Brian Stubbs has greatly extended his early work that identified
connections between Hebrew and Uto-Aztecan languages, a family of New
World languages that extend from the Western United States down into
southern Mexico and El Salvador. (Mayan, by the way, is not part of
Stubbs has produced a new book in which many hundreds of correlations
between Uto-Aztecan and three Old World languages, Hebrew, Aramaic,
and Egyptian. For each of these languages, he offers several hundred
false cognates can occur between any two languages just due to
chance, significant numbers of apparently related words can be used
by linguists (not necessarily amateurs) to identify language groups.
Stubbs points out that many Native American language groups were
established with around 100 or so correlations, so the finding of 400
to 700 correlations each for three Old World languages in Stubbs'
latest work should merit attention.
recognizes that some of the proposed correlations may be a stretch,
but the majority appear noteworthy. The linkage to three different
Semitic languages could have come from two or more infusions from the
Old World, such as one migration from Israel with speakers of a
Phoenician-like Northwest Semitic and an Aramaic-like Northwest
Semitic, with one or both groups of speakers also bringing a
knowledge of Egyptian.
Stubbs' work withstands further scrutiny and leads to even more
insights and solved mysteries when applied by other scholars, it
could prove to be a monumental advance in Book of Mormon studies. Of
course, demonstrating strong Middle Eastern influences in New World
languages does not prove anything divine in the Book of Mormon, but
rather increases the case for plausibility and may help overcome some
earlier work has received the attention of other non-LDS scholars.
For example, Roger Williams Westcott, Professor Emeritus of
Anthropology and Linguistics at Drew University, New Jersey (Ph.D. in
linguistics from Princeton, a Rhodes scholar, founder of Drew's
anthropology program and author of 500 publications, including 40
books, and past president of the Linguistic Association of Canada and
the United States) speaks positively of Stubbs' work in his article,
"Early Eurasian Linguistic Links with North America" in Across Before Columbus?,
ed. by Donald Y. Gilmore and Linda S. McElroy, Laconia, New
Hampshire: New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA),
1998, pp. 193-197.
Dr. Westcott writes:
the most surprising of all Eurasian-American linguistic connections,
at least in geographic terms, is that proposed by Brian Stubbs: a
strong link between the Uto-Aztecan and Afro-Asiatic (or
Hamito-Semitic) languages. The Uto-Aztecan languages are, or have
been, spoken in western North America from Idaho to El Salvador.
would expect that, if Semites or their linguistic kinsmen from
northern Africa were to reach the New World by water, their route
would be trans-Altantic. Indeed, what graphonomic evidence there is
indicates exactly that: Canaanite inscriptions are found in Georgia
and Tennessee as well as in Brazil; and Mediterranean coins, some
Hebrew and Moroccan Arabic, are found in Kentucky as well as
Venezuela [citing Cyrus Gordon].
we must follow the evidence wherever it leads. And lexically, at
least, it points to the Pacific rather than the Atlantic coast.
Stubbs finds Semitic and (more rarely) Egyptian vocabulary in about
20 of 25 extant Uto-Aztecan languages.
the word-bases in these vernaculars, he finds about 40 percent to be
derivable from nearly 500 triliteral Semitic stems. Despite this
striking proportion, however, he does not regard Uto-Aztecan as a
branch of Semitic or Afro-Asiatic. Indeed, he treats Uto-Aztecan
Semitisms as borrowings.
because these borrowings are at once so numerous and so well
"nativized," he prefers to regard them as an example of
linguistic creolization — that is, of massive lexical
adaptation of one language group to another. (By way of analogy, ...
historical linguists regard the heavy importation of French
vocabulary into Middle English as a process of creolization.)
the various Afro-Asiatic languages represented in Uto-Aztecan
vocabulary, the following occur in descending order of frequency:
Canaanite (cited in its Hebrew form)
Akkadian (usually in its Assyrian form)
the many Semitic loan-words in Uto-Aztecan, the following, listed by
Stubbs, seems unexceptionable as regards both form and meaning:
sceptics should attribute these correspondences to coincidence,
however, Stubbs takes care to note that there are systematic
sound-shifts, analogous to those covered in Indo-European by Grimm's
Law, which recur consistently in loans from Afro-Asiatic to
of these is the unvoicing of voiced stops in the more southerly
receiving languages. Another is the velarization of voiced labial
stops and glides in the same languages.
of the examples showing possible links to Egyptian involves the
sbk / *subak "crocodile"
appears related to Uto-Atecan *supak / *sipak "crocodile."
