There are 13 thoughts on “The Possibility of Janus Parallelism in the Book of Mormon”.

  1. Pingback: The Possibility of Janus Parallelism in the Book of Mormon - Jeff Lindsay - The Mormonist

  2. In pondering the poured out/hedge Janus pivot this morning, I realized that I had been too quick to dismiss the first potential candidate I had noted in the Book of Mormon.

    Mosiah 24:21 also uses “poured out”: “Yea, and in the valley of Alma they poured out their thanks to God because he had been merciful unto them, and eased their burdens, and had delivered them out of bondage; for they were in bondage, and none could deliver them except it were the Lord their God.”

    This was the first verse I identified as a potential Janus parallelism in my notes as I read Scott Noegel’s book, Janus Parallelism in the Book of Job. But dismissed it or overlooked it after that because it didn’t seem very solid. Alma and his people had just been liberated from captivity in Helam and were now passing through the Valley of Alma and apparently holding a ritual of thanksgiving there. They weren’t really hedged in. Sloppily, I forgot about this candidate and moved on as I prepared my research note for The Interpreter.

    Mosiah 24:23 provides the clue that I should have remembered that reveals why the Valley of Alma is associated with the sense of being “fenced in” or “hedged up.” After the people give thanks, the Lord speaks to Alma in Mosiah 24:23: “And now the Lord said unto Alma: Haste thee and get thou and this people out of this land, for the Lamanites have awakened and do pursue thee; therefore get thee out of this land, and I will stop the Lamanites in this valley that they come no further in pursuit of this people.”

    The Valley of Alma, given great emphasis and mentioned three times in short order before “poured out” in Mosiah 24:21, is the place where the enemies of Alma’s people will literally be blocked by the Lord, hedged in or fenced in. If the Book of Mormon were fiction, we’d probably have an omniscient narrator tell us how that happens. But the Book of Mormon consistently offers clear provenance about where information came from in its written record, and since no witnesses to the miracle of hedging come into the circle of Nephite writers, we never find out how it was done. But the Lord promised to “stop” them there, and we can safely trust that they were in fact stopped, or rather, hedge in, fenced in, or perhaps enclosed in some way. While the vital clue about the hedging occurs after the Janus pivot in Mosiah 24:21, the pivot read as “hedge, fence in” looks backward to the Valley of Alma in the first stich which shortly would be the place of hedging, while also looking forward to the following “Spirit” which is the natural object of the meaning of “pour out” or “annoint.”

    I think the two occurrences of this candidate Janus parallelism, both involving Alma, may strengthen the case that it was intentional versus random noise in word patterns. Feedback is welcome.

  3. Thanks, Steve, for noting Brian Stubbs’ work, which I feel needs much more attention. The case for Aramaic influence in Uto-Aztecan languages is impressive. It is possible that Aramaic, Hebrew, and Egyptian all had some influence on the text of the Book of Mormon (e.g., Matthew Bowen has noted the possibility of an Egyptian wordplay involved in the use of the word “rod” in Nephi’s writings) as well upon some of the people that contributed anciently to the Uto-Aztecan language family. There is much more work that needs to be done on these topics, but the lifetime of expertise Stubbs has already applied has borne significant fruit.

    • I really wonder if there is much in the Book of Mormon of the smaller scale Hebrew structures (poetic or otherwise) that are not just artifacts of the target language (Early Modern and King James bible English) of the divine translator of the reformed Egyptian. Chiasmus seems to have been present as a larger structure. The language used is a highly compacted form of hieratic Egyptian, very different from Hebrew. We are told that the Nephites considered their Hebrew (also highly modified) a different language from the reformed Egyptian, so not sure why anyone should expect that there would be much. I can tell you that at least the chronological structure of the reformed Egyptian utilized is Mesoamerican, and utilizes Distance Numbers, Anterior Date Indicators, and Posterior Date Indicators and thus requires a complete reorganization of the language to translate it into a meaningful flow English of any kind. Larger chiasmus structures would be possible.

  4. I began reading your wonderful essay on Janus Parallelism again and came to Possibility #3 with reference to “yacar” “…with its meaning of “bind” (primarily in Aramaic). I remembered reading in Changes in Languages, by Brian D Stubbs, page 7 “…the Nephiyyim knew how to read both Eqyptian and Hebrew, but also spoke Aramaic!”. Coincidence? Perhaps, but I doubt it.

  5. After seeing the Great Isaiah Scroll I have thought there was a good reason the ancients left off the vowels but now I see that there was an aesthetic reason as well. When vowels were added they lost some of that.
    Some folks think that the Jewish people were just a bunch of simple goat herders and illiterate, before being exposed to the “civilization” of Babylon. The discovery of Tel Lachish should of put an end to that fable.

