the author of that book would be the very guy that Joseph would have Martin Harris return from visiting?"

Probably very good. (The critic assumes that Martin was sent by Joseph to Anthon—there is no evidence of this. Martin was trying to test Joseph; he would hardly pick people that Joseph had insisted he visit.)

Martin Harris wanted to verify the Book of Mormon’s authenticity, and so he chose people who were experts in that field of study. Anthon was one such expert. One does not expect a non-expert to write a book about ancient names. So, given that there were relatively few experts in New York in the late 1820s about ancient languages and cultures, the odds are excellent that we would have such an overlap.

But this raises another issue—Charles Anthon was not happy with his link to early Mormon history, and did everything he could to disassociate himself from it.

What are the odds (we might ask) that Anthon would not realize that the embarrassing Mormons and their fraudulent Book of Mormon was plagiarized from one of his works? If he didn’t complain, why is the critic so confident with two centuries’ hindsight that he’s found the smoking gun?


"#4 What are the chance that this very guy (Anthon) is the guy who fulfills Isaiah's prophecy in the the Bible and Book of Mormon?"

See above. The pool from which Martin Harris could draw was small. The pool of those who would write a book such as this was also small. A limited number of options means that the chance of a match when we select from that group at random would be high.

A comparison of the "matches".

Below we provide commentary for each of the supposed matches: Exact

Name in Anthon Book Name in Book of Mormon Page number Commentary
Helorum Helorum 334 Town in Sicily—not Egyptian or Hebrew
Sidon Sidon 763 Also in the bible, so no need for Anthon’s book even if Joseph is creating the BoM himself.
Alma/Al-mamom Alma ? A Hebrew name. Wasn't known in Joseph Smith's day as a female Hebrew name.
Antion Antion 106 (and There is no entry for the name “Antion.” Instead, it is buried in another name’s definition (Astyäge)—so we’re to believe Joseph read the entire book and plucked this name out another name’s definition, rather? Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew.

From the first entry: “Astyiage, a daughter of Hypseus, who married Periphas, by whom, was Antion, the father of Ixion.” So a Greek name to describe a semitic unit of counting money?

Aegyptus Egyptus 15 Not Book of Mormon. Anthon’s book attributes the name to “Aegyptus brother to Danaus.” The Pearl of Great Price says it means “that which is forbidden.” Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew. Neither of the two mentions of Egyptus even comes close to what is described in the Book of Abraham. On page 387 we get ”/Egyptus Apollod” and for the other we get “—Apollod. 1, c, 2, &e.----A town of Greece, whose inhabitants went to the Trojan war. Homer. H. 2, v. 782----One of the daughters of Dannus, who married Ceotus, son of Egyptus.” See here for more information on Egyptus (or Zeptah. As an aside, the name Zeptah does not appear in this book).

Close….

Name in Anthon Book Name in Book of Mormon Page number Commentary
Zeno Zenos 335, 884-887 Another Greek name: if Joseph is trying to forge a Hebrew or Egyptian document, why resort to Greek when he has so many other options?
Teanum Teancum 763 Latin town on Appian road, not Hebrew or Egyptian.
Corianthum Coriantum 208 Again, this entry is not found as a name. It is a Latin form of the city name Corinthus. To find this version of the name, Joseph would have to read the entry, including a passage in Latin. No Hebrew or Egyptian link here.
Omnis Omni 557 Not a name at all. It is an italicized Latin term meaning “all.” It seems unlikely Joseph would make the same mistake as the critic—mistaking a lower-case word for a name. Is also an English root from Latin, so hardly requires a book to “make up.”
Nepherites Nephites 520 This isn’t really a match. Joseph’s word is clearly from Nephi, plus “ites” – meaning “belonging to the party of.” This name in Anthon’s book is a king of Egypt. So, we’re to believe that Joseph saw this name, picked it out, decided to keep the Nephi part so he could tack on “-ites” to it later? Parallelomania at its best.
Antiparos Antiparah 63 Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew.
Aenos Enos 19 Greek/Latin, not Egyptian or Hebrew
Aether Ether 282 Not an individual name entry, but buried in another name’s entry. Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew.
Nea Neas 516 Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew
Coron Corom 210, 378 The entry name is “Corone,” the rendering “Coron” is again only in the body of two different entries. Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew.
Morini Moroni 313, 503 On p. 313, not an entry, but a name given a people in another name’s entry. On p. 503, identified as Celtic, not Egyptian or Hebrew.

