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Would Joseph Smith have known the Bible so well to use the same verbs (and additional like terminology) to describe the purges of priests?

Matthew L. Bowen notes a striking similarity between one passage in the Bible, and the Book of Mormon:

The Deuteronomistic Judahite historian who wrote 2 Kings 23:5 and Mormon, the Nephite historian who wrote Mosiah 11:5 both used identical — or nearly identical — verbs (and additional like terminology) to describe the purges of the priests their fathers ordained — purges that came to define their kingships. The Deuteronomistic writer used this language to positively evaluate Josiah’s kingship (“And he put down [wĕhišbît] the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained”), whereas Mormon levies a negative evaluation against Noah (“for he put down [cf. Hebrew hišbît] all the priests that had been consecrated by his father”). Mormon’s adaption and use of ancient Israelite historiographic conventions is evident in his reliance on the royal “walk/not walk in the ways of X” formula (wayyēlek bĕderek X/[lōʾ] hālak bĕderek X). Thus, Mormon appears to have drawn a deliberate historical contrast (or comparison) between kings Josiah and Noah. All of the foregoing data recommends Mosiah 11:11 as a significant, rather than a small historical and narratological detail in the Book of Mormon. The foregoing much more likely reflects the tendencies and concerns of ancient authors having an Israelite religious and cultural heritage who were attempting to write history, than it does the imaginative genius of a young man living in 19th century rural New York. We can thus see these historical and narrative details as additional evidence for the Book of Mormon’s antiquity and authenticity.

Matthew L. Bowen – Putting Down the Priests: A Note on Royal Evaluations, (wĕ)hišbît, and Priestly Purges in 2 Kings 23:5 and Mosiah 11:5

Did Joseph Smith really know the Bible so well? How much effort would it have taken to remember this biblical passage when dictating the relevant part of the Book of Mormon?


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