Of Bill Hamblin, History and the Book of Mormon

Of Bill Hamblin, History and the Book of Mormon July 18, 2015

I have been engaged in a debate of sorts with Bill Hamblin on the historicity of the Book of Mormon, over at his blog, Enigmatic Mirror. (For the uninitiated, he is a prominent figure in “Ancient Book of Mormon Studies”). He is a trooper about posting my stuff on his site,  which I appreciate.

Meanwhile, this posting of mine builds on recent debates. I think this present response is important because it gets to the heart of all the discussions we have been having here recently, and to any and all of my requests for concrete, specific evidence. I don’t for a second think his latest comments answer these problems, nor do they even address them directly. I was amused to see how far he is trying to divert the debate from any topic at all that might touch on any embarrassing discussions of the Book of Mormon!

The whole historicity issue necessarily involves issues of methodology. Throughout, Hamblin has grounded himself in what I regard as bizarre assertions that history and archaeology are not empirical disciplines. Following from that, he denies the concept of objective evidence, a phrase he usually (and scornfully) puts in quotes. He does not believe we can speak of objective evidence of the past: we cannot seek it, will not find it, and it is futile to attempt to do so. Although his approach is clearly and heavily post-modern in tone, he rejects that label. Fair enough on that last point, if that is what he thinks, but in that case, where is he coming from?

Reading one latest post, I may have the answer. As I read it, either he does not know the conventional meaning of the word empirical, or else he is using it in an arbitrary and idiosyncratic way that has no relationship to common usage. His view is this: as you cannot experiment on the past, or observe it directly at first hand, therefore neither history or archaeology can be empirical. QED, right? And by the same token, he says, there is no such thing as objective evidence of the past.

But don’t follow what I say on the subject, check it out for yourself. Please read what Hamblin wrote in that post, then look up any number of dictionary definitions of empirical and see if you can find one that meets his usage. In reality – in all standard usage – empirical means primarily using observation, which need not be of the actual first hand events. The word actually comes from a Greek original meaning “From Experience,” ie as opposed to just theorizing. Observation does not necessarily involve experiment, and in most cases, it does not.

In my view, his post indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of historical and archaeological methodologies. No wonder he is getting stuff wrong.

Let me elaborate.

Dr. Hamblin is obviously and undeniably correct in saying that the past does not presently exist. He is also right to say that “our only capacity to interact with the past is inherently indirect. We interact with the Past by studying the evidence left by past people–texts, inscriptions, art, artifacts, monuments, tools, tombs, etc.  We can understand the past only by studying those things, which were made or done in the Past, but which still exist in the present.” No less obviously, “data from the Past needs to be interpreted precisely because the Past no longer exists.” Amen and amen. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

It is flagrantly wrong, though, for him to conclude that “Hence, the study of history is not empirical–that is, we cannot directly observe with our senses or experiment on the Past.  History is a non-empirical discipline.” This is false, and a non-sequitur. From his subsequent remarks in his earlier post, about “This is not objective,” I understand him to take the same wildly incorrect approach to archaeology.

By the way, I think his most recent material about “observing the present in the past” versus observing the past is casuistical hair splitting in the extreme, and would make sense to virtually no historians or archaeologists. Where on earth does he get this stuff from?

Let me define my terms. I am taking these  definitions from general dictionaries, and they seem adequate for the purposes of discussion:

Objective evidence is data that shows or proves that something exists or is true. Objective evidence can be collected by performing observations, measurements, tests, or using other suitable methods.”

Alternatively, objective evidence is “Information based on facts that can be proved through analysis, measurement, observation, and other such means of research.”

“Empirical evidence is information acquired by observation or experimentation. This data is recorded and analyzed by scientists and is a central process as part of the scientific method.”

Empirical means “based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.”

Will he accept those?

True, the past does not currently exist. As he rightly says, though, it has left traces that do – in the form of archaeological remains, documents, inscriptions, pottery, buildings, metalwork, whatever – and those traces, those data, can be subjected to empirical research. They can be observed, collected and analyzed, commonly through quantitative techniques. Any such research is empirical, and that is what archaeologists do every day. Look at any archaeological article in any mainstream journal, and this is what you see. Accompanying that process of observation and data collection are such standard scientific techniques as the formation and testing of hypotheses.

I suppose history need not be empirical in each and every instance, but most of it assuredly is. Any historical study that involves quantification of any kind is of necessity empirical. It means collecting and presenting data in a way that they can be tested and replicated by other scholars. That is empirical study. Other forms of history, using qualitative data, are also empirical.

This is not a matter of opinion, of “Well, Jenkins has his view and his definitions, and I have mine.” I can cite any reputable dictionary or science textbook for these definitions, he can cite none to support his view. Please show me some other scholar asserting that History is a non-empirical discipline?

If you want to see such verification and testing at work in the discipline of History strictly defined, then observe the national scandal involving Michael Bellesisles, who made far-reaching claims about the possession and use of firearms in early American history. His claims, which were heavily quantitative and (apparently) empirical in nature, were examined and debunked by other scholars, and his whole argument was shown to be false. Bellesisles presented what he claimed to be objective evidence, and other scholars showed that it wasn’t. The scientific process worked beautifully.

Obviously, most examples of testing and falsification are nothing like as thoroughgoing and traumatic, and subsequent researchers merely modify and adapt the claims in light of further research. But testing is indeed what they do.