A stretch….

Name in Anthon Book Name in Book of Mormon Page number Commentary
Memnon Mormon 477 [the critic says 454] and 848 Greek, not Hebrew or Egyptian.

Of the 10 or so citations that come up for this, none seem to mention that Memnon was a writer. The 10,000 claim is a lie. From pg. 848: “The king of Troy received assistance from the neighbouring princes in Asia Minor, and reckoned among his most active generals, Rhesus, king of Thrace, and Memnon, who entered the field with 20,000 Assyrians and Ethiopians.”

Cremera Cumorah 214 Latin, not Hebrew or Egyptian
Paphus Pachus 578 Latin, not Hebrew or Egyptian
Antium Antionum 106 Not listed as a name, is found in the body of another entry. Latin, not Hebrew or Egyptian.
Corinthium-br Coriantumr 208 Not listed as a name, is in the middle of a Latin quotation. Latin, not Egyptian or Hebrew.
Chemmis Chemish 577 Island in Egypt
Mosa Mosiah 504 River in Gaul (Roman France). Not Egyptian or Hebrew
Pavorane Pahoran 220 Not listed as a name; this name is in the body of another entry. Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew.
Haliacmon Helaman 325 Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew
Zamora Zarahemla 883 Not an entry, is in the body of another entry. City from Roman history; not Hebrew or Egyptian
Curium Curelom 219 Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew
Erythraeum [Mare] – the critic doesn’t include “Mare” [Latin for sea]. The Book of Mormon does not call its body of water “The Irreantum Sea” or anything like it, so this weakens the parallel further. Irreantum 284 Greek/Latin—not Egyptian or Hebrew as Joseph claims the Book of Mormon is. Anthon’s book describes how the name means “red” [erythro- is red in Greek; red blood cells are called erythrocytes, for example]. The BoM says that Irreantum means “many waters” (1 Ne 17:5). So Joseph wants to appear ancient, so he distorts the name almost beyond recognition, and then gives a different meaning than the ancient meaning the scholarly book he’s cribbing from? This doesn’t make sense. If he’s trying to fake authentically ancient, why introduce an error? Also, notice the difference between the two. In the first we have ANT and the second we have TREE. Here’s something cool about that ANT:

"The element -ān is a common affix (a particle appended to a word) used in all the Semitic languages, including ancient South Semitic. It occurs especially in abstracts,[6] meaning abstract nouns, similar to the use of the affix "-ship" in the English word "kingship." An abstraction from "watering" seems to fit the requirement here that IRREANTUM have something to do with "water."[1]

Marmarion Morianton 460 Greek, not Egyptian or Hebrew
Gaditanum Gadianton 305 Latin, not Egytpian or Hebrew

Parallelomania

The critic seems to think that he has an iron-clad case:
Parralellomania? I dont think so.

This is, however, almost a textbook example of parallelomania. The critic knows very little, it seems, about how the dependence of one text on another is determined. He and interested readers should consult:

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms Part One"

Benjamin L. McGuire,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (2013)
Discovering parallels is inherently an act of comparison. Through comparison, parallels have been introduced frequently as proof (or evidence) of different issues within Mormon studies. Despite this frequency, very few investigations provide a theoretical or methodological framework by which the parallels themselves can be evaluated. This problem is not new to the field of Mormon studies but has in the past plagued literary studies more generally. In Part One, this review essay discusses present and past approaches dealing with the ways in which parallels have been used and valued in acts of literary comparison, uncovering the various difficulties associated with unsorted parallels as well as discussing the underlying motivations for these comparisons. In Part Two, a methodological framework is introduced and applied to examples from Grunder’s collection in Mormon Parallels. In using a consistent methodology to value these parallels, this essay suggests a way to address the historical concerns associated with using parallels to explain both texts and Mormonism as an historical religious movement.