(The asterisk "marks a proto-form or original sound or word as
reconstructed by linguists.)
example follows a pattern seen in many apparent Hebrew-UA connections
in which the Hebrew b is changed to a p in UA. Many of you seeing
Egyptian sbk/subak might immediately think of the Egyptian crocodile
god Sobek, which I discussed in my previous post "Of
Crocodiles and Kings."
is of interest in the Book of Abraham since Joseph Smith's
identification of a crocodile in Facs. 1 as the "idolatrous god
of Pharaoh" can be considered as one of the many interesting
evidences of authenticity for that work.
I saw that this Egyptian root had a cognate in UA, I wondered if the
name Sebus in the Book of Mormon, as in the waters of Sebus, might be
related to the crocodile. Could there have been a crocodile infested
watering hole? But that conjecture is easy to dismiss since the final
"s" really doesn't fit the "k" of Sobek and I
don't think final "k" sounds are likely to morph into
the crocodile-Sebus hypothesis was a false lead, my question led me
to a new tangent and more dots to connect as I reviewed some valuable
work from others related to the place named the waters of Sebus.
way of background, one of my favorite scenes in the Book of Mormon
involves Ammon defending a Lamanite king's flocks at the waters of
Sebus. The king's name is Lamoni, a name which corresponds well (yes,
here's another tangent) with one of the few ancient place names in
Mesoamerica whose ancient pronunciation has survived.
ancient sites in the region are known by Spanish names like La Venta,
with little to go on regarding how the name was known anciently. But
in Belize, the ancient place name Lamanai
has been preserved. This is an ancient city with impressive
fortifications around it, similar to those described in the Book of
may be a coincidence, but it's possible that the city was named after
the ancient New World place called Bountiful in the Book of Mormon
(which may have been named after the Old World Bountiful discussed
the text call-outs on the video in the first couple of minutes. The
video is a re-enactment of an ancient ritual related to one that told
of a warrior who visited Bountiful (Pan cha'lib').
name Sebus is actually unusual for Book of Mormon and Hebrew names,
which usually don't begin and end with the same letter. It's the only
example of such a name in the Book of Mormon. Paul Hoskisson in
in a Name? Sebus"
in the Maxwell Institute's Insights,
vol. 32, no. 1 (2012), p. 3, explores some possible Semitic
finds a plausible fit with an ancient Semitic root that could give
this word the meaning of "to be gathered," which would be
an appropriate name for a watering hole where animals are gathered.
The potential for Semitic wordplay is then present in Alma 17:26,
where we learn that Sebus is where the Lamanites drove their flocks
(i.e., gathered or assembled them).
there is then the contrast with the scattering that routinely
occurred there as Lamanite troublemakers scattered the king's flocks — and
seemed to get away with it time and again. Relying on divine power
and some great combat skills, Ammon tells his fellow servants not to
lose heart regarding the scattered flocks, for "we will gather
then together and bring them back unto the place of water" (Alma
17:31). The waters of Sebus is mentioned twice more in Alma 19,
verses 20 and 21, and in both cases that name is juxtaposed with the
fascinating how many times Semitic wordplays occur in the Book of
Mormon. Not bad for a book allegedly fabricated by an unschooled
conman years before he had a chance to actually study Hebrew.
of the most recently discovered apparent wordplays involves the name
Abish, a Lamanite servant woman who plays a role in the aftermath of
Ammon's victory and successful gathering (both of flocks and arms) at
the waters of Sebus, which resulted in the gathering in of many
Lamanites to the fold of believers.
a text that rarely reports woman's names, rarely reports Lamanite
names, and almost never reports the names of servants, to have the
name of a female Lamanite servant given is highly unusual. Yet Bowen
points out how well the name fits the context and reinforces
important themes in addition to providing a classic Hebrew wordplay.