I assume Dr. Hamblin is not arguing that because data need interpretation, therefore they cannot be objective? But equally, when I observe something at first hand, I must necessarily be exercising my interpretive skills to see and understand what is going on around me. Or perhaps he is saying that nothing whatever is objective, whether we see it first hand or not? If so, then we are indeed wandering into the deepest swamps of post-Modernism.

Let me give another example, which does not bear directly on the Book of Mormon. It is by Tim Beach, with several co-authors, and it is entitled “Ancient Maya impacts on the Earth’s surface: An Early Anthropocene analog?” Quaternary Science Reviews 124 (2015): 1-30. I note that one of the co-authors, Richard Terry, is BYU faculty. If Hamblin cannot access the article, I will be happy to send a copy.

This fine article describes how the Maya transformed the landscapes in which they lived, with a major focus on the Classic Maya. “Highlights” of the findings include the following: “The Ancient Maya left a richly variegated landscape of the Early Anthropocene.  …  Ancient erosion truncated soils and buried sinks, leaving golden spikes in strata …. They left positive impacts or landesque capital such in terraces and wetland fields.  … They lived through pluvials and droughts, perhaps exacerbating Late Classic drought. …. They left myriad adaptive features such as reservoirs and useful species still extant.”

I am not qualified to assess the detailed methodologies used here, but the article seems to me thoroughly convincing, indeed revelatory, and it is a significant contribution to the archaeological literature. It also has enormous implications for future historians studying the ancient Maya. The scholars observe the surviving traces of the past in order to reconstruct that past, and they do so richly. They are telling us about how people lived and worked, how they organized themselves, and how they reshaped their world. What could be more fundamental historical questions?

This study is one of a couple of thousand I could offer to show modern scholars using objective evidence, and clearly empirical evidence, to be assessed through empirical techniques in order to form a picture of the past – in this case, the past of more than a millennium ago.

With that in mind, let us return to Hamblin’s statement:

“Hence, the study of history is not empirical–that is, we cannot directly observe with our senses or experiment on the Past.  History is a non-empirical discipline.”

So, does he think the “Ancient Maya impacts on the Earth’s surface” article is empirical or not? If not, why not? Or does he believe the authors constructed a time machine to go and observe the ancient Maya directly at first hand, in 1000AD? Research via TARDIS?

Is he confusing archaeology with ethnography?

To the contrary, then, history and archaeology are indeed empirical disciplines, and can be used to test claims about the past, such as those implied by the Book of Mormon. Claims can and must be made, and then tested.

If it is scholarship, it is neither subjective nor impressionistic. If it is subjective and impressionistic, it is not scholarship. And at no point does a volume of subjective and impressionistic ideas, no matter how abundant, suddenly transmute to become objective fact. The plural of anecdote is not data.

And as I have urged in the past, I am still waiting for Dr. Hamblin to produce the slightest single piece of plausible or credible evidence – yes, that’s objective evidence – to confirm any single story, fact or statement about the New World found in the Book of Mormon. As yet, he has offered nothing that comes close to qualifying.

As to his question about New Testament study, some of that scholarship is empirical, some not. That is in no sense an analogy to the Book of Mormon stuff, where the whole goal has to be to establish, via empirical history and archaeology, whether any of those peoples or societies ever existed. Nobody but nobody doubts that the Jewish world existed in roughly the form described in the New Testament, nor that the Roman Empire existed much as it did. Nobody is publishing breathless articles finally proving that cities like Antioch and Capernaum actually existed, and suggesting that we might someday be able to reconstruct their locations! Or that we might find the names of New Testament figures actually confirmed in external sources! Um, we know all that.

In that context, we are absolutely agreed on the foundations of history. Hence, this is not an analogy worth pursuing. He is raising it only for purposes of obfuscation.

Just on a side-note, Dr. Hamblin has a disciple named Neal Rappleye, who wrote supporting his position. Neal likewise rejected my “objective evidence” argument, but he did so by confusing my stance with the issue of objectivity in research, an utterly different matter. Of course we have to be aware of subjective feelings and ideological prejudices in any kind of research, and that concern is the basis of the school known as post-processual archaeology. But that is totally distinct from the question of whether objective evidence exists as a basis for examination and empirical research. That’s pretty fundamental.

It’s hard to debate any issue when the other side is so confused about basic definitions and terms. Should I really have to explain such critical issues?

But it does raise an interesting thought. If the apologists are so fundamentally in error about core issues of methodology, does that explain why they get into such total absurdities?

 

JUST AS AN UPDATE.

Bill Hamblin has a new post at

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/07/17/hamblin-33-moving-the-goal-posts/

in which he accuses me of not accepting the “evidence” he has offered for the Book of Mormon. Here is my reply:

Oh my. I actually asked for credible and plausible evidence, which did not begin to apply (for instance) to your offerings concerning the alleged entrada of the 370s, the supposed king-name Akish, the homonyms, etc. In each case, I pointed out why your explanations were silly and or groundless, and that you should be embarrassed to proffer such weak evidence.

And let’s look at those shall we?

*You WITHDREW Akish  yourself when you were told that the name could not have sounded like that – yet here it is?

You write,

I asked if a BOM king name appeared in Maya texts would you accept it as “objective evidence.”  You said you would.  I provided the evidence.  You immediately changed the rules and demanded a different type king name.  The fact that the name, date, and royal function of Akish in the BOM matches the name, date and function of U-Kix in the Maya tradition means nothing–mere coincidence.  

