The name "Alma" in the Book of Mormon

Parent page: Book of Mormon Names

The name Alma has been found on ancient tablets at Ebla

Terrence L. Szink,

Among the texts of Ebla are six separate documents that contain the personal name al6-ma written eight times (on two of the tablets the name occurs twice). Originally there was some uncertainty about the reading of the cuneiform sign al6, but this has been resolved and al6 is now an accepted reading at Ebla. It is not certain whether the transactions recorded at Ebla refer to just one person named Alma, or to several. In one document Alma is identified as a merchant from Mari, a city situated on the river Euphrates. Most likely the name al6-ma at Ebla is used to identify a male, there being few female merchants at Ebla.[1]

Alma appears as a male name in the third millennium BC from the archives a Ebla (located in Syria)

Stephen D. Ricks,

Although the female personal name Alma (from the Latin adjective almus, alma, almum, “nurturing, fostering,”) is popular in the Western tradition of naming, the male personal name Alma is of incontestable antiquity. The name appears at least eight times in documents dating from the late third millennium BC from the archives at Ebla (located in modern-day Syria).[2] It also occurs in the Bar Kokhba letters, dating from the period of the Second Jewish Revolt in AD 132–35.[3] It appears as Alma ben Yehudah (“Alma son of Judah”) in a business document and is written both ʾlmʾ and ʾlmh.[4]

Alma is a proper Old World name

Hugh Nibley,

Far more popular among the Arabs as among the Nephites was the name Alma, which can mean a young man, a coat of mail, a mountain, or a sign.[5]

"Alma ben Yehuda" is an authentic Hebrew name

Matthew Roper,

As can be seen, critics have had a lot of fun with the name Alma, however, in the 1960s Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin discovered a land deed near the Dead Sea dating to the early second century A.D. and rendered the name of a Jew mentioned therein as “Alma ben Yehuda” showing for the first time in modern history that the name Alma was an authentic Hebrew male name. Additional research in Ebla, in what is modern Syria, has also turned up this name showing that it goes back to nearly 2200 B.C. [6]

The name Alma appears on a Jewish document of the early second century AD

John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, and Matthew Roper,

Two of these names have been discussed in previous issues of the Journal. Jeffrey Chadwick demonstrated that Sariah, known in the Book of Mormon as the name of Lehi's wife, appears on one of the papyri written by members of a Jewish community in Elephantine, Egypt, in the fifth century BC and discovered at the turn of the twentieth century, and on several seals and clay bullae (for the meaning of this and other technical terms, see the glossary on page 44) found in Israel that date from the time of Lehi.[7] Paul Hoskisson, following up on previous notes from Hugh Nibley,[8] showed that the name Alma appears on a Jewish document of the early second century AD, also found in Israel.[9] Terrence Szink provided evidence that the name Alma is even older, being attested on clay tablets found at the northwestern Syrian site of Ebla and dating to the second half of the third millennium BC4 A number of other biblical names have been found at Ebla, which is in the region that some scholars consider to be the homeland of the Hebrews.[10]


  1. Terrence L. Szink, "New Light: Further Evidence of a Semitic Alma," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 70–70.
  2. Terrence L. Szink, “The Personal Name ‘Alma’ at Ebla,” Religious Educator 1/1 (2000): 53–56; see also Szink, “New Light: Further Evidence of a Semitic Alma,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 70.
  3. Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Last Jewish Revolt against Imperial Rome (Jerusalem: Steimatzky, 1971), 121.
  4. Stephen D. Ricks, "Some Notes on Book of Mormon Names," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 4 (2013): 155-160.
  5. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), Chapter 6, references silently removed—consult original for citations.
  6. Matthew Roper, "Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon," Proceedings of the 2001 FAIR Conference (August 2001).
  7. Jeffrey R. Chadwick, “Sariah in the Elephantine Papyri,” JBMS 2/2 (1993): 196–200. The name is known from three seals: Nahman Avigad, “New Names on Hebrew Seals,” Eretz-Israel 12 (1975): 69, pl. 14:11; Nahman Avigad, “The Seal of Seraiah (Son of) Neriah,” Eretz-Israel 14 (1978), 86f; Nahman Avigad and Benjamin Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1997), 91; and two bullae: Nahman Avigad, Hebrew Bullae from the Time of Jeremiah (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1986), 46–47, 103–4. A variant spelling, Sryh, is attested on a seal from the eighth or seventh century B.C., probably found in Syria, M. de Vogüé, “Intailles î légendes sémitiques,” Revue Archéologique 17 (1868): 447f. Note that all the names attested in this article can also be found in G. I. Davies, Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions: Corpus and Concordance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  8. Hugh W. Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1989), 281–82. The original notice of the discovery was in Yigael Yadin, Bar Kokhba (New York: Random House, 1971), 176.
  9. Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Alma as a Hebrew Name,” JBMS 7/1 (1998): 72–73. See also the discussion in David K. Geilman, “5/6Hev 44 Bar Kokhba,” in Ancient Scrolls from the Dead Sea, ed. M. Gerald Bradford (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1997), 39. Cited in John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, Matthew Roper, "Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000): 40–51.
  10. John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, Matthew Roper, "Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000): 40–51.