Appendix C: Hebraic Nature of the Underlying Text

    In the opening words of this book, Nefi declares:

    Yes, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Y’hudim [Jews] and the language of the Egyptians. (1 Nefi 1:1)

    This statement seems unusual because Hebrew, not Egyptian, was the primary language of the Jews living in and around Jerusalem in Nefi’s day. The following explanation appears later in the text:

    And now behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us according to our manner of speech. And if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew has been altered by us also. And if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, you would have had no imperfection in our record. But yhwh knows the things which we have written, and also that no other people knows our language; and because no other people knows our language, therefore he has prepared means for the interpretation thereof.(M’raman 4:11)

    Taken together, these statements convey that what Nefi designated “the language of my father” was spoken Hebrew, while “the language of the Egyptians” referred to the written language called “the characters which are called among us reformed Egyptian.” The phrase “the learning of the Y’hudim [Jews] and the language of the Egyptians” means that the record was written in the Hebrew language, but written using a form of Egyptian characters to represent the underlying Hebrew.

    Yosef ben Yosef confirmed that regardless of what type of “characters” were used, The Stick of Joseph was written in Hebrew. Referring to M’raman’s dedicatory page he wrote:

    I wish also to mention here that the title page of the [book] is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates which contained the record which has been translated, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general, and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man’s who has lived or does live in this generation. (Joseph Smith History, Part 16, paragraph 30, emphasis added; see also Dedication in Appendix F)

    The Stick of Joseph may be thought of as having two parts. The first portion is taken directly from the Small Plates of Nefi. This material would have been written in a form of Biblical Hebrew, using the reformed Egyptian characters. The second portion is taken from M’raman’s abridgement and was written about a thousand years after the Nefites left Jerusalem. It would have been written in an otherwise unknown dialect of late-Nefite Hebrew, which M’roni described as having been “altered by us” over that thousand year period and, likewise, recorded using the reformed Egyptian characters (see M’raman 4:11).

    A great deal of internal evidence demonstrates that this record was originally written in Hebrew dialects, with some Aramaic influences. We will begin with the indications of Aramaic influence, then continue to the voluminous evidence of Hebraic origin.

    Aramaic Influence

    Although Hebrew is given as the primary language of the text, Aramaic may have also played an important role. When the two groups known as the Mulochites and the Nefites first encountered one another, they faced a language barrier, as we read in Ameni:

    And they discovered a people who were called the people of Zerach’mla. Now, there was great rejoicing among the people of Zerach’mla, and also, Zerach’mla did rejoice exceedingly because yhwh had sent the people of Moshiyah with the plates of brass, which contained the record of the Y’hudim. Behold, it came to pass that Moshiyah discovered that the people of Zerach’mla came out from Yerushalayim at the time that Tzidkiyahu king of Y’hudah was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness and were brought by the hand of yhwh across the great waters, into the land where Moshiyah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth. And at the time that Moshiyah discovered them, they had become exceedingly numerous. Nevertheless, they had had many wars and serious contentions, and had fallen by the sword from time to time. And their language had become corrupted; and they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their Creator. And neither Moshiyah, nor the people of Moshiyah, could understand them. But it came to pass that Moshiyah caused that they should be taught in his language. And it came to pass that after they were taught in the language of Moshiyah, Zerach’mla gave a genealogy of his fathers, according to his memory. And they are written, but not in these plates. And it came to pass that the people of Zerach’mla and of Moshiyah did unite together, and Moshiyah was appointed to be their king. (Ameni 1:6–8)

    Each of these two groups had come to the American continent from Judea about 400 years earlier. Yet after only 400 years of separation, the Mulochites (people of Zerach’mla) could not understand the Nefite language. By comparison, the average English speaker today can reasonably understand the English of the King James Version of the Bible, published in 1611. This raises the question of why these two groups would be unable to communicate after a similar period of separation.

    The answer may be that, whereas the Nefites spoke Hebrew, the Mulochites may have spoken Aramaic, which may have been easily mistaken for “corrupt” Hebrew by the Nefites. Hebrew and Aramaic are similar languages in that they both use the same twenty-two letters, share many of the same roots, and share much of the same grammar. However, the two languages differ enough that a speaker of one cannot understand the other.

