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Friday, November 18, 2011

"Ramah" and Joseph Smith

When it comes to Mormon Founder Joseph Smith, I am of the opinion that only one of two different possibilities is true: 1.) Smith was a brilliant, self-educated Bible scholar who possessed equally impressive traits of deception and persuasion. 2.) He was a relatively ignorant (dare I say even a little dumb) farmer, who despite some obvious character flaws (we all have those), really was a prophet of God.

Admittedly, I realize that my dichotomy is a bit simplistic, being that all humans are complex creatures (there are no simple men no matter what Lynyrd Skynyrd has to say on the matter). With that said, hear me out for a second.

In the Book of Jeremiah, Chapter 31: 15 we read:

Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.
The verse is essentially a commentary on the suffering that the Jews would experience down the road, but this is not what I am interested in. What is interesting is that the word "Ramah", a word used throughout the Bible, is spelled in a different way in the Book of Matthew. Look at Chapter 2, verse 18:

In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
As you can see, the New Testament version omits the letter H in its spelling of "Ramah." Is this an error? Not at all. It is actually, a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word. "Ramah", in Hebrew, means "Hill" or "High place". The word is also used several times throughout the Bible as a name for various locations.

Now look at the Joseph Smith translation of Matthew (see chapter 3):

In Ramah there was a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning; Rachael weeping for the loss of her children, and would not be comforted because they were not.
Interesting that Smith elected to go with the Old Testament (more correct Hebrew) version rather than the Greek that is found in the original Book of Matthew. Either this reveals some serious skills in understanding Hebrew/Greek or Smith really was inspired (or for you critics it was just luck).

But the saga doesn't stop there.

From the Book of Mormon, in Ether 15: 11 we read:

And it came to pass that the army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah; and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred.
What is interesting to note here is the fact that nowhere in the King James Version of the Bible is there any hint that "Ramah" means "Hill or high place." Again, Smith was either incredibly familiar with Hebrew or really was inspired.

And there's more.

In the Book of Alma, chapter 31 (again, from the Book of Mormon) we learn about the Zoramites, who due to their pride, built a giant "place for standing, which was high above the head" (chapter 31: 13). And what did they call this large and tall "place for standing"? Verse 21 has the answer:

Now the place was called by them Rameumptom, which, being interpreted, is the holy stand.
Notice that the prefix "Rame" appears to be a variant of "Ramah." Interestingly enough, the word "Ramah", as a Hebrew object-noun, also means "a high place of illicit worship". Again, what impressive Hebrew skills on the part of Joseph Smith! Or maybe he really did translate what he said he translated?!?

All of this is further proof (for me personally) that Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon are either one hell of a great fraud or the real deal. And yes, The Book of Mormon (and all scripture for that matter) deserve sincere scholarly inquiry and analysis.

But no level of scholarly insight would or could conclusively prove anything. Matters of faith are just that: matters of faith. There will always be supporters and detractors to all holy books. The only true way to know the validity of scripture is through sincere prayer (Moroni 10: 3-5).

But the scholarly doesn't hurt either. =)

Major hat tip: S. Faux.


DeConstructor said...

You are forgetting a really big one, which is he stole the BoM transcript from 'A View of the Hebrews'

Joe Smith was exposed as a fraud over and over. The religion would have quickly died after his death (Why do Mormons never really ask why the crowd at Carthge was angry or look at arrest records?)

The only reason the religion survived and thrived is because of the iron dictator hand of Brigham Young and the fact they found some pretty good farmland in Utah, allowing them to build an economy.

The relgion is fraudulant. The leaders know it, and if Romney gets the nomination the world will know it. The kindergarten mentality LDS Inc attempts to spin (really Jesus made grape juice?) will not cut it in media scrutiny.

Grant Hart said...

Fantastic insight! Force of personality alone could not produce this kind of detail.

Rudi said...

Far from producing a convincing level of detail, the author(s) of the Book of Mormon seem to get very confused and fleet between Greek and Hebrew almost randomly.
Why is the Hebrew form of a word used sometimes, but the Greek form at other times?

One standout example is the use of Messiah and Christ, which are the Hebraic and Greek versions of the same word.

The confusion is compounded in 2 Nephi 25:19, where Nephi writes:

"For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Here both languages are used in the same passage! Joseph Smith even insisted that there were no Greek words in the Book of Mormon!

Joseph Smith might not have been in receipt of a higher education, but he was certainly famed as a storyteller, and by all accounts possessed of a vivid imagination.

He was very versed in the KJV.. although confused in his use of Hebrew and Greek forms of the same names (see also Elijah/Elias, Isaiah/Esaias etc.)


Sammy B. said...

Except "View of the Hebrews" doesn't have those words, Deconstructor.

Rudi, your point is mute because of the mode of translation. It wasn't a literal translation of the book.

Brad Hart said...

@ DeConstructor:

It never ceases to amaze me that so many Mormon opponents continue to cling to the silly "View of the Hebrews"/Solomon Spaulding/Book of Mormon connections. In reality, this is nothing more than the "appeal to probability" logical fallacy. All one has to do is read "View of the Hebrews" and "The Book of Mormon" to see for themselves that the supposed similarities are superficial at best, and that the alleged "plagiarism" on the part of Smith doesn't exist.

As for the rest of your argument that Smith and Mormonism are a "fraud", this is little more than ad hominem and doesn't merit a response. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.00.


You bring up some very fair and important points. I am familiar with many of the supposed linguistic problems (i.e. "adieu", "Messiah", synagogue" etc.) in the Book of Mormon, however, the problem I have is that these arguments make the assumption that Smith used a literal, word-for-word approach in the translation process of the BoM. There is no indication that such a process took place. In fact, any bilingual person will tell you that you always end up having to account for change in the translation process. For Smith to employ Greek, French and English words makes no difference. The object is to get the message across.

Let me give you an example using my all-time favorite scripture (Matt. 6:33):

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his RIGHTEOUSNESS; and all these things shall be added unto you."

Now, in Spanish, the word "righteousness" is translated as "justicia." This word is primarily used to mean "justice" but it also means "righteousness." Now, I recognize that the issues surrounding the BoM are more complicated but I think my point stands. No translation of ANY record can be perfect. Just because Smith used Greek words alongside others makes no difference.

As for your second point, yes, "Elias" is used as a Greek form of "Elijah" but it is also used in other contexts. For example, Jesus himself refers to John the Baptist as an "Elias" in Matthew 11:13-15.

Brad Hart said...

"Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see.

Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be

In every work regard the writer's end,

Since none can compass more than they intend,

And if the means be just, the conduct true,

Applause, in spite of trivial faults, is due."

--Alexander Pope