The Plagiary of the Daughters of the Lamanites

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Abstract: Repetition is a feature of all ancient Hebraic narrative. Modern readers may misunderstand this quality of biblical and Book of Mormon narrative. Biblical and Book of Mormon writers believed that history repeated, with what happened to the ancestors happening again to their posterity. Fawn Brodie and her acolytes misapprehend Book of Mormon narrative when—instead of at least provisionally granting that God might exist, can intervene in history, and tenaciously reenacts events from the past while the recorders of such repeated stories firmly believed in the historical reality of the narratives they recounted—they attribute such repeated stories to Joseph Smith’s imputed plagiaristic tendencies. The story of the kidnapping of the Lamanite daughters by the priests of Noah (Mosiah 20) is a recurrence of the story of the mass kidnapping of the daughters of Shiloh (Judges 21), but to attribute such similarity to plagiarism by Joseph Smith is a grand and flagrant misreading of Hebraic narrative, its persistent allusive qualities, and its repetitive historiography. Such narratives were widespread in Levantine and classical antiquity, and neither ancient historians nor modern scholars take the relationship among such analogous stories to be one of plagiarism when their antiquity is undisputed. At least one additional construal of the Book of Mormon story’s meaning needs to be explored and considered against the backdrop of Hebraic narrative.

Readers of texts are not mere passive receptacles but are active interpreters. They bring their experience, knowledge, attitudes, assumptions about the world and humans, capabilities, and all the [Page 58]previous texts they have read with them. Technical writing (say, the instructions in a manual), a romance novel, an academic source for a research paper, an article about a celebrity, a recipe, a news aggregator site, a complex work of literature such as War and Peace, a Shakespeare play, a review of a neighborhood restaurant, historical and biographical writing, a letter to the editor of a periodical: all require active involvement by the reader. But not all such reader contributions to the resulting reading are equal or equivalent. Texts require interpretation. They require appropriate assumptions, gap filling of ambiguities, judgments about genre, and experience with similar texts. Some recovery of the world created by the writer is necessary. The more recovery, the more complete the reading. Writers of texts build into their writings clues about the apt strategies to be used by the reader to decode the transaction between reader and author. Misreading those signs leads inevitably to a breakdown in that contract. Sophisticated texts call for a higher level of interpretation and greater reading skill. When a failure to communicate the storyline occurs with a complex text, the shortcoming is more likely a readerly rather than a writerly malfunction. “In works of greater complexity, the filling-in of gaps becomes much more difficult and therefore more conscious and anything but automatic.”1 One fundamental feature of Hebraic narrative such as we encounter in the Bible or the Book of Mormon requires that the reader understand the role of repetition.

Biblical narrative certainly abounds in patterns of similarity, all based on the principle of analogy. Analogy is an essentially spatial pattern, composed of at least two elements (two characters, events, strands of action, etc.) between which there is at least one point of similarity and one of dissimilarity: the similarity affords the basis for the spatial linkage and confrontation of the analogical elements, whereas the dissimilarity makes for their mutual illumination, qualification, or simply concretization.2

One of the gaps that requires filling by the reader answers the question, “what does a repetition mean?” For much of the span of modern historical criticism of the Bible, repetitions such as the three Genesis narratives featuring a patriarch who, in a foreign country, passes off [Page 59]his wife as his sister, who then is absorbed into the local kings’ harems (Genesis 12, 20, 26) posing a threat to the future promises and covenants made regarding the descendants of Abraham.

Until a literarily inflected variety of biblical criticism emerged in the 1980s, such repetitions were viewed as idiocies in the text, evidence of a writer or multiple writers who didn’t realize a story nearly identical was presented just a few chapters earlier, or some misguided devotion to heritage narratives kept duplicate stories in the book despite the fact that they were obvious repetitions. The problem is not with the ancient writers but with modern readers for we moderns have little tolerance and aptitude for repetitions. We live after the Romantic period (AD 1789–1837, roughly) and take for granted the Romantic commitment to originality. When we encounter ancient Hebraic textuality that appears in the Hebrew Bible and its descendant texts (New Testament, Book of Mormon, Dead Sea Scrolls, pseudepigrapha, apocrypha, Nag Hammadi texts, and rabbinic commentary on the Bible) that use recurrent themes and motifs, we too often and simplistically apply modern notions and judgments to the reading task. We have a responsibility to the community of readers, the text and its history, and ourselves to read more like an ancient and less like a modern.

Biblical critics who arrived at such misguided conclusions didn’t grasp a fundamental feature of Hebraic narrative. The biblical and Book of Mormon writers believed that history repeated itself, so naturally biblical and Book of Mormon narrative would also. To assert that a repeated story is defective because it is repetitive is a superficial way of the reading the text:

The dismissal of its redundancies in the terms of “noise” is the reader’s last rather than first resort. After all, the general presumption of coherence applies to redundancy no less than to any other literary feature, dissonance, or incongruity. Even what would count in ordinary discourse as an instance of noise transforms here into a simulation or mimesis of noise. The chances therefore are that this redundancy, too, is deliberate and functional—in fact, no redundancy at all. The text has devised a redundancy on some level with an eye to a definite effect; that is, in order to impel the reader to transfer it to another level (pattern, context, framework) where it will duly fall into place.3

[Page 60]The reader adequate to the Hebraic narrative text will fill the gap regarding the meaning of the repeated stories not with some simplistic notion such as plagiarism but with a concept indigenous to the text under analysis, such as repetition.

The rich tapestry of Book of Mormon narrative contains a story yielding to a typological reading that the book itself invites. I compare my reading to revisionist readings of the same narrative (revisionists assert Joseph Smith wrote the book as a novel to relieve his own theological anxieties)—to highlight the text’s hermeneutical possibilities. I don’t preclude the possibility that a revisionist reading is valid, but I find current revisionist readings persistently and overwhelmingly inadequate. Some revisionist may eventually provide a rich reading of the story I call “The Plagiary of the Daughters of the Lamanites,”4 but that event has yet to arrive. The origins of our English word plagiarism come from Roman Latin where a plagiary referred to kidnapping a slave or woman and was later applied to the theft of oratorical or historical compositions by analogy. But ancients reveled in repetitive stories recycled in historical and literary works, lacking the preference for originality that is a product of the Romantic period of modernity and successor habits of reading.

Revisionism Revisited

Revisionist readings, in attempting to revise understandings of the past or scripture from canonical or traditional interpretations, reduce the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith’s environment. The problems of this reductionism are obvious. When the book claims that Nephi’s brothers differed with him over leadership, and a reader such as Anthony A. Hutchinson insists that “the struggles between brothers and races in the Book of Mormon become much more clear when set against the antebellum American origins of the Book of Mormon and the internal family struggles between the Smith family brothers themselves,”5 the reader ought to demand specifics and elaboration of the structural connections present in the architectural framework of the edifice.

[Page 61]If Book of Mormon conflict stories are allegories of Joseph Smith’s family and social relationships showing that he didn’t get along with his brothers, evidence must be provided—evidence of clashes between Joseph and his brothers. Joseph Smith had conflicts with his brother William, but long after the Book of Mormon was published.

A revisionist might say that all brothers have such skirmishes; therefore, Joseph and his brothers must have fought. Such an approach shifts the parallel from a direct one between Nephi and his brothers versus Joseph and his brothers to a (hypothetical) universal archetype. Archetypal readings remove the privileged direct parallel between Joseph and Nephi. However, a general principle such as common fraternal conflict removes any close connection between the Joseph Smith biography and the Book of Mormon passages.

Additionally, Hutchinson’s interpretive leap of faith explains Book of Mormon stories at a high level of abstraction. The stories of conflict almost always emerge around the theme of the younger brother surpassing the elder. Biblical Pentateuchal narratives involving fraternal strife emerge as the younger brother acquires leadership, the birthright, or ascendancy (e.g., the biblical Joseph and his brothers, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Aaron). If Hutchinson’s theory is to explain this theme in terms of conflict between Joseph Smith and his brothers, and the only attested conflict is between Joseph and William, then we have difficulty because Joseph is the elder brother and William the younger. Like the biblical stories in Genesis and the cluster around David, Book of Mormon sibling conflict narratives are sympathetic to the younger brother. Hutchinson’s reading breaks down when applied specifically.

The Nephi conflict trajectory moves from verbal and physical violence to murderous hostility directed at the younger brother, from lesser elder aggression to greater. The first narrative has older brothers speaking harshly and hitting Nephi and Sam with a rod (1 Nephi 3:28–29). The next story has Laman and Lemuel tying Nephi to leave him in the wilderness “to be devoured by wild beasts” (1 Nephi 7:16); this story is similar to the biblical Joseph whose brothers left him in a pit to die (in one version of the story). Next the brothers get angry because Nephi broke his bow (1 Nephi 16:18). After Ishmael dies, Laman and Lemuel propose killing Nephi (and Lehi) so he cannot become their “ruler and [their] teacher, who are his elder brethren” (1 Nephi 16:37). When Nephi proposes building a ship, Laman and Lemuel prepare to throw him into the sea (1 Nephi 17:48), apparently off a cliff. During the [Page 62]sea voyage the elder brothers tie Nephi until they release him out of fear the ship will sink (1 Nephi 18:20). After Lehi dies, Nephi separates himself from his elder brothers because “their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life” (2 Nephi 5:2). Joseph Smith’s brothers never attempted murder. Hutchinson’s parallel works only at the highest plane of generality, and not even well at those levels of abstraction.

