March 29, 2004
Dear President Hinckley and the First Presidency,
I am writing this to you since the Stake Presidency has not gotten back to me in the past three weeks on my question. As they have not answered me I find it necessary to write you inspite of the fact that we have been told that we are not to do this.
Over a month ago, I came across something in preparation for Sunday School that greatly concerned me. Each week I read through the class member study guide to prepare for the upcoming lesson on Sunday. For lesson 9 (on Isaiah) there is a quote by Elder Boyd K. Packer.
“The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture. It is another testament of Jesus Christ. It is written in the Biblical language, the language of the prophets.
For the most part, it is in easy-flowing New Testament Language, with such words as spake for spoke, unto for to, with and it came to pass, with thus and thou and thine.”
It appears from this statement by Elder Packer that he is saying that the scriptures were all written in Jacobean English? However, I know this is not the case. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament for the most part was written in Greek. In my studies of the scriptures I have made a point of trying to study the scriptures in their original languages. I have been blessed by the Lord with an understanding of tongues. And for the past six months have been studying the New Testament in Greek. At some point I will also try to learn Hebrew. From my understanding of Greek (which is also the same for Hebrew from what I am told) there is no special language of the prophets unless one is speaking of Hebrew and possibly Greek. And it is my understanding that the Book of Mormon was written in reformed Egyptian, correct? Or was the Book of Mormon written in Jacobean English?
As an example of what I am talking about, I will use the word thy. Thy is a possessive determiner, an archaic form of your which comes from Old English. This word form is exclusive to old through Jacobean English and as you know is not used today except in religious contexts. As a concrete example let’s use Matthew 5:29:
“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out...”
The Greek original for this passage is:
“εὶ σὲ ὸ ὸφθαλμὸς σου ὸ σεζιὸς σκανδαλὶζει σε, έζελε αὺτὸν”
The word in Greek that equates to thy is σου which is the genitive (i.e. equating to possession) form of the word you. Greek does not have a special form of speech when speaking of or to deity. The word σου simply means your and would be used when speaking to a friend or to God.
So, my concern and question is “what is Elder Packer trying to do here?” Is he misleading the members into thinking that the scriptures were written in Jacobean English? Or does he not know where are scriptures came from, how they were written, and in what language(s)?
William E. Wilson