A Hebrew inscription that a Nephite could read
There are place-names in
As with the name “Y’hudah” (Judah), the contracted Semitic name “Yhud” is older than the book of Joshua. (Joshua 19:45) The Book of Mormon prophet and patriarch Nephi would have been familiar with the name “Yhud”.
Later in the Bible we read:
לֶהֱוֵא Be it
לְמַלְכָּאunto the king,
לִיהוּד into Judea, (literally: “to Yhud” or “to Judea”)
In rendering the name “Judea” from “Yhud”, the King James translation takes a cue from the Greek translation of Jewish scripture. (Septuagint, Ezra V.8)
The fact is, the Hebrew name “Y’hudah” (Judah) can also be translated “Judæa”. Compare for example Matthew 2:1 (KJV) with Hebrew Matthew (B'sorot Matti) 2:1. Following King James Bible convention, the English Book of Mormon recounts:
“And notwithstanding the
Lamanites being cut off from their support … they were still determined to
maintain the city; therefore it became expedient that we should take those
provisions and send them
to Judea, and
our prisoners to the
“Yhud”, translated “Judea”, was a Nephite fenced city southwest of Zarahemla, near the shore of the “west sea”. (Alma 53:22; 56:9)
Below, the biblical and Book of Mormon expression “to Judea” is written in post-exilic block Aramaic letters. These letters were adopted after the Babylonian exile - later than the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi, who left Jerusalem and came to American with his family. The words below are given authentic expression (transliterated) in English. On the left the expression is translated into the familiar language of the King James Bible:
But what does “liYhud”, “to Judea” look like in pre-exilic Hebrew letters – the kind of Hebrew letters familiar to Lehi?
Here again is the expression “to
ל י ה ו ד
Compare the above to the five letters spelling “LiYhud” in pre-exilic Hebrew familiar to the Book of Mormon patriarch Lehi (below):
© W. V. Coon 2011
Now see if you can discern similar letters inscribed on the tablet below:
This tablet was
reportedly recovered in situ during a credible archaeological
excavation of a burial mound in
Over the years, professional speculation has posited the characters to be either “Cherokee”,
or a “Hebraic script” (unfortunately published upside-down by the
Smithsonian). It has been argued that the Hebrew inscription,
if it is not a well contrived hoax, indicates a trans-Atlantic crossing to
© Kris J. Udd 2010
As we have seen, the ancient Hebrew (Aramaic) expression on the stone, parallels a quote, including an American place name, from the Book of Mormon.
According to the Book of Mormon, one of the writing systems of the Nephites
was pre-exilic Hebrew - “altered”.
(1 Nephi 1:2-4,
Lehi would have been able to read the Bat Creek inscription! He would not
have been familiar with the modified square Hebrew inscribed on another
the Ohio Decalogue stone. The individual (s) responsible for creating
the Ohio Decalogue stone confused Hebrew letters
(s) responsible for creating the Ohio Decalogue stone confused Hebrew lettersin such a suspicious way, that the blunders spell hoax! The Hebrew words for “covet” and “thy neighbor”, for instance, show egregious substitution errors. These mistakes are not j
ust misspellings. The slips show that the source the engraver was transcribing (substituting with improvised characters), was post-exilic Hebrew (i.e. from a Hebrew Bible). Barely familiar with the Hebrew aleph-bet, the transcriber confused several similar looking letters from the Hebrew Bible, before substituting them with a contrived, replacement aleph-bet. The transcriber also had no idea he correctly spelled the same word in one instance and carved nonsense elsewhere.(McCulloch, J. Huston, “
An Annotated Transcription of the Ohio Decalogue Stone”
, The Epigraphic Society Occasional Papers, Volume 21, August 1992, pp. 56-73)
In contrast to the phony Ohio stones, several professionals have ardently defended the controversial Bat Creek inscription as genuine. The Bat Creek inscription is a cut above specious Michigan relics, and glamorous Ohio Hebrew stones, some of which are admitted fakes. The Bat Creek mound tablet is the finest example of a correspondence to a New World Book of Mormon place name; engraved in what appears to be a form of ancient Hebrew known to Lehi. If nothing more, the Bat Creek inscription is consistent with the Book of Mormon's classification in the “Mound-builder” genre. Israelites in ancient America is a reoccurring theme in this North American genre.
First there is the logogrammatic, Egyptian-like writing system typified by North American Micmac (Mi’kmaq). Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs have an oral tradition claiming their use prior to European contact. (Mi’kmaq Hieroglyphic Prayers, Readings in North Americas First Indigenous Script, Edited and Translated by David L. Schmidt and Murdena Marshall, Introduction, pg. 4)
The above Nephite symbols come from the “Caractors” transcript (early Mormon transcript of characters copied from the Book of Mormon Plates). Care has been taken to avoid any comparisons that draw from Mark Hofmann’s “Anthon Transcript” forgery.
Though the spoken language of the Mi’kmaq people of northern America is certainly not the same as Nephite, the style of Nephite writing resembles Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs. In both Nephite and Mi’kmaq, symbols represent entire words. This explains why Nephite “reformed Egyptian” is even more compressed than Nephite “Hebrew”. (Mormon 9:33)
Second, we have the altered pre-exilic Hebrew as it appears on the Tennessee mound tablet.
As with Biblical Archaeology, we should distinguish between evidence that only supports the literary setting of scripture, and evidence proving that scripture is literal history. The latter can be much harder to come by. Mainstream Anthropology, American History and Literature scholars accept the “Mound-builder” literary setting for the Book of Mormon. (Garlinghouse, Thomas, “Revisiting the Mound-builder Controversy”, History Today, Sept 2001, Vol. 51, Issue 9, starting pg. 38)
As the Book of Mormon becomes less of a show piece (tied to media, tourism, and other financial interests) and more of an object of personal study, the authentic setting for the scripture will become obvious to more Latter-day Saints.