name can be interpreted as Hebrew for "Father is a man,"
which relates well to Abish's status as a believer in God due to a "a
remarkable vision of her father" (Alma 19:16). Bowen's abstract
suffices for this tangent, but his case is greatly strengthened by
the details he explores in his thorough article:
a Hebrew/Lehite name, “Abish” suggests the meaning
“Father is a man,” the midrashic
components ʾab- (“father”)
being phonologically evident. Thus,
the immediate juxtaposition of the name “Abish” with the
terms “her father” and “women” raises the
possibility of wordplay on her name in the underlying text.
were frequently theophoric — i.e., they had reference to a
divine Father (or could be so understood) — the mention of
“Abish” (“Father is a man”) takes on
additional theological significance in the context of Lamoni’s
vision of the Redeemer being “born of a woman and …
redeem[ing] all mankind” (Alma 19:13).
wordplay on “Abish” thus contributes thematically to the
narrative’s presentation of Ammon’s typological
ministrations among the Lamanites as a “man” endowed with
great power, which helped the Lamanites understand the concept of
“the Great Spirit” (Yahweh) becoming “man.”
this wordplay accords with the consistent Book of Mormon doctrine
that the “very Eternal Father” would (and did) condescend
to become “man” and Suffering Servant.
the potential Semitic wordplay is cool, but what's going on with a
king who couldn't stop a persistent threat at the waters of Sebus?
And how can several of the surviving bad guys, drawn in by news from
Abish in her attempt to get others to be witnesses of the miracle
taking place with Ammon, the King, and the Queen, dare to show up in
the king's court and attempt to slay the unconscious Ammon (see Alma
the kind of security gap and cluelessness that might be par for the
course for certain modern governments, but would seem to be a stretch
in the presumably more sane ancient world.
explains that we may be looking at a family feud in which one
Mesoamerican family is at odds with another powerful group of kin,
and can't simply kill off the trouble makers who roam his courts and
slay his animals.
save face, he makes servants take the blame, and to upset the balance
of power, he cleverly throws in a Nephite wild card with surprising
results. This is one of many examples in the Book of Mormon where a
knowledge of Mesoamerica helps fill in mysteries in the text. (Also
see the related discussion
of Gardner's hypothesis at Book of Mormon Notes, Feb. 2010).
to Mesoamerica culture helps us appreciate what's happening in the
Book of Mormon.
at least part of Abish's name, the Hebrew word for man, may be found
in Uto-Aztecan. One of the finds reported by Brian Stubbs in his
latest work, is correlation #572: Hebrew ’iiš
"man, person" > UA *wïsi "person". But
I'm not aware of "ab" or "abba" from Hebrew being
proposed as a source for anything in UA. If Brother Stubbs sees this,
perhaps he might have something more to say on the topic of possible
linkages between Old World and New World names.
back to the waters of Sebus, we've looked at the name Sebus and its
role in a possible Semitic wordplay, the ensuing court scene and the
whole scenario as a Mesoamerican intrigue, and interesting linguistic
issues involving the name Abish. What about the "waters"
aspect of the waters of Sebus?
of Mormon Resources
the many uses of the term "waters"
in the Book of Mormon, and finds remarkable consistency with the way
that term was used in--here we go again — Early Modern English
way of background, one of the most perplexing but data-rich and
evidence-driven discoveries about the original Book of Mormon text is
that much of what we thought was just bad grammar or imitation of KJV
language is actually good English that predates the KJV
appears to be a strong current of obsolete grammatical patterns in
the Book of Mormon that derive from roughly a century before the KJV
was begun, adding a perplexing factor to Book of Mormon studies that
at least helps us demonstrate that the Book of Mormon cannot be
readily explained as a product based on copying KJV language and
plagiarizing from contemporary sources or even relying on secret
teams of contemporary writers trying to imitate KJV language.
not clear why this would be the case and what mechanism would lead to
the results, but the data demand to be considered and not just
dismissed with an eye roll, or with mere assumptions about pockets of
archaic grammar persisting as the frontier language of Joseph Smith's
more than just bad grammar from Joseph himself is going on here, and
Carmack offers abundant data to support that claim.
