The original vocabulary of the Book of Mormon appears to derive from English that was more common in the 1500s and 1600s, not the 1800s.

  • Lexical evidence suggests that the original text contained a number of expressions and words with meanings that were lost from the English language by 1700.
  • There are words and expressions in the original Book of Mormon text that never appear, at least with their archaic meanings, in the King James Bible yet were common in Early Modern English. For example, To require, meaning “to request.” Enos 1:18 reads "and the Lord said unto me: thy fathers have also required of me this thing." It may seem unusual that Enos's ancestral fathers (Lehi, Nephi, and Jacob) required the Lord to preserve their records. Notice that the word also in verse 18 implies that Enos too is “requiring" the Lord to preserve these records, yet previously (in verses 15—17) Enos simply asks the Lord to do so. But the passage makes perfectly good sense when we observe that earlier in English the verb require had the meaning “to ask, request, or desire someone to do something.”
  • Another example is To cast arrows, meaning “to shoot arrows.” Alma 49:4 reads "the Lamanites could not cast their stones and their arrows at them." Similarly, verse 19 reads "and thus were the Nephites prepared to destroy all such as should attempt to climb up to enter the fort by any other way by casting over stones and arrows at them." For us today, it seems strange to cast arrows. Yet the Oxford English Dictionary gives the following comment for definition 2 under the verb cast: "Formerly said also of military engines, bows, and the like, which throw or shoot projectiles." Oxford English Dictionary citations date from about 1300 to 1609, including the following biblical one in John Wycliffe's 1382 translation of 2 Kings 13:17: "Helise seyde, kast an arowe; and he kest." The King James Bible uses the verb shoot in translating this same passage: "Then Elisha said, Shoot. And he shot." But there is one place in the King James Bible where the verb cast does occur with arrows: "As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death" (Proverbs 26:18).
  • In 2 Nephi 20:29 all the printed editions as well as the printer’s manuscript read Ramath instead of the Ramah found in Isaiah 10:29 (the original manuscript is not extant for this passage). A number of scholars have noted that Ramath would have been the earlier Hebrew form for Ramah and have therefore claimed that the Book of Mormon text here maintains the earlier Hebrew name for this place, thus supporting that the Book of Mormon text may have been translated from a more ancient version of Isaiah.

Additional Resources:

12 Answers from Royal Skousen

The Archaic Vocabulary of the Book of Mormon

Restoring the Original Text of the Book of Mormon

Sixteen-Century Language by Royal Skousen