    The Mulochites originated when an unidentified group rescued Muloch, one of king Tzidkiyahu’s (Zedekiah’s) sons, from execution. The Tanakh tells us that Tzidkiyahu’s sons were executed by the king of Babylon (see 2 Kings 25:7; Jer. 39:6-7). A prophecy in Ezek. 17:1–24 speaks of a “tender one” or “twig” (apparently a son of Tzidkiyahu) transplanted to a “mountain” to flourish elsewhere.

    An unknown group rescued Muloch from certain death at the hands of Babylon and smuggled him across the sea to the American continent (see Ameni 1:7 and Cheleman 2:29; 3:9). But this group kept no records, and their identity remains unknown. However, a group of “fifth column” Babylonians, or perhaps Jews culturally allied with Babylon, would have been most likely positioned to rescue Muloch from the king of Babylon. If this were the case, it would explain why the Mulochites spoke a language unintelligible to the Nefites. Such a group would likely have spoken Aramaic, not Hebrew.

    An example of this language barrier also occurs in the Tanakh:

    Eliakim son of Hilkiah, Shebna, and Joah replied to the Rabshakeh, “Please, speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; do not speak to us in Judean [Hebrew] in the hearing of the people on the wall.” But the Rabshakeh answered them, “Was it to your master and to you that my master sent me to speak those words? It was precisely to the men who are sitting on the wall—who will have to eat their dung and drink their urine with you.” And the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in Judean: “Hear the words of the great king, the king of Assyria.” (2 Kings 18:26–28)

    In this passage, the Assyrians spoke Aramaic, and the Jews spoke Hebrew. The Jewish leadership did not want their soldiers to hear the Assyrian king’s message, so they requested the messenger speak Aramaic, not Hebrew. The leadership had been educated in Aramaic and could understand it, while the common Jews could not. This demonstrates the barrier presented, even between these similar languages.

    In the period after the merger of the Nefites and the Mulochites, several Aramaic words appear transliterated into the text, such as Rabbanah (Alma 12:13), Raca (3 Nefi 5:24), and mammon (3 Nefi 5:38). The major writer Alma bears an Aramaic name (Alma is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew name Elam). Even the name of the non-Hebrew-speaking people (the people of Zerach’mla) reflects a compound of the Aramaic roots zera (seed/dispersed) and ch’mla (gathered in). Moreover, the “n” ending on many proper nouns in the text may point to Aramaic influence. While the plural masculine ending in Hebrew is -im, in Aramaic it is -in. Many pronouns that end in “m” in Hebrew, end in “n” in their Aramaic forms.

    Evidence of Underlying Hebrew

    This text was first published in English in 1830. Prior to that, the text had been hidden for approximately 1400 years. Although the first modern translation was rendered in English, the grammar and construction of the English was quite unconventional and even awkward in some cases. Though the text’s 24-year-old translator, Yosef ben Yosef, had no education in Hebrew or Aramaic, the record he published is overwhelmingly Hebraic in nature, which accounts for the unconventional English grammar. The only explanation given of the translation process is that it was done “by the gift and power of Elohim” (see Testimony of Three Witnesses in Appendix F).

    The following examples of Hebraisms in the text are by no means isolated. In each case, some few examples are offered to illustrate the underlying Hebrew construction. Although many more examples of each instance could be offered, space constraints require brevity in this treatment. The reader is invited to discover further examples within the text itself.

    “And It Came to Pass”

    The frequent use of the phrase “and it came to pass” (ויהי) in The Stick of Joseph may seem unusual to the English reader. However, the frequent use of this phrase is very indicative of Biblical Hebrew.


    The frequent use of the term “behold” (הנה) is another Hebraism in The Stick of Joseph. While considered an unnecessary interjection in English, it is used over a thousand times in the Tanakh and appears frequently in The Stick of Joseph.

    The Prophetic Perfect

    In the Hebrew language, actions are presented in verb forms as being either complete (perfect) or incomplete (imperfect). However, one special idiom in Hebrew is known as the prophetic perfect in which a future action is presented with a perfect, rather than an imperfect, verb or verbs, because the prophet has seen it as if it had already been completed. Here are some examples from the Tanakh:

    Therefore my people are gone into captivity (Isa. 5:13), despite the fact that this captivity was future to Isaiah’s time.

    The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light… (Isa. 9:2).

    For unto us a child is [literally “has been”] born… (Isa. 9:6).

    And from The Stick of Joseph:

    But behold, I have obtained a land of promise… (1 Nefi 1:21).

    Wherefore, after he was immersed with water, the Ruach HaKodesh descended upon him in the form of a dove (2 Nefi 13:2).

    For these are they whose sins he has borne; these are they for whom he has died… (Moshiyah 8:8).

    Compound Prepositions

    Hebrew commonly uses compound prepositions. For example:

    and Abram went down into Egypt… (Gen. 12:10).

    How our fathers went down into Egypt… (Num. 20:15).

    the Lord God of Israel hath disposed the Amorites from before his people Israel… (Judg. 11:23).

    Turn you behind me. (literal Hebrew turn you to behind me) (2 Kings 9:19).

    And here are several similar examples from The Stick of Joseph:

    And they fled from before my presence… (1 Nefi 1:19).

    and the servant went down into the vineyard… (Ya’akov 3:16).

    and they went down into the Land of Nefi (Moshiyah 5:2).

    they did not flee from before the Lamanites… (M’raman 1:8).

    The Construct State

    In Biblical Hebrew, nouns are often used like adjectives, to modify other nouns. In English translation, this is expressed by joining the two words with the word “of,” though in Hebrew, the definite article (ה) is used in the same way.

    Examples from the Tanakh:

    pillar of stone (Gen. 35:14)

    tablets of stone (Ex. 24:12)

    Examples from The Stick of Joseph:

    river of water (1 Nefi 1:7)

    land of promise (1 Nefi 1:9)

    plates of brass (1 Nefi 1:11)

    rod of iron (1 Nefi 2:10)

    mist of darkness (1 Nefi 2:10)

    words of plainness (Ya’akov 3:5)

    night of darkness (Alma 16:37)

    works of darkness (Alma 17:12)

    Repetition of the Definite Article

    In English, a series of nouns can be introduced by a single definite article (the). However, in Hebrew, the definite article (ה) is repeated for each noun. The Stick of Joseph follows this Hebrew grammar in passages like 2 Nefi 4:2, We did observe to keep the judgments, and the statutes, and the mitzvot of yhwh.

    Repetition of Preposition

    In Hebrew, when a preposition governs multiple objects, it is repeated for each one in the series.

    Examples from the Tanakh:

    And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. (Gen. 40:2)

    And David and all the house of Israel played before yhwh on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. (2 Sam. 6:5)

    But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by yhwh their Elohim, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen. (Hos. 1:7)

    Examples from The Stick of Joseph:

    And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance. (2 Nefi 4:3)

    And we multiplied exceedingly, and spread upon the face of the land, and became exceedingly rich in gold, and in silver, and in precious things, and in fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron, and copper, and brass, and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war—yes, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war. (Yahram 1:4)

    And it came to pass in the forty and first year of the reign of the judges that the Lamanites had gathered together an innumerable army of men and armed them with swords, and with cimeters, and with bows, and with arrows, and with headplates, and with breastplates, and with all manner of shields of every kind…. (Cheleman 1:4)

    The Cognate Accusative

    This is a grammatical form common to Hebrew but very awkward in English, in which a noun drawn from the same root as its verb is used to strengthen the impact of the verb action.

    Examples from the Tanakh:

    cried with a great and exceedingly bitter cry (Gen. 27:34)

    we have dreamed a dream (Gen. 40:8)

    vowed a vow (Judg. 11:30)

    thundered with a great thunder (1 Sam. 7:10)

    Examples in The Stick of Joseph:

    curse them even with a sore curse (1 Nefi 1:9)

    I have dreamed a dream (1 Nefi 1:10)

    yokes them with a yoke (1 Nefi 3:19)

    work a great and marvelous work (1 Nefi 3:26)

    desire which I desired (Enosh 1:3)

    taxed with a tax (Moshiyah 5:5)

    The Redundant “And”

    Contrary to English usage, Biblical Hebrew is distinguished by its frequent use of the conjunction “and” (ו), both at the introduction of sentences and in connecting lists and series within a sentence.