discoveries in this vein began when Royal Skousen, the scholar most
familiar with the intricate details of the earliest Book of Mormon
text, noted that some of the grammatical structures in the early Book
of Mormon manuscripts that looked like bad grammar and often were
corrected out of the Book of Mormon actually were good grammar in
Early Modern English from around 1500 AD.
initial discovery came after Christian Gellinek suggested to Royal
Skousen in 2003 that "pleading bar" may be a good reading
for the problematic "pleasing bar" in Jacob 6:13.
bar" is not found in the KJV and is obsolete in modern English,
but was a term used in EModE. This surprising observation led Royal
Skousen to open-mindedly examine other aspects of the text,
connecting more dots and pursuing more puzzles, until he came to the
conclusion that EModE somehow played an important role in the
original text. (Also see "Early
Modern English" at the Book of Mormon Resources blog, Sept. 2014.)
observations and discoveries were greatly strengthened by a linguist,
Stanford Carmack, who has provided extensive data and statistics for
certain aspects of the Book of Mormon further strengthening the case
for EModE influence in the dictated text from Joseph Smith — an
impossible feat for Joseph Smith on his own or I think anyone he had
third article on this topic should be published any day now at
I look forward to digesting that new contribution, and congratulate
Stanford Carmack for his detailed analysis and investigative work.
This is a vein rich in data and filled with surprises.
think it's hard to argue that Joseph Smith was deliberately trying to
add EModE elements to impress anyone (what, nearly two centuries
later?) since he took pains to edit out some of the awkward sounding
phraseology that resulted.
coming back to the waters of Sebus, Book
of Mormon Resources in Sept. 2014
had this to say about an EModE connection, after listing the many
verses using the plural "waters" in the Book of Mormon:
passages show the pervasive Book of Mormon characteristic of duality.
Waters are either associated with life, peace, righteousness and
deliverance or they connote death, peril, sin and captivity. All of
these ideas are found commingled in the single verse 1 Nephi 4:2.
unambiguous passages refer to either a) a salt water ocean b) a
flowing stream or c) symbolic spirituality, life and healing.
OED [Oxford English Dictionary]
confirms that during the Early Modern English era (see the blog
article "Early Modern English")
"waters" plural referred either to a) water moving in waves
[the ocean], b) flowing water [rivers] or c) healing water from
medicinal, thermal or therapeutic springs. In this case, the OED
strikingly corroborates what we find in the text….
evidence from the text and the OED suggests the waters of Mormon,
Sebus and Ripliancum are all streams or rivers as in Joshua 3:13.
Fountains are generally considered springs as in Deuteronomy 8:7. The
fountain mentioned in Mosiah 18:5 is almost certainly a spring
feeding a flowing stream.
grow along stream beds as in Numbers 24:6,
which explains the thicket near the water in Mosiah 18:5. The
fountain/tree connection was part of the Nephite worldview 1 Nephi
image of waters that flow and gush associated with the actions of a
prophet is attested in the text 1 Nephi 20:21 citing Isaiah 48:21.
River Jordan was the quintessential baptistery in the New Testament
Matthew 3:6, Mark 1:5.
most noted baptistery in the Book of Mormon is probably a flowing
stream as well. In the land of Zarahemla, Alma1 probably baptized in
the river Sidon as his son did decades later Alma 4:4. Alma1's
baptisms in Zarahemla were expressly "after the manner" of
his iconic baptisms earlier in the waters of Mormon Mosiah 25:18.
LDS Mesoamericanists who deal with the Book of Mormon correlate the
waters of Ripliancum with the extensive wetlands at the mouth of the
Papaloapan River in Veracruz. Our analysis confirms this correlation
as highly likely. [The author then explores several geographical
correspondences with the Book of Mormon and offers further examples
from EModE texts.]
know the "waters of Sidon" refers to a large river. The
"waters of Ripliancum" probably refers to a large river.
The "many waters" in land Ramah-Cumorah probably refer to
multiple rivers. This makes it likely the "waters of Mormon"
refers to a flowing stream of water since as Royal Skousen frequently
reminds us, the original text is very consistent in its usage
patterns (See the Editor's Preface to the Yale Edition, page xxxix).
the 1981 LDS edition, Mosiah 18:8 reads "here are the waters of
which in modern English could potentially refer to any body of water.
