Examining a Verse in First Nephi

How far do we need to look into the first chapter of the first book of the Book of Mormon, to be able to learn something about the people who lived in 600 B.C. in Jerusalem? Consider verse two:

Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

That verse did not come from the imagination of an American farm boy in the early nineteenth century. Most farmers in the state of New York, in the 1820’s, were probably aware of the existence of languages other than English, even farmers who had never heard of German-speaking Americans in Pennsylvania. But this verse, the second verse in the Book of Mormon, has deeper meaning regarding the word “language.”

“The learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” refers (not to “record”) to “the language of my father.” The first use of the word “language” in this first does not have the same meaning as the second use. To better understand, let’s rewrite this verse:

I am now writing in the way that my father communicates, which includes the cultural perspectives and beliefs of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

Farm boys in western New York state in the early nineteenth century—those boys were unaware that the Egyptian language was important in and around Jerusalem in 600 B.C., at least with Jews of the upper class. (Lehi’s family was well off financially.) Scholars now know about such things, but not farm boys of New York state two centuries ago.

Did Joseph Smith Write the Book of Mormon?

Are the language traits of the translators of the King James Bible to be found in that version of the Bible? Of course. . . .

Lehi’s Jerusalem in 600 B.C.

About the only language we will need to know to get around Jerusalem is Hebrew. . . .  it may help to know a little Egyptian, Aramaic, or Greek, probably in that order. Greek is not yet the lingua franca of the eastern Mediterranean, as it will become in about three hundred years, after the conquest of Alexander the Great, and as it will be during the days of Jesus. Aramaic, also in contrast to its role in the days of Jesus, is not [yet] spoken widely in this area [in and around Jerusalem] . . .

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