    Examples from the Tanakh:

    And yhwh has blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses. (Gen. 24:35)

    And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. (Josh. 7:24)

    And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. (1 Sam. 17:34-35)

    Example from The Stick of Joseph:

    And it came to pass that the angel spoke unto me again, saying, Look. And I looked, and I beheld the Heavens open again, and I saw angels descending upon the children of men, and they did minister unto them. And he spoke unto me again, saying, Look. And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of Elohim going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with demons and unclean spirits; and the angel spoke and showed all these things unto me. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of Elohim; and the demons and the unclean spirits were cast out. And it came to pass that the angel spoke unto me again, saying, Look. And I looked and beheld the Lamb of Elohim, that he was taken by the people, yes, the Son of the El Olam was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. (1 Nefi 3:12–14)

    Other examples are 1 Nefi 3:15; Enosh 1:6; Moshiyah 6:9; Alma 21:8; and Cheleman 2:4, just to cite a few.

    The “if…and” Conditional Clause

    In the English language, a conditional idea is most commonly expressed in the form of “if…then.” The same conditional idea, expressed in Hebrew, takes the form of “if…and.” Although English speakers find this wording ungrammatical or perhaps even nonsensical, Yosef ben Yosef’s original 1830 translation contained thirteen instances of this unique Hebrew construction. Some were edited out in subsequent editions in an effort to improve the English grammar of the text and have been restored in this current translation. Cheleman 4:10 contains several of these instances:

    Yes, and if he says unto the earth, Move — and it is moved. Yes, if he says unto the earth, You shall go back, that it lengthens out the day for many hours — and it is done…. And behold also, if he says unto the waters of the great deep, Be you dried up — and it is done. Behold, if he says unto this mountain, Be you raised up, and come over and fall upon that city, that it be buried up — and behold, it is done…. And behold, if yhwh shall say unto a man, Because of your iniquities, you shall be cursed for ever — and it shall be done. And if yhwh shall say, Because of your iniquities, you shall be cut off from my presence — and he will cause that it shall be so.

    Another notable occurrence is found in M’roni 10:2.

    Repetition of the Possessive Pronoun

    Another Hebrew grammatical form found in The Stick of Joseph is that of the repetition of the possessive pronoun.

    Example from the Tanakh:

    These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations. (Gen. 10:20)

    Additional examples can be found in Ex. 10:9, Lev. 26:30, Deut. 26:7, and Neh. 9:32.

    Examples in The Stick of Joseph:

    But this much I can tell you, that if you do not watch your selves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe to keep the mitzvot of Elohim, and continue in the faith of what you have heard concerning the coming of our Adonai, even unto the end of your lives, you must perish. And now, O man, remember and perish not. (Moshiyah 2:6)

    And he laid a tax of one-fifth part of all they possessed: a fifth part of their gold and of their silver, and a fifth part of their ziff, and of their copper, and of their brass and their iron, and a fifth part of their fatlings, and also a fifth part of all their grain. (Moshiyah 7:1)

    And because of your diligence, and your faith, and your patience with the word, in nourishing it that it may take root in you, behold, by and by, you shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is sweet, and which is white above all that is white, yes, and pure above all that is pure. And you shall feast upon this fruit even until you are filled, that you hunger not, neither shall you thirst. (Alma 16:30)

    More examples can be found in Alma 18:1, Cheleman 2:4, and 3 Nefi 14:1.

    The Redundant Pronoun

    Hebrew often uses a noun as a direct object and then refers back to the noun with a pronoun in a following clause. This seems redundant in English. For example, in Genesis 1:4, Elohim saw the light, that it was good, rather than simply, “Elohim saw that the light was good.

    Some examples among many in The Stick of Joseph:

    I beheld, and saw the people of the seed of my brothers that they had overcome my seed. (1 Nefi 3:18)

    I beheld the wrath of Elohim, that it was upon the seed of my brothers (1 Nefi 3:20)

    The Emphatic Pronoun

    Biblical Hebrew often repeats a personal pronoun for emphasis. For example, I, even I do bring a flood of waters (Gen. 6:17), and Bless me, even me (Gen. 27:38). The Stick of Joseph contains many similar instances. For example, I, even I whom you call your king (Moshiyah 1:9).


    Hebrew has very few adverbs, and thus often uses a prepositional phrase where English would simply use an adverb. Examples in The Stick of Joseph are with much harshness (1 Nefi 5:30), in righteousness (1 Nefi 6:2), with gladness (2 Nefi 12:5), with joy (Ya’akov 3:1), with patience (Moshiyah 11:9), and in spirit and in truth (Alma 16:38).

    Subordinate Clause

    Another common Hebraism in The Stick of Joseph is the Hebrew use of the subordinate clause, in which a preposition is followed by the word “that” (אשר), such as in Ezekiel 40:1 “after (אחר) that (אשר) the city was smitten.”

