Biblical Texts and Historicity

There's been quite a lot of concern reflected in comments in discussions here and elsewhere about whether the Old Testament contains reliable history, so I thought I would link to a valuable recent treatment of the issue by biblical scholar Marc Brettler in Thinking, Recording, and Writing History in the Ancient World (ed. Raaflaub; 2014), where an up-to-date bibliography can also be found:"No direct evidence explains why Israelites told and wrote history. No ancient Near Eastern historical t … [Read more...]

The Anthon Transcript: Fulfillment of Prophecy, Reformed Egyptian, and the Evolution of a Story, Part III

The Evolution of a Story  (See Part I and Part II) In Part I I discussed Joseph Smith's reinterpretation of Isaiah 29 and the insertion of this reinterpretation into the prophetic narrative of 2 Nephi 27 and in Part II I identified Smith as the ultimate author and creator of the various transcripts of Book of Mormon Reformed Egyptian. A final element that has powerfully shaped the traditional understanding of the Anthon story is Smith’s official 1838 account itself. According to th … [Read more...]

The Anthon Transcript: Fulfillment of Prophecy, Reformed Egyptian, and the Evolution of a Story, Part II

 Reformed Egyptian  (See Part I here) More problematic in terms of the credibility of Joseph Smith is the evidence of what is commonly known as the “Anthon Transcript,” an alleged transcription of characters taken from the plates of the Book of Mormon housed in the Community of Christ archives. The importance of this document for evaluating Joseph Smith’s claim to have translated an ancient Reformed Egyptian text can hardly be exaggerated. All indications are that the curiou … [Read more...]

The Anthon Transcript: Fulfillment of Prophecy, Reformed Egyptian, and the Evolution of a Story, Part I

Like other Mormons, I grew up learning about Martin Harris’s famous visit with Professor Charles Anthon as a pivotal moment in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. According to the traditional narrative (which is really a conflation of several distinct narratives, including Joseph Smith’s 1838 history read in the context of 2 Nephi chapter 27), Harris went to visit several scholars in the cities of the East for the purpose of authenticating Joseph Smith’s transcription and translation of chara … [Read more...]

The Future of Mormonism

As has frequently been noted by a variety of commentators, modern Mormonism seems to be entering what will be a very difficult cultural transition during the 21 century, where one of the defining issues will be whether the church will allow for greater cultural, social, and intellectual diversity among its ranks and still be able to maintain a sense of traditional communal identity or whether conservative forces will enact further retrenchment, thus leading to greater social fragmentation and … [Read more...]

Prolegomena to a Reconstruction of the Literary History of 1 Sam 1:1-4:1a: The Main Problems and Issues

[This is the beginning of a longer study about 1 Sam 1:1-4:1a that I'm still working on. Interested in comments, criticisms, or questions. I apologize about the formatting and other vagaries of the presentation resulting from copying and pasting from an original Word document.]From the rise of critical study of the Hebrew Bible, the Samuel narrative has long been a focus of literary and historical investigation. Spurred on by its unforgettable prose stories and the widespread assumption that … [Read more...]

Who’s the Prophet Here?

There are many different views about the validity and effectiveness of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women's campaign to seek redress for long-held institutional sexism, and I think it will take us a long time yet to fully understand what really happened this week as many people stopped to reflect more deeply about the state and future of Mormonism and whether that Mormonism is something they recognize or even want to belong to.But for the moment, I just wanted to note the irony from a sociological … [Read more...]

The Book of Mormon as Myth and More on the Name Alma

So to begin with I wanted to clarify my attitude about the BoM and why I write so much on the topic of its historicity. Because I don’t want to be seen simply as a critic or be pigeonholed along with tendentious anti-BoM ideologues. I actually see a great amount of value in the BoM and respect it as a work of early 19th century mythopoesis of unrivaled scope and complexity. The BoM recounts a rich and compelling narrative, articulates many useful moral principles (though these should be examined … [Read more...]


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