Revisionists who interpret the story of the kidnapping of the Lamanite daughters by the priests of King Noah in Mosiah 20—the focus of my Book of Mormon reading in this article—also do so only in a general way that would make the theme apply to almost any conflict story. Fawn Brodie provides an example of this acontextual textual analysis: “Many stories he borrowed from the Bible. . . . The daughters of the Lamanites were abducted like the dancing daughters of Shiloh.”6 One could similarly assert that the stealing of the daughters [Page 63]of the Lamanites is in some way parallel to Joseph and Emma Smiths’ elopement, but a limit to the elasticity of such a parallelism stretches credibility beyond the breaking point by such parallelomania.7 The unstated assumption is that any similarity means Joseph Smith plagiarized from the Bible or allegorized from his own life experience in presenting an interpretation which assumes no connection to a motif from antiquity but instead takes for granted a modern, American frontier story origin.

Wayne Ham in a section labeled “The use of biblical scripture and ideas as sources” for the Book of Mormon makes the same claim: “Other apparent biblical allusions in the Book of Mormon include . . .  an abduction scene similar to that involving the daughters of Shilo.”8 Again, no argument is presented that repetition equals plagiarism. Ham mistakenly believes he can approach the text without presuppositions: “As the Book of Mormon is examined without any intention solely to amass data to support preconceived notions about it, certain problems concerning traditional understandings of the book [Page 64]stand out.”9 But the misguided notion that he applies a presuppositionless reading approach is belied by the interpretive results. The turn to hermeneutics since the 1980s in exegetical disciplines has made obsolete the notion that one can do without presuppositions, prejudices, biases. One can only manage and acknowledge such influences. Abandoning one set of presuppositions necessarily entails the adoption of a different set of assumptions.

If Ham, Brodie, Vogel, Hutchinson, et al. held different preconceptions, as I do, the stories would mean something dramatically different. Everyone amasses data to support preconceived notions, and the Brodie school provides a particularly poignant illustration. The question is whether we are open to modify our preconceived notions by thinking differently than our post-Romantic historical context would limit our reading possibilities to.

Another revisionist reading supplies a different source for the Book of Mormon story. Vernal Holley suggests that Solomon Spaulding’s novel also contains a story about daughters being stolen and marrying their companions.10 This explanation points to the multitude of sources claimed for the Book of Mormon. The candidates include: a magic worldview, Solomon Spaulding’s novel, the Bible (particularly the King James Version), an amorphous entity called the American frontier, Joseph Smith’s own reaction to the skepticism of the times, liberal democratic theory, Ethan Smith’s writings, Joseph Smith’s visions, the religious revivalism of the times, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, the Smith family internal dynamics, and others. Allow me to add one other candidate. Robert Smith suggests the stealing of the daughters of the Lamanites is much closer to a story from Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans than to the Judges biblical passage.11 Smith wants to show that it fits neatly as an “example of a pattern common to Romans, Greeks, and Canaanites—the latter as prototype for what is in Judges just possibly an etiological account of a mass-mating festival.”12 Such stories were common enough in the ancient Levant [Page 65]that a collection of essays has been published detailing the theme in ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantium, and medieval Europe.13

Abduction Marriage in Antiquity

The abduction-of-women-who-marry-their-abductors theme is so common in antiquity that Helena Zlotnick says the dominant explanations are wrong. Rather than regarding this as sexual assault the way moderns naturally do, we should view it as an alternative way of marrying a young man and woman.14 Citing the biblical story of Dinah’s ravishing by Shechem and his subsequent marriage request (Genesis 34), Zlotnick says this story “reflects a clash between two marital strategies, or ideologies, and specifically between arranged marriage and so-called abduction marriage or bride theft.”15 Donald Lateiner also refers to abduction marriage as an “‘alternative strategy’ to the norm of father-approved betrothal and (parentally) arranged marriages” in Mediterranean antiquity.16 In ancient Greek and Roman novels the initiation of the abduction scheme or cooperation by the young woman was not unknown both in fictional and factual narratives because young people then, as now, rebelled against the norms and expectations of their parents and more generally the patriarchal system of the day, with absconding disguised as kidnapping. “Both versions—abduction and elopement—elude parents, their social arrangements and their legal devices.”17 The modern view of consent to sex and marriage is often an ill-fitting template into which experience and custom from antiquity should not be forced. “Although the two strategies appear quite different to us, especially as regards the issue of the woman’s consent, they seemed less distinguishable to the results-oriented, patriarchal laws and customs of Greeks and Romans,”18 and [Page 66]the theme of bride theft is widely documented in Greek and Roman antiquity in novelistic (and literary writing more generally), legal, and historical writings19 because it was so firmly “grounded in social experience” of the time and place.20 The contemporary reader’s time and place is dramatically different, so we are likely to misunderstand the practice and its ubiquity.

Herodotus cites the abduction-marriage stories to show how conflict arose between Greeks and Asians; the stories of abduction marriage at the founding of Rome recorded in Livy, Ovid, and Plutarch are additional examples; marital abduction or sexual assault stories in the Bible (Dinah/Shechem and Tamar/Amnon) also qualify; throw in the Judges mass bride abduction story Brodie refers to and the story of the Amulonites’ abducting their brides and the pattern is clear. These stories share features because “the abduction of women by men for marital purposes is a familiar feature in nation-building myths of the ancient world.”21 Robert Gnuse notes the similarities between the Judges and Roman stories and suggests a remote literary connection between the two stories. The theme of dancing virgins who are abducted for marriage has never drawn much comparison between the biblical and Roman stories: “To my knowledge, no one has made a direct analysis of these two accounts, the kidnapping/rape of the girls [Page 67]of Shiloh and the ‘Rape of the Sabine Women,’ to see how strikingly similar they really are.”22 The plagiary of the dancing Lamanite girls is even more strikingly similar to the Plutarch and Livy narratives than the Judges story is, the latter biblical story which the Brodie school asserts is the source of the former Book of Mormon narrative. Citing a Roman law as late as Constantine attempting to regulate abduction marriage (ad 326), Zlotnick invokes the wide range of similar biblical, Greek, and Roman stories. “Ancient literature and law, as well as modern anthropological research on bride theft or abduction marriage, demonstrate a variety of configurations as a result of an unplanned and unsanctioned transfer of a potential bride from her father’s to a strange household.”23 These marriages often led to violence but also to reconciliation of the families,24 as in the Lamanite story; the conflict emerges because this form of marriage cuts the father out of the process.

Some caution in classifying these events and practices from antiquity calls for nuance and charity toward the text. “But natural as it might seem in our own time to classify as rape all acts of sexual aggression by males (mortal or immortal) against females and younger males, the Greeks in their law codes distinguished between rape and seduction.”25 At least, the modern reader must grant that ancient societies, classical and biblical, framed their laws and customs regarding marriage and consent differently than we do. These stories of bride theft were not only considered differently in various societies, but almost always differently than we moderns view them under law or custom. Speaking of Theseus’s abduction of Helen, Edmunds notes “it is a common, international story” especially ubiquitous “within the Indo-European sphere.”26

One may recall the 1954 musical movie, and the TV series musical spun off from the movie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers which traces its inspiration and genealogy to the short story “The Sobbin’ Women” [Page 68](1938) and eventually back to the narrative recounting the kidnapping of the Sabine women at the foundation of Rome. My guess is that seeing the motif being played out by settlers in the Oregon Territory in the 1850s would offend the twenty-first century reader’s/viewer’s sensibilities as much as the Roman story does.27 Even my contemporary readers who live after the Me Too/Time’s Up movement, who are or once were, much more sensitive to issues of women’s consent and bodily autonomy, could make the imaginative leap of seeing the connection to antiquity.

Rabbi Shraga Bar-On notes the similarity between the stories of the abduction of the daughters of Shiloh (Judges 21) and that of the Sabine women, pointing out that mass kidnapping enables the reconciliation (of both groups of men without access to wives) to the women’s families without further violence. “Quite like the biblical narrative, as a result of the women’s role as daughters and partners of the warring parties, the Romans and Sabines forge a political covenant of joint rule.”28 Romulus, lacking the women to make his settlement successful, invites locals to a feast. When the Sabines arrive, the future Romans “ravished away the daughters of the Sabines,” 30 to be exact. Only one married woman was taken, and she by accident, “Which showed that they did not commit this rape wantonly, but with a design purely of forming alliance with their neighbors by the greatest and surest of bonds.”29 Megan Lindsey Case argues for both the Shiloh and Sabine cases that the reconciliation of the two groups is an example of gift exchange, with such exchange of fertile young women being traded for reciprocal loyalty.30 The writer of the Book of Mormon account (Mormon) expects that his audience will grasp how thoroughly the story of Amulonite abduction fits into the social and narrative conventions of antiquity. “The Israelites begin this conciliatory exchange cycle by giving the Benjaminites the four hundred [Page 69]virgins as wives. It is important for the Israelites to begin this cycle, because through their refusal to give their own daughters, they have also refused the alliance which comes with such marriages.”31 The Romans and the priests of Noah force the issue of group assimilation through violence, but the trafficking of women by the Israelites is an attempt to end the cycle of violence. “According to [Marcel] Mauss, in some societies, the failure to give ‘is tantamount to declaring war’ because it rejects ‘the bond of alliance and commonality.’ Withholding their own daughters is equivalent to severing ties or declining to repair an already wounded alliance.”32 The value of nubile young women can be bartered for a reconciliation of the Benjaminites with the larger Israelite community, the merger between the Romans and their neighbors, and the absorption of the priests of Noah into the larger body of Lamanites: gift and exchange, female fertility bargained for coalition, cooperation, and concord.

