Thank you Daniel for sharing this. As always, your wit and intelligence shines through in staying ever steadfast against the mockers.
British Methodist scholar Margaret Barker, on page 241 of The Great High Priest (T & T Clark, 2003), refers to a mother named "the 'almah" who would bear a son to be called Immanuel. She wrote "Literally 'almah means 'the hidden one..."
Consider that Alma, who had fled from the servants of king Noah "hid in a place which was called Mormon." Book of Mormon, Mosiah chapter 18. In that situation, he was "a hidden one".
What does the use of the name in 19th century America have to do with the language of the Nephites around 90 BC? Evangel's original complaint makes no sense. The whole answer is in Hugh Nibley's statement referenced in the article, "Alma is in fact an anciently attested Semitic masculine personal name." All this discussion about how the name was used in Joseph Smith's time, in my opinion, is a distraction.
Danged if you do, danged if you don't. I suppose the correct characterization is that (a) if "Alma" was known to be a man's name in Joseph Smith's time, then his work cannot be mocked for its use of the name; but (b) if it was not so known, then the use of the name in the work lends credibility to the work. Because of the importance of faith in our religion, I don't think that our Heavenly Father will ever allow the Book of Mormon to be incontrovertibly proved -- but it's sure fun watching the work pass the tests of both intelligent critics and biased scoffers.
I think it would add more validly if no men in Joseph's time were named Alma and that it was only in the Americas of the Book of Mormon times! It would also be cool to find the name in American Indian history before the Book of Mormon.
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