There are 14 thoughts on “Some Notes on Book of Mormon Names”.

  1. As an amateur who has been studying the Mayan language for the last 5 years I feel that we don’t need to be looking for Semitic roots for the names in the Book of Mormon but Mesoamerican ones.

    Take the name Alma discussed above. in Mayan this is Al Ma. Al- To say/ speak Ma -Not/ zero/ Nothing.
    Describes adequately to me what happened to both Alma’s as outlined in the book of Mormon. Alma 1 stayed silent while Abinadi was questioned and put to death. Alma 2 was struck down and didn’t speak after he saw the angel.

  2. I would like to make a few comments on the name Josh and some other names. The name Josh is most likely the short form of Josiah “Yah will support” rather than being derived from √ˀwš. Josiah is derived from the 3ms imperfect form of √ˀšh that earlier was √ˀšy. The 3ms imperfect form would be *yōˀšéh that derives from an earlier form *yaˀšíy. When the theophoric suffix is attached it becomes *yaˀšiy-yahw. The third radical /y/ is preserved when a suffix is attached. Thus Josiah is spelled with two /y’s/, one from the root and the other from Yah yˀšyyhw. The early form of the 3ms imperfect prefix is *ya-. When it attaches to the root that begins with /ˀ/, the vowel /a/ and the /ˀ/ combine contracting to /ō/ as the /ˀ/ becomes quiescent. This sound change is similar to the /aw/ > /ō/ contraction. This same sound change occurs on some other 3ms imperfect verbs with first radical /ˀ/, e.g. yōˀmar “(if) he shall say” (Gen 31:8), yōˀḵal “he shall devour” (Gen. 49:27) having derived from *yaˀmar and *yaˀkal.

    There are other theophoric names that derive from 3ms imperfect verbs, e.g. Israel and Jeremiah. Israel is spelled yiśrā-ˀēl “God will contend, persist” (BDB p.975); the prefix yi- derives from *ya-, the /a/ attenuates raising to /i/ before a consonant cluster when unstressed. The early form would be *yaśray-ˀil. Jeremiah is spelled yirmǝyāhw “Yah will appoint” (Davidson p.684) from the root √rmh. (English /j/ compares to Hebrew /y/.) This spelling also shows the attenuation of the prefix vowel /a/ to /i/ before a consonant cluster. A similar name from the Book of Mormon is Jarom, but this is derived from a different root √rwm “be high, exalted” (BDB p.926). The medial consonant /w/ is lost and the vowel becomes long to compensate. The 3ms imperfect form is yārûm (derived from *yarwum) and its short form is yārōm (from *yarum with a short vowel /u/) (See Num. 24:7; Hos. 13:6); the name would take the short vowel /u/ that later changed to /ō/. The vowel of the early form of the prefix *ya- lengthens to /ā/ since the syllable is open and pretonic. There is no consonant cluster following the prefix as in Israel and Jeremiah so the vowel /a/ is not raised but remains and is only lengthened.

  3. Keep up the good work. Everything will be shouted from the rooftops at one point or an other, leaving everyone without excuse. LDS Apologetics must play a part in this. In fact, one could almost view apologia as the last bit of grace before the testimony of thunders and earthquakes put the final seal on the truth.

  4. It is surprising to me that this is at all a relevant issue. I suspect that articles such as these are written (at least partly) in response to criticisms over certain names like Alma being feminine, not masculine in antiquity. But why should this be an issue at all? The response (in my mind) should be simple: the name Alma isn’t mentioned until centuries after the Lehites make their landing, and therefore doesn’t have to have roots from the old world. It is therefore interesting that the Lehites would retain such strong Hebrew roots over the course of so much time as they assimilate with the broader Meso-american culture.

    In the end, this issue isn’t dying because of the critics, but because of the apologist who finds such interesting correlations.

    This crazy book of ours is true after all.

    • “It is surprising to me that this is at all a relevant issue… In the end, this issue isn’t dying because of the critics, but because of the apologist who finds such interesting correlations.”

      So let’s ignore ‘interesting correlations’ to avoid controversy with critics? Hope they’ll move on to something else? They’ll always find something else anyway, so let’s not worry about that and focus on what the material has to offer us.