Then in the SAME POST you write this,

NOTE:  My friend Mark Wright, a professional Maya scholar and linguist, just informed me that recent phonetic interpretations of the glyph traditionally rendered as “kix/kish” below are now thought to read “kokan.”  If the new interpretation is correct, then this argument is rendered moot.   

ie, it can’t be Akish in the first place. Consistency, anyone? Or mere professorial absent-mindedness?

Even if Mr. Akish had been there, I also explained at length why there is no conceivable way it could be the same one as in the Mayan lists. What on earth are you talking about? Did you even read my thorough demolition of your claim?

*And you freely admitted that your homonyms were all so speculative. – yet here it is? By the way, “Random Choice Homophyny” would be a great name for a progressive rock band.

*I have already trashed the Nahom claim beyond repair. Read my NAHOM FOLLIES piece again, if you like. I’m also writing something new at greater length on this.

In each case, therefore, he presented evidence, which I shot down, needing little time or effort to show why the suggestions were ludicrously weak. That is, I analyzed his evidence, and showed why it was utterly wanting. Yet somehow, he presents this as me cynically “moving goalposts.” That’s an interesting rhetorical technique….

Just to show how thoroughly and specifically I have answered Dr. Hamblin’s alleged evidence on each point, please check out some or all of the following:

http://www.personal.psu.edu/faculty/j/p/jpj1/akish.htm

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/07/17/jenkins-20-its-all-coincidence/

and pretty much anything else from our “debate”. Is that “moving goalposts”? Or rather just picking up garbage littering the field?

So that Rule of One thing is still applying. Good luck.

Oh yes, and he also asks this:

Do you, to be consistent, reject the historicity of Abraham, since he is first mentioned in surviving texts in the Bible a good thousand years after he lived, and there is no contemporary evidence of his existence?  Do you think your colleagues at Baylor are cranky pseudo-scholars if they accept the historicity of Abraham?

The question speaks volumes for your approach. Nothing in the story of Abraham as we have it in Genesis is impossible or implausible, according to what we know of the time and place. Abraham follows a style of life that is very well known from documents and archaeological remains from that period. He comes from a known city, travels to a known kingdom, and mixes with known peoples and tribes in known places and cities. By “known” I mean confirmed from contemporary documentary and archaeological sources. Whether he did exist is another issue, on which scholars will disagree. If they do make that case, they are certainly not cranky pseudo-scholars.

Now compare any of the Book of Mormon characters: Nothing in their story is possible or plausible, according to what we know of the time and place. They follow a style of life that is utterly unknown from New World documents and archaeological remains from that period, and in many crucial respects, contrasts sharply with what we do know. On no occasion do they come from a known city, travel to a known kingdom, or mix with known peoples and tribes in known places and cities. By “known” I mean confirmed from contemporary documentary and archaeological sources. Therefore, people who claim that those peoples did exist are, indeed, to use your phrase, cranky pseudo-scholars.

Let’s be absolutely consistent in applying the same criteria of evidence in both cases, as you rightly insist. And the lesson we learn about the relative historical value of the Bible and the Book of Mormon is that they are, to coin a phrase, apples and oranges.

And while it is not for me to teach you your job, if I was a Book of Mormon apologist, I would be very cautious indeed about even invoking the name of Abraham, because it raises so many intriguing questions about the Book of Abraham, and what that actually suggests about Joseph Smith’s highly – shall we say – individual techniques of translating ancient documents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Who says we are a secular nation? You and atheists? Where did you get that? ..."

Evangelical Silence and Trump: A Reformation ..."
"Personal attack. Once you run out of reason fuel and facts, you engage in personal ..."

Evangelical Silence and Trump: A Reformation ..."
">>>"Read your responses to my comment and see whom is truly the one making 'personal ..."

Evangelical Silence and Trump: A Reformation ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Evangelical
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • MesKalamDug

    He sounds like a difficult person. I am struck by the fact that he seems to think
    “empirical” is some kind of a blessing. I would take the position that “empirical”
    has no technical meaning and whether or not history is empirical is irrelevant.

    We all seem to agree with what is actually happening.

    History (and archeology as a sub-discipline) is experimental in the sense that
    hypotheses are formed, consequences are derived and, if some objective fact
    contradicts a consequence, the hypothesis is rejected. It is theoretically impossible to prove that something did not happen. But “prove” is also a bit elastic. We
    can reduce the likelihood that something happened down to a point where it is
    ridiculous to take it seriously. I think, for example, that the South won the Civil
    War is more likely than that the Mormon History actually happened.

    The Confederate Battle Flag is an objective fact.

  • Blaine Johnson

    I struggle with the homonym arguments. With so many languages at play its not difficult to find convergence. For example, there are some Indian scholars that claim that Buddhist missionaries (theraputta) in Egypt somehow influenced the Jewish Therapeutae sect. Its a big claim and the names do sound very similar. But its more likely that the name Therapeutae came from the Greek word therapeutae, meaning ‘to heal’, as in therapeutic or therapy. It hardly proves that Christianity was influenced by gnostic Indian monks calling themselves theraputta, as some scholars claim.