  6. Neal, thanks for pointing that out. I’m embarrassed not to have known of that find or to have noticed the book. It looks like it came out around August 2017 (correct?), which was after I submitted this article for review. My proposals about the possibility of Janus Parallelism in the Book of Mormon began on the Mormanity Blog on Jan. 22, 2017 and continued in posts through Feb. 7, 2017, with additional work being done for final preparations of this paper. So sorry I didn’t notice Hoskisson’s work when that book came out.

    Looks like the full chapter is not available online, so it will be difficult to access from here in China. But I can preview most of it on, but not the final page of his conclusion. What I can read puzzles me, though. For 1 Nephi 18:16, he suggests that a Hebrew word that can mean both “praise” and “sing” could be at play in the word now translated simply as “praise.” But it is unclear how this provides a (meaningful) Janus function of looking backward to the previous stich, “I did look unto my God.” “Look” and “sing” don’t seem to provide anything more interesting than the connection between “look” and “praise,” but perhaps this is explained in the page I can’t see. If there is more to explain, I’d love to understand it.

    • Another publication that would have been useful to cite is the very recent work of Matthew Bowen published here a few weeks ago: “Jacob’s Protector.” Bowen explores several subtle themes in the Book of Mormon involving the patriarch Jacob, and in discussing Jacob’s divine “wrestle” in Genesis 32, observes that the word “wrestle” can also mean “embrace.” To me, this strengthens the proposed Janus parellelism for Alma 8:9-10 (Example #1 above), where I proposed that a Hebrew word meaning “poured out” can also mean “hedge in, enclose,” looking back to the earlier “wrestled” in that passage. The “enclose” sense would seem to be particularly suitable for alluding to a divine embrace/wrestle in seeking aid for the people Alma is ministering to.

      Bowen sees a reference to a wordplay involving Jacob’s wrestle/embrace in this passage. In light of the possible Janus parallelism in Alma 8:9-10 and Bowen’s discussion of Book of Mormon wordplays involving wrestling, there may be even more parallelism to consider in this possibly artful passage.

      If the use of “wrestling” deliberately alludes to Jacob, perhaps we should consider that possibility as well in the opening stich regarding Satan’s “hold” upon the hearts of the people (Alma 8:9). Could this use the same root that Gen. 25:26 uses to describe how Esau “took hold” of Jacob’s heel? The Hebrew root is Strong’s H2708, ‘achaz or אָחַז. This root can also mean to enclose (Piel), which might resonate with embrace/wrestle and the potential dual meaning proposed for “pour out” in the passage in question.

      The phrase in verse 9, “Satan had gotten great hold upon the hearts of the people,” is paralleled in verse 11 by the response of the people to Alma’s words: “Nevertheless, they hardened their hearts….” Could “hardened” here be related to Strong’s H2388, chazaq or אָחַז? This root can mean to harden or to hold or contain. It is translated as “harden” 13 times in the KJV, as in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 4:21, 7:13, and 7;22, But it is also translated as “hold” 5 times.

      Chazaq and ‘achaz may be part of an intriguing passage with meaningful parallelism and potential word plays.

      It might be tentatively structured like this:

      A. Now Satan had gotten great hold [‘achaz = hold / enclose] upon the hearts of the people of the city of Ammonihah …

      B. Nevertheless Alma labored much in the spirit, wrestling with [embracing, being enclosed by] God in mighty prayer,

      B. that he would pour out [Janus pivot: enclose, fence in, hedge in / pour out] his Spirit upon the people who were in the city; that he would also grant that he might baptize them unto repentance.

      A. Nevertheless, they hardened [chazaq = harden or hold] their hearts….

      A. Hold [‘achaz] on hearts
      B. labor & wrestle [embrace, wrestle] in Spirit
      B. pour out [looking back: hedge in, enclose / looking forward: pour out] Spirit
      A. Harden [
      chazaq] hearts


    • Perhaps, but if the hypothesis raised in an earlier edition of the Interpreter is correct, where Job is a temple text, then it would seem to require that the text of Job would be pre-exilic. Jewish Temple worship was drastically changed after the exile, I believe.

      I wonder just how revoluntary a temple text from Solomon’s era would be.

      • I’m not sure that’s true given the range of views in the second temple period – especially the Enocian literature and merkabah texts more broadly. Further I suspect many would argue that the temple was already under significant revision with the deuteronomist tradition starting at least with Josiah.

        Of course that’s not to say literary and oral rhetorical forms couldn’t be found post-exilic yet originate prior to the conquest.

  7. It seems worth noting that Paul Hoskisson proposed a Janus parallelism in 1 Nephi 18:16, published back in August as part of the John W. Welch festscrift, _”To Seek the Law of the Lord”_, edited Paul Y. Hoskisson and Daniel C. Peterson. I was a little surprised to see no acknowledgement of Hoskisson’s work, as it was the first to propose Janus parallelism in the Book of Mormon.

    • Maybe it is because the Interpreter took too long to approve this for publication. I pulled one of my submissions because two years had passed and I had already published it elsewhere.

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