The “Rape of the Sabine Women,” as the motif is often called in art history, happened at a regular festival, “on which the solemnities of the Consualia are kept.”33 The kidnapping was political, to provide safe haven amid hostility—an attempt to found a nation. The fathers and brothers determine to avenge their daughters and sisters, but only after a considerable time lapse. After the combatants had battled for a time,

the daughters of the Sabines, who had been carried off, came running, in great confusion, some on this side, some on that, with miserable cries and lamentations, like creatures possessed, in the midst of the army and among the dead bodies, to come at their husbands and their fathers, some with their young babes in their arms, others their hair loose about their ears, but all calling, now upon the Sabines, now upon the Romans, in the most tender and endearing words. Hereupon both melted into compassion, and fell back, to make room for them betwixt the armies.34

The women complain of their abduction and their fathers’ delay: “You did not come to vindicate our honour, while we were virgins, against our assailants; but do come now to force away wives from their husbands [Page 70]and mothers from their children.”35 The women’s intervention results in the desired alliance. Plutarch’s story has an abduction scene and a reconciliation. The latter element has no biblical parallel for Joseph Smith to steal from. Because such stories were widespread in the Levant, what are we to do with the claim that they indicate plagiarism? Did Plutarch copy from the Bible or the Bible from Plutarch? Mormon from Plutarch? Smith from Livy?

The Benjamin Trilogy, the Biblical Context

The abduction at Shiloh is the final story in Judges, though part of a larger context. Within Judges it is one of three stories about the tribe of Benjamin closing out the book.

Story #1

The standard reading begins in Judges 19. The story cycle starts with a pro-monarchical statement. “And it came to pass in those days when there was no king in Israel . . . .” (Judges 19:1). A similar statement concludes the stories: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (21:25; see a similar statement in Judges 18:1 and 17:6). These statements about social disintegration and wickedness frame these three stories, creating a meaningful unit within Judges, the biblical book just chronologically antecedent to the book of 1 Samuel which narrates the selection of Israel’s first king. The book of Deuteronomy had previously established how the Israelites should not assimilate to the customs of the Canaanites when they enter the promised land: “Ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes” (Deuteronomy 12:8) but should be distinctive, set apart or otherwise the Israelites will not obtain the rest and maintain their inheritance in the land: “For ye are not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance, which the Lord your God giveth you. But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety” (Deuteronomy 12:9–10) but build a sanctuary where God can dwell. Doing what is right in each person’s eyes indulges in a moral relativism that edits God out of the picture.

A Levite’s concubine leaves her husband, returning to her father’s house in Bethlehem. This woman is nameless, known only by her [Page 71]relationships to men. Following Mieke Bal, I will call her Beth, after her home in Bethlehem. Beth returns to her father’s house, and four months later the Levite follows to retrieve her. The father welcomes his son-in-law, entertaining him for three days as the Levite persuades Beth to return. The father-in-law detains the group a few more days. On the fifth day the Levite departs despite the lateness of the hour.

Not wanting to lodge at Jebus, a non-Israelite city, the Levite pushes on; they travel to Gibeah, a Benjaminite city. Only one old man (an Ephraimite, so also alien to this Benjaminite town) will host the travelers. As the group makes “their hearts merry,” the Benjaminites gather outside demanding the host deliver the Levite so they can sexually assault him. The host protests this violation of hospitality and offers his daughter and Beth as sexual substitutes. The Levite precipitously pushes Beth outside to the mob and locks the door while the host is negotiating, and the throng “abused her all night until the morning” (Judges 19:25).

At dawn Beth remains on the doorstep. The Levite arises and blithely prepares to finish his journey. When he sees Beth lying on the doorstep, he commands her to get up. The Masoretic text leaves ambiguous Beth’s status. Septuagint translators declare her dead on the doorstep, as do many modern translations. The Masoretic ambiguity leaves it undecided who finished off murdering her—the mob or her husband. The Levite puts her on the ass and returns home.

Story #2

The second story tells of Israel’s revenge. The Levite ritually cuts Beth’s body into twelve parts, sending one to each tribe as a call to arms at a convening of the tribes. The Levite tells his story to the Israelite assembly. The congregation vows to punish the malefactors. When the Benjaminites refuse to deliver the perpetrators, the other tribes go to battle against the whole tribe of Benjamin. After three days’ fighting, the Israelites prevail, destroying 25,000 Benjaminites. A total of 600 escape into the wilderness.

Story #3

Having rashly vowed they will not give their daughters to the Benjaminites, the Israelites realize one of the twelve tribes could become extinct. The town of Jabesh-gilead did not answer the call to battle. The Israelites destroy everyone in the city (except the virgins). Four hundred surviving virgins are handed over to become [Page 72]Benjaminite wives. The Israelites must provide some other source for the remaining 200 wifeless Benjaminites. A yearly feast at Shiloh provides the opportunity. As the daughters of Shiloh gather, the remaining Benjaminites with the connivance of the other tribes lie in wait. The girls dance, and the Benjaminites abduct wives.

Intrabiblical Narrative Relationships

The spiraling violence stories require us to make appropriate connections with the parallel Book of Mormon narrative. When the Bible unfolds similar stories within its own canon, we don’t call them plagiarized. We instead use more sophisticated descriptions such as allusion, intertextuality, typology, or citation that describe the relationships more complexly, as the authors of the biblical and Book of Mormon stories expect of their readers.

The Gibeah abduction story is obviously similar to the Lot story in Sodom.36 In both stories the guests are taken in, the neighbors threaten a homosexual rape, and the host offers two women as substitutes. Biale suggests these stories are parade biblical examples of sexual violence. “If we compare the two accounts we find many literary similarities, suggesting that the two accounts were fashioned to resemble one another to accentuate their impact as stories of ultimate human barbarism.”37 We are meant to see the relationship. We would be productively guided in our Book of Mormon reading by biblical narrative.

Susan Niditch suggests that Judges 19:1–11 is both earlier and better than Genesis 19.38 Trible suggests three alternatives: (1) Judges 19 depends on Genesis 19, (2) Genesis 19 depends on Judges 19, and (3) the stories are examples of type scenes with no direct dependence.39 Arnold suggests that the Judges story is a type scene (used particularly by Northern Israelite writers) showing Israelites what happens to [Page 73]bad hosts. That this theme circulated in northern traditions is demonstrated by Hosea’s repeated use.40

Type scenes are common in biblical narrative. Robert Alter compares the biblical type scene to the American Western movie. In the typical Western the sheriff outdraws the outlaws, the bad guys wear black hats, etc.41 These typecast42 motifs establish conventional expectations; after viewing eleven Westerns establishing the pattern, we can appreciate deviation in the twelfth. In a Western where the sheriff has a withered arm, can’t draw faster than the outlaws, and therefore depends on a rifle, we take pleasure in the departure from convention.

That Trible suggests these two biblical examples of assault are type scenes is significant for any Book of Mormon reading. Perhaps the two abduction and marriage stories are meant to be read side-by-side so that Book of Mormon narrative should not be denigrated as unoriginal but instead be appreciated for its invocation of allusions to biblical narrative. To be unaware of or misread the typological connection between the biblical and Book of Mormon stories would be a readerly failure.

Lasine gives the best account of the relationship between the two biblical texts, referring to “‘one-sided’ literary dependence.”43 The reader is meant to read Judges 19 in light of Genesis 19. Genesis 19 can easily be read without knowing Judges 19, but to understand Judges 19 the reader must know about Sodom. The Levite compares unfavorably with Lot’s divine visitors. The visitors to Sodom effect a rescue while the Levite ejects Beth to the mob outside. In both stories the “topsy-turvy” ethical world of Judges becomes apparent:

In both cases the eventual destruction of the host’s town motivates bizarre attempts at “repopulation.” While Lot’s [Page 74]daughters use trickery to lie with their father in order to “keep seed alive” (Gen. 19:32), the Israelites use cunning to circumvent their oath against giving their daughters to repopulate Benjamin by kidnapping the girls dancing at the feast of Yahweh in Shiloh (Judges 21:16–23). Taken in their total contexts in Genesis and Judges, it is clear that the narrators do not approve of these stratagems. In terms of the aftermath, both episodes show the topsy-turvy way in which problems are “solved” when divine aid is noticeably absent.44

None of these scholars oversimplify the problem by asserting plagiarism. The relationship is complicated, requiring more intricate analysis than merely asserting intellectual theft.

Intertextual Connections Internal to the Bible

All three Benjamin stories allude to other biblical narratives. The Levite’s dismembering of Beth points to other parallels. Judges begins with dismemberment.45 Adoni-bezek, a Canaanite king, flees from the Israelites after battle. The Israelites cut off his thumbs and toes, and he dies (Judges 1:5–7). The more important parallel follows Judges in biblical chronology:

If the cutting up of the concubine evokes echoes of Adoni-bezek, it alerts us also to the fact that both parts of the story of the Levite have their counterparts elsewhere in the Bible. The first part reminds us of Genesis 19, when two angels come to Sodom and are given hospitality by Lot; the second reminds us of how Saul cut up a yoke of oxen into twelve pieces and sent them to the twelve tribes to urge them to rally to him against the Ammonites. Indeed, so close are the parallels that scholars have often seen the stories as versions of one another. . . .

That the narrator of Judges is profoundly critical of the Levite is confirmed by the way in which the second half of the story makes use of the parallels with Saul and the oxen. It is important to notice that the nexus of towns is the same in both cases. The outrage of the Levite’s concubine takes place in Gibeah, Saul’s city; when the Israelites gather to [Page 75]discuss what should be done to the Benjaminites the only group not to join them is from Jabesh-Gilead, and these men are then put to the sword for not joining them. In the parallel story Saul, the newly established king of Israel, cuts up a yoke of oxen and sends a portion to each of the twelve tribes to rally them to him so that he may relieve the besieged city of Jabesh-Gilead. Why does he send the message in this form? Because “Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done unto his oxen” (1 Samuel 11:7). The message is understood, the tribes rally round, the city is saved from the enemy and Saul is firmly established as king.46

The Saul allusion makes clear the Levite’s message; if the people didn’t rally, their concubines would be similarly dismembered. We also understand the pro-monarchical messages: a king is needed to rally the people around righteous causes and prevent unrighteous acts. Saul dismembers the oxen to make Israel socially cohesive in his first act as Israel’s first king. The Levite’s bloody dispersal and internal warfare among Israelites is evidence of social disintegration.