    NHM is a very interesting point of convergence, because it is in the right place at the right time. But its not a slamdunk. For example, there is a Nahom in the hills of Laos, but that wouldn’t prove the Malay Book of Mormon theory correct. Even adding in the nearby towns of Teinkun (Teancum), Kawmoorah (Cumorah) and Manoron (Moron) on a narrow neck of land in a land full of Ramanites (Lamanites) and Zoramites with a warrior of royal lineage from the west named Maroni (Moroni) wouldn’t convince LDS scholars that the Book of Mormon happened in Burma, as suggested elsewhere.

  • verysoreloser

    “Now compare any of the Book of Mormon characters: Nothing in their story is possible or plausible, according to what we know of the time and place. They follow a style of life that is utterly unknown from New World documents and archaeological remains from that period, and in many crucial respects, contrasts sharply with what we do know.”

    This is obviously an incorrect statement

  • Fred Kratz

    I offered the following comment regarding Dr. Hamblin’s “point two” in “Moving the Goal Posts” on his blog which he deleted. This was my third and last try at getting a comment posted on his blog.

    I’m curious about point two, inscriptional evidence using the references to Mormon 4 and David Stuart’s The Arrival of Strangers. http://www.mesoweb.com/pari/publications/news_archive/25/strangers/strangers.html

    The Arrival of Strangers offers a theory that Teotihuacan peoples influenced the leadership in Tikal, possibly by force; that Siyah K’ak’ may have been responsible in deposing and perhaps killing Tikal’s leader “Jaguar Paw” and that Siyah K’ak’ arrived 378 A.D. with texts saying almost nothing about the circumstances of this event. Dr. Stuart speculates that this event caused the overthrow of Tikal’s reigning dynasty. It says nothing of battles where entire civilizations are destroyed.

    A few points I found interesting:

    According Dr. Sorenson’s model, http://signaturebookslibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/matheny2a.jpg the Land Northward would be in the direction of Teotihuacan. According to Dr. Stuart’s paper: “‘Siyah K’ak’s arrival is from the west, having days earlier arrived (?) at El Peru (El Peru, Stela 15). This may relate to the common use of the “west” glyph in his glyphic name phrase.” If the arrival was from the west, why would this direction be called northward?

    According to Mormon 4, and Dr. Sorenson’s model, the Nephites and Lamanites
    lived in proximity (Land of Desolation/Teancum). Teotihuacan and Tikal are 800 miles apart. Does this imply that Dr. Sorenson’s theory of the Book of Mormon civilization is wrong?

    Lastly, if the battles of the last days of the Nephites occurred around 378 A.D., and yet both the Teotihuacan and Tikal people lived beyond this time, one wonders just how Mormon 4 and the overthrow of Jaguar Paw relate in any way whatsoever?

  • Blaine Johnson

    The Teotihuacan model relies on something called “Nephite North” which you can see on the map legend. I don’t know how it works but somehow west becomes north. I read a comment elsewhere that the model no longer depends on this, but maybe there is a reader that could explain.

    What I don’t understand about the entrada event proposed by Hamblin is how did the Lamanites get above the Nephites? The Lamanites are said to be south of the Land of Zarahemla. This is why the Nephites continually shifted north, to evade attacks. There is a comment in Helaman that mentions that Nephite and Lamanites settlers populated the land northward around 50 BC. Maybe these people are supposed to be Teotihuacan? But the distances do seem extreme. Again, we’d need somebody that understands the Sorenson geography to explain how it works.

  • John Kirk Williams

    Who can argue with such a reasoned response?

  • Steven James Whitmer

    To me this so called “debate” has long ago become pointless because Hamblin can never concede no matter how much logic and evidence Jenkins produces refuting his (Hamblin’s) position. This is simply because Hamblin’s beliefs are based upon faith for which evidence and reason are irrelevant. The fact that Hamblin actually may not recognize this seems to me self delusional.

  • Dr_Doctorstein

    LDS apologetics has been in retreat for some time now. Much of it has been devoted to the attempt to explain away unfortunate facts, in some cases by radically revising some very fundamental and traditional LDS beliefs.

    We are told, for example, that the damning DNA evidence can be explained by assuming that the Nephites/Lamanites were actually a very small addition to a preexisting New World population, so that their Israelite DNA became diluted beyond detection — this despite the fact that the Book of Mormon neglects to mention any of these hordes of preexisting native people,* and that the LDS Church has always told Native Americans (and Polynesians) in their totality that they are the descendants of Lehi, and that Joseph Smith himself located the Book of Mormon people in both the northeastern U.S. and in Mesoamerica.

    In its zeal to save the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, there would appear to be no other LDS belief these apologists will not throw under the bus.

    * Note how the Bible mentions Egyptians, Philistines, Persians, Canaanites, Moabites, Amalekites, etc., etc., etc., while the number of non-Jaredite/Lehite New World peoples named in the Book of Mormon mentions is exactly zero. Clearly the book envisions the New World as uninhabited prior to the Jaredite/Lehite migrations.

  • Darren

    That’s a good point, Blaine. Here’s a 4:00 video describing the Entrada, it even begins with Bill Hamblin speaking. The relevant part for your concern is talked about at he 48 second mark. That Nephites went to a land north of the Nephite lands and the descriptions match those of what we know of Teotihuacan which is in the northen part of Mexico. The Book of Mormon does not claim to there only being Lamanites and Nephites but that those who were not Nephites (made up of serval tribes) were known as Lamanites (also made up of several tribes). The way I see it, there’s nothing prohibiting a joining of forces of what is now known as Teotihuacan and what is known today as Tikal joining forces in order to eradicate the Nephites at what is called the Hill Cumorah. In fact, it is very plausible that “Lamanites” referred to many non Nephite people who already lived in the Americas before Lehi’s pary arrived who joined together against the Nephites. Thus why the Lamanite population sudden raise after Nephi and his followers left Laman and Lemuel. This idea also applies to Nephites just that they did not grow as dramatically.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNcUqmRq9KY

  • Darren

    “According to Mormon 4, and Dr. Sorenson’s model, the Nephites and Lamanites lived in proximity (Land of Desolation/Teancum). Teotihuacan and Tikal are 800 miles apart. Does this imply that Dr. Sorenson’s theory of the Book of Mormon civilization is wrong?

