The following is footnote 108 from Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, revised and enlarged edition, 1998, pgs 499-504.
As a graduate student at Brigham Young University in the late-1960s John W. Welch made the extraordinarily important discovery that there are many examples in the Book of Mormon text of a complex pattern of poetic parallelism which also occurs in the Hebrew Bible. Known as chiasmus to modem scholars, this ancient poetic method states a series of ideas (A-B-C …) and then immediately rephrases them in reverse order (… C-B-A).
As Welch noted in his early writings about chiasmus (see below), Anglican bishop Robert Lowth discovered (and first published in Latin) that textual parallelism was an essential characteristic of the Hebrew Bible. The British Museum General Catalogue of Printed Books: Photolithographic Edition to 1955, 145:558, showed that Lowth’s study of biblical parallelism first appeared in English in 1787 as his two-volume Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews and again in 1816 (both editions at London). Volume 107:138 showed that Thomas Hartwell Horne’s Introduction To the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures had its first London edition in 1818 and its “Third American edition” in 1827. These two volumes of the British Museum’s author-title catalog were in BYU’s library shortly after their publication in 1961-62. The National Union Catalog of Pre-1956 Imprints, 343:550, also showed that in 1815 there was a one-volume American edition of Lowth’s Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, which was popular enough to have a second American edition in 1829. As indicated in this chapter’s narrative, Lowth’s scholarly study of the Book of Isaiah was on sale in 1820 by the Canandaigua Bookstore, only nine miles from Joseph Smith’s home. This American-based National Union author-title catalog-volume was in BYU’s library shortly after its publication in 1974. The presence of these standard bibliographic sources in BYU’s library (first in 1961-62 and second in 1974) is crucial for evaluating what John W. Welch claimed in publications from 1969 onward. In 1969 Welch was a BYU graduate student, and later became a professor in BYU’s law school and founder of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS).
Advertised for sale in Joseph Smith’s neighborhood, Horne’s 1825 Introduction To the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures emphasized (2:449): “The grand, and indeed, the sole characteristic of Hebrew Poetry, is what Bishop Lowth entitles Parallelism, that is, a certain equality, resemblance, or relationship, between the members of each period; so that in two lines, or members of the same period, things shall answer to things, and words to words, as if fitted to each other by a kind of rale or measure. This is the general strain of the Hebrew poetry; instances of which occur in almost every part of the Old Testament…” (emphasis in original). Horne further explained (2:519-20) that these “Parallel constructions and figures’’ referred to “those passages in which the same sentence is expressed not precisely in the same words, but in similar words, more full as well as more perspicuous, and concerning the force and meaning of which there can be no doubt. Such are the parallelisms of the sacred poets; which, from the light they throw on the poetical books of the Scriptures, demand a distinct consideration” (emphasis in original). Aside from Palmyra’s advertising of Horne’s 1825 American edition, the 1818 London edition was on sale in 1820 by the Canandaigua Bookstore, only nine miles from Joseph Smith’s home (see text discussion).
Horne’s 1825 American edition said that such parallelism would be found in any ancient text written by Hebrews. He noted (2:451) that Anglican bishop Lowth did not think parallelism survived when Jews wrote in the Greek language, but “Bishop [John] Jebb, however, has demonstrated that this grand characteristic of Hebrew poetry pervades the New Testament as well as the Old.” Horne observed (2:457, 458) that “the Hebraic parallelism occurs also, with much variety, in the Apocrypha,” and that he would “expect a similar parallelism” in any ancient writing “by native Jews, Hebrews of the Hebrews,— by men whose minds were moulded in the form of their own sacred writings, and whose sole stock of literature (with the exception of Paul, and probably also of Luke and James) was comprised in those very writings. Now, it is improbable in the extreme, that such men, when they came to write such a work, should, without any assignable motive, and in direct opposition to all other religious teachers of their nation, have estranged themselves from a manner, so pervading the noblest parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, as the sententious parallelism.”