Of the three Judges stories, the first two assume readers will catch the allusion. “The three chapters form one complete narrative, framed by the narrator’s reminder that such things happened when there was no king.”47 The three stories are closely connected to each other and parallel to other biblical stories. Why should we not expect an allusive network involving the third story?

The Stealing of the Daughters of the Lamanites

Does the fact that the abduction-of-the-Sabine-women narrative constitutes a closer parallel to the Book of Mormon than the abduction at Shiloh complicate Brodie’s explanatory task or simplify it? That depends on the reader’s presuppositions. That Mediterranean cultures widely report these abductions makes the revisionist explanatory task more complicated.48 Gerder Lerner analyzes Genesis 19 [Page 76]and Judges 19–21 as examples of the Near Eastern transition from matriarchy to patriarchy; that is, these plagiary stories fit the ancient Levant’s cultural background.

Not only is the Book of Mormon story similar to the biblical story, the kidnapping at Shiloh also corresponds (“parallels are plentiful and strikingly close”) to Greek and Roman narratives, according to Ackerman. After listing a range of Greco-Roman stories,49 Ackerman highlights the common features between the biblical and Greek stories: (1) the women are abducted while participating in cultic dancing; (2) the girls’ youth is emphasized (postpubescent but still young and unmarried); (3) the lying in wait has an element of prurience, of the older male abductors’ ogling at marriageable girls; (4) the plagiary violates the normal conveyance of a girl from father to husband; and (5) the girls dance in a liminal space bordering city and wilderness, culture and nature.50 The Book of Mormon story includes all five of these characteristic Mediterranean kidnapping story elements: (1) the Lamanite girls gather to sing and dance at a particular place (Mosiah 20:1); (2) the girls are referred to as the “daughters of the Lamanites” (Mosiah 20:1, 4, 5, 6) and only when the Amulonites are discovered by Lamanites does the terminology shift to include “wives” (Mosiah 23:33–34); (3) the wicked priests are older, already having wives and children they abandon (Mosiah 20:3), and they “laid and watched” the dancing girls (Mosiah 20:4); (4) the Lamanites attack the Zeniffites under the belief that their daughters have been stolen by that Nephite group (Mosiah 20:6) and require the intervention of those daughters so their fathers don’t “destroy their husbands” when the Amulonites are discovered (Mosiah 23:33–34); and (5) the girls dance in the Lamanite land of Shemlon (Mosiah 20:1) where the priests of Amulon “tarried in the wilderness” (Mosiah 20:4). Shemlon was also the Lamanite land bordering Zeniffite [Page 77]territory (Mosiah 10:7) where King Noah built a tower to provide intelligence about Lamanite military movements in Shemlon (Mosiah 11:12; 19:6). These eastern Levantine abduction stories fit a pattern shared by Israelite and Book of Mormon narratives also. These connections should appreciate, not depreciate, our respect for the text.

The Greek abduction stories aren’t limited to Herodotus but appear also in mythological and quasi-historical writings: “The broader theme of the abduction of women was widespread in ancient Greece.”51 A god or a hero abducts a maiden for sex or marriage. The Greek complex includes elements that turn up in the Book of Mormon story of abduction: nubile young women playfully dancing (often during a fertility festival), in a liminal location (often under Artemis’s protection or a boundary between city and country, both protected by Artemis the Virgin and at the same time vulnerable and dangerous), the girl(s) is liminal (passing from girlhood to womanhood), frequently an older man kidnaps one (or more) woman, a voyeuristic theme with the men getting prurient delight from the viewing, and the dancing facilitates marriage.52

If such stories are typical, could we not read the book with ancient Near Eastern antecedents in mind? Couldn’t this story be included in the Book of Mormon because it corresponds to those antecedents and cultural and historical contexts? Isn’t the point of the story’s presence in the Book of Mormon to help the reader understand older, paradigmatic biblical narrative and the continuity between the biblical and Book of Mormon stories? A shift in presuppositions permits radically different, and better because the resulting reading is more complex, interpretive possibilities.

Both stories of abduction are set within repetitive ritual contexts:

Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Legonah.

Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;

And see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. (Judges 21:19–21)

Now there was a place in Shemlon where the daughters of the Lamanites did gather themselves together to sing, and to dance, and to make themselves merry.

And it came to pass that there was one day a small number of them gathered together to sing and to dance. (Mosiah 20:1–2)

[Page 78]The Bible mentions the annual ritual. The Book of Mormon implies a regular occurrence. Oesterley discusses this festival connection from Judges 21:19ff:

That it was a vintage feast is implied by the reference to the vineyards in which the Benjaminites hid themselves. At this feast it was the custom for the young girls to come out and dance: “When the maidens of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances”; and see verse 23. It is worth noticing how the dancing is mentioned as a recognized custom. The spot must have been a familiar one as the feast took place annually.53

This Jewish festival had four aspects: it was (1) an agricultural holiday, (2) a holiday in which youths chose spouses, (3) a temple holiday, and (4) a national holiday. The agricultural aspects were closely associated with the matrimonial elements in this ancient festival: “The conclusion of the wood-chopping season freed many young people from their chores in the forest and provided the occasion for the more pleasant task of bride-hunting. The dance of the maidens was designed to meet that end.”54 The matrimonial feature underlies the Benjaminite story.55 The festival was also religious. Because Shiloh was a religious center, the festival was held nearby; when Jerusalem became the religious capital, the dances moved there.56 Both Bloch and de Vaux cite later Talmudic writings that shed light on this festival. De Vaux says the Fifteenth of Av was an occasion for the rejoicing, dancing, and matrimonial matching of the Israelite virgins, extending the analysis to the Feast of Tents and the Day of Atonement. On these days the “young girls of Jerusalem went out in white clothes, newly washed, to dance in the vineyards and to sing: ‘Young man, raise your eyes [Page 79]and see whom you are going to choose. Do not look for beauty, but for a good family.’”57 Lapson highlights the matchmaking aspect of the celebration:

The book of Judges (ch. 21) in describing the annual feast in Shiloh tells of the bride-choosing ceremonies. The story of the capture of brides by the surviving men of the tribe of Benjamin indicates that choosing brides during vineyard dances was a recognized practice in Israel. According to the Mishnah, R. Simeon b. Gamaliel declared, “There were no holidays for Israel like the fifteenth of Av and the Day of Atonement, on which the daughters of Jerusalem went out in white dresses which were borrowed so that no one need be ashamed if she had none.”58

This background opens the Lamanite narrative to new possibilities. The priests of Noah, “being ashamed to return to the city of Nephi, yea, and also fearing that the people would slay them, therefore they durst not return to their wives and children” (Mosiah 20:3), needed replacement wives to make a go of their colony. When the narrative returns to the Amulonites, the abducted girls are called “their wives” (Mosiah 23:33).

Another relevant point about this matrimonial festival is the license allowed. “But it was also the day that freedom was allowed to a number of excesses, sometimes even orgiastic, which remind us both of the final phase of the akîtu (also celebrated outside the town) and of various forms of license that were the rule almost everywhere in the frame of New Year ceremonials.”59 The Israelites and Lamanites accept the kidnappings as valid marital connections.

The Lamanite girls regularly go to Shemlon to sing, dance, and be merry; on a particular day a “small number” (20:2) of the virgins gather. The priests “discover” where the daughters dance and lie in wait. As with the biblical text, the abductors, like voyeurs, wait and watch the spectacle:

The visual aspect of the scene is stressed, this time twice: [Page 80]“Go and lie in wait in the vineyards, and see, and behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come out of the vineyards and catch every man his woman of the daughters of Shiloh” (21:20–21). Not only do we recall the encounter between Jephthah and his daughter/bride/victim, whose spectacle as dancer entailed the desperate realization of her nubility, but this “merry” scene also extends the scopophilic relation between marriageability, availability, and seeing to the more familiar modern-day relation between voyeurism and rape. Voyeurism, dramatized in the explicit order to the still-unprovided-for sons of Benjamin that they hide and look, is emblematic of the dissymmetry of power.

The sequence of actions, and the accompanying positions, deserves analysis. First the men hide and watch. Then the girls come out and dance. See and behold: catch. The order to capture the women comes as the consequence of the girls’ dancing, rather than of the men’s watching without being seen. The girls, like all victims of rape, seem to provoke their abduction. They dance, they are to be watched, and: behold. The memory of military slogan veni, vidi, vici imposes itself nicely.60

The same visual aspects are part of the Shemlon abduction. The wicked priests find where the girls dance, then “they laid and watched them” (Mosiah 20:4). They “came forth out of their secret places” and kidnapped 24 dancing maidens. Not only is the watching stressed in both stories, but so is the lying in wait. This isn’t a crime of passion, but premeditation.

The priests carry the girls away. The narrative returns to the story of Limhi because the Lamanites blame his group for their daughters’ disappearance.

One brief mention is made of the episode during the Limhi narrative. Limhi’s people keep watch “that by some means they might take those priests that fled into the wilderness, who had stolen the daughters of the Lamanites” (21:20, cf. 20:17–18). The wording seems strange to us moderns. The priests “stole” the virgins. Why “steal” rather than “abduct” or “kidnap”? You steal objects but kidnap people.

[Page 81]The word is correct if biblical law enlightens the text. Bal translates the reference to the young girls in Judges 21:12 as young women between the statuses of virgin and wife. The woman is her father’s property but ready to become her husband’s. This phase is dangerous for the woman—she hasn’t borne children but holds that potential; she has potential both as a gift and an exchange for a gift.61 The virgins are valuable property precisely because of their virginity: “The Book of Judges is full of virgins, collective virginity is at stake in the bride-stealing scenes at the end of the book.”62 In the Book of Mormon narrative the daughters have no individual identity: they are always referred to as the “daughters of the Lamanites” or the “wives” of the wicked priests (23:33). As the virgins of Jabesh-gilead aren’t consulted, the daughters of Shiloh are transferred as possessions from father to husband: “Abduction in war is followed by abduction in peace. This second ‘selection’ scene enhances the moment of virginity when the girl is handed over from father to husband.”63

These dancing daughters are valuable and vulnerable because they are ready to be given to a husband, but not yet given. This explains the Lamanite ferocity in attacking the people of Limhi, believing these Nephites had “stolen” their daughters. This is the reason the Lamanites intend to kill the priests when they discover them.

