Textual Analysis of Book of Mormon Continues
FARMS and Brigham Young University are pleased to announce the release of part 2 of volume 4 of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon. Part 2 analyzes the text from 2 Nephi 11 through Mosiah 16.
Volume 4 represents the central task of the project—the attempt to recover the original English-language text of the Book of Mormon. Royal Skousen, the author, is an internationally respected linguist at BYU and has been the editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project since 1988.
Grant Hardy, professor of history at the University of North Carolina, calls the project "perhaps the most important study of the Book of Mormon ever done. Two hundred years from now—long after people have stopped reading anything on the Book of Mormon now in print—students of the Book of Mormon will still be poring over Skousen's work. What he has accomplished is nothing short of phenomenal."
Part 2 of volume 4 includes a definitive treatment of the one passage that has caused more debate than any other in the history of the Book of Mormon text—namely, should 2 Nephi 30:6 read "a white and a delightsome people" or "a pure and a delightsome people"? Skousen proposes an explanation for why Joseph Smith emended this instance of the word white to pure for the 1840 edition but left unchanged all other references to skin color in the text.
This second part also provides striking evidence that the vocabulary of the original text of the Book of Mormon dates from the 1500s and 1600s, not from the 1800s. For instance, Enos 1:18 has the Lord saying to Enos, "Thy fathers have also required of me this thing". Here required means 'requested', which was the meaning of this verb until the late 1600s. Another example is the original occurrence of but if in Mosiah 3:19: "the natural man is an enemy to God . . . but if he yieldeth to the enticings of the Holy Spirit". The 1920 LDS edition replaced the conjunctive but if with unless, which was actually the meaning of but if from about 1200 to 1600.
Part 2 of volume 4 examines 898 cases of variation (or potential variation). For 388 of these cases, the critical text proposes a change from the standard text (the current edition). Of these proposed changes, 66 have never appeared in any standard edition, while 23 would make a difference when translating the Book of Mormon. For 13 cases, the proposed changes make the entire text fully consistent in phraseology or word choice, but there are 5 readings that restore a unique phrase or word to the text.
In August 2004, part 1 of volume 4 (which analyzes the text from the title page of the Book of Mormon through 2 Nephi 10) was published by FARMS. Subsequent parts of volume 4 will be published at the approximate rate of one part per year, with completion of the last part scheduled for 2008.
Volumes 1 and 2 of the critical text were published in May 2001. Volume 1 contains a detailed transcription of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon (the manuscript written down by scribes as Joseph Smith dictated the text). Volume 2 contains a transcription of the printer's manuscript, the copy made from the original manuscript and taken to Grandin's print shop in Palmyra, New York, for typesetting the first edition of the Book of Mormon (1830). Volume 3 will describe in detail the history of the text of the Book of Mormon, including the editing of the text into standard English. Volume 3 will also provide a description of the original English-language text of the book. This volume will appear after volume 4 has been completely published.
Some of the major findings of the critical text project are: (1) the Book of Mormon text is much more consistent and systematic in expression than has ever been realized; (2) there are a number of errors in the text that have never been corrected in any standard edition, although none of these fundamentally alter the narrative or message of the text; and (3) the original text contains unique kinds of expressions that appear to be uncharacteristic of English in any time and place; some of these expressions are Hebraistic in nature.
To order a copy of part 2 of Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon (covering 2 Nephi 11 through Mosiah 16), go to the FARMS Web site (farms.byu.edu) and, at the bottom of the notice for this book, click on the link to the BYU Bookstore.