Friday, July 19, 2013

The Name Alma (Howlers # 15)

Alma is supposed to be a prophet of God and of Jewish ancestry in the Book of Mormon. In Hebrew Alma means a betrothed virgin maiden–hardly a fitting name for a man.

        Walter Martin, The Maze of Mormonism (1978), 327.

It reminds us of the “Boy Named Sue.”

        John L Smith, “That Man Alma,” Utah Evangel (April 1986), 2

Hugh Nibley was the first to observe that the name Alma appears in a land deed dating to the time of the Bar Kochba Rebellion in in Judea, 132-135 A.D. (Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon, 1988, 281-82). The document is part of a larger collection of letters discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1961 by Israelit archaeologist Yigael Yadin. The deed mentions an individual named "Alma son of Yehudah." (Yigael Yadin, Bar Kochba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1971, 176).

The document written on a long sheet of papyrus translated by Yadin reads:

On the twenty-eighth of Marheshvan, the third year of Shimeon bar Kosiba, President of Israel; at En-gedi. Of their own free will, on this day, do Eleazar son of Eleazar son of Hitta and Eleazer son of Shmuel, both of En-gedi, and Tehina son of Shimeon and Alma son of Yehudah, both of Luhith in the coastal district of `Agaltain, now residents of En-gedi, wish to divide up amongst themselves the places that they have leased from Yehonathan son of Mhnym the administrator of Shimeon ben Kosiba, President of Israel, at En-gedi (Bolded emphasis added).

The name appears for a second time in the same document as follows:

All is done and agreed on condition that the above four people will pay the dies of the lease of these places which they leased from Yehonathan son of Mhnym, as follows: Eleazar son of Eleazar Hitta and Eliezer son of Shmuel both will pay half of the money [the previous agreed amount] less sixteen dinars, which are four Sela'im only; while Tehina son of Shimeon and Alma son of Yehudah will pay half of the above money plus sixteen dinars, which are four Sela'im (Bolded emphasis added).

The name also is now attested cuneiform tablets found at the archaeological site of Ebla in Syria from the late third millennium B.C. For more information on the name Alma and its likely etymology, researchers will benefit from the Willes Center's Book of Mormon Onomasticon Project.

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