Evidence #281 | December 6, 2021

Alternate Parallelisms

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Scripture Central

Abstract

The Book of Mormon features numerous examples of alternate parallelisms. This poetic feature supports the text’s Hebrew origins and provides another example of its literary complexity and sophistication.

The Book of Mormon features various types of alternate parallelisms, in which corresponding words or phrases are repeated in the same order that they were initially given. According to Donald W. Parry, these parallelisms “may consist of synonymous or antithetical words, identical expressions, complements, or other corresponding elements.”1 The Book of Mormon’s numerous alternate parallelisms can be broken down into three primary categories: (1) simple alternate, (2) repeated alternate, and (3) extended alternate.2

Simple Alternate

As the name suggests, simple alternate parallelisms are rather straightforward, consisting of a simple AB/AB pattern. One example from the Bible can be seen in Esther 8:5:

A

If it please the king,

 

B

and if I have found favour in his sight,

A

and the thing seem right before the king,

 

B

and I be pleasing in his eyes.

Here are some examples from the Book of Mormon:

Alma 1:26:

A

for the preacher

 

B

was no better than the hearer,

A

neither was the teacher

 

B

any better than the learner

3 Nephi 10:14:

A

And now, whoso readeth,

 

B

let him understand;

A

he that hath the scriptures,

 

B

let him search them

Repeated Alternate

Repeated alternate parallelisms start off like the simple alternate, but the corresponding elements repeat three or more times (AB/AB/AB etc.), as demonstrated in this example from Matthew 5:39–41 (cf. 3 Nephi 12:39–41):

A

but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, 

 

B

turn to him the other also.

A

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat,

 

B

let him have thy cloak also.

A

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile,

 

B

go with him twain.

Here are two examples from the Book of Mormon:

Alma 7:19:

A

For I perceive

 

B

that ye are in the paths of righteousness;

A

I perceive

 

B

that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God;

A

yea, I perceive

 

B

that ye are making his paths straight.

Helaman 12:9–15:

A

Yea, behold at his voice

 

B

do the hills and the mountains tremble and quake.

A

And by the power of his voice

 

B

they are broken up, and become smooth, yea, even like unto a valley.

A

Yea, by the power of his voice

 

B

doth the whole earth shake;

A

Yea, by the power of his voice,

 

B

do the foundations rock, even to the very center.

A

Yea, and if he say unto the earth—Move

 

B

—it is moved.

A

Yea, if he say unto the earth—Thou shalt go back, that it lengthen out the day for many hours

 

B

—it is done;

A

And thus, according to his word

 

B

the earth goeth back

Extended Alternate

As explained by Parry, the extended alternate “belongs to the same family as simple and repeated alternate. It differs from the other two, however, in that additional alternating lines are present in extended alternate, as in ABC/ABC or ABCD/ABCD. Once again, the A lines correspond to one another, as do the Bs, the Cs, and so on.”3 Parry highlights the following passage from Judges 10:17 as an example from the Bible:

A

Then the children of Ammon

 

B

were gathered together,

 

 

C

 and encamped in Gilead.

A

And the children of Israel

 

B

assembled themselves together,

 

 

C

and encamped in Mizpeh.

Once again, here are examples from the Book of Mormon:

1 Nephi 9:3–4:

A

I should make these plates,

 

B

for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people.

 

 

C

Upon the other plates

 

 

 

D

should be engraven an account of the reign of the kings,

 

 

 

 

E

and the wars

 

 

 

 

 

F

and contentions

 

 

 

 

 

 

G

of my people;

A

wherefore these plates

 

B

are for the more part of the ministry;

 

 

C

and the other plates

 

 

 

D

are for the more part of the reign of the kings

 

 

 

 

E

and the wars

 

 

 

 

 

F

and contentions

 

 

 

 

 

 

G

of my people.

Alma 30:19–21

A

Now this man went over

 

B

to the land of Jershon also,

 

 

C

to preach these things among the people of Ammon, who were once the people of the Lamanites.

