Evidence #105 | September 19, 2020

Repetitive Resumption

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Scripture Central

Abstract

Repetitive resumption, an editing technique that was commonly used by biblical authors to interject commentary, is frequently used in the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon is full of repeated words and phrases. Many of these repetitions have to do with poetic structures called parallelisms. However, one type of repetition, sometimes referred to as “repetitive resumption,”1 is likely a feature of the Book of Mormon’s editing process rather than its poetry.

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Repetitive resumption was often used by the authors and editors of the Bible to interject commentary or additional information.2 After interrupting an idea with an explanatory or clarifying aside, the writer would then repeat a phrase close to the beginning of the interruption. This would provide a signal to the reader that the interruption was over and that there would be a resumption of the original narrative or topic being discussed. One passage that many biblical scholars see as a valid example of this editing feature can be found in Joshua 1:7–9,3 where the concept of being strong and courageous (bolded) sets off the editorial insertion (italicized):

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (emphasis added)

Repetitive resumption is also found throughout the Book of Mormon. For example, when reporting on the results of Ammon’s missionary efforts, Mormon interrupted the narrative after the phrase “they did establish a church among them.” He then inserted a moral lesson before signaling a return to the narrative by using the similar phrase “they had established a church in that land”:

And it came to pass that there were many that did believe in their words; and as many as did believe were baptized; and they became a righteous people, and they did establish a church among them. And thus the work of the Lord did commence among the Lamanites; thus the Lord did begin to pour out his Spirit upon them; and we see that his arm is extended to all people who will repent and believe on his name. And it came to pass that when they had established a church in that land, that king Lamoni desired that Ammon should go with him to the land of Nephi, that he might show him unto his father. (Alma 19:35–20:1; emphasis added).

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Using several criteria for identification,4 Larry G. Childs documented 84 occurrences of repetitive resumption (which he refers to as “epanalepsis”) in the text. These occurrences were found in the writings of 15 different authors.5 It makes sense that writers like Mormon, who significantly edited and abridged underlying texts, would make frequent use of this feature.6 Childs explained that “because the Book of Mormon was engraved in metal plates, the engravers didn’t really have the option of erasing what they had written in order to better organize their thoughts. Epanalepsis [repetitive resumption] is really the best means they had to return to their original train of thought.”7

According to biblical scholar David Bokovoy, repetitive resumption is “one of the primary signs of editorial activity in the Old Testament.”8 That being the case, its frequent use in the Book of Mormon provides evidence that the text was written by authors and editors who were trained in the Israelite literary tradition. Bokovoy has noted that this textual feature “supports the authenticity of the Book of Mormon” because even though repetitive resumption is repeatedly attested in the Bible, it “had not yet been identified by biblical scholars in 1830” when the Book of Mormon was published.9

David E. Bokovoy, “Repetitive Resumption in the Book of Mormon,” Insights 27, no. 1 (2007): 2.

David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes, Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible (Toelle, UT: Heritage Press, 2003), 117–123.

Larry G. Childs, “Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992), 165–166.

Larry G. Childs, “Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium 12, no. 1 (1986): 154–163.

1 Nephi 15:36–16:12 Nephi 25:20Mosiah 28:11–20Alma 1:1–2Alma 3:1Alma 8:6–8Alma 10:32–11:22Alma 15:16–18Alma 17:26–27Alma 19:35–20:1Alma 23:6Alma 24:23–24Alma 27:4Alma 30:59–31:1Helaman 5:5–14Helaman 10:33 Nephi 11:5–8Ether 14:24

1 Nephi 15:3616:1

2 Nephi 25:20

Mosiah 28:11–20

Alma 1:1–2

Alma 3:1

Alma 8:6–8

Alma 10:3211:22

Alma 15:16–18

Alma 17:26–27

Alma 19:35–20:1

Alma 23:6

Alma 24:23–24

Alma 27:4

Alma 30:5931:1

Helaman 5:5–14

Helaman 10:3

3 Nephi 11:5–8

Ether 14:24

  • 1 More technically known as “epanalepsis.”
  • 2 See David E. Bokovoy and John A. Tvedtnes, Testaments: Links between the Book of Mormon and the Hebrew Bible (Toelle, UT: Heritage Press, 2003), 117–123; David E. Bokovoy, “Repetitive Resumption in the Book of Mormon,” Insights 27, no. 1 (2007): 2.
  • 3 See Bokovoy and Tvedtnes, Testaments, 119. It should be noted that the biblical scholars have found that the departure and resumption often involve the repetition of two successive concepts. In the case of Joshua 1:7–9, the first concept is to be “strong” and the second concept is to be “courageous.” See pp. 118–119.
  • 4 See Larry G. Childs, “Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium 12, no. 1 (1986): 154–55.
  • 5 See Larry G. Childs, “Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon,” in Reexploring the Book of Mormon: A Decade of New Research, ed. John W. Welch (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992), 165; Childs, “Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium, 158. Note that Childs updated the count from 83 total occurrences in 1986 to 84 total occurrences in 1992.
  • 6 For Childs’ examination of Mormon’s unusually frequent use of this feature, see Childs, “Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium, 158–161.
  • 7 Childs, “Epanalepsis in the Book of Mormon,” Deseret Language and Linguistic Society Symposium, 162.
  • 8 See Bokovoy, “Repetitive Resumption,” 2.
  • 9 See Bokovoy, “Repetitive Resumption,” 2.
Literary Features
Editing
Repetitive Resumption
Book of Mormon

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