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Ancient Names in the Book of Mormon
Toward a Deeper Understanding of a Witness of Christ

Ancient Names in the Book of Mormon

Toward a Deeper Understanding of a Witness of Christ

By Matthew L. Bowen

Published by The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books


The names of individuals, places, and peoples in the Book of Mormon are strong evidence of its authenticity as an ancient scriptural record. But these names are more than mere ornaments. By reading carefully and using our knowledge of ancient Hebrew and Egyptian—the languages Book of Mormon writers claimed they knew and used—we can locate passages where names figure crucially into the meaning of the text and strengthen its impact. Sometimes, wordplay on these names illuminates important themes in a given book. These findings are consistent with what we find throughout the Hebrew Bible, where names and their meanings (real and perceived) were integral to narrative, prophecy, and poetry. As a follow-up to Name as Key-Word (2018), Ancient Names in the Book of Mormon explores many such examples and demonstrates how they contribute to our understanding of the Book of Mormon’s witness of Christ in its ancient context.

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“This informative and inspiring volume offers ingenious insights into the probable meanings of twenty key proper names in the Book of Mormon. Digging skillfully into deep linguistic strata behind many texts, Professor Bowen extracts rich new data points that help modern readers understand what those names would very likely have meant to the people who gave, bore, and honored those significant personal markers.”

— John W. Welch, Professor of Law, editor, and
co-founder of Book of Mormon Central

“Professor Matthew L. Bowen has done it again! Written on the heels of Name as Key-Word, his groundbreaking study of onomastic wordplay and temple themes in Latter-day Saint scripture, we are now treated to a new set of illuminating insights on Book of Mormon names that will inform and delight readers. The density and intensity of Bowen’s scholarship combines with his witness of Christ in a golden glow of spiritual power.”

— Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, independent scholar

“In this book Matt Bowen offers a clear alternative to postmodernist deconstruction packaged as theology: scholarship rooted in the Book of Mormon text and a knowledge of the ancient world from which the Book of Mormon sprang.”

— John Gee, research professor

Table of Contents

  • Foreword, by Jeffrey Dean Lindsay
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Abbreviations
  • 1 “O Ye Fair Ones”—Revisited
  • 2 Shazer: The Place of the Young Gazelle
  • 3 “If Ye Will Hearken”: Rhetorical Wordplay on Ishmael
  • 4 Jacob’s Protector
  • 5 “I Kneeled Down before My Maker”: Allusions to Esau in the Book of Enos
  • 6 “I of Myself Am a Wicked Man”: Omni’s Adaptive Autobiography
  • 7 Becoming Men and Women of Understanding: Revisiting Wordplay on Benjamin
  • 8 “Possess the Land in Peace”: Zeniff’s Ironic Wordplay on Shilom
  • 9 “This Son Shall Comfort Us”: An Onomastic Tale of Two Noahs
  • 10 “He Did Go about Secretly”: Additional Thoughts on the Literary Use of Alma’s Name
  • 11 “I Will Deliver Thy Sons”: Oracular Wordplay on Mosiah and Ammon
  • 12 He Knows My Affliction: Onidah versus the Rameumptom
  • 13 The Scalp of Your Head: “Chief” as Metonymic “Head”
  • 14 “Swearing by Their Everlasting Maker”: Paanchi and Giddianhi
  • 15 Coming Down and Bringing Down to Destruction: Jared and the Jaredites
  • 16 “That Which They Most Desired”: Mary and Mormon Revisited
  • 17 Messengers of the Covenant
  • Bibliography
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index

About the Author

Matthew L. Bowen

Matthew L. Bowen was raised in Orem, Utah, and graduated from Brigham Young University. He holds a PhD in Biblical Studies from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and is currently an Associate Professor in Religious Education at Brigham Young University–Hawai‘i. He is the author of Name as Key-Word (2018) and the coauthor of e Book of Moses: From the Ancient of Days to the Latter Days (2021) with Aaron Schade. He has also published numerous articles and book chapters on Latter-day Saint scripture and the temple. He and his wife, the former Suzanne Blattberg, are the parents of three children: Zachariah, Nathan, and Adele.

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