    Examples in The Stick of Joseph:

    after that I have abridged (1 Nefi 1:4)*

    after that he has commanded to flee (1 Nefi 1:12)*

    before that they were slain (1 Nefi 3:20)*

    because that they hardened their hearts (1 Nefi 5:7)*

    And because that they are redeemed (2 Nefi 1:10)

    because that my heart is broken (2 Nefi 3:8)

    because that you are of the house of Israel (2 Nefi 5:2)*

    because that you shall receive more of my word (2 Nefi 12:9)*

    before that he manifest himself in the flesh (Enosh 1:1)*

    and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross (3 Nefi 12:5)

    * These examples have been revised in many English versions to read more clearly in English, but this Hebraism is found in these verses in the 1830 edition.

    Relative Clause

    In Hebrew, the word “who” or “which” (אשר) indicates the beginning of a relative clause but does not always immediately follow the word to which it refers. The following are examples of this in The Stick of Joseph:

    And Laman said unto L’mu’el and also unto the sons of Yishma’el, Behold, let us slay our father, and also our brother Nefi, who has taken it upon him to be our ruler and our teacher, who are his elder brothers . (1 Nefi 5:10)

    But you know that the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, who were the armies of Pharaoh . (1 Nefi 5:18)

    Yes, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess before him. Yes, even at the last day, when all men shall stand to be judged of him, then shall they confess that he is Elohim; then shall they confess, who live without Elohim in the world, that the judgment of an everlasting punishment is just upon them. And they shall quake, and tremble, and shrink beneath the glance of his all-searching eye. (Moshiyah 11:28)

    Interchangeable Prepositions

    The Hebrew prepositions ב and ל (generally translated “in” and “to,” respectively) each carry a much wider range of meaning than their English counterparts, with a certain amount of overlap that can, at times, make them interchangeable. In the 1830 edition, 1 Nefi 2:3 reads, let us be faithful in him, which is perfectly good Hebrew but very awkward English. In another example, the 1830 text had after you have arrived to the promised land (1 Nefi 5:16), which is bad English but perfectly good Hebrew. Because these Hebrew uses are so unacceptable to English speakers, many later editions revised these passages to use acceptable English prepositions.

    Pronominal Suffixes

    In Hebrew, possession is often indicated by a pronominal suffix appended to a noun. The Stick of Joseph shows evidence of such pronominal suffixes in the Hebrew underlying the English with terms like power of him (2 Nefi 6:7), eyes of me (2 Nefi 7:2), mysteries of him (Ya’akov 3:3), words of me (Ya’akov 3:7), and atonement of him (M’roni 8:4).

    Speaker in Compound Subjects

    In English, when the speaker is included as part of a compound subject, the speaker is always referenced last. For example, “My wife and I went to the store.” But in Hebrew, exactly the opposite is true—the speaker is always listed first. For example, I and the lad (Gen. 22:5), I and Jonathan my son (1 Sam. 14:40), and I and my son (1 Kings 1:21).

    In several instances, The Stick of Joseph follows the Hebrew rather than the English grammatical rule for this situation. For example, I and my brothers (1 Nefi 1:11; Alma 15:5), I and my father (1 Nefi 7:6), and I and my people (Moshiyah 6:5).

    Hebrew Idioms

    The Stick of Joseph makes use of many unique Hebrew idioms. For example, before my face (3 Nefi 4:6), meaning “in my presence”; “give ear” (Cheleman 4:9), meaning “to hear”; “in their ears” (2 Nefi 12:4); “lift up the voice” (Moshiyah 7:17); “lift up your heads” (Moshiyah 5:7), just to state a few.

    One especially significant example is the use of the “good eye/bad eye” idiom. David Stern writes of this idiom as it is used in Matthew 6:22-23:

    ...much of what is written in the New Testament is incomprehensible apart from its Jewish context. Here (Matt. 6:22-23) is an example, only one of many…in Hebrew, having an “ayin ra’ah,” an “evil eye,” means being stingy; while having an “ayin tovah,” a “good eye,” means being generous (Stern, D. (1989) Jewish New Testament: A Translation of the New Testament that Expresses its Jewishness. Jerusalem, Israel: Jerusalem New Testament Publications, p. x)

    The King James Version uses “eye be single” for this idiom in Matthew 6:22 (as does the parallel in 3 Nefi 5:37).

