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Why is there a “blatant pun” on the name Moses in the Joseph Smith translation of the Bible, before the Egyptian meaning of Moses’s name was known to scholars?

Recent scholarship has found that the name Moses comes from the Egyptian verb “to beget,” which is also the root for the Egyptian word for child, or in the case of a male child, a “son.” 

Nathan J. Arp explains an interesting pun in Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible:

In 1830 Joseph Smith embarked on a project he framed as a translation of the Bible with the intent to restore by revelation parts of the Bible that had been lost or changed from the original. One of these restored sections of the Bible was a prophecy the Lord gave Joseph who was sold into Egypt, regarding Moses. Almost certainly unaware of the possible Egyptian etymology for the name of Moses, Joseph Smith dictated the following text in July 1832  that contains a pun on the name of Moses and its Egyptian meaning of son:

For a seer will I raise up to deliver my people out of the land of Egypt; and he shall be called Moses And by this name he shall know that he is of thy house [Joseph’s house]; for he shall be nursed by the king’s daughter, and shall be called her son. (Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 50:29)

According to this prophecy, the name of Moses was the key Moses would employ to unlock his own identity and recognize his connection to his ancestor Joseph and by extension to the rest of the children of Israel, the Hebrews. This prophecy also follows the same Egyptian pun between the name Moses and its Egyptian meaning of son in Exodus 2:10; “And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses.”

Nathan J. Arp – Joseph Knew First: Moses, the Egyptian Son

Arp continues:

The appearance of a blatant pun on the Egyptian etymology of the name Moses in the prophecy that Smith restored and its probable role as a key thematic element in the restored narratives in the Book of Moses support the authenticity of these texts, especially when one considers these elements as “firsts” in the modern era. Before the first known scholars published the idea that Moses’s name might be Egyptian and certainly before a general scholarly consensus was reached, the texts Joseph Smith restored contained evidence to support Moses’s Egyptian heritage. Indeed, Joseph the patriarch, who prophesied of Moses, and Joseph Smith Jr., who restored these texts, knew first!

Nathan J. Arp – Joseph Knew First: Moses, the Egyptian Son

How would Joseph Smith have known the meaning of Moses before the scholars?


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