    Lastly, if the battles of the last days of the Nephites occurred around 378 A.D., and yet both the Teotihuacan and Tikal people lived beyond this time, one wonders just how Mormon 4 and the overthrow of Jaguar Paw relate in any way whatsoever?”

    Curious to understand your question. According to the first parapraph I cited, are you doubting the historicity of the final battle for the Nephites being correlated with The Entrada because of the distance of the lands?

    As for the second paragraph, why would the survival of the people of Teotihuacan and Tikal create doubts of the extinction of the Nephite civilization?

  • John Kirk Williams

    I’m going to post this here, as Hamblin will not approve my comments on his blog. He keeps complaining that your standards for evidence are simply personal biases, which of course rule out his evidence without consideration. So, my response:

    Jenkins has repeatedly outlined what historians mean by “credible and plausible evidence.” That you have consistently been unable to provide anything that meets evidentiary standards is no excuse for insisting that Jenkins’s position is subjective and unreasonable.

  • Darren

    “and that Joseph Smith himself located the Book of Mormon people in both the northeastern U.S. and in Mesoamerica.”

    When did he do that?

    ” this despite the fact that the Book of Mormon neglects to mention any of these hordes of preexisting native people,* and that the LDS Church has always told Native Americans (and Polynesians) in their totality that they are the descendants of Lehi”

    The Book of Mormon does not explicitly mention other people living in the Americas that is true but it does not deny their existence neither. In fact Samuel the Lamanite and though I’ll have to double check, Korihor could be used as evidence of “others” in the lands around the Nephites.
    While I do agree there have been declarations by LDS leaders of the totality of American Indian and Polynesian populations as being descendants of Lehi (I’m not so sure of the Polynesians though) the fact of the matter is that the LDS Church has never taken such a position.

    I personally agree with the idea of the Nephites being a small drop in the DNA bucket amongst the American populations.

    Also out of curiosity, what “damning DNA evidence” are your talking about? That there is no Israelite DNA found or that the location and times found are off and not compatible with the Book of Mormon narrative and/or the limited geography model focusing on Mesoamerica?

  • Dr_Doctorstein

    Darren, on Joseph Smith and Mesoamerica, you’ll find some sources here:

    http://www.mormongeography.com/joseph-smith-s-opinion-on-nephite-geography.html.

    Smith referred to eastern Ohio and Illinois as “the plains of
    the Nephites” in an 1834 letter to Emma (see, e.g., Dean C. Jessee’s Personal Writings of Joseph Smith).

    The most obvious conclusion is that Smith believed in the hemispheric geography of the Book of Mormon.

    And are you seriously suggesting that the Nephites were surrounded and outnumbered by all sorts of preexisting native peoples, and yet, in a 500+ page account covering a thousand years, those people are NEVER ONCE explicitly mentioned

    Seriously?

    Also, please let me register my frustration with this statement and others like it:

    “While I do agree there have been declarations by LDS leaders of the totality of American Indian and Polynesian populations as being descendants of Lehi … the fact of the matter is that the LDS Church has never taken such a position.”

    Yes, LDS apologists get a lot of mileage out of the slippage between between official doctrine and actual practice. Nonetheless, in addition to miscellaneous “declarations,” we must remember the accompanying ACTIONS. The “fact of the matter” is that the Church believed so strongly that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the Native Americans” and Polynesians that it not only placed those words at the head of its sacred scripture, it sanctioned home placement programs for Navajos and opened a branch of BYU in Hawaii. For nearly two centuries, its missionaries have explicitly told Native Americans and Polynesians that they were descendants of the Jews. Did anyone at the MTC ever ONCE tell them this might not be true?

    Given the endorsement of these beliefs by no less than Joseph Smith, and given the absence of other peoples in the Book of Mormon, why WOULDN’T the Church believe such things strongly enough to devote so much money and manpower to them?)

    In what meaningful sense, then, can you say the Church has “never taken a position” on this matter? Do actions count for nothing? If I volunteer to fold envelopes for the Hillary Clinton campaign and donate money to it, can I reasonably say I have not “taken a position” on the election, merely because I never explicitly said, “My official position is that I support Clinton”? Do my actions not indicate my position perfectly well?

    Again, given that the Church has backed off on this question (e.g., by changing “principal ancestors of the Indians” to “among the ancestors of the Indians”), how can you say that the DNA evidence was not damning? If that evidence did not give the lie to the earlier statement, the Church would not have changed it.

  • disqus_48fUc8cixk

    Professor Jenkins, it’s disconcerting that Hamblin is posting that you now have agreed that there is evidence for the Book of Mormon:

    “[Jenkins] insists that we provide “credible and plausible” evidence. This is progress of a sort. At least tacitly, he seems to have agreed that there is evidence for the Book of Mormon of a sort.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/07/22/jenkins-22-credible-and-plausible/

    This is not at all how I have read your responses, and if Hamblin allowed comments on his blog entries I would ask him about it there. Since he does not seem to allow comments, I thought I would at least post it here, in case you were unaware of this. In my opinion this is an egregious misstatement of the debate.