    In M’raman 4:3, we read:

    and I am the same who hides up this record unto yhwh. The plates thereof are of no worth, because of the mitzvah of yhwh, for he truly said that no one shall have them to get gain. But the record thereof is of great worth, and whoever shall bring it to light, him will yhwh bless. For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of Elohim. For Elohim will that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of yhwh

    It appears that, as in the kjv, “eye single” stands for the “good eye” idiom and is used according to its correct context here, that the one who would bring forth the plates would not do so “to get gain.”

    Variants with Parallel “New Testament” Phrases
    Due to Hebrew Original

    There are a number of instances where almost identical phrases appear both in The Stick of Joseph and the New Testament, with only a slight variation, which points to a single underlying Hebrew word, as shown in the examples below:

    2 Nefi 3:7 / 2 Timothy 1:12

    I know in whom I have trusted (2 Nefi 3:7).

    I know whom I have believed (2 Tim. 1:12).

    The underlying Hebrew word behind both must have been aman (אמן), which can mean “to trust, to have faith, or to believe.” This points to a Hebrew original behind 2 Nefi 3:7.

    Moshiyah 2:33 / 1 Corinthians 11:29

    drinks damnation to his own soul (Moshiyah 1:10)

    drinks damnation to his soul (3 Nefi 8:9)

    drinketh damnation to himself (1 Cor. 11:29)

    The variations between this phrase as it appears in The Stick of Joseph and as it appears in the New Testament, point to a single underlying Hebrew term nefesho (נפשו), which can mean either “himself” or “his soul.”

    Moshiyah 1:7 / 1 Peter (1 Kefa) 3:21

    that I can answer a clear conscience before Elohim (Moshiyah 1:7)

    the answer of a good conscience toward Elohim (1 Pet. [1 Kefa] 3:21)

    The difference between these two phrases points to an underlying Hebrew word pashat (פשט) that is strongly affected by the meaning of its Aramaic cognate peshitta (פשיטא). 

    The word peshitta can be translated “clear,” as in the Jerusalem Talmud:

    ...things doubtful to the Rabbis are clear to you; those clear to the Rabbis are doubtful to you. (y.Betzah I, 60b)

    But the word peshitta can also be translated as “good,” as in Matthew 6:22. In this verse we find the Hebrew idiom “good eye,” meaning “to be generous.”

    And in Matthew 6:22 of the Aramaic Peshitta Text, the Aramaic word peshitta is used to mean “good,”—If your eye therefore is good [peshitta]. 

    Variants with Parallel Tanakh Phrases
    Due to Hebrew Original

    When The Stick of Joseph quotes the phrase, you shall not kill (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17; Matt. 5:21), it follows the kjv (in Moshiyah 7:21 and 3 Nefi 5:24). Here, the Hebrew word ratsach (רצח) is rendered, in a general manner as “kill,” as it is in the kjv.

    However, when this commandment is more loosely referenced, Yosef ben Yosef renders the same word more specifically as “murder”:

    And again, Adonai yhwh has commanded that men should not murder (2 Nefi 11:17). See also Alma 16:2.

    This points to an underlying Hebrew text.

    Another example is found in Moshiyah 8:3, which is quoting Isaiah 53:3:

    He is despised and rejected of men a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from him. He was despised and we esteemed him not (Moshiyah 8:3).

    Here, The Stick of Joseph follows the language of the kjv.

    However, when this material is only loosely referenced, different words are used:

    And he shall go forth suffering pains, and afflictions, and temptations of every kind, and this that the word might be fulfilled which says, He will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. (Alma 5:3)

    The Hebrew word translated in the kjv as “sorrows” in Isaiah 53:3 is makov (מכאב), which the 1955 Jewish Publication Society Tanakh translates as “pains.”

    The Hebrew word translated by the kjv as “grief” in Isaiah 53:3 is holi (הלי Strong’s 2483), which the 1955 and 1985 Jewish Publication Society Tanakh translates as “disease.”

    Underlying Ambiguous Hebrew Words
    as Evidence of Hebrew Original

    Another evidence for a Hebrew original is to be found in ambiguous Hebrew words that appear to lie behind the English text.

