This is Day 2 of our special Book of Mormon series. Enjoy!
By Brother Josh Gehly
Where does your name come from? Do you know its etymology? Our last post talked about rules for ancient Hebrew and Semitic names. All 337 names, including 188 original Book of Mormon names, follow these rules. What an incredible testimony for the Book of Mormon! Today, we are going to take an in-depth look at the origins of some Book of Mormon names.
First, remember the Book of Mormon was translated by a farm boy with a third-grade education. Odds are pretty good you have a kid with a much higher education. Try to just make up a couple of names right now. Do you think those random names have roots to an ancient language you don’t speak? Keep in mind, Hebrew has evolved over time (not unlike English — try to read the original Beowulf). Your names must reflect ancient Hebrew.
In 1830, none of the original names of the Book of Mormon could be traced back to ancient Jerusalem. Since then, lots of archaeologists have been digging around. Have they found anything connecting original names from the Book of Mormon to ancient Israel?
- Ammonihah: Alma 8:6 mentions the city of Ammonihah, named after a man. The ending -ihah is the Hebrew root for Jehovah. The name was found in the old world on two Hebrew seals, one dating to the late 7th century BC.
- Mathoni (3 Nephi 19:4): This name directly connects to the Hebrew name Mtnyh, appearing on a wine decanter, six seals, and seven bullae (seal impressions) all dating to the 7th century BC.
- Muloki: (Alma Chapter 20 & 21): Corresponds to the name Mlky on a bulla found in the City of David, possibly meaning king.
- Abish (Alma 19:16): Linked to the Hebrew name <bsh< found on a seal located in Haifa dating to before the Babylonian invasion.
- Sariah (Nephi Chapter 1): Name found on Papyrus #22 in Elephantine in Upper Egypt on a document in Aramaic with names in Hebrew. It reads, “Sariah daughter of Hoshea son of Hcarman,” likely meaning “Jehovah is Prince.”
These names were original to the Book of Mormon at the time it printed, and have since been discovered at various archaeological sites in the ancient promised land. This shows the names did exist in ancient Hebrew, although they were not discovered until recently.
Famous Christian scholar William Albright was sent hate mail about the Book of Mormon. He observed, “It is […] surprising that there are two Egyptian names, Paanch(i) and Pahor(an) which appear in the Book of Mormon in close connection with a reference to the original language being ‘Reformed Egyptian.’” Albright suggested Joseph Smith, Jr. was a religious genius.