Evangelical Textual Criticism

Monday, October 05, 2009

Textual Criticism on the Book of Mormon

Royal Skousen, professor of English and Linguistics at BYU, has been working on a a critical text project of the Book of Mormon (BOM) for two decades. He now presents the results in The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (Yale, 2009). Yale University Press offers this cloth-bound, 800-page tome for only $35.

Skousen has examined the textual variants among the earliest BOM sources. He presents a corrected text that aims to approach as nearly as possible that dictated by Joseph Smith to Oliver Cowdery and others in the late 1820s. Unfortunately, the textual variants are not provided in a textual apparatus at the bottom of each page, but are found in an appendix. Skousen presents the text in "sense-lines," breaking up the text in phrases and clauses.

I must admit that I am not very familiar with Mormon Studies, but I suppose that a project like this, published by YUP, is highly signficant for this area of study. In the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, vol. 15/1, available on-line here, there was a more extensive "interim review" of Skousen's work by five Mormon Studies scholars.

Here is a recent reader's review, reflecting the reception of the book in LDS circles.

19 comments:

  1. So the extra "s" - is that deliberate? A kind of possessive genitive? Or an accidental addition (a pluralising of respect?)? Or intentionally pejorative?

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  2. Sorry for that slip, now corrected.

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  3. I don't know why I made that slip, probably because in Swedish this is "Mormons bok."

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  4. Interestingly the first about 100 pages of the bogus of Mormon got lost very early.
    I am wondering if the Mormons have any info about the contents or investigated into it?

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  5. Should "800-page tomb" be "800-page tome?" or is it a sort of subliminal editorial comment?

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  6. Sorry about that sundoulous, also corrected.

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  7. It is hard to proof your own work. What needs to be done is to have all those who are authorized to post (not comments) to send it to a colleague to proof. Typos are not uncommon out here, and they will continue until somebody takes the initiative to fix it. Otherwise, we will continue hearing from the PHs who will always point out the mistake of others, but tend to overlook their own :o )

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  8. Anon: "What needs to be done is to have all those who are authorized to post (not comments) to send it to a colleague to proof."

    In the ideal world, yes, but in the real world, at least mine, this will not happen. We have had this discussion before. In general, I think we will have to live with a higher degree of typos in the blogosphere. If I, personally, took the same care with my blogposts as with other academic stuff there would probably be considerably less blogposts.

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  9. I'm particularly interested in what you are saying. If it comes with typos, so be it, as long as it is still intelligible. It always is. I sense the griping about typos went from half-hearted joking to serious.

    -Randy

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  10. Hi Tommy. I'm surprised to see this on the blog, especially since I didn't even know the book was coming out!

    Anyway, I'd be happy to try to answer any questions. Wieland, you can find info by doing a google search on the "Lost 116 pages" or something to that effect.

    See you in New Orleans!

    Dave

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  11. Book of Mormon studies are a fascinating world all of their own, a kind of alternate universe to Biblical Studies. Since the BOM was translated from Reformed Egyptian--a language otherwise unknown to linguists--exegesis of the text depends a lot on speculation and conjectural emendation. It's somewhat analogous to doing all your OT exegesis from the LXX, knowing there was a Hebrew original that is now lost.

    Trying to recover the original text of the BOM, however, has not been high on the priority list, since it has been officially revised by authorised recipients of divine revelation many times since then. So I'm a bit surprised to see this come out; I hope I get a chance to look at it sometime.

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  12. Tommy, interesting blog. I spent as few minutes poking around. Thanks for linking to my blog.

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  13. I have removed one of the comments because I felt it was inappropriate.

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  14. Hi Dave, I am surprised you did not know this book was out.

    See you in New Orleans too!

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  15. Anonymous said:
    "It is hard to proof your own work. What needs to be done is to have all those who are authorized to post (not comments) to send it to a colleague to proof. Typos are not uncommon out here, and they will continue until somebody takes the initiative to fix it. Otherwise, we will continue hearing from the PHs who will always point out the mistake of others, but tend to overlook their own :o )"

    First, pointing out mistakes is one of the points of having comments on a blog and of being a friendly and happy team of ETC bloggers who welcome constructive criticism and feedback.
    Second, this comment assumes that PH makes mistakes, which is obviously wrong.
    Third, teasing Tommy for slips in his English has a long history on this blog and is my way of getting him back for all those ridiculous photos he has posted of me in the "Olympics" and me "preparing academic papers" etc., etc., etc. (and no ... I am not bitter)
    Fourth, some odd typos and slips actually illustrate fundamental text-critical problems (unfortunately in this case we have lost the original text into cyber-biblio-blog-dom).

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  16. In 1,000 years people can look back at this blog and argue that it was actually written in 2030 when spellings will have changed over time. :D

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  17. PMH: "'Olympics' and me 'preparing academic papers' etc."

    The Olympics was of course a joke (and a very good one), but the "preparation of academic papers"-post, was documentary. Remember, the camera never lies ;-)

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  18. The olympics one was not just a joke, it was an *awesome* joke. Not only did I fall for it initially, but I kept on falling for it for a good six months or something!

    I mean, really, given all the other divergent fields in which PH excels, it wasn't *that* far-fetched (and it was only the wildcard position and all).

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