 

 

 

D

But behold they were more wise than many of the Nephites;

 

 

 

 

E

for they took him,

 

 

 

 

 

F

and bound him,

 

 

 

 

 

 

G

and carried him

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H

before Ammon, who was a high priest  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

over that people. And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land.

A

And he came over

 

B

into the land of Gideon,

 

 

C

and began to preach unto them also;

 

 

 

D

and here he did not have much success,

 

 

 

 

E

for he was taken

 

 

 

 

 

F

and bound

 

 

 

 

 

 

G

and carried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H

before the high priest, and also the chief judge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I

over the land.

Conclusion

In his research on this topic, Parry identified more than 390 instances of alternate parallelisms in the Book of Mormon. Most of these (over 240) are simple alternate (AB/AB). However, there are still more than 100 instances of the more complicated extended alternate category, and several dozen examples of repeated alternate (see Appendices for lists of passages in each category).4

It is possible that some of these parallelisms were not intentionally implemented by the authors of the text. Yet there are far too many impressive examples to explain away all of them as mere coincidence, especially the more complex instances of repeated and extended alternate that feature multiple layers of tightly corresponding elements.5

As with many other poetic features in the Book of Mormon, such as chiasmus, alternate parallelisms are abundant in biblical texts. The prominence of this feature in the Book of Mormon is thus consistent with its claimed Hebrew origins. It also provides another layer of pervasive textual complexity and literary sophistication that is difficult to ascribe to Joseph Smith in 1829.6

Donald W. Parry, Preserved in Translation: Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2020), 27–32.

Carl J. Cranney, “The Deliberate Use of Hebrew Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 23, no. 1 (2014): 140–165.

Donald W. Parry, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text Reformatted (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007).

Donald W. Parry, “Hebraisms and Other Ancient Peculiarities in the Book of Mormon,” in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 155–189.

Hugh J. Pinnock, Finding Biblical Hebrew and Other Ancient Literary Forms in the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999).

See appendices.

See appendices.

Simple alternate (Total = 241)