When discovered, the wicked priests send “their wives,” the “daughters of the Lamanites” (23:33) to plead for their lives; the double identification is important to show the way to reconciliation. A FARMS publication puzzlingly says: “The Hebrew idiom of ‘lying in wait’ usually connotes premeditation and planning, implying that the priests may well have known of this place and knew that the girls would be there. Indeed, the girls became the priests’ wives willingly enough that none of them tried to escape and all of them pled with their brothers and fathers not to kill their husbands (23:33).”64 The women were very unlikely to have been willingly abducted (although Zlotnick argues that this might be the case in her analysis of abduction stories that are more like elopements where the young man and young woman know each other and have the opportunity to plot), not having previously been acquainted with their kidnappers. The daughters of the [Page 82]Lamanites, like the daughters of the Sabines, were unknown to the abductors before the mass kidnapping event but in both cases were just abstract females with the promise of bearing offspring.65 Under biblical law the woman had no say—the fathers or husbands had power over the daughters and wives. A young woman no longer a virgin was suddenly much less valuable in marriage negotiations with her marriage options narrowed to one possibility—her abductor.

Gerda Lerner establishes that in ancient Near Eastern society a sexually assaulted woman had no value except to the perpetrator. As with the Sabine women, the Lamanites didn’t attempt to redeem lost virginity; they wanted revenge. Even if returned to their fathers’ houses, the young women would be outcasts. Their best situation was to reconcile fathers to husbands. They pacified husbands and fathers because only that option held promise for them. That is why when the Israelites destroyed Jabesh-gilead, they killed “every male, and every woman that hath lain by man. And they found among the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead four hundred young virgins, that had known no man by lying with any male” (Judges 21:11–12) whom they gave to the Benjaminites, because women who were no longer virgins had no value as wives.

Once so assaulted, the woman would have lived desolately, unless the situation could be socially validated in marriage. After Amnon violated his half-sister Tamar, he sends her away. She responds, “This evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her” (2 Samuel 13:16) and she lived her life in her full brother’s house bereft of marriage and children (2 Samuel 13:20). McCarter refers to the relevant Pentateuchal laws (Exodus 22:15–16 and Deuteronomy 22:28), a violator was obligated to marry the woman. This “sending away” is a technical term indicating a man is divorcing his wife. “It is true that Aminon [Amnon in the KJV] and Tamar are not married, but Tamar implies that they must now become married in view of what has happened and that Aminon has forfeited his right to send her away.”66 Consequently, Tamar lives isolated, having none of the promise she valued. “Tamar knows that [Page 83]rape dismissed is crime exacerbated. Yet she speaks to a foolish and hateful man who cares not at all for truth and justice.”67 Tamar leaves when Amnon dismisses her, “and she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins appareled” (2 Samuel 13:18) which she rends in mourning. “Sadly, what the robe proclaims Tamar is no longer. Filial and royal language has never attended this daughter of the king, and now the word virgin applies no more.”68

We must disabuse ourselves of modern notions of sexual assault in reading these stories. “In the Halakhah [the Jewish law including the Torah and the Talmud] we find a complex view of rape. Rape is generally seen as a forced act fueled by sexual urges (even between husband and wife) or alternately as a man’s way of forcibly acquiring a wife by sexually possessing her.”69 In the case of an abduction of a betrothed virgin, “Rape was not seen as a crime of sexual assault against a random woman because she is female, but rather as a calculated attempt by a man to acquire a woman as his wife against her and her parents’ wishes. Thus rape is analogous to illegal seizure. No man in his right mind would try to seize a married woman since he would know that she is forbidden him,”70 unlike the stories often told in ancient Greek culture (Paris’s kidnapping of Helen, for example). That the priests become husbands to the Lamanite girls, but also in favor with the Lamanite king is also explained by biblical law: “Rape might also be a way of compelling a woman into marriage when she is available (single and unbetrothed) but she or her father do not consent to the match. This is why it is conceivable that the rape would be followed by marriage.”71 But the offense is a property crime: “In biblical law the crime is primarily against the woman’s father, who incurs a financial loss.”72 The abductor is forced to marry the unbetrothed virgin and pay the father 50 shekels; if the woman were a betrothed virgin, the crime is more serious, and the man should be stoned to death.73

The Western notion of private property may have developed in the ancient Near East when men found that they could dominate women: women became the first private property:

[Page 84]The passage in Judges further corroborates the historical evidence . . .  for the origins of slavery. Even in an internecine war between the tribes of Israel, the men are slain, while the women are enslaved and raped. But the story of the Benjamite war also demonstrates how wars are ended and enemies pacified by matrimonial arrangements, which are entirely under the control of the men of the tribe. One might regard the matrimonial exchange of the women of Jabesh-Gilead as the usual enslavement and trading of the women of defeated enemies. But what of the daughters of Shiloh, dancing at the feast of the Lord? They were not enemies, nor were their men conquered. They simply became pawns in a politically motivated effort at the pacification of a conquered enemy.74

The Book of Mormon narrative is similar. The priests of Noah steal wives. The Lamanites nearly kill the priests in revenge. But the two groups are reconciled, and the Amulonites become an integral part of the Lamanites. The Amulonites can have no commerce with the Zeniffites, who try to capture and punish them (21:20). The alternative is a Lamanite alliance. The Lamanites conquer both the people of Limhi and of Alma, but both groups escape. The Amulonite faction is assimilated through marriage:

There is no question that owning the sexual rights to a woman (or stealing her, as the case may be) confers power. As this is overtly the case for marriage to the king’s daughter or sexual intercourse with the king’s concubines, it is not less the case in other sexual exchanges. Levi-Strauss taught us that the exchanges of women establish power relations between men; hence, David’s dominance over other men is signaled by both military and sexual conquest.75

Both scriptures understand the texture of power and plagiary. Biblical and Book of Mormon stories of female abduction begin and end in bloodshed and injustice: think not just of Shiloh and Shemlon stories but of Dinah, Tamar, and Bathsheba. Two of King David’s marriages [Page 85]have similarities to abduction unions: “Like the incest taboo which enforces an exchange and alliance with an outside group, the adultery taboo protects the peaceful alliances. But when women are stolen rather than peaceably exchanged—as Michal sort of is and Bathsheba certainly is—all the relational directions reverse, toward fear, anxiety, and hostility. The Bathsheba story shows that the consequence of stealing another man’s wife is the murder of a loyal servant. Upon such an infraction of the social order, only chaos can follow.”76 Book of Mormon narrative connections to biblical narrative are vastly more sophisticated than Brodie’s and Ham’s readings reveal.

Meaning, Context, and Hebraic Narrative

Readers of these abduction stories need some adequate notion of what repetitions mean or they are likely to be misled by Fawn Brodie’s mistaken and superficial reading. Other theoretical frameworks are available in exploring this biblical and Book of Mormon motif of abduction: most persistently notions about allusion and intertextuality in the Tanakh (a Jewish acronym for what Christians call “The Old Testament,” short for the Hebrew words for the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings) and Christian Bible from Richard Hays, Robert Alter, and those who have further developed their ideas about biblical narrative. But a similar line of argument could easily be developed from other sources of theory and application. So here I introduce some variation to my usual custom of citing literary and biblical critics on allusion and refer instead to a more philosophical approach in Abner Chou’s The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers.77 Rather than playing the role of Procrustes, forcing ancient historical narrative to fit modern expectations, we should re-tool our modern assumptions to fit antique reading expectations and worldviews. The biblical and Nephite writers provide the material and model the hermeneutical theories and tools to make that interpretive leap.

One of Chou’s main arguments is that the apostles and other writers of the New Testament were continuous in their reading and writing habits with the compositional strategies and historical views of the writers of the Tanakh—the early Christian writers, Jewish in heritage and genealogy, wrote and thought within that historical and narrative [Page 86]tradition. I am making a similar argument that the writers of the Book of Mormon repeated the textual and narrative strategies of the Hebraic writers of the Hebrew Bible. Additionally, they took for granted that their reading audience would maintain a similar view of history and God’s continuing and repeated acts of salvation among the children of Adam and Eve and inheritors of the Abrahamic covenant. Consequently, what Chou asserts for readers of the two testaments in the Bible also goes for readers of that other testament of Christ: “If you want to be a better reader of the New Testament, then you need to a better reader of the Old. In doing so, we can see the richness of New Testament theology even better.”78

One essential element in the blueprint we have inherited from the past is the recognition of interpretive continuity between the New Testament or Book of Mormon and the intellectual world of the Tanakh. This can be seen even between passages and narratives in the Hebrew Bible and other portions of that same scripture. Again, what goes for New Testament writers is also true of Book of Mormon writers:

Individual Old Testament texts are windows into larger contexts because they are intentionally part of a series of passages the prophets have woven together. The apostles thought through certain passages with certain biblical theological ideas because the prophets had already made those associations. The Old Testament writers derived certain concepts from their careful exegesis of prior revelation and integrated those concepts into their own writings. These become the presuppositions and backbone of the apostolic rationale.79

This is a Straussian principle about how to read complex texts produced by sophisticated writers: read the text/writer the way the text/writer reads earlier texts. If we moderns can think and read like the New Testament, Book of Mormon, and biblical writers (to some extent) we can consequently derive so much more meaning from the writings. The biblical writers “practiced what they preached with immense precision and thereby laid out for us how to read Scripture better. The [Page 87]way they read is the way they wrote and the way we should read them. By this, their hermeneutics is our hermeneutics.”80 Modern readers of ancient texts ignore this principle at great risk of failure, a botching of the attempt to provide the best possible reading of the Book of Mormon text.

