Alfred L. Bush discusses "brass" in the KJV to translate Hebrew nechosheth (copper); concludes that the Book of Mormon follows the KJV in translating this term as "brass," too.

Alfred L. Bush

Alfred L. Bush, “The Metal of These Scrolls, and Biblical ‘Brass’,” in Progress in Archaeology: An Anthology, ed. Ross T. Christensen (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1963), 44-45

Brigham Young University
Alfred L. Bush
Reading Public

A Question for the Editor. Sir: I have heard the bronze scrolls found in Cave 3 at Qumran referred to as “brass” scrolls and a comparison made with the Brass Plates of the Book of Mormon. Would you explain the biblical use of the word “brass”? Does this refer to the metal which we call brass today?—B.P.H.

Answer. “Brass” is derived originally from the Old English word braes. By idle English times it had come to refer to any type of hardness or imperishability. By 1617 its meaning had been restricted to any alloy of which the primary metallic substance was copper. It is, then, in this sense that the translators of the King James intended that it be understood. In more modern times, of course, “brass” has come to mean the yellow-colored alloy of copper and zinc usually containing about one part in three of zinc. “Bronze,” derived from the Italian word for brass, is now used to distinguish the ancient alloy of copper and tin.

The Hebrew word nechosheth, translated in 1617 as “brass,” in reality signifies copper or bronze and is properly so translated today. Thus, the bronze scrolls discovered in one of the Dead Sea saves, which excited so much speculation by their mention of ancient buried treasure, may quite properly be called “brass” scrolls, using King James English. I believe we may assume that it was in this sense that Joseph smith used the word in translating the Book of Mormon.—A.L.B.

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