      The information above is interesting and informative in its own right (to borrow a phrase). If it bolsters the claim that the Book of Mormon is what it purports to be in the process, that’s great too–unless we also fear that it might offend the sensibilities of the secular academy (in which case it must be avoided at all costs).

      The insights into the name Josh, and the word play regarding Alma were new and fascinating to me. So now I will go back to the Book of Mormon and look at these (and other) names from a new perspective. (For example: Alma as “God’s lad, youth”, and Josh as “gift” & “support”. A city and a general. Josh as a place or person of refuge? Somewhere or someone you could turn to for safety? I don’t know, I’m just throwing it out there. I do know I’m going to pay closer attention to the text in this regard in the future.)

      Whether or not a work was written by an “apologist”, or is deemed to be “apologetic” (and therefore unworthy of attention) is the irrelevant issue in my opinion. The relevancy is in the work itself and what is has to offer us.

      • “So let’s ignore ‘interesting correlations’ to avoid controversy with critics? ”

        In short, NO! This stuff is very cool, to which you make the case well enough on your own right. The pile of evidence authenticating the Book of Mormon as an actual record of antiquity is certainly high enough, but surely that’s no excuse to stop. We need to keep going!

  5. I’m happy to see that the narrator is pleased with this article. That’s encouraging. There will, I hope, be others like it, as the results of the long-standing Book of Mormon onomasticon project that Paul Hoskisson and others have been pursuing begin to be published. The narrator has been a vocal critic of mine, and of most things connected with me, for quite a while now, so it’s really refreshing to see him put that aside in this case and give credit where credit is due.

    • I can give some speculation on the name Abinadi. It appears to be a composite name made up of abi and nadi. Abi appears to be Hebrew from the root ˀbh originally *ˀaby in its early form. The /y/ is part of the root and is retained when a suffix is added but in the short form the /y/ is elided, e.g. compare ˀāḇî́ḵā “thy father” to ˀāḇ “father.” When *ˀaby is combined with another word or a stressed suffix the first vowel is shortened, e.g. ˀăḇîḵem “your father” and ˀăbî-nāḏāḇ (1 Sam. 7:1) “father of generosity“ (Strong # 41). Abinadab is similar to Abinadi but the second part of the name is from a different root probably *ndy, which in later Hebrew would be ndh. The word ndy shows up in Ugarit as well as its cognates in other Semitic languages and has these associated meanings: “to dissociate from, keep away from, to drive away, to separate oneself, to be banned” (K&B (2001) p.672-3). Sometimes the names that are given to individuals match their circumstance or their character, e.g. Nabal “foolish” (1 Sam. 25:25). What about the circumstances surrounding Abinadi? After he called the people to repentance and warned them of impending bondage if they didn’t repent they “sought to take away his life; but the Lord delivered him out of their hands” (Mosiah 11:26). Abinadi was essentially driven away and banned from their society; this is the essential meaning of ndy (nady). We don’t know where Abinadi came from or who his parents were. He was apparently schooled in the scriptures for he knew them better than the new priests that King Noah had appointed (Mosiah 11:5). He may have even been one of the priests of Zeniff who was “put down” or expelled by Noah; or he may have been a son of one of the expelled priests. The name Abinadi may signify “my father is banished” or “father of banishment.” If this is the intended meaning of the name then it fits very well with the circumstance that Abinadi found himself in.

      • We can guess he was the unnamed brother of Amaleki (Omni 1:30) who went with Zeniff. I had wondered if there was reason to maybe see something like “the memory [in remembrance] of the father” in his name. Thanks for the analysis.

  6. I share Narrator’s sincere expression of excitement and interest in ongoing research on Book of Mormon names by semiticists such as Stephen Ricks, Paul Hosskisson, Robert F. Smith, John Tvedtnes, John Gee and others whose Book of Mormon Onomasticon Project, sponsored by through the Willis Center at the Maxwell Institute is bearing fruit. I look forward to additional insights and contributions on Book of Mormon names through the excellent venues of both the Willis Center and Interpreter in the future. Thank you for this excellent piece.

  7. A friend told me that when he viewed an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls in California (I think that’s where it was), there was a mention of the name “Alma” in the scrolls, saying it was the earliest noting of the name outside of the Book of Mormon. I thought that was interesting.

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