The Brodie school of Book of Mormon interpretation misunderstands the Bible as much as its individual contributors do the Book of Mormon when they assert a hermeneutical principle that narrative similarity must mean plagiarism or the working out of Joseph Smith’s psychological turmoil. The New Testament writers as much as the Book of Mormon authors believed they were operating in the same tradition as the writers of Genesis, the Psalms, Isaiah, or 2 Kings. Some willingness and ability to buy into the text’s assumption that the gospel or Nephite writers were working the same tradition stream that permitted them not only to see past events repeating but also comprehend that the tradition wasn’t fixed or rigid but could be elaborated and extended by the belated writer’s needs must be granted the text. “The apostles maintain the same story line and show how these new factors help to work out that plot for God’s glory. All of this demonstrates the gospel writers operating with the same ‘big picture’ logic as their predecessors. Such a paradigm is interwoven into the narratives, which brings out how every aspect of Christ’s life is thoroughly profound and theological as it culminates Old Testament concepts and expectations.”81 Dismissing the conceptual world of an author bars the way to offering the text the respect it deserves, but doing so in advance, as an assumption, before giving it a chance to lay out its case.

To understand the Book of Mormon and its connection to the Hebrew Bible, a grasp of the notion of intertextuality is necessary. As with all Hebraic narrative, the Book of Mormon is constantly in dialogue with Bible. Writers in the biblical Hebraic tradition were constantly making connections between what happened to their ancestors and their own experiences. They persistently alluded to and linked their narratives to parallels and recurrences of biblical archetypes.

Hebraic scripture, such as the New Testament and Book of Mormon, presents a conceptual world in which a conversation about God, humans, and society goes back to the genesis of Genesis, all the way to the beginning of the beginning, or even before that [Page 88]commencement. When contemporary readers take up only the Reader’s Digest version of the story beginning just four hundred or so years ago with early modernity, they have already decided that the dialogue between humans and between God and humans isn’t worth considering or taking into account. “At one point or another, some of us have entered into the middle of a conversation. The lack of context can often create some awkward moments for us in that situation. What we have done in the New Testament’s use of the Old is walked into the tail end of essentially over a millennia of conversation (texts intertextually relating to other texts) and accused everyone except ourselves of being hermeneutically awkward.”82 So, how should the relationship between the abduction narrative of the daughters of Shiloh and that of the daughters of the Lamanites be construed? If the plagiary-of-the-daughters narrative is an example of one-sided literary dependence, what does that tell the reader?

The book of Judges shows what happens when people do what is right in their own eyes and wrong in God’s. Lasine connects these sight images: when the Sodomites attempt to assault the visitors and the men of Gibeah attempt to attack the guests, both hosts offer the women and invite the mob outside to “do what is good in your eyes.” “This phrase has extra significance in the book of Judges, which describes a period in which every man does what is right in his eyes.”83 Lasine also says that “in the book of Judges there is a shift in emphasis from doing what is evil in Yahweh’s eyes (2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1) to doing what is right in one’s own eyes (14:3; 17:6; 21:25). The topsy-turvy world described in Judges 17–21 demonstrates that doing what is right in one’s own eyes is often the same thing as doing what is evil in Yahweh’s eyes.”84 This figure of speech about doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord or wrong through their own vision hearkens back to the covenants Israel made when they entered the promised land. Moses, in his last discourse before the children of Israel enter the land without him, reminded the Israelites that possession of the land comes with a covenant to obey the commandments: “And he brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” (Deuteronomy 6:23–24). They [Page 89]are reminded of their past disobedience and complaints during the wilderness sojourn:

Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah. Ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies, and his statutes, which he hath commanded thee. And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers. (Deuteronomy 6:16–18)

The Hebrew word underlined here would more literally be translated “eyes.” During their exodus from Egypt the Lord also noted the requirement to do what is right in the Lord’s sight:

And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. (Exodus 15:26)

After Zeniff dies and his son Noah takes over the kingship among this group of Nephite separatists, the colony spirals down into wickedness in their promised land:

For behold, he did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. And he had many wives and concubines. And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. Yea, and they did commit whoredoms and all manner of wickedness. (Mosiah 11:2)

This Nephite group of Israelites is soon to lose their promised land because of their disobedience. Alma records that when he was one of King Noah’s priests, he was caught up in the sin and disobedience of the society and its elites: “But remember the iniquity of king Noah and his priests; and I myself was caught in a snare, and did many things which were abominable in the sight of the Lord, which caused me sore repentance” (Mosiah 23:9). This figure of speech about what is right or wrong in God’s sight/eyes is mobile, moving with the Israelites in their desert wanderings and their promised lands, whether those [Page 90]be through the Sinai desert and Canaan or the Sinai peninsula and the land of the first inheritance at Nephi.

After the Amulonites are subordinated to the Lamanites, “Amulon did gain favor in the eyes of the king of the Lamanites” (Mosiah 24:1). In gaining the favor of the Lamanites, these wicked priests forfeit divine favor. When Abinadi is taken before King Noah, “the eyes of the people were blinded” (Mosiah 11:29), just as the eyes of the Sodomites are blinded by divine messengers (Genesis 19:11). The tone is disapproving when the Amulonites not only find favor in the Lamanite king’s eyes, but also that the king appoints them as teachers (Mosiah 24:1). As teachers, these priests instruct the Lamanites the Nephite language (Mosiah 24:4), “nevertheless they knew not God; neither did the brethren of Amulon teach them anything concerning the Lord their God, neither the law of Moses; nor did they teach them the words of Abinadi” (Mosiah 24:5). We should read the Book of Mormon biblically, comparing characters and events: the book often establishes a good example next to a bad one. Kort extends Alter’s point about the first dialogue a character makes reveals his or her character:

It may be possible to continue from Alter’s point on the interrelation between the characters to observe that another feature of characterization in the art of biblical narrative is the use of two figures who sharply contrast in the course of their lives. We have this, of course, in the contrasting line of development between Saul and David. A similar pattern can be seen in the contrast between Abraham and Lot. The separation between them establishes these two as representing contrasting styles of life. Cain and Abel, Esau and Jacob, Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha—there are enough pairs and contrasts to suggest a reliance of biblical narrative on this device to reveal contrast and continuity between characters.85

While the Amulonites teach Lamanites about commerce, record-keeping, and plunder, Alma, another fellow former priest, “taught the people many things” (Mosiah 25:17), primarily how the Limhi and Alma groups were delivered by God out of bondage (Mosiah 25:10, 16), and “repentance and faith on the Lord” (Mosiah 25:15).

The priests of Noah didn’t teach Abinadi’s words, but Alma did [Page 91](Mosiah 18:1). Parallel lives lead to parallel groups, the people of Limhi and Alma compared to the Amulonites. Upon hearing Abinadi, Alma repents. Alma teaches Abinadi’s words surreptitiously. Amulon and his priests refuse this teaching. Both Alma and Amulon lead colonies into the wilderness: Alma’s group “took their tents and their families and departed into the wilderness” (Mosiah 18:34). Amulon and his followers also flee. King Noah urges that his fleeing subjects abandon their wives and children (Mosiah 19:11–23). The priests measure low on a family values scale.

The text disapproves of all the Amulonites do. The wicked priests abandon their wives and children, but many of Noah’s subjects would rather perish than abandon their wives and children (Mosiah 19:12). Those who remain (as the Amulonites later do) “caused that their fair daughters should stand forth and plead with the Lamanites that they would not slay them” (Mosiah 19:13). The daughters evoke “compassion,” for the Lamanites “were charmed with the beauty of their women” (Mosiah 19:14). The text establishes its own parallel examples (type scenes) of attractive young women pleading with the Lamanites to spare their family members; the reader should compare Nephite remnants to each other. These Nephites then search for those who fled without their children and wives: “all save the king and his priests” (Mosiah 19:18) had vowed that they would return to their families or die seeking revenge if the Lamanites have killed them (Mosiah 19:19):

The two most distinctively biblical uses of repeated action are when we are given two versions of the same event when the same event, with minor variations, occurs at different junctures of the narrative, usually involving different characters or sets of characters. . . . The recurrence of the same event—the sameness being definable as a fixed sequence of narrative motifs which, however, may be presented in a variety of ways and sometimes with ingenious inventions—is what I have called “type scenes,” and it constitutes a central organizing convention of biblical narrative. Here one has to watch for the minute and revelatory changes that a given type scene undergoes as it passes from one character to another.86

The pattern begins earlier when Laman and Lemuel bind Nephi to leave him to die. One of the daughters of Ishmael and her mother step [Page 92]forward and successfully plead for Nephi’s life; the two women “soften” the hearts of Laman and Lemuel who grow “sorrowful, because of their wickedness” and beg for Nephi’s forgiveness (1 Nephi 7:16–21). The later stories of Amulonites and Zeniffites who send their wives or daughters out to plead with the Lamanites for their lives are type scenes of this earlier conflict writ large. Repetitions serve to call attention to and emphasize the truth of the accounts adhering to traditional narrative storylines.

The wicked priests are portrayed negatively, and the king of the Lamanites countenances the outrage against his subjects by welcoming and incorporating the Amulonites: the Israelites encourage the Benjaminites to kidnap their own daughters—doing what was right in their own eyes. The people of Limhi, on the other hand, “fought for their lives, and for their wives, and for their children” (Mosiah 20:11). These are the “minute and revelatory changes” that reveal character.