    John Tvedtnes writes:

    Some passages of [The Stick of Joseph] can be better understood in Hebrew than in English because the Hebrew reflects word-play or a range of meaning which gives more sense to the passage. (Tvedtnes, J.A. (Oct. 1986) “Is the Writing in the Book of Mormon Characteristic of the Hebrew Language?” The Ensign, p.64)

    Tvedtnes gives an example:

    Many…passages in [The Stick of Joseph] take on richer meaning if the passages are read as translations of Hebrew. For example, in [1 Nefi] we read that as [Lechi] “prayed unto the Lord, there came a pillar of fire and dwelt upon a rock before him.”…Here, English usage would prefer the verb “sat” rather than “dwelt.” But the Hebrew verb, in fact, has both meanings. (ibid.)

    The Hebrew word in question here is yashav (ישב).

    Another example is in 1 Nefi 1:3 where Nefi, describing the results of his father Lechi’s vision of the destruction of Jerusalem, says, “his soul did rejoice.” The Hebrew word behind “rejoice,” here, may likely have been gil (גיל Strong’s 1523), which can mean “rejoice” but can also mean “tremble.” Certainly Lechi’s soul did not “rejoice” at seeing the destruction of Jerusalem, but rather it “trembled.”

    Finally, let us look at the way The Stick of Joseph renders the Hebrew word eretz (ארץ), which can mean either “land” or “earth.”

    In ’Eter 6:5, we read:

    But he repented not, neither his fair sons nor daughters, neither the fair sons and daughters of Cohor, neither the fair sons and daughters of Corihor. And in short, there were none of the fair sons and daughters upon the face of the whole earth who repented of their sins.

    Since the Hebrew word behind “earth” would have been eretz, the English “land” would actually make better sense in this passage.

    In 3 Nefi, we read the following at the death of Yeshua:

    And thus the face of the whole earth became deformed, because of the tempests, and the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the quaking of the earth. (3 Nefi 4:2)

    However, the context seems to refer only to the lands occupied by the Nefites and Lamanites, so that eretz here is also better understood as “land,” rather than as “earth.”

    Finally, in its parallel to the Sermon on the Mount, 3 Nefi says, the meek shall inherit the earth (3 Nefi 5:14), which agrees with the kjv wording of Matthew 5:5. However, both are quoting Psalms 37:11, where the context seems to be that of the inheritance of “the land [of Israel].”

    Wordplays in the Hebrew Original

    There are also several examples of wordplays in the underlying Hebrew behind the English of The Stick of Joseph.

    For example in 2 Nefi:

    And because of the intercession for all, all men come unto Elohim. Wherefore, they stand in the presence of him, to be judged of him according to the truth and holiness which is in him. Wherefore, the ends of the Torah which HaKodesh has given, unto the inflicting of the punishment which is affixed, which punishment that is affixed is in opposition to that of the happiness which is affixed, to answer the ends of the atonement . (2 Nefi 1:6-7)

    There is a wordplay here in the original Hebrew between the words yap’gia (יפגיע) “intercession” and p’ga (פגע) “inflicting,” pointing to the Hebrew nature of the underlying language.

    Another example of a wordplay in the Hebrew is found in Alma:

    And it came to pass that the voice of the people came, saying: Behold, we will give up the Land of Yirshon , which is on the east by the sea, which joins the land Bountiful, which is on the south of the land Bountiful. And this land Yirshon is the land which we will give unto our brothers for an inheritance . (Alma 15:8)

    There is a wordplay here in the original Hebrew. “Yirshon” is from Hebrew y’resha (ירשה Strong’s 3424), meaning “possession, inheritance.”

    Another example of a wordplay in the Hebrew is found in Cheleman:

    Now, immediately when the judge had been murdered, he being stabbed by his brother by a garb of secrecy, and he fled, and the servants ran and told the people, raising the cry of murder among them. (Cheleman 3:12)

    The Hebrew word for “garb,” beged (בגד) can mean “garb” or “garment,” but can also mean “treachery.”

    Scribal Errors Evidenced by the Hebrew Original

    Demonstrable scribal errors in other texts, which are made apparent from the underlying Hebrew of The Stick of Joseph, offer further evidence of the book’s Hebrew origin. For example, the Plates of Brass reading of Isaiah 13:3, recorded in 2 Nefi 10:1, points to a scribal error in the Masoretic Text.