    (edited to correct link)

  • philipjenkins

    That is certainly my view as well. I have in fact written asking him to post the following correction about that remark:

    “This is absolutely wrong and incorrect. At no point have I ever suggested that there is any evidence whatever in support for the historicity or historical value of the Book of Mormon. I have never suggested or stated that tacitly, or openly, and it is wrong to suggest that I have. Nor do I understand how you could draw that bizarre conclusion from anything I have written.”

    To give him credit, he is good about posting my comments on his blog.

  • wrapture

    Thank you, Doctor. The excuse that “the Church has never taken a position on (random belief)…”, when the totality of actions by the complete membership and leadership of it confirms and endorses said belief, has always struck me as far too disingenuously structured a statement to not be an obvious lie even to the folks making it.

  • Blaine Johnson

    “The way I see it, there’s nothing prohibiting a joining of forces of what is now known as Teotihuacan and what is known today as Tikal joining forces in order to eradicate the Nephites.”

    Interesting video. So the claim is that the Nephites got in between this historic conflict between Siyah K’ak’ (Teotihuacan) and Jaguar Paw (Tikal)? And then Siyah K’ak’ and Nun Yax Ayin joined forces to destroy the Nephites to open up the trade route? That is a difficult argument to support given the evidence presented.

  • Darren

    Thanks for the link. It caused me to recall my reading a somewhat detailed analysis on Joseph Smith’s reporting found in Times and Seasons regarding place locations. I’ll have to look it up again to see what it said, if anything regarding the definite conclusions Smith made regarding place locations.

    “And are you seriously suggesting that the Nephites were surrounded and outnumbered by all sorts of preexisting native peoples, and yet, in a 500+ page account covering a thousand years, those people are NEVER ONCE explicitly mentioned

    Seriously?”

    Ummm, I wasn’t joking. The narrative of the Book of Mormon is very heavy lineage based. Anything outside that lineage was not recorded on the records we have to day or heavily overseen. Interesting to me is that this seems to have been a Mesoamerican trait; to write history according to you, not anyone else.

    Also what I see is that the Nephites, in the record we have today, made simple generalizations regarding its peoples. There were Nephites and Lamanites as recorded. Occasionally there were parts which spoke of more specific tribes in each nation but overall its peoples were identified as just the two. Also from my understanding is that within Mesoamerica tribes would unite frequently under one strong ruler and identify themselves as part of that nation. We definitely do that today in academics. What we call Mayan is actually a conglomeration of many different peoples who I know, according to academic findings, differed widely in language yet to make things simple, we simply say “Mayans”. In the end, I find the Book of Mormon far more theological than historical meaning its purpose is to bring theology (much more so than the Bible) not history for us today. I fully believe it is historically accurate, not detailed, but accurate. The two nation identification seems to fit along the lines of “Jews and Gentiles”

    “The “fact of the matter” is that the Church believed so strongly that the Lamanites were the “principal ancestors of the Native Americans” and Polynesians that it not only placed those words at the head of its sacred scripture, it sanctioned home placement programs for Navajos and opened a branch of BYU in Hawaii.”

    And don’t forget the group Lamanite Generations. Great performance, you’d like it. The home placement program was under the charge of Spencer W Kimball. My experience, as little as it is, was that overall it was not successful but it did raise the standard of living among those placed in other homes. I served my mission in Recife, Brazil and got to know a Navajo who was taken from his home and placed in an LDs home outside the reservation. There were struggles in that action but he was grateful for the benefits he received not living on the reservation. Overall I’m glad the program ended and I don’t see it happening again.

    Yes, there were missionaries explicitly who’d explicitly told the American Indians they were descendants from the Jews. My understanding is that the Mormon pioneers viewed them as such as well. The Book of Mormon 1981 edition did include that the Lamanites were the primary ancestors of the Indians as that the mainstream thought of the time. but, the fact of the matter is that the Church never endorsed any of the doctrines we are now talking about. It as never part of the official Church beliefs. That does not mean they were not widespread or mainstream, just not official.

    As for actions, of course they speak towards beliefs. Many believed the Lamanites were the primary ancestors of the American Indians (for all we know they very well may be or not), they also believed in the hemispheric model of North and South America being the lands of the Book of Mormon, they also believed that the Nephites use coins for money (that was in a chapter subheading but not found in the text itself. (It was changed when the Church changed the Lamanites being the primary ancestors in the introduction of the Book of Mormon). When many people believe a certain way they’ll act on it. Our behaviors change as our understandings change.

    “how can you say that the DNA evidence was not damning?”

    I still do not see how any DNA evidence has been “damning”. What are characteristics of descendant from Manasseh? (Lehi was not biologically “Jewish” as he was not from the tribe of Judah but Manasseh so, biologically speaking that’s the tribe we need to look at). Who has done testing with the focus on the Book of Mormon people? I stumbled across this criticism by accident and I was lead in direct communication with the people of the God Makers of all folks. It was a quaint experience but I’ve yet to get a response from them as to what an ancient Israelite DNA looks like? As for the overall argument, after DNA testing was done on several Native American Indian corpses (if I remember correctly) and no Jewish DNA was found, critics pounced out that finding as a conclusive result that the Book of Mormon was false. In other words, it was “damning”.