When the Limhites flee bondage, the Lamanites follow but get lost; they stumble across the two parallel colonies in the wilderness: Amulon’s and Alma’s (Mosiah 24:25–34). Amulon and his men send their wives out to plead for their lives, just as the earlier Zeniffites did with their daughters (Mosiah 19:13–15). The Lamanites promise Alma’s people mercy if they show the Lamanites the way home. The Lamanites renege and enslave the people of Alma, installing Amulon as a “king and a ruler” (Mosiah 23:39) subordinate to the Lamanite king. Here more exodus typology frames the narrative as both Limhi’s and Alma’s group journey from slavery to freedom through the wilderness.

After the people of Alma and Limhi are delivered from bondage, the Amulonite priests’ children renounce their fathers as their fathers had abandoned them. “Those who were the children of Amulon and his brethren, who had taken to wife the daughters of the Lamanites, were displeased with the conduct of their fathers, and they would no longer be called by the names of their fathers, therefore they took upon themselves the name of Nephi” (Mosiah 25:12).

Another possible intersection between the Judges stories and Mosiah requires discussion. Brettler suggests that Judges was written during the Davidic dynasty and projected backward to justify contemporary political struggles:

This interpretation suggests that Judges, a work narrating events of the pre-monarchic era, is really interested in issues arising from the development of the monarchy, namely, supporting David. Judges is a typological presentation of the[Page 93] period of the judges, which is seen as prefiguring the monarchical period. The medieval Jewish exegete Nachmanides recognized that (inner-biblical) typological readings are clearly a key conception to understanding much of the Hebrew Bible. He generalized the rabbinic statement that “God gave a sign (sîman) to Abraham that everything that happened to him will happen to his descendants.”87

By using ancient sources and projecting events from the First Commonwealth period to the judges period, the writer could justify contemporary political arrangements. Brettler calls Judges “a political allegory fostering the Davidic monarchy”88 because it casts aspersions on the tribe of Benjamin (Saul’s tribe). Brettler posits a continuing political struggle between Saul’s and David’s descendants. If Benjaminite stories of wickedness are indirect criticisms of Saul, this notion might inform the Book of Mormon reference to these stories.

The struggle over leadership—Laman and Lemuel or Nephi—starts with the book’s beginning. Noel Reynolds shows the conflict continues for hundreds of years into the Nephite record.89 Ammoron, more than 500 years after the arrival in the promised land, claims that “Your fathers did wrong their brethren, insomuch that they did rob them of their right to the government, when it rightly belonged to them” (Alma 54:17). A hundred years before Ammoron’s declaration is the recognition from the Nephite point of view of the Lamanite claim that Laman and Lemuel “were wroth with him when they had arrived in the promised land, because they said that he had taken the ruling of the people out of their hands; and they sought to kill him” (Mosiah 10:15). If in Judges proponents of the Davidic dynasty denigrate defenders of Saul’s line, then political circumstances are similar to Book of Mormon narrative.

Parallels between Judges and Mosiah would connect wickedness by the Lamanite king with Benjaminite sins. The wicked priests remind the reader of perils of having wicked kings and connect the priests to their benefactors—King Noah and the Lamanite king. Alma refuses kingship of his splinter group because “if it were possible that ye could always have just men to be your kings it would be well for [Page 94]you to have a king. But remember the iniquity of king Noah and his priests” (Mosiah 23:8–9). The comparison is explicit: King Mosiah uses virtually identical words when political reforms occur from kingship to judgeship: “Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you” (Mosiah 29:13). The comparison is completed when Mosiah claims that “how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations” (Mosiah 29:17–18). The comparison between good kings (Benjamin and Mosiah) and wicked kings (Noah and the Lamanite king) is realized, and we are ready to compare Nephite experience to biblical antecedents. If we allow the Book of Mormon to speak in a sophisticated way, this is a subtle criticism of the Lamanite king who not only countenances the kidnapping of his own subjects but must be read against the background of Benjaminite wickedness and the tribe’s most prominent member, King Saul.

The parallels between the Book of Mormon and Bible almost merge in the story of Alma’s group when they ask for a king (Mosiah 23:6). The request is the same as when the Israelites demand that Samuel “make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5). Like Samuel, Alma is displeased with the idea; unlike Samuel, Alma talks his people out of the action because of recent events. The Zeniffites had recently lived the perils of having a king that Samuel warned about. Samuel warns that once the Israelites are the servants of the king when they cry out for deliverance, “the Lord will not hear you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:18). Immediately after the Book of Mormon records King Noah enslaving his people, Abinadi goes among the people warning them that when they are “brought into bondage” (Mosiah 11:21) they will cry to the Lord and he will “be slow to hear their cries” (Mosiah 11:24; cf. Mosiah 21:15). The Book of Mormon consistently alludes to the narrative cycle involving the Benjaminites and Saul in these Zeniffite stories.


Brodie and Ham specifically, and the revisionist position generally, present a tattered narrative cloth that hardly requires unweaving. I share the bias of literary critics, but one principle of comparison and [Page 95]judgment between two interpretations is the theory that explains the text in greater detail and reveals its complex manifestations is better. Nobody would argue that the simplistic theory treating a text in a cursory and superficial manner is superior. If I see the texture as subtle, filled with complex design and color, and another sees it as monochrome, plain fabric, then a plausible explanation is the reductive meaning is enabled by the reader’s color blindness. Brodie and Ham have not found an adequate interpretive principle for this text. This reading clique imposes a template on the abduction story in Mosiah, but it is a superficial interpretive pattern that demonstrates not the slightest attempt to acquire the skills and tools to become good readers and follow the cues built into the patterns embodied in the text.

Revisionist Book of Mormon readings require that the book be shallow. But while the book asserts its plainness, superficial the book is not. Reducing the sophistication of the scripture to these crude readings simply doesn’t do justice to the text. Comparing readings that begin from contrasting presuppositions is one way to determine better textual analysis from worse.

1. Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987), 187.
2. Sternberg, Poetics of Biblical Narrative, 365.
3. Sternberg, Poetics of Biblical Narrative, 369.
4. I published a shorter preliminary version of this article as “The Stealing of the Daughters of the Lamanites,” Rediscovering the Book of Mormon, ed. John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991), 67–74.
5. Author’s transcription of Anthony Hutchinson, “The Word of God is Enough: The Book of Mormon as Nineteenth-Century Fiction” (speech), Washington Sunstone Symposium, 15–16 May 1987. The quoted text is from the conclusion to the speech.
6. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed. (New York: Knopf, 1982), 62–63. Here is the larger context of Brodie’s charge that the story of mass abduction is stolen from the Bible where she indicts Joseph Smith with plagiarizing five biblical stories all told: “Many stories [Joseph Smith] borrowed from the Bible. The daughter of Jared, like Salome, danced before a king and a decapitation followed. Aminadi, like Daniel, deciphered handwriting on a wall, and Alma was converted after the exact fashion of St. Paul. The daughters of the Lamanites were abducted like the dancing daughters of Shiloh; and Ammon, the American counterpart of David, for want of a Goliath slew six sheep-rustlers with his sling.”

I have taken up each of these charges of plagiarism one at a time in separate articles: daughters dancing for a beheading I have responded to in Alan Goff, “The Dance of Reader and Text: Salomé, the Daughter of Jared, and the Regal Dance of Death,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 57 (2023): 1–52,;  Aminadi mentioning an ancestor who read the divine writing on the wall filched from the biblical Daniel story (Alan Goff, “Deciphering God’s Graffiti: Reading Strategies Weighed and Measured,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, forthcoming); Alma’s prophetic call narrative and Paul’s Damascus Road experience, which I have read intertextually in Alan Goff, “Alma’s Prophetic Commissioning Type Scene,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 51 (2022): 115–64,;  abducted daughters who become wives of their kidnappers, which I address in the current article; and Ammon at the waters of Sebus using sword and sling in combat and supposedly stolen from the story of David and Goliath (Alan Goff, “Drawing from Deep Wells in the Deserts of Modernity: Hebraic Narrative Conventions and Modern Reading Deficiencies,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, forthcoming).

7. Dan Vogel makes this kind of overextended analogy to find similarity in dissimilar motifs by cherry-picking slantwise resemblances and ignoring likenesses to other allusive possibilities with more specific matching elements. “Ironically, the priests have won over the Lamanites because they abducted Lamanite women to be their wives. Still, Smith would understand this situation, having eloped with Emma, who thereafter was the only thing standing between him and [his father-in-law] Isaac’s wrath. From Isaac’s point of view, Joseph, within two years of having met Emma (cf. 19:29), had sneaked back into town and ‘stolen’ his daughter. In pleading with the Lamanite army for their husbands, the Lamanite women reveal that they are no longer captives but voluntary wives. Emma had done likewise with Joseph. Thus, through marriage, former enemies became uncomfortable allies.” Dan Vogel, Joseph Smith: The Making of a Prophet (Salt Lake City: Signature, 2004), 194. I don’t recall any historical source asserting that Isaac Hale threatened to kill his son in law for eloping with a consenting daughter.
8. Wayne Ham, “Problems in Interpreting the Book of Mormon as History,” Courage: A Journal of History, Thought and Action 1, no. 1 (September 1970): 22n8. Curiosity causes me to wonder that if we were to apply the principle that similarity in passages indicates only one thing—plagiarism—then what would we say about Brodie’s and Ham’s passages since no attribution is given? Especially when Ham explicitly states the interpretive principle: “All of this may raise the same kind of question as might appear in a teacher’s mind when one student’s project shows a marked resemblance to a project submitted previously by another student. To what extent was the author (or editor, or compiler) of the Book of Mormon dependent upon the King James Version, and why?” (p. 19).
9. Ham, “Problems in Interpreting the Book of Mormon as History,” 16.
10. Vernal Holley, Book of Mormon Authorship: A Closer Look (Ogden, UT: Zenos, 1983), 19.
11. Robert F. Smith, “Patterns,” Oracles & Talismans, Forgery & Pansophia: Joseph Smith, Jr. as a Renaissance Magus (unpublished manuscript, August 1987), 153. Livy also tells the story of the abduction of the Sabine women.
12. Smith, “Patterns,” 150–51.
13. Angeliki E. Laiou, ed., Consent and Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1993).
14. This claim wouldn’t apply to mass abduction stories such as that of the Sabine women or the daughters of the Lamanites where the soon-to-be-married couples are completely unknown to each other before the kidnapping.
15. Helena Zlotnick, Dinah’s Daughters: Gender and Judaism from the Hebrew Bible to Late Antiquity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), 34.
16. Donald Lateiner, “Abduction Marriage in Heliodorus’ Aethiopica,” Greek, Roman and Byzantium Studies 38, no. 4 (Winter 1997): 409.
17. Lateiner, “Abduction Marriage,” 439.
18. Lateiner, “Abduction Marriage,” 411.
19. Lateiner, “Abduction Marriage,” 416.
20. Lateiner, “Abduction Marriage,” 419–20.
21. Zlotnick, Dinah’s Daughters, 47. Judith Evans-Grubbs cites this law from late antiquity but notes its deep roots in more venerable Levantine cultures, “Abduction Marriage in Antiquity: A Law of Constantine (CTh IX. 24.I) and Its Social Context,” The Journal of Roman Studies 79 (1989): 62–63. She traces the motif forward even to contemporary times:

It should be noted that there appear to be no geographical or religious boundaries within which the phenomenon of marriage by abduction occurs—it is found among Christians (Greece), Moslems (Turkey, Bosnia), and others (Tzeltal Indians in Mexico), in endogamous societies (Turkey) and those which place restrictions on the marriages of close kin (Greece, Tzeltal), and throughout the world, from Mexico to India. The only characteristic that these various cultures have in common is the fact that the arranged marriage, made by the fathers of the couple involved, is the social approved norm. (63–64)

See also Daniel G. Bates, Francis Conant, and Ayse Kudat, “Introduction: Kidnapping and Elopement as Alternative Systems of Marriage,” Anthropological Quarterly 47, no. 3 (July 1974): 233–37. Barbara Ayres, “Bride Theft and Raiding for Wives in Cross-Cultural Perspective,” Anthropological Quarterly 47, no. 3 (July 1974): 238–52.

22. Robert Gnuse, “Abducted Wives: A Hellenistic Narrative in Judges 21?” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 22, no. 2 (2007): 233.
23. Zlotnick, Dinah’s Daughters, 39.
24. Zlotnick, Dinah’s Daughters, 39–40.
25. Mary R. Lefkowitz, “Seduction and Rape in Greek Myth,” Consent and Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies, ed. Angeliki E. Laiou (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1993), 20.
26. Lowell Edmunds, Stealing Helen: The Myth of the Abducted Wife in Comparative Perspective (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 67.
27. Catherine Connors, “The Sobbin’ Women: Romulus, Plutarch, and Stephen Vincent Benét,” Illinois Classical Studies 38 (2013): 127–48.
28. Shraga Bar-On, “Remedying Biblical Trauma with a Festival of Love,” The Torah (website), last updated January 28, 2024,
29. Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, trans. John Dryden (New York: Modern Library, n.d.), 33.
30. Megan Lindsey Case, “Sealed with a Virgin: Reconciliation through the Exchange of Women in Judges 21” (MA thesis, University at Texas at Austin, May 2013), 38–39,
31. Case, “Sealed with a Virgin,” 36–37.
32. Case, “Sealed with a Virgin,” 37.
33. Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, 34.
34. Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, 37.
35. Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, 38.
36. Gerda Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 172–73. Susan Niditch, “The ‘Sodomite’ Theme in Judges 19–20: Family, Community, and Social Disintegration,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 44, no. 3 (July 1982): 376. Stuart Lasine, “Guest and Host in Judges 19: Lot’s Hospitality in an Inverted World,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 29 (June 1984): 40.
37. Rachel Biale, Women and Jewish Law: An Exploration of Women’s Issues in Halakhic Sources (New York: Schocken, 1984), 239.
38. Niditch, “The ‘Sodomite’ Theme,” 376.
39. Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narrative (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 90n44.
40. Patrick M. Arnold, “Hosea and the Sin of Gibeah,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 51, no. 3 (July 1989): 451–52.
41. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York: Basic, 1981), 48.
42. I am deliberately using English words whose etymology descended from the Greek word typos (sometimes transliterated as tupos): archetype, typology, typical, typeset, typecast, prototype, typewriter, type scene, and many more. The printing terminology derived from the fact that in early print technology the printer would set the moveable type letters in a flat wooden or metal plate that was then daubed with ink. Pressing the upper plate against paper arranged on a lower flat plate, an exact (reverse) image of the metal letter type was impressed on the paper: so one had the original metal type and a reversed copy on the paper or cloth, an antitype.
43. Lasine, “Guest and Host in Judges 19,” 39–40.
44. Lasine, “Guest and Host in Judges 19,” 40.
45. Gabriel Josipovici, The Book of God: A Response to the Bible (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), 114.
46. Josipovici, The Book of God, 116–17.
47. Gerald Hammond, “The Bible and Literary Criticism—Part II,” Critical Quarterly 25, no. 3 (Autumn 1983): 5.
48. Robert Smith notes correctly the Greek myth of Persephone, among other stories, widely known in our own culture (Smith, “Patterns,” 152). Smith’s point deserves further exploration. In the context of Greek stories of abduction and violation, Lincoln anchors the Persephone myth in the ritual initiation and control of women. Greek culture was male-dominated, less in the context of marriage and more in the rites of passage into womanhood context; defloration inducts the female into an adult society controlled by men. Persephone “has, in effect, been initiated by rape, a pattern found in a number of male-centered, misogynistically inclined cultures, and strongly suggested in numerous Greek myths. Introduction to productive sexuality seems to be only a secondary motive for such practices, the real point being the forcible subjugation of women to male control.” Bruce Lincoln, “The Rape of Persephone: A Greek Scenario of Women’s Initiation,” Harvard Theological Review 72, nos. 3–4 (July–October 1979): 228–29.
49. Susan Ackerman, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen: Women in Judges and Biblical Israel (New York: Doubleday, 1998), 267–68.
50. Ackerman, Warrior, Dancer, Seductress, Queen, 268–71.
51. Steven H. Lonsdale, Dance and Ritual Play in Greek Religion (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 223.
52. Lonsdale, Dance and Ritual Play, 222–24.
53. W. O. E. Oesterley, The Sacred Dance: A Study in Comparative Folklore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1923), 142. A FARMS publication compares it to a modern annual, national festival: “Just as the month of February means Valentine’s Day (and sometimes Bachelor’s Leap Year Day) to many Americans, the 15th of Av had significance to the ancient Israelites.” John W. Welch, Robert F. Smith, and Gordon C. Thomasson, “Dancing Maidens and the Fifteenth of Av,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies [FARMS], 1992), 139.
54. Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and Historical Background of the Jewish Holy Days (New York: Ktav, 1978), 215.
55. Bloch, Biblical and Historical Background, 216.
56. Bloch, Biblical and Historical Background
57. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Religious Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), 2:496.
58. Dvora Lapson, s.v. “Dance,” Encyclopaedia Judaica (New York: Macmillan, 1972), 1263–74,
59. Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return: Or, Cosmos and History, trans. Willard K. Trask (New York: Princeton University Press, 1954), 61.
60. Mieke Bal, Death and Dissymmetry: The Politics of Coherence in the Book of Judges (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988), 70–71.
61. Bal, Death and Dissymmetry, 48.
62. Bal, Death and Dissymmetry, 69.
63. Bal, Death and Dissymmetry, 70.
64. Welch, Smith, and Thomasson, “Dancing Maidens and the Fifteenth of Av,” 140.
65. If the Romans had known the girls previously, they would have known that one was married.
66. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., II Samuel, Anchor Bible Series 9 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984), 324,
67. Trible, Texts of Terror, 48.
68. Trible, Texts of Terror, 49.
69. Biale, Women and Jewish Law, 239.
70. Biale, Women and Jewish Law, 241.
71. Biale, Women and Jewish Law, 254.
72. Biale, Women and Jewish Law, 240.
73. Biale, Women and Jewish Law, 242.
74. Lerner, The Creation of Patriarchy, 175–76.
75. Regina M. Schwartz, “The Histories of David: Biblical Scholarship and Biblical Stories,” in “Not in Heaven”: Coherence and Complexity in Biblical Narrative, ed. Jason P. Rosenblatt and Joseph C. Sitterson Jr. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 202.
76. Schwartz, “The Histories of David,” 204.
77. Abner Chou, The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to Interpret Scripture from the Prophets and Apostles (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2018).
78. Chou, Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers, 198.
79. Chou, Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers, 21. I don’t agree with Chou’s notion that authorial intention is the prime determinant of textual meaning, but here I’ll not engage with that longstanding literary critical discussion.
80. Chou, Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers, 22.
81. Chou, Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers, 159.
82. Chou, Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers, 213.
83. Lasine, “Guest and Host in Judges 19,” 40–41.
84. Lasine, “Guest and Host in Judges 19,” 55n19.
85. Wesley A. Kort, Story, Text, and Scripture: Literary Interests in Biblical Narrative (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1988), 93.
86. Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative, 181.
87. Marc Brettler, “The Book of Judges: Literature as Politics,” Journal of Biblical Literature 108, no. 3 (1989): 417.
88. Brettler, “The Book of Judges” 416.
89. Noel B. Reynolds, “The Political Dimension in Nephi’s Small Plates,” BYU Studies 27, no. 4 (Fall 1987): 15–37.

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About Alan Goff

Alan Goff is a legal proofreader and editor who has taught in various universities, including 21 years at DeVry University in Phoenix. He publishes about the literary and historical aspects of scripture in the restoration tradition, along with the historiography of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and historical theory. He received a baccalaureate degree with a double major in English and political science from Brigham Young University, along with master’s degrees in both those disciplines from BYU. He received his doctorate in humanities from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany.

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