Even Palmyra’s 1825 advertisement mentioned this emphasis: “E. Littell… has in press, AN INTRODUCTION To the Critical Study and Knowledge of THE HOLY SCRIPTURES By Thomas Hartwell Horne, M .A…. the Poetry of the Hebrews…” Wayne Sentinel (Palmyra, NY), 6 Apr. 1825, , emphasis in the original. For this four-volume study’s continued sale near Smith’s home, see “MORE NEW BOOKS,” Ontario Repository (Canandaigua, NY), 30 Aug. 1826, ; “MORE NEW BOOKS,” Ontario Repository (Canandaigua, NY), 17Jan. 1827,1.
In the 1825 American edition, Horne also gave (2:456-57) several diagrams of “Parallel Lines Introverted… [including]
And it shall come to pass in that day; The great trumpet shall be sounded: And those shall come, who were perishing in the land of Assyria; And who were dispersed in the land of Egypt; And they shall bow themselves down before Jehovah; In the holy mountain, in Jerusalem. Isaiah xxvii. 1 2 ,1 3 .”
Horne later included (2:523) another diagram of “introverted parallelism.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee: The passengers, in whose heart are the ways, In the valley of Baca make it a spring, The rain also filleth the pools; They go from strength to strength; He shall appear before God in Zion. Psal. lxxxiv. 5-7” (emphasis in original).
Horne mentioned in his 1825 text and footnotes (2:448, 451, 451nl, 522-23) the publications by Anglican bishops Lowth and Jebb as his principal sources for this discussion of “introverted parallelism” (now called chiasmus). All of this information was available in the Palmyra area as of 1825 through its own bookstore and through nearby Canandaigua’s bookstore, which operated its own lending library for those who could not afford to buy books they wanted to read (see my text discussion).
Despite all evidence to the contrary, in 1969 John W. Welch claimed that none of this information was available to Joseph Smith or even to other Americans during Smith s lifetime. Welch, “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10 (Autumn 1969): 69, stated: “Nevertheless, the awareness of such a form [of biblical parallelism], except in isolated cases, remained a part of the intellectual subconscious of modem Western Europe until frequent chiasmal passages were discovered in the Bible. Since that time in the mid-nineteenth century, there have been several reputed scholars, mostly theologians, who have published on the subject.” Also (72): “The rediscovery of chiasms in the Bible can be credited to three theologians of the nineteenth century: Robert Lowth [for whom Welch cited only an 1829 Latin edition], John Jebb [for whom Welch cited an 1820 English edition at London], and John Forbes [for whom Welch cited an 1854 English edition at London].”
In support of his claim that this information about biblical parallelism was not available to Joseph Smith’s generation, Welch’s 1969 citation to Lowth was deceptive in two ways: (1) by not acknowledging that English-language editions were available since 1787, and (2) by citing Lowth’s 1829 Latin edition as if this were the first time the Anglican bishop published about the matter. Welch knew differently because his master’s thesis (submitted early enough in 1970 to be read and approved by his graduate committee in April) cited Lowth’s 1815 American edition in the English language. See Welch, “A Study Relating Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon to Chiasmus in the Old Testament, Ugaritic Epics, Homer, and Selected Greek and Latin Authors,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, May 1970,8,8n2, 188. Welch’s thesis is now missing from BYU’s computer-catalog BYLINE, but a copy is available in the LDS Church Library, Salt Lake City.
In 1969 Welch further claimed (73): “in 1860 a section on chiasmus was finally added to T. H. Horne’s famous encyclopedia Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. This marks the recognition of the form as genuine and significant.” Welch (73n5) cited this as Horne’s “11th edition,” concluding (75) “there exists no chance that Joseph Smith could have learned of this style through academic channels. No one in America, let alone in western New York, fully understood chiasmus in 1829.” To the contrary, after 1787 any American could read British editions of Lowth’s study in English, as well as American editions after 1815. Moreover, Welch’s 1969 claim of a watershed in “recognition” for chiasmus in Horne’s book actually occurred in the 1825 American edition, which the Palmyra area’s newspapers show was available to Joseph Smith from its first publication onward. Welch’s 1969 citation to Horne’s eleventh American edition of 1860 demonstrated that he knew this study had been in print for a long time, and his master’s thesis cited (187) Horne’s 1836 American edition. In 1969 Welch had access in BYU’s library to the British Museum’s book catalog which specified (107:138) that Horne’s four-volume study had three American editions by 1827. If he had not examined these earlier editions, how could Welch comment on what was “finally” added in the 1860 edition? If he did examine these earlier editions, how could Welch claim that prior to 1860 Horne’s study contained no section on ‘inverted parallelism”? His 1969 article acknowledged this was the earlier term for chiasmus.
