Alma 2:4: "[Amlici] being a wicked man, would deprive them of their rights ..."
The last word in this phrase caught my attention. This is not its first appearance in the Book of Mormon. But it appears nowhere in the Bible, not even in the form of any possible synonyms such as claims or privileges.
I am no student of political science. It would be interesting to learn from such a person whether the concept of "rights" appears in the writings of philosophers pre-Declaration of Independence or even pre-Enlightenment. Under monarchies of the ancient world, did people speak of their rights?
In other words, can we defend this odd word purporting to derive from a first century B.C. expatriate Hebrew culture, or is it simply an anachronism deriving from the milieu of Joseph Smith's 19th century American environment?
Some scholars today give the Native Americans, such as the Iroquoi Confederation, significant credit for inspiring the democratic ideas that led to the American independence movement. By the first century B.C., the Lehites of the Book of Mormon had been in the New World around 500 years, completely cut off from the various kingships, tyrannies and empires of the Old World. Is it plausible that they, like the later English settlers, could have derived primitive democratic ideas from their New World neighbors?
The noun-sense of the English word "rights" as claims or privileges goes back at least as far as Old English, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.