1 Nephi 5:1

1 Nephi 7:16

1 Nephi 8:30

1 Nephi 11:25

1 Nephi 17:19

1 Nephi 17:31

1 Nephi 17:35

1 Nephi 17:36

1 Nephi 17:39

1 Nephi 20:5

1 Nephi 20:6

1 Nephi 20:9

1 Nephi 20:18

1 Nephi 20:19

1 Nephi 21:1

1 Nephi 21:2

1 Nephi 21:9

1 Nephi 21:13

1 Nephi 21:18

1 Nephi 21:22

1 Nephi 21:26

1 Nephi 22:6

1 Nephi 22:22

2 Nephi 1:16–17

2 Nephi 1:21

2 Nephi 2:9–10

2 Nephi 3:12–13

2 Nephi 4:16

2 Nephi 4:17

2 Nephi 4:21–22

2 Nephi 4:28

2 Nephi 4:29

2 Nephi 4:34

2 Nephi 4:35

2 Nephi 6:6

2 Nephi 6:18

2 Nephi 7:1

2 Nephi 7:2

2 Nephi 7:3

2 Nephi 7:6

2 Nephi 7:8

2 Nephi 8:12

2 Nephi 8:17

2 Nephi 8:25

2 Nephi 9:5

2 Nephi 9:13

2 Nephi 9:14

2 Nephi 9:16

2 Nephi 9:39

2 Nephi 9:47

2 Nephi 9:48

2 Nephi 9:49

2 Nephi 9:51

2 Nephi 10:25

2 Nephi 11:2–3

2 Nephi 12:7

2 Nephi 15:5

2 Nephi 15:7

2 Nephi 15:11

2 Nephi 15:16

2 Nephi 15:19

2 Nephi 16:9

2 Nephi 17:15–16

2 Nephi 18:9

2 Nephi 18:10

2 Nephi 19:2

2 Nephi 19:10

2 Nephi 20:30

2 Nephi 22:4

2 Nephi 24:24

2 Nephi 24:26

2 Nephi 24:27

2 Nephi 25:1–2

2 Nephi 25:5–6

2 Nephi 25:24

2 Nephi 26:12

2 Nephi 27:4

2 Nephi 27:22

2 Nephi 27:27

2 Nephi 27:35

2 Nephi 30:17

2 Nephi 33:9

Jacob 3:9

Jacob 7:16

Mosiah 2:25

Mosiah 3:9

Mosiah 3:10

Mosiah 4:8

Mosiah 4:11

Mosiah 4:16

Mosiah 8:12

Mosiah 8:15–16

Mosiah 9:12

Mosiah 10:9

Mosiah 10:14

Mosiah 11:27

Mosiah 12:30

Mosiah 13:3

Mosiah 13:17–18

Mosiah 16:9

Mosiah 16:12

Mosiah 20:14

Mosiah 25:2

Mosiah 26:2

Mosiah 29:4

Mosiah 29:23

Alma 1:22

Alma 1:26

Alma 2:29

Alma 3:15–16

Alma 5:34

Alma 7:1

Alma 7:5

Alma 7:17

Alma 9:8

Alma 9:9

Alma 9:12

Alma 11:40

Alma 11:43

Alma 11:45

Alma 12:25

Alma 12:35–36

Alma 13:11–12

Alma 17:21

Alma 19:29

Alma 20:4

Alma 24:18

Alma 25:15

Alma 26:15

Alma 26:22

Alma 26:24

Alma 26:37

Alma 28:11

Alma 30:1

Alma 30:9

Alma 30:41

Alma 30:57

Alma 31:1–2

Alma 32:3

Alma 32:19

Alma 32:26

Alma 33:6–7

Alma 33:10

Alma 34:24–25

Alma 34:34

Alma 36:5

Alma 36:29

Alma 37:1–2

Alma 37:6

Alma 37:17

Alma 37:29

Alma 37:44

Alma 43:20

Alma 44:21

Alma 49:18

Alma 50:18

Alma 55:1

Alma 55:13

Alma 60:6

Alma 61:10–11

Alma 62:29

Helaman 3:21

Helaman 3:32

Helaman 5:4

Helaman 6:12

Helaman 6:34

Helaman 7:5

Helaman 7:17

Helaman 9:24–25

Helaman 9:37

Helaman 9:39

Helaman 9:40–41

Helaman 11:7

Helaman 11:17

Helaman 14:28

Helaman 14:30

Helaman 14:31

Helaman 16:9–10

Helaman 16:18–19

3 Nephi 4:2

3 Nephi 4:32

3 Nephi 5:10

3 Nephi 6:2

3 Nephi 6:17

3 Nephi 7:23

3 Nephi 8:11–12

3 Nephi 10:14

3 Nephi 10:18

3 Nephi 11:3

3 Nephi 11:28

3 Nephi 12:34–35

3 Nephi 14:9–10

3 Nephi 15:9

3 Nephi 15:14–15

3 Nephi 15:23

3 Nephi 16:9

3 Nephi 19:32

3 Nephi 19:36

3 Nephi 20:8

3 Nephi 20:16

3 Nephi 20:37

3 Nephi 20:40

3 Nephi 20:41

3 Nephi 20:44

3 Nephi 22:1

3 Nephi 22:4

3 Nephi 22:7–8

3 Nephi 22:10

3 Nephi 23:1

3 Nephi 23:2

3 Nephi 23:6

3 Nephi 27:8

3 Nephi 27:21

3 Nephi 27:24

3 Nephi 27:30

3 Nephi 28:27–28

3 Nephi 28:34

4 Nephi 1:12

4 Nephi 1:19

4 Nephi 1:39

Mormon 2:18

Mormon 3:17

Mormon 5:7

Mormon 5:11

Mormon 8:16

Mormon 9:3

Mormon 9:31

Ether 2:16

Ether 3:17–18

Ether 4:8

Ether 6:30

Ether 8:14

Ether 8:25

Ether 10:7

Ether 13:7

Ether 13:13–14

Ether 15:6

Ether 15:13

Moroni 7:42

Moroni 8:8

Repeated Alternate (Total = 41)

1 Nephi 16:7

1 Nephi 19:9

1 Nephi 19:10

1 Nephi 22:13

1 Nephi 22:15–16

1 Nephi 22:23

2 Nephi 4:11

2 Nephi 9:12

2 Nephi 13:24

2 Nephi 17:23–25

Jacob 3:7

Jacob 5:55–56

Jacob 6:8

Words of Mormon 1:4

Mosiah 2:9

Mosiah 23:19–20

Mosiah 29:3

Alma 3:26

Alma 5:6

Alma 7:19

Alma 11:45

Alma 30:10

Alma 30:24–26

Alma 32:42

Alma 43:44

Alma 48:1–2

Helaman 11:36–37

Helaman 12:9–15

Helaman 13:14–15

Helaman 14:9

3 Nephi 10:13

3 Nephi 12:3–9

3 Nephi 12:22

3 Nephi 39–41

3 Nephi 19:20–22

4 Nephi 1:31–34

Mormon 9:14

Ether 4:9

Ether 10:30–31

Moroni 7:18

Moroni 10:10–16

Extended Alternate (Total = 115)

1 Nephi 5:4

1 Nephi 5:12–13

1 Nephi 9:4–5

1 Nephi 12:9

1 Nephi 13:7–8

1 Nephi 13:12–14

1 Nephi 13:31–34

1 Nephi 14:12

1 Nephi 19:1

1 Nephi 20:16–17

1 Nephi 21:21

1 Nephi 22:17

2 Nephi 1:9

2 Nephi 2:17–18

2 Nephi 3:6–7

2 Nephi 4:32

2 Nephi 5:8–9

2 Nephi 5:30–32

2 Nephi 6:5

2 Nephi 8:18

2 Nephi 9:4–5

2 Nephi 9:11–12

2 Nephi 10:10–11

2 Nephi 12:5

2 Nephi 13:10–11

2 Nephi 17:1

2 Nephi 18:14

2 Nephi 27:3–4

2 Nephi 29:2

2 Nephi 29:12

2 Nephi 31:1

2 Nephi 31:14

Jacob 5:4–6

Jacob 7:2

Words of Mormon 1:15–16

Mosiah 2:1

Mosiah 2:22

Mosiah 2:27–28

Mosiah 2:31

Mosiah 7:30–31

Mosiah 8:9–11

Mosiah 11:4

Mosiah 11:29

Mosiah 12:37

Mosiah 26:15–16

Mosiah 29:11

Alma 5:19

Alma 5:28–29

Alma 5:57

Alma 9:15

Alma 10:3

Alma 10:5

Alma 10:17–18

Alma 10:22–23

Alma 12:33–34

Alma 13:8

Alma 14:8

Alma 14:22

Alma 22:3

Alma 26:36

Alma 27:7–8

Alma 27:10–12

Alma 29:4–5

Alma 29:11–12

Alma 30:17

Alma 30:19–21

Alma 30:39

Alma 31:27

Alma 32:28

Alma 32:30

Alma 32:37

Alma 35:1–2

Alma 36:21

Alma 36:26

Alma 36:28–29

Alma 37:25–26

Alma 37:45

Alma 37:46

Alma 38:14

Alma 41:14–15

Alma 43:16

Alma 47:27–28

Alma 48:15

Alma 51:5–6

Alma 56:40

Alma 58:16

Helaman 4:14

Helaman 6:8

Helaman 6:35–36

Helaman 8:15

Helaman 10:8–10

Helaman 12:20–21

3 Nephi 8:24–25

3 Nephi 9:3–11

3 Nephi 11:14–15

3 Nephi 11:37–38

3 Nephi 12:1–2

3 Nephi 13:19–20

3 Nephi 14:7–8

3 Nephi 16:13–15

3 Nephi 16:18–19

3 Nephi 17:16–17

3 Nephi 26:6–7

3 Nephi 27:29

3 Nephi 28:31–32

Mormon 3:7–8

Mormon 3:18–19

Ether 2:8–10

Ether 24–25

Ether 3:27–28

Ether 4:13–14

Ether 10:2

Moroni 7:6–9

Moroni 7:46–47

Footnotes
Literary Features
Parallelisms
Alternate Parallelisms
Book of Mormon

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