Nevertheless, after 1969 Welch intensified his original assertions that pre-1830 America was allegedly uninformed about biblical parallelism. In “Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon,” New Era 2 (Feb. 1972): 10, Welch told LDS youths: “Taken as evidence of the Book of Mormon, chiasmus offers us a touchstone like we have rarely ever had before. … And yet such a thing was totally unknown to Joseph Smith and universally unrecognized by the world until the present decade.” In reprinting his 1969 article in Noel B. Reynolds, ed., Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1982), Welch (by then the founder of FARMS) repeated his 1969 statements concerning Lowth, Jebb, and Forbes (38-39) but dropped all reference to Horne’s study. However, still using the “recognition” concept he had applied to Horne’s book, Welch concluded in 1982 (51): “By the time the concept of chiasmus received currency or recognition, the Book of Mormon had long been in print.”
It is significant that Welch revised this 1982 reprint to delete any reference to Horne’s book, yet to maintain his original statement about Lowth’s study. The year before, Welch had been editor of a European book about studies of biblical parallelism. In his Chiasmus in Antiquity: Structures, Analyses, Exegesis (Hildensheim, Ger.: Gerstenberg Verlag, 1981), Welch observed (10): that “introverted parallelism” was one of the names for chiasmus, and the bibliography made this comment (279) about Horne’s An Introduction to the Critical Study: “numerous editions printed in U.S. and England for over 50 years following the 1st ed. (1818); 5th U.S. edition in 2 vols. used herein (Philadelphia: Desilver Thomas & Co., 1836) …” Therefore, at least by 1981 John Welch knew how many American editions preceded the 1836 edition of Horne’s analysis of chiasmus. Despite revising his article for its 1982 reprint by BYU’s Religious Studies Center, Welch retained the deceptive footnote which listed Lowth’s 1829 Latin edition as his only publication on parallelism. Welch’s bibliog raphies in 1970 and 1981 both listed Lowth’s 1815 American edition in the English language.
The fact that the 1982 Provo reprint deleted all reference to Horne shows that Welch was aware of Horne’s first American edition in 1825. This deletion may also indicate that someone had informed Welch that Palmyra’s newspaper advertised Horne’s study in 1825 and that the ad itself referred to Horne’s discussion of Hebrew poetry. So many BYU religion professors have read through the Wayne Sentinel, that such a discovery was inevitable on the part of someone who had also carefully read Welch’s claims. At the minimum, by the time he was preparing his 1981 bibliography, Welch knew that Horne’s discussion of “introverted parallelism” occurred decades before Welch’s original claim for Horne’s 1860 edition.
Nonetheless, Welch continued to leave his Mormon readers misinformed about how early the studies of biblical parallelism were published in America. In his introduction to Chiasmus Bibliography: Study Aid (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), Welch wrote: “This bibliography lists most of the books and articles I am aware of dealing with or utilizing chiasmus,” yet it made no reference whatever to Robert Lowth’s pioneering works about parallelism (which Welch’s 1970 master’s thesis acknowledged had been published in a U.S. edition of 1815). The 1987 FARMS bibliography listed (7) only Horne’s 1836 American edition of Introduction to the Critical Study. However, a glance by bibliographer Welch at National Union Catalog ofPre-1956 Imprints, 255:141 (in the BYU library’s reference-section since this volume’s publication in 1973) would have told him that surviving copies of Horne’s first American edition of 1825 were located at the University of Chicago, Ohio State University, Alma College (Alma, MI), Yale University, Oberlin College, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary (New York City), and University of California at Berkeley. If Welch had not already examined the 1825 edition for his 1970 master’s thesis, after 1973 he had easy access at BYU to information about where to find it. In a bibliography such a lapse is extraordinary, unless the bibliographer is not interested in verifying the contents of publications earlier than a certain date (1830 in Horne’s case).