Click here to view the complete article

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Finding Parallels: Some Cautions and Criticisms Part Two"

Benjamin L. McGuire,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (2013)
Discovering parallels is inherently an act of comparison. Through comparison, parallels have been introduced frequently as proof (or evidence) of different issues within Mormon studies. Despite this frequency, very few investigations provide a theoretical or methodological framework by which the parallels themselves can be evaluated. This problem is not new to the field of Mormon studies but has in the past plagued literary studies more generally. In Part One, this review essay discusses present and past approaches dealing with the ways in which parallels have been used and valued in acts of literary comparison, uncovering the various difficulties associated with unsorted parallels as well as discussing the underlying motivations for these comparisons. In Part Two, a methodological framework is introduced and applied to examples from Grunder’s collection in Mormon Parallels. In using a consistent methodology to value these parallels, this essay suggests a way to address the historical concerns associated with using parallels to explain both texts and Mormonism as an historical religious movement.

Click here to view the complete article


This kind of game is an old one for critics, but mainstream scholarship rejected its validity and reliability a long time ago. But, anti-Mormon “scholarship” is usually several decades behind the times, so this shouldn’t surprise us.

Plus, what’s the good of stealing ancient names if someone doesn’t find out about it? Why didn’t Joseph (or anyone else) point someone to the book on the sly, even years later, to prove that he got it “right”? What good does this subterfuge do Joseph otherwise—he clearly doesn’t need the help coming up with names, and he gets no benefit from his “genuine ancient names,” while also opening himself up accusations of plagiarism and fraud from a man who is keen to remove any link between his scholarship and Mormonism.

The other side of the question

If we’re to assume that these “matches” are evidence of Joseph’s clear dependence on Anthon’s book, then why doesn’t Joseph get credit for all his other matches to ancient names? If these “matches” are evidence of the 19th century, why aren’t the many other names evidence of the ancient world, the only place they were recorded? There is a long list here, much longer (at least double, even if all the critics’ examples are included) than the ones our critics offer us from Anthon:

The critics can’t have it both ways. If Joseph “guessed right” and “got lucky” in matching all the ancient names, then the same argument holds for matching Anthon’s book.

Conclusion

This is another in a series of similar attacks on the Book of Mormon’s authenticity. Critics try to produce a huge list that seems very impressive and overwhelming at first glance. They count on readers not checking their examples, and not questioning their reasoning. As one textual critic cautioned:

The great feat of the amateur literary detective is to run up parallel columns, and this he can accomplish with the agility of an acrobat. When first invented, the setting of parallel passages side by side was a most ingenious device, deadly to an imposter or to a thief caught in the very act of literary larceny. But these parallel passages must be prepared with exceeding care, and with the utmost certainty. Unless the matter on the one side exactly balance the matter on the other side, like the packs on a donkey’s back, the burden is likely [Page 30]to fall about the donkey’s feet, and he may chance to break his neck. Parallel columns should be most sparingly used, and only in cases of absolute necessity. As they are employed now only too often, they are quite inconclusive; and it has been neatly remarked that they are perhaps like parallel lines, in that they would never meet, however far produced.[2]

As so often happens, when we actually check the references and probe the parallels, the “amazing” matches elude the critics’ grasp, and fade into the mist.


Notes

  1. [2] [Data from Largey, Book of Mormon Reference Companion, 580–81]
  2. (James) Brander Mathews, “The Ethics of Plagiarism,” in Pen and Ink (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 29–30; cited in McGuire, http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/finding-parallels-some-cautions-and-criticisms-part-one/#fn36-2771