    At first it looked like it may be but when you look into the matter, let me re-ask “who did DNA testing specifically for the Book of Mormon peoples?” Simply put, if no one has, you cannot use this science to “prove” the falsehood of the Book of Mormon. Or “damn” it, if you will. Also, since the initial DNA testing there has been Middle Eastern DNA found. This is known as Haplo Group X. Furthering the findings, Discovery Magazine recently published an article declaring that a “significant minority” of American Indians have middle Eastern DNA. That in and of itself fits the Book of Mormon narrative pristinely. (Though it’s no bull’s eye. More on that in a bit).

    So that’s why I asked you what was “damning” in the DNA evidence regarding the Book of Mormon? That no “Jewish” DNA has been found? If so, Middle Eastern DNA has been found and, as noted earlier Lehi was not “Jewish” biologically speaking and thus neither were the Lamanites (assuming direct lineage from Lehi and not incorporating other peoples within their nation). Now, that being said, time and place of American Indian DNA according to geneticists do not correspond to Book of Mormon times. They date much earlier (even earlier than the Bible). Is that where you declare the DNA information “damning”?

    To conclude ill make a note. Did you assume up until now that there was no middle Eastern DNA found amongst the American Indians? If so, did that not lead you to declare that “fact” as “damning” to the Book of Mormon? Now that you know a little more than before (many people still don’t know the updated DNA discoveries) and change your position accordingly, would that make you “liar”? I certainly would not think of you as one. Thus, “If that evidence did not give the lie to the earlier statement, the Church would not have changed it,” what ‘lie’ are you referring to? The “Indians are descendants of Jews”, “lie”?

  • Darren

    Philip;

    Can you clarify a part of this post?

    “Throughout, Hamblin has grounded himself in what I regard as bizarre assertions that history and archaeology are not empirical disciplines. Following from that, he denies the concept of objective evidence, a phrase he usually (and scornfully) puts in quotes. He does not believe we can speak of objective evidence of the past: we cannot seek it, will not find it, and it is futile to attempt to do so.”

    In “Jenkins 21” I quote:

    For the purposes of argumentation I will broadly accept Jenkins’ definitions, given below. He then claims:

    The key is observation. …

    Exactly. Since we cannot directly observe the past, the study of the past is necessarily non-empirical.

    The past does not currently exist. As you rightly say, though, it has left traces that do – in the form of archaeological remains, documents, inscriptions, whatever – and those traces can be subjected to empirical research. They can be observed, collected and analyzed, commonly through quantitative techniques. Any such research is empirical.

    This is exactly my point. The remains from the past–objects which existed or were made in the past and still exist in the present–can sometimes be studied in some empirical ways, e.g. a pot from an archaeological site can be weighed, measured, etc.

    But that is not empirically studying the past! That is empirically observing the pot in the present. It is not empirically observing the past. It is studying objects from the past that survive empirically in the present. These are two entirely different issues.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/enigmaticmirror/2015/07/17/jenkins-21-the-empirical-past/

    It seems that William Hamblin explicitly agrees with you that history and archeology are “empirical disciplines”. What he is arguing is that you cannot, and he says this explicitly, “directly” observe the past. The only thing you can observe are thing that have survived the past but your observation would naturally be in the present. Where does Hamblin declare that “history and archaeology are not empirical disciplines”?

    Addendum: OK, I see where he said it. My take is that he may be saying that, ‘Hence, the study of history is not empirical–that is, we cannot directly observe with our senses or experiment on the Past. History is a non-empirical discipline,’ as meaning since we cannot observe the past from our senses, we cannot “experience” it directly and thus we use our own biases and knowledge which has been given to us in a way removed or “distanced” from the past to remake the past.

    I honestly do not know enough about History (though it was my college major I’ve never used it in an academic manner) to get draw a solid conclusion here.

  • Darren

    Philip;

    You wrote:

    “And while it is not for me to teach you your job, if I was a Book of Mormon apologist, I would be very cautious indeed about even invoking the name of Abraham, because it raises so many intriguing questions about the Book of Abraham, and what that actually suggests about Joseph Smith’s highly – shall we say – individual techniques of translating ancient documents.”

    Previously you wrote:

    “He comes from a known city, travels to a known kingdom, and mixes with known peoples and tribes in known places and cities.”

    Are you talking about Ur?

  • philipjenkins

    I don’t agree that Hamblin is accepting those empirical ideas. He is framing them in such a way as to deny empirical status for any practical or real world uses of history or archaeology.

    You write, very reasonably, “I honestly do not know enough about History (though it was my college
    major I’ve never used it in an academic manner) to get draw a solid
    conclusion here. ” That’s my problem with Hamblin. He is presenting his eccentric ideas in academic-sounding jargon in a way that makes no sense to professional historians or archaeologists, but he comes off sounding initially convincing – unless you actually know the field!

  • philipjenkins

    Yes, I meant Ur

  • Dr_Doctorstein

    Did the principal ancestors of the American Indians consist of a group of expatriate Israelites who crossed the sea in the 6th century BCE?

    No.

    The DNA evidence rules this out. Sorry, but it does. (BTW, so does the linguistic evidence.) Ergo, the Church changed its position — the position that, regardless of whether you now wish to call it “official,” had been believed in and enunciated by its early prophets and that drove many of its actual policies.