Since Welch’s 1969 article defined the inclusion of chiasmus in Horne’s book as a watershed for this poetical technique “finally” gaining “recognition,” why didn’t Welch examine Horne’s first American edition to verify if there was actually an absence of this discussion before 1830? Because he cited Horne’s 1836 edition in his master’s thesis, Welch knew by 1970 this “recognition” of “inverted parallelism” was in American publications by 1836 (1:376 in the 1836 edition at BYU’s library). However, Welch did not apparently want to undermine his prior claims by verifying and admitting that the first American discussion of “introverted parallelism” occurred in an 1825 publication (which was also on sale in Joseph Smith’s neighborhood).
There was also the problem that Lowth’s study of parallelism was published in English in the United States in 1815 and 1829. Welch knew this while preparing his 1970 thesis, which listed Lowth’s 1815 American edition. Acknowledging Lowth’s publications also undermined Welch’s claims for America’s pre-1830 ignorance of biblical parallelism. Thus, Welch’s 1987 FARMS bibliography made no reference to Lowth.
By 1988 Welch decided to resolve this quandary in another way— by telling his LDS audience only about studies of parallelism that were not printed in early America. In his Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon: Annotated Transcript of CHI-V [1988 lecture series] (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 12, Welch said: This in turn leads to the question, ‘How much was known about chiasmus in Joseph Smith’s day?’ And the answer here is, not much. In England two authors wrote books in the 1820’s about Hebrew literature in the Bible, and they explored for the first time the possibility of chiasmus in the Bible. They claimed that such a pattern had been unnoticed by great scholars that had gone before them. But the idea took root slowly, and it wasn’t until the 1950s…” His source-note (12n l5) about this “first time” exploration made no mention of Lowth’s studies of parallelism since the 1700s nor of Horne’s discussion of “introverted parallelism since 1818.
To support the myth he created in 1969 that Joseph Smith and all other Americans were ignorant of biblical parallelism, Welch by the 1980s simply withheld from his Mormon listeners and readers his knowledge that there were American printings of such studies in 1815 and 1825. Instead, Welch’s 1988 FARMS publication cited only an 1820 publication by John Jebb and an 1825 publication by Thomas Boys, both published in London and neither reprinted in the United States. He emphasized (13) that these British books by Jebb and Boys were not in American libraries before 1830. And despite the Palmyra newspaper s advertise ment for Horne’s 1825 American edition (which Welch in 1988 did not acknowledge the existence of) and despite the fact that Horne’s 1825 American edition discussed Jebb’s views at length, Welch’s 1988 FARMS presentation stated (13): “And even if some of these books had made it to the United States, it is quite another thing to believe that Joseph Smith knew anything about John Jebb’s pioneering hypothesis that this complex chiasmus existed in the Bible …” In a 1993 video-cassette sold by FARMS, Welch repeated his 1988 statements and concluded: “So 1 think that there was really very little chance— what should we say, a statistically insignificant chance— that Joseph Smith had any awareness of this through regular scholarly channels.” See Welch, Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon [ “this transcript of the video lecture was prepared by the staff of the Portland Institute of Religion” ] (Provo, UT: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1994), 18.
As I told John W. Welch in a 1995 letter, I have always admired and praised his discovery of the ancient poetic technique of chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. However, I believe that he has done a disservice to all Mormon believers by his decades of misrepresenting America’s pre-1830 knowledge of this biblical parallelism. As stated in my text discussion, Hugh Nibley’s misstatements in 1975 occurred because of his lack of access to information that was not yet published or not easily available to him. That was not the case with John W. Welch, whose publications for the LDS audience since 1969, in my opinion, have manifested an escalating, intentional concealment of pre-1830 American publications about chiasmus.