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Adamic language

The Adamic language is, according to Jews (as recorded in the midrashim) and some Christians, the language spoken by Adam (and possibly Eve) in the Garden of Eden. It is variously interpreted as either the language used by God to address Adam (the divine language), or the language invented by Adam with which he named all things (including Eve), as in Genesis 2:19.


  • Medieval 1
  • Early Modern 2
  • Modern 3
    • Latter Day Saint movement 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6


Traditional Jewish exegesis such as Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 38) says that Adam spoke Hebrew because the names he gives Eve – "Isha" (Book of Genesis 2:23) and "Chava" (Genesis 3:20) – only make sense in Hebrew. By contrast, Kabbalism assumed an "eternal Torah" which was not identical to the Torah written in Hebrew. Thus, Abulafia in the 13th century assumed that the language spoken in Paradise had been different from Hebrew, and rejected the claim then current also among Christian authors, that a child left unexposed to linguistic stimulus would automatically begin to speak in Hebrew.[1]

Eco (1993) notes that Genesis is ambiguous on whether the language of Adam was preserved by Adam's descendants until the confusion of tongues (Genesis 11:1–9), or if it began to evolve naturally even before Babel (Genesis 10:5).[2]

Dante addresses the topic in his De Vulgari Eloquentia. He argues that the Adamic language is of divine origin and therefore unchangeable.[3] He also notes that according to Genesis, the first speech act is due to Eve, addressing the serpent, and not to Adam.[4]

In his Divina Commedia, however, Dante changes his view to another that treats the Adamic language as the product of Adam.[5] This had the consequence that it could not any longer be regarded immutable, and hence Hebrew could not be regarded as identical with the language of Paradise. Dante concludes (Paradiso XXVI) that Hebrew is a derivative of the language of Adam. In particular, the chief Hebrew name for God in scholastic tradition, El, must be derived of a different Adamic name for God, which Dante gives as I.[6]

Early Modern

Elizabethan scholar John Dee makes references to an occult or angelic language recorded in his private journals and those of spirit medium Edward Kelley. Dee's journals did not describe the language as "Enochian", instead preferring "Angelical", the "Celestial Speech", the "Language of Angels", the "First Language of God-Christ", the "Holy Language", or "Adamical" because, according to Dee's Angels, it was used by Adam in Paradise to name all things. The language was later dubbed Enochian, due to Dee's assertion that the Biblical Patriarch Enoch had been the last human (before Dee and Kelley) to know the language.


Latter Day Saint movement

Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, in his revision of the Bible, declared the Adamic language to have been "pure and undefiled".[7] Some Latter Day Saints believe it to be the language of God.[8] Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, was commonplace in the early years of the LDS Church, and it was commonly believed that the incomprehensible language spoken during these incidents was the language of Adam though this belief seems to have never been formally or officially adopted.[9]

Some other early Latter Day Saint leaders, including Brigham Young,[10] Orson Pratt,[11] and Elizabeth Ann Whitney,[12] claimed to have received several words in the Adamic language by revelation. Some Latter Day Saints believe that the Adamic language is the "pure language" spoken of by Zephaniah[13] and that it will be restored as the universal language of humankind at the end of the world.[14][15][16]

Apostle Orson Pratt declared that "Ahman", part of the name of the settlement "Adam-ondi-Ahman" in Daviess County, Missouri, was the name of God in the Adamic language.[11] An 1832 handwritten page from the Joseph Smith Papers, titled "A Sample of the Pure Language", and reportedly dictated by Smith to "Br. Johnson", asserts that the name of God is Awmen.[17]

The Latter Day Saint endowment prayer circle once included use of the words "Pay Lay Ale".[18] These untranslated words are no longer used in temple ordinances and have been replaced by an English version, "O God, hear the words of my mouth".[19] Some believe that the "Pay Lay Ale" sentence is derived from the Hebrew phrase "pe le-El", פה לאל "mouth to God".[19]

Other words thought by some Latter Day Saints to derive from the Adamic language include deseret ("honey bee"), see Ether 2:3 and Ahman ("God") see Doctrine and Covenants 78:20

The Book of Moses refers to "a book of remembrance" written in the language of Adam.[20]

See also


  1. ^ Eco (1993), p. 32 f.
  2. ^ Eco (1993), 7–10.
  3. ^ Mazzocco, p. 159
  4. ^ mulierem invenitur ante omnes fuisse locutam. Eco (1993), p. 50.
  5. ^ Mazzocco, p. 170
  6. ^ Paradiso 26.133f.; Mazzocco, p. 178f.
  7. ^ Book of Moses 6:6.
  8. ^ John S. Robertson, "Adamic Language", in Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan) 1:18–19.
  9. ^ Copeland, Lee. "Speaking in Tongues in the Restoration Churches", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol 24, No. 1
  10. ^ Brigham Young, "History of Brigham Young", Millennial Star, vol. 25, no. 28, p. 439 (1863-07-11), cited in History of the Church 1:297, footnote (Young prays in the Adamic tongue).
  11. ^ a b Journal of Discourses :3422 (God = "Ahman"; Son of God = "Son Ahman"; Men = "Sons Ahman"; Angel = "Anglo-man").
  12. ^ Woman's Exponent :837 (1 November 1878) (Whitney sings a hymn in the Adamic tongue).
  13. ^ Zephaniah 3:9
  14. ^ Oliver Cowdery, "The Prophecy of Zephaniah", Evening and Morning Star, vol. 2, no. 18, p. 142 (March 1834).
  15. ^ Bruce R. McConkie (1966, 2d ed.). Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) p. 19.
  16. ^ Ezra Taft Benson (1988). Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft) p. 93.
  17. ^ "Sample of the Pure Language" ca. March 1832
  18. ^ Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, The Mormon Murders (New York: St. Martins's Press, 1988) ISBN 0-312-93410-6, p. 69. "the sign of the Second Token [is] raising both hands and then lowering them while repeating the incantation "Pay Lay Ale" three times"
  19. ^ a b "Current Mormon Temple Ceremony Now Available", Salt Lake City Messenger, no. 76, November 1990.
  20. ^ Moses 6:5, 46.


  • Allison P. Coudert (ed.), The Language of Adam = Die Sprache Adams, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999.
  • Angelo Mazzocco, Linguistic Theories in Dante and the Humanists, ISBN 90-04-09250-1 (chapter 9: "Dante's Reappraisal of the Adamic language", 159–181).
  • Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language (1993).
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