    Isaiah 13:3 / 2 Nefi 10:1

    The 2 Nefi reading of my anger is not upon them that rejoice in my highness must have read לא אפי על עליזי גאותי. The Masoretic Text appears to reflect a scribal error with the similar-appearing text לאפי עליזי גאותי mine anger, [even] them that rejoice in my highness. With the two versions aligned, the potential error is readily seen:

    לא אפי על עליזי גאותי

    לאפי         עליזי גאותי

    Another example can be found in 3 Nefi 5:21. This verse runs parallel with Matthew 5:14–16, but it has light of this people where Matthew 5:14 has light of the world. This points to a scribal error between the Hebrew words עולם “world” and עם “people,” which is a common scribal error in Hebrew and Aramaic. For example, in Matthew 1:21, the Old Syriac Siniatic and Aramaic Peshitta versions have he shall save his people (לעמה), while the Old Syriac Curetonian version has he shall save the world (לעם). It has also been suggested that a similar scribal error in a Hebrew or Aramaic original language source text may have caused the variance in Acts 2:47 between the readings “finding favor before all the people” (in the Alexandrian and Byzantine text types) and “finding favor with all the world” (in the Western text type). The phrase “light of this people” seems to allude to Isaiah 49:6, “a light to the Gentiles,” which reads in the Aramaic Peshitta version of Isaiah as “a light to the people/nation (לעממא).” This reading of “light of this people” in 3 Nefi 5:21 points to a Hebrew origin for both 3 Nefi and Matthew and suggests that the reading in 3 Nefi may be the correct reading, offering a possible correction to a scribal error in our received text of Matthew 5:14.

    Hebrew and Aramaic Behind Proper Nouns

    Several proper nouns demonstrate a Hebrew (and Aramaic) origin for The Stick of Joseph. For example, the very name of the city Zerach’mla comes from the Aramaic word Z’ra (זרע), meaning “seed, scattered, or dispersed,” as in the Aramaic Peshitta version of James 1:1:

    James, a servant of Elohim and of the Adon Yeshua the Mashiach to the twelve tribes that are scattered among the nations: Shalom.

    And in the Aramaic Peshitta text of 1 Peter (1 Kefa) 1:1:

    Peter, an emissary of Yeshua the Mashiach to the chosen and sojourners who are scattered in Pontus and in Galatia and in Cappadocia and in Asia and in Bithynia,

    Additionally, the Aramaic word Kh’mal (חמל) has the meaning of “did gather in (as grain into a barn),” as we see in the Aramaic Peshitta:

    Look at the bird in the sky, which does not sow (scatter) nor reap and does not gather into storehouses, yet your father who is in heaven feeds them. Are you not more important than they? (Matt. 6:26 from the Peshitta)

    Here the word “sow” is a form of z’ra, and the word “gather” is a form of Kh’mal.

    And in Luke:

    And he thought within himself and said, What shall I do because I have no place where I can gather in my crops. (Luke 12:17, from the Peshitta)

    So the name “Zerach’mla” is an Aramaic term with the meaning that the scattered ones are gathered in. Even the “-a” ending is a standard Aramaic noun ending.

    Another example can be found in the name “Alma,” which is an Aramaic form of the Biblical Hebrew name “Elam.”

    In Alma 17:15, we find the unique (but clearly Hebrew) word Liahona (ליהונא), which derives from the root lawah (לוה Strong’s 3867), meaning “to join, to bind around, to wreathe,” from which comes the related Hebrew words liah (ליה Strong’s 3914), meaning “a wreath,” and lon (לון Strong’s 3885), meaning “to abide, to dwell, to remain or continue.” The word “Liahona” combines these words to describe a device that joins the traveling party to God, a ball with two spindles that would wreathe around and direct Lechi and his party where and when to abide, dwell, remain, or continue.


    With all of this evidence, it is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that The Stick of Joseph in the Hand of Ephraim was originally written in Hebrew, with some Aramaic influence, and then later translated into English. It is, therefore, equally difficult to avoid the conclusion that The Stick of Joseph in the Hand of Ephraim is an authentic record of ancient Hebrews.


    Some of the information presented here came from the following sources:

    Parry, D.W., Peterson, D.C., & Welch J.W. (Eds.). (2002) Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon. Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies.

    Sorenson, J.L. & Thorne, M.J. (Eds.). (1991) Rediscovering the Book of Mormon: Insights you may have missed before. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book.

    Skousen, R. (2014) Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, (six parts). Provo, UT: farms

    Recent Book of Mormon Developments: Articles from the Zarahemla Record. (1992) Independence, Missouri: Zarahemla Research Foundation