Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Book of Mormon 9/18

I noticed some anachronisms while reading the BOM I thought I'd mention. I think anachronisms are one of the strongest evidences against the BOM.

There are several references to synagogues in the new promised land. Keep in mind that Lehi and his people left the land of Jerusalem before the Babylonian exile. Synagogues were an innovation of post-exilic Judaism, so Lehi's people shouldn't have known about them. Yet Alma 16:13 says, "And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews." Joseph Smith would've known about them, but not Lehi's descendants.

Alma 46:13-15 says all the true believers in Christ who belonged to the church of God were called "Christians" by those who did not belong to the church. That is either an interesting coincidence or it is an anachronism. It's only an accident of history that Christians were called Christians, since according to Acts 11:26, "the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch," presumably by nonbelievers. But it's curious that these people in Alma were being called Christians even before Christ came.

Alma 47:7 makes reference to somebody named "Antipas," which is a Greek name. The Greeks didn't influence the Jews until well after the Babylonian exile.

3 Nephi 2:12 talks about the Lamanites fighting for "their rights, and the privileges of their church and of their worship, and their freedom and their liberty." That sounded like a very American thing to say. At the very least, you'd think the author had been influenced by certain enlightenment ideals.

In 3 Nephi 9:18, Jesus calls himself the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." Alpha and omega would've meant a lot to a Greek speaking audience since they are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, but I don't know what they would've meant to ancient Hebrews who would not have known Greek. The only thing I could figure is maybe the gold plates had the first and last letters of the reformed Egyptian they were written in. Maybe they were translated as alpha and omega since that would've been more familiar to the readers than the 'a' and the 'z.' If so, then reformed Egyptian would have to have been a phonetic script quite unlike Egyptian.

In 3 Nephi 27:3ff, Jesus' disciples asked Jesus what they should call the Church. That struck me as anachronistic since people didn't seem to worry about naming churches until the protestant reformation. Even "Catholic Church" wasn't a proper name so much as a description. "Catholic" means "universal." Of course the issue of naming churches would've made perfectly good sense to somebody like Joseph Smith who was familiar with the Methodist church and the Presbyterian church, but I don't know if it would've made much sense to the disciples of Jesus who were founding the only church there was!

In 2 Nephi 24:29,31, it refers to the land of Israel as "Palestina." Although "Palestine" is derived from the word for "Philistine," the land of Israel was never called "Palestine" until after the Bar Kochba rebellion in the second century. The Romans are the ones who gave it that name. I was curious why the BOM would say "Palestina" instead of "Palestine." According to Wikipedia, the Latin word for Palestine is Palaestina.

I already mentioned the horses, elephants, steel, and all that. Even Ether 7:9 mentions steel swords. The interesting thing about that is that Ether is a record of the Jaradites who migrated to America after the tower of Babel incident, thousands of years before Lehi and his family. They had all died off long before Lehi got to America, but they left their records.

Part 10

6 Comments:

At 6/24/2009 10:36 PM , Blogger Paul said...

The "steel" thing seems troubling, especially since this is an advanced technology which we have no reason to believe they would have. The KJV uses "steel" in a few places, but it appears to be a mistranslation of copper and/or bronze (the same word is translated as such in other passages).

However, in the BoM we see "steel" included in an enumerated list that includes the other materials that it might otherwise be said to be a poor translation for (2 Ne. 5: 5, Jarom 1:8).

For example, 2 Nephi 5:15 says, "And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance."

 
At 6/24/2009 10:46 PM , Blogger Sam said...

The other thing about steel is that it's more durable than other artifacts and ought to have survived in the archaeological records.

Lemme ask you a hypothetical question, Paul. Suppose that a non-Mormon archaeologist found an ancient steel sword in the Yucatan Peninsula or somewhere in central America, and he published an article about it an academic journal, saying it dated back about 2000 years. Say it survived peer review, and everybody thought it was an amazing discovery. Would that have any influence on your views about the BOM?

 
At 6/25/2009 12:15 PM , Blogger Paul said...

First, we're talking about 2500 years ago according to the BoM.

It is hard enough to find even iron artifacts in the New World (I don't think it experienced an "iron age," and I think they even came up short on the other ages as well), so something as large as a steel sword would indeed give me pause. However, it does not validate the BoM; this could still be coincidental.

Even though steel is the result of a more sophisticated smelting process, something approaching modern steel could still be achieved with luck or tedious labor in ancient times (and there is some evidence of crude production of it in India and the Middle East). I suppose there could be some pocket of the New World that experimented with iron and managed to produce some limited "steel" artifacts. Also, meteoric iron sometimes qualifies as steel and we might find some interesting things forged out of this. But it would be astounding to find evidence of well crafted, large, high-volume steel artifacts in this part of the world — maybe a tool or knife at best — but this is what the BoM suggests we ought to be able to find.

 
At 6/25/2009 6:42 PM , Blogger Sam said...

First, we're talking about 2500 years ago according to the BoM.

Lehi's people came around 2600 years ago, but the history of the BOM ends around 1600 years ago.

As for me, it would definitely be an interesting find, but I don't think it would convince me of the BOM either, just because there are so many other problems with the book. I would think some other theory besides the reliability of the BOM would better explain how a steel sword got in America at such an early date. But if more and more artifacts started showing up that kept confirming specific things in the BOM, I could be persuaded that it really is a translation of an ancient American document. That would still not cause me to become a Mormon, though, because (1) according to Deuteronomy 13, it is possible for false prophets to perform signs and wonders, (2) there is reason to believe Joseph Smith was a false prophet besides the BOM, (3) some of the BOM appears to contradict what is revealed in the Bible, and (4) some LDS doctrines appear to contradict what's written in the BOM.

 
At 9/10/2009 1:49 PM , Blogger Tyson said...

Have you seen this section at the FAIR website?

http://www.fairlds.org/apol/ai156.html

 
At 9/10/2009 4:36 PM , Blogger Sam said...

I haven't read all the articles, but yes, I have seen that.

 

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