06 March 2012

Behold, it came to pass exceedingly: The biblely bits of the Book of Mormon

I've previously posted on "it came to pass" in the Book of Mormon and I've highlighted the occurrences of that phrase, along with "exceedingly" in the SABoM. But there's another that should be added to the list. And that is "Behold."

These three phrases are also, of course, found in the King James Version of the Bible, which is no doubt why Joseph Smith used them so often in the BoM; it just sounded so darned biblical. The trouble is that he got carried away with it.

Here's a summary of the occurrences of "Behold," "It came to pass," and "Exceedingly" in the BoM and the King James Version of the Bible. (I haven't highlighted the "beholds" yet in the SABOM, but I'll get to them eventually.)

BoM King James Version
Behold 1669 1275
It came to pass 1424 452
Exceedingly 287 39

Each of these phrases occurs more often in the BoM than in the Bible, with "exceedingly" occurring over seven times as often. And that's without taking the their sizes into account. The Bible is nearly five times as big as the BoM.

Here's how the comparison looks when size is taken into account.
(Occurrences per 100 verses; 6553 verses in the BoM, 31102 in the Bible)

BoM King James Version
Behold 25.47 4.10
It came to pass 21.7 1.45
Exceedingly 4.38 0.13

Now let's repeat the analysis using all three of Joseph Smith's favorite phrases.
(Occurrences per 100 verses)

BoM King James Version
it came to pass
51.6 5.68

So these phrases occur nearly ten times more often in the Book of Mormon as they do in the Bible. (And they occur rarely anywhere else.)

Here's how Richard Dawkins put it on Real Time with Bill Maher.

Joseph Smith made it [The Book of Mormon] up in the 19th century ... in 17th century English.... It's got charlatan written absolutely all over it. How it could have possibly caught on and still be going strong today ... and even having candidates for president is beyond me.

It's beyond me too, but it looks like it is not beyond the GOP.


adult onset atheist said...

Verily Verily

Stephen said...

Mark Twain had this to say about the BOM:
"All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the ‘elect’ have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so ‘slow,’ so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, according to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.

"The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James’s translation of the Scriptures; and 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 ladled 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."
Steve Weeks

Ian said...

The late, great Christopher Hitchens had some wonderful things to say about Joseph Smith in "God is Not Great". Here is his own narration of his text: