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Saturday
Mar262011

King James English in the Book of Mormon

An oddity in the Book of Mormon, published in 1830, is that it uses antiquated English resembling the style of the King James Version (KJV) Bible.

English Language Eras
  • Joseph Smith's other writings, such as his history and diary, reflect the Modern English era of his day. Thus the Book of Mormon was deliberately written to read like the antiquated KJV.


Overkill: the King James Versionization of the Book of Mormon

Skeptics say the author tried too hard to make the narrative read like the KJV.
Mark Twain The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint old fashioned sound and structure of our King James translation of the scriptures. The result is a mongrel, half modern glibness and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained, the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern, which was about every sentence or two, he labeled in a few such scriptural phrases as, "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc. and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to pass," was his pet. If he had left that out, his bible would have been only a pamphlet.
  • "and it came to pass"
    Readers of the KJV will recognize this phrase. The Book of Mormon uses it proportionately 882% more than the KJV. To contrast, the phrase is used about once every 100 verses in the KJV, and about 1 in 5 verses in the Book of Mormon.
  • "exceedingly"
    "Exceedingly" is used in the Book of Mormon proportionately 1,963% more than in the KJV.
  • Other words that are magnified in frequency in the Book of Mormon when compared to the KJV.
    Word Usage Word Usage Word Usage
    insomuch2,586% notwithstanding558% whoso233%
    naught1,800% nevertheless536% smitten224%
    durst1,267% meaneth533% ye208%
    beholdest1,100% hitherto417% thus199%
    inasmuch1,033% oft400% doth191%
    believest1,000% wherefore355% bringeth175%
    repenteth850% wax350% hearken167%
    beheld711% whoredomes300% iniquity152%
    didst633% nay259% wroth150%
  • In his zeal to make the narrative antiquated, the author went overboard in adding "-est", "-eth", "-st", etc.
    advocateth allotteth atoneth awaiteth beginneth
    beheldest beholdest cheateth claimeth comprehendeth
    confoundeth counseleth covenanteth decreeth deniest
    enacteth exlaimeth fulfilleth granteth shouldst
    manifesteth mattereth mingleth murdereth sweepeth
    numbereth overpowereth pretendeth scorcheth turneth
    showeth spouteth spurneth supposeth
    swelleth tortureth trampleth transformeth
    whispereth wondereth wouldst yoketh


Conclusion

An 1830 translation should read like the language of the 1800's, not 1600's Victorian English.


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