A Conversation with Brother Bishop

After I made my post about Joseph Smith attempting to translate English into Hebrew, a curious thing happened: a commenter took issue with my conclusions and then proceeded to veer into irrelevant topics such as Hugh Nibley’s attempt to muddy the Book of Abraham waters by attacking transliterations and, of course, our commenter’s priesthood office. (For the record, I was ordained a high priest in the LDS church 16 years ago.)

In case anyone missed the point, I’ll summarize my earlier post.

1. Before Joseph Smith had any instruction in Hebrew, when he translated, the words he claimed were Hebrew were not Hebrew at all.
2. After Joseph Smith had some instruction in Hebrew, when he translated, the words he claimed were Hebrew turned out to be Hebrew after all.
3. Without knowledge or instruction in Egyptian, when Joseph translated, the words he claimed were Egyptian resembled his first attempt at Hebrew and were not Egyptian.

I think we can make some pretty solid conclusions from this, but obviously others may disagree. Either way, it seems to me that, were I trying to defend Joseph Smith, I could think of a few responses:

1. The first attempt was a secular attempt and does not reflect on his abilities as a translator when inspired of God.
2. The words Joseph claimed were Hebrew really are Hebrew but have either not been revealed yet or have been lost over the centuries.

There are obvious problems with both, but since I have a commenter who has come up with a criticism of my post, I shall respond.

Robin Bishop (I’m going by the comment label) wrote:

Joseph Smith did not have English to Hebrew online translators. So, it is a simple procedure to test the voracity  of the Prophet Joseph. In your post, you have the translation into Hebrew of Joseph’s attempt at “Brethren I bid you adieu”. It apparently produced something nonsensical. Right, I get that.

Not only nonsensical, but non-Hebrew. That’s important.

Using the online translator of your choice, do it for yourself and see what you get. (I’m surprised you didn’t try it for yourself prior to posting. )

For all those who don’t want to take the time to uncover the truth for yourselves, this is what I got.

“Brethren I bid you adieu” delivers אחיהם שיהיה לך in Hebrew. Translating the Hebrew “אחיהם שיהיה לך “ back to English delivers the nonsensical “Their brothers that will be you”.

I got “Brothers I offer you hello.”

This leaves me to wonder what was really contained in the original Hebrew letters of the New Testament. You might want to take a look at the Joseph Smith translation.

Either way, the problem here isn’t that we get a nonsense translation (this is common with online translators, not so much with prophets). There is a fatal flaw in your reasoning:

The Hebrew words the online translator came up with (אחים שאני מציע אותך שלום) are actually Hebrew. “i f s E Zamtri” is not Hebrew. When the translator translated the Hebrew into English, the words it produced were actually English. Nonsensical or not, the Hebrew words Joseph Smith produced are not Hebrew.

Ed Ashment knew this problem before writing his nonsense.

It’s not nonsense to say that the words Joseph Smith wrote are not Hebrew. I’m not sure why you think it was “nonsense” for Ed Ashment to write that simple fact.

Speaking to the translation from English to Hebrew, translate the word “HAVE” into Hebrew….just that simple word. Tell me what you get.

I still get Hebrew words. Joseph Smith did not. Yet just a few months later, he produced correct Hebrew words. What had changed in the interval?

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13 Responses to A Conversation with Brother Bishop

  1. Luis C. Ferr says:

    “We will never get a man into space. This earth is man’s sphere and it was never intended that he should get away from it.”
    .
    .
    .
    “The moon is a superior planet to the earth and it was never intended that man should go there. You can write it down in your books that this will never happen.”

    The LDS prophets and apostles never speak out of their asses…. Joseph wasn’t translating into Hebrew he was translating into reformed Hebrew.

  2. Allan Carter says:

    Wasn’t the New Testament written in Aramaic, not Hebrew?

    • Luis C. Ferr says:

      Nt was in Greek… See the previous Runtu blog post for the miss translation incident specific to this debate.

      • Robin Bishop says:

        Little is known about it.

        The letters that later were incorporated in the New Testament came into existence hundreds of years earlier. Considering the contents of those letters were passed through oral tradition, it’s reasonable each had oral translations that crossed diverse cultures, languages and ethnicities before the birth of Constantine the Great. Constantine presided over an assembly to constrain what was to become canon. Considering Constantine (a lifelong pagan) spoke Latin, those assembled spoke the language as well. That might explain why a small fraction of those invited actually attended the Council of Nicaea. the Language agreed upon had little influence on people who spoke a nonconforming language .

  3. Robin Bishop says:

    John Williams (pseudonym?),

    Beginning with your initial paragraph: 1) I did not speak to Hugh Nibley’s take on transliteration, rather it was transcription. 2) I did not know your Priesthood office. So, in that how could I criticize it?

    Transcription does not produce meaning centered language. That’s why the purported “hebrew” was not Hebrew. The Prophet has other supremely effective ways to gain meaning from languages foreign to him (ex., BOM).

    • runtu says:

      What exactly was he transcribing? He transcribed the “Reformed Egyptian” characters, gave the English translation, and then purported to give the Hebrew translation. You still haven’t responded to the main question: if he wasn’t going for “meaning centered language” why does his representation of Hebrew go from nonsense to accurate in the space of a couple of months? What was the difference.

      And no, it’s not a pseudonym, just my mother’s compromise with my father. She wanted to call me Ian and he didn’t, so they agreed on John, which is the English form of Ian. And no, my priesthood office isn’t any more relevant than yours.

      • Robin Bishop says:

        Wasn’t there…not an issue for me. This may come as a surprise to you but I can’t say anyone in the Church thinks its meaningful (pun intended). This looks like an excellent opportunity for you to read what the Church has to say about it…where transcription produces no meaning, what is the point? You tell me why anti-Mormons press for anything meaningless.

  4. Robin Bishop says:

    I can’t speak from any experience on this because I’m not a Prophet. I suspect there are perhaps two independent processes in play. The first was mechanical; the second was celestial.

  5. Robin Bishop says:

    More fundamental to that is the way I approach problems that don’t have immediate answers. Sometimes my wife after 40 years of marriage does some pretty destructive stuff to the relationship out of personal self interest. I deal with the problem, not getting any valued answers only to place the problem and its need for an answer on a cognitive shelf and MOVE ON. Over time the answer comes. I don’t sabotage my relationship with her because of me,me, me. I figure, instead, that the problem pales in significance as I contemplate our history together. I think thats called resilience. I use my own adaptive cognitive strategies not to undermine foolishly my motivation.

    I have just done that with your central question.

    • runtu says:

      You can only put stuff on the shelf for so long. At least I couldn’t keep it up. The difference between your marriage and my relationship with the church is that you are happy in your marriage. Given your logic, I had no motivation to maintain my belief, yet I shelved a whole lot of things for many years. It wasn’t until after the shelf collapsed that I realized I’d been trying to convince myself I was happy, but I was not. In fact, I was clinically depressed. What I find interesting with your comments and those of others is that you seem to think that acknowledging you don’t believe in the church reflects a personal failing. It does not.

  6. Robin Bishop says:

    Sorry I gave you a bad time. It was nothing personal, other than you are probably a Redskin or Patriot fan. Hope for your own good its not the Giants or Jets.

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