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I’m curious if the assumption here is that the Egyptian meaning of the name would have been known to the general populace (which I assume spoke in an unrelated language, in which I’d include a “reformed” or Hebrew-related Creole). I’m just trying to get my head around the pedigree for its use as a wordplay in daily (religious, anyway) discourse–who would have been aware of it and how.
Yes. In an earlier study (which can be found here: http://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1305&index=2), I suggest/assume that /nfr/, as the term from which Nephi is derived, passed into the Nephite language with its range of meaning. If Nephi’s father’s “language” as he says “consist[ed] of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians,” such a common Egyptian word would been a part of the scribal education that Nephi says he received (see 1 Nephi 1:2). In fact, it provides a rather simple, yet very plausible reason for his having received an Egyptian name. 🙂
I appreciate your explanation of using “fair” to mean “good” in many instances in the Book Of Mormon, but you appear to be scrubbing the chromatic and visual meaning of “fair,” as generally understood to be light colored and pleasing in appearance. The first 3 meanings of the adjective “fair” in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary are:
1. Clear; free from spots; free from a dark hue; white; as a fair skin; a fair complexion. hence,
2. Beautiful; handsome; properly, having a handsome face.
Thou art a fair woman to look upon. (Genesis 12:11). Hence,
3. Pleasing to the eye; handsome or beautiful in general.
1 Nephi 11:13: Nephi’s first mention of the word “fair” is in reference to Mary: “I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white” (1 Nephi 11:13). Although she was certainly good, the context parallels “fair” with “white.”
1 Nephi 13:15: “and I beheld that [the Gentiles] were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain. The Gentiles were not necessarily good as they ethnically cleansed the Native Americans from the United States, so we may assume this reference is to complexion.
2 Nephi 5:21: “as [the Lamanites] were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. The Lamanite were certainly not “good” so this reference obviously refers to complexion.
There are more examples but I think this is sufficient to make my point.
The point is NOT that “fair” necessarily = “good.” The point is that the range of meaning of the Egyptian lexeme /nfr/, whence the name Nephi derives, is broad enough to include both “good” (of quality, character, etc.) and “fair” (of appearance). In fact, it is broad enough to glosses 1-3 for Webster’s 1828 entry for “fair.” The idea that the Nephites were “fair” (of appearance) vis-à-vis the Lamanites constitutes a major aspect of Nephite self-perceptions. I thought that idea was clear enough in the paper and that it didn’t require much additional elucidation. Cheers!
*”broad enough to include”
I find that my own plans for Fridays are very often put on hold, while I am forced to read the latest essay(s) that arrive from Interpreter. Matthew Bowen remarkable essay has engaged my attention today. I have very much enjoyed reading his excellent work in the past, and this subtle and convincing essay is no exception.
Thank you, Lou! I really appreciate that. 🙂