The Yale edition restores this phrase to its original "here is
the waters of Mormon" which in Early Modern English implied a
what of the waters of Sebus? Perhaps it was a watering hole that was
part of a stream or river. Nothing too surprising there, but I do
like the way Book of Mormon usage of "waters" fits well
with EModE usage. However, I'm not sure that treating "waters"
as a singular noun was common in EModE or signals a pre-KJV
the consistency in meanings for "waters" between the Book
of Mormon and early English is interesting, I don't think any of
those meanings are obsolete today, making this less interesting than
the highlights of Carmack's and Skousen's finds.
turning back to Brant Gardner's insights about Mesoamerican culture
and royal intrigues in the story of Ammon, I am interested in the
Book of Mormon insights we may obtain from examination of ancient
Mesoamerican royal courts.
Book of Mormon's brief information about kings and royal households
among the Lamanites in the story of Ammon and the sons of Mosiah
shows a hierarchical system of kings under a top king. We also learn
of royal household and courts that appear to offer broad public
that to the following information from Wikipedia's entry, "Maya
under the section on "King and Court":
typical Classic Maya polity was a small hierarchical state (ajawil,
ajawlel, or ajawlil) headed by a hereditary ruler known
as an ajaw (later k’uhulajaw).Such kingdoms were
usually no more than a capital city with its neighborhood and several
lesser towns, although there were greater kingdoms, which controlled
larger territories and extended patronage over smaller polities.
kingdom had a name that did not necessarily correspond to any
locality within its territory. Its identity was that of a political
unit associated with a particular ruling dynasty….
have been increasingly accepting a "court paradigm" of
Classic Maya societies, which puts the emphasis on the centrality of
the royal household and especially the person of the king. This
approach focuses on Maya monumental spaces as the embodiment of the
diverse activities of the royal household.
considers the role of places and spaces (including dwellings of
royalty and nobles, throne rooms, temples, halls and plazas for
public ceremonies) in establishing power and social hierarchy, and
also in projecting aesthetic and moral values to define the wider
sources invariably describe even the largest Maya settlements as
dispersed collections of dwellings grouped around the temples and
palaces of the ruling dynasty and lesser nobles. None of the Classic
Maya cities shows evidence of economic specialization and commerce of
the scale of Mexican Tenochtitlan.
Maya cities could be seen as enormous royal households, the locales
of the administrative and ritual activities of the royal court. They
were the places where privileged nobles could approach the holy
ruler, where aesthetic values of the high culture were formulated and
disseminated and where aesthetic items were consumed.
were the self-proclaimed centers and the sources of social, moral,
and cosmic order. The fall of a royal court as in the well-documented
cases of PiedrasNegras or Copan would cause the inevitable "death"
of the associated settlement.
me, the passage of time since Joseph Smith's day has made the Book of
Mormon far more plausible, when placed in a Mesoamerican setting,
than it was in light of common knowledge about Native Americans in
for Mesoamerican cultural clues, linguistic clues, and other internal
and external clues in the text can point us to many rich and
long-buried treasures in this precious volume. There are many more
dots to connect and puzzles to solve or resolve. Keep on sleuthing!
As I rushed to prepare this post, I had the persistent feeling that I
needed to find and add one more interesting connection to these
meanderings around Alma 17, so I wondered if the Mayan word for
crocodile might be relevant (would be cool if it were related to
Sobek, for example). That was actually the question on my mind as I
awoke early this morning after returning to China from the U.S. last
night, but the online resources for Mayan that I found did not
include crocodile or alligator. Out of time, I sent in this post, but
then moments later heard back from Kathy Kidd, editor of the Nauvoo
Times. She mentioned that a Mesoamerican tour guide had told her that
Lamanai means crocodile in Mayan. OK, there's my missing connection,
and it has more authority than hearsay alone since Wikipedia
identifies the ancient place name Lamanai as meaning "submerged
crocodile" in Yucatan Mayan. Of crocodiles and kings
Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his
LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on
the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton,
Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra.
He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.
He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent
Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.
Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering
Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).
Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US
patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications.
Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.