Alma 1:1 Textual Variants

Royal Skousen
The account of Alma who was the son of Alma [ 1ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOQR|, PST] the first [ 1PST|, ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOQR] and chief judge over the people of Nephi and also the high priest over the church

The 1830 compositor set a comma after the phrase the first but none before it, as if this phrase was being used to distinguish between the son (Alma the second) and the father (Alma the first). Such usage is found nowhere else in the text. Nor do we find such usage as “Alma the older (or elder)” versus “Alma the younger”. As discussed under Mosiah 29:42, the original text had three occurrences of “Alma … the first and chief judge”. In this phraseology, first modifies the following judge rather than the preceding Alma.

The 1908 RLDS edition moved the comma from after the first to before it, thus correctly interpreting “the first and chief judge” as a conjunctive noun phrase. The 1981 LDS edition made the same punctuation change in the LDS text.

Summary: The placement of the comma between Alma and the first in the current LDS and RLDS editions (but no comma after the first) correctly combines first and chief judge into a single conjunctive phrase; usage elsewhere in the text supports this reading.

Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, Part. 3