    Why are you obfuscating these simple facts?

    You can make all the arguments you want about why a 1,000-year history would not mention neighboring peoples, but I doubt you’ll get any non-believers to buy them. Even a “lineage-based” history would mention outside groups with which the lineage interacted. A “lineage-based” history of the Jews would not make sense unless it mentioned the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, etc.

    Darren, you’re engaging in a typical kind of LDS apologetics. Faced with evidence that X is not true, you’re inventing scenarios under which, despite the evidence, maybe X still COULD be true (e.g., maybe the Nephites weren’t the principal ancestors of the Indians, or maybe the Book of Abraham translation wasn’t the kind of “translation” the Church thought it was, etc.). Like Bill Hamblin, you’re starting with your conclusion and working backwards to the evidence.

    This might be a good way to preserve a testimony, but it’s not necessarily the most courageous or most honest way to engage the evidence.

  • Dr_Doctorstein

    Well, Darren, looks like we’ll have to tweak the Book of Mormon’s “official” textual apparatus once again, since its title page and Introduction both refer to the Lamanites in their totality as “a remnant of the House of Israel.”

  • Darren

    UPDATED for grammar (though I’m sure it’s still not perfect) and clarification:

    “Did the principal ancestors of the American Indians consist of a group of expatriate Israelites who crossed the sea in the 6th century BCE?

    No.”

    Says who? DNA? Once upon a time “all” Indians were to believed to have descended from those who crossed the Bering Strait. When the DNA criticism against the Boo of Mormon first hit the public waves I remember people pointing to all Indians being of east Asian ancestory. Now there are definite Middle Eastern DNA identifiers. And the view of how the Indians arrived is also changing. Even Micheal Coe, long time Book of Mormon critic, long time critic of trans oceanic travel now accepts the latter view. Growing evidence in DNA, linguistics, and archeaology have made trans oceanic travel a much more plausible idea among academics. How is it you rule out the Book of Mormon authenticity so confidently based on DNA?

    And do not forget the Jaderidites. That was a significant group whose place origin is not precisely known and who thrived in ancient America long before Lehi and his party arrived.

    As for linguistics, that also has played a role in altering what archeologists and historians have long supposed about the time of the first Indian arrival and how many arrived. It is linguistically impossible, just by the sheer number of diverse language families and language dialects, for those tongues to have evolved within the tradtitional time frame and accepted number of differing people arriving in the Americas. In short, linguistics points to a much larger number of diverse peoples arriving in the Americas than what has previously been thought of.

    Linguistics also point to Book of Mormon authenticity. Place names like Heshlon and Jershon and person names like Abish and Mormon with their most likely Semitic origins (a mixter of Hebrew and Egyptian) reiterate the specific text of where these names are found within the book. This emphasizes the authenticity of the Joseph Smith story of the Book of Mormon. It is utterly unlikely Jospeh Smith “made this up”.

    “You can make all the arguments you want about why a 1,000-year history would not mention neighboring people, but I doubt you’ll get any non believes to buy them.”

    My goal is not so much for non believers to buy them as it is to present plausibility. The Bible, for example, mentions Melchizedek once I think in the Old Testament. Yet from that one mentioning and the referencing of him in the New Testament leaves little doubt of his importance. Why mentinon him so little then? Easy, he was not part of Abraham’s lineage and therefore not merited in the eyes of the text’s authors mentioning. Ancient Israel was also invaded by Babylonians, Assyrians, and had problems with the Chaldeans. These are more specified histories of the Bible. The Book of Mormon does make mention of a historical record being made but in the end only a precious little of this record made it to the final record which is what we have today. What we have is a summary of records passed down “from generation to genration”. Details, especially historical details, were deliberately left out to make room for theological events. Also left out is mentioning of other peoples in the Americas. To the Nephites, anyone not Nephite were Lamanite. I think, and is just me, that the Nehites viewed the entirety of the Americas as their land. Not so with the ancient Isrealites. They viewed Isreal as theirs, Syria was Syrians, and Babylon was the Babylonian’s, etc. Though the Nephites had deifinite borders they viewed all the land that they could see as God’s promise to them. Thus they would view any and all inhabitants as possessing God’s land and group everyone in a simplistic way. Israel had no need to do that. Israel was God’s promised land to them. The land of the Caananites. Thus they did not engage in grouping people together other then referring to anyone outside the Lord’s covenant as gentiles. This grouping was theologically based, not historically based. The Book of Mormon, it being primarily a theological record did likewise. Anyone outside the covenant were not part of the covenant people and grouped accordingly.

  • Darren

    This is the first response to you as I don’t think you want to get into this too much as it is tangential.

    The Book of Abraham found within the Pearl of Great Price also declares Abraham as from Ur but in addition to that it was in the land of the Chaldeans and in the “the plains of Olishem”. placing Ur in an area controlled by the Chaldeans would necessitate that the Ur located at the Euphrates is not the Ur of Abraham. This text therefore ran against traditional thought of where Ur is located. It’s been one of the sources of criticism against the Book of Abraham.

    Recent excavations have discovered other Urs in the Old world and one is located in northern Syria which was controlled by the Chaldeans and furthermore, there is a plain known as “Ulisem”. Either this is a plausible archeological hit in favor of the Book of Abraham or yet another coincidence likely to happen due to Joseph Smith’s great ability to create fiction.

    http://fornspollfira.blogspot.com/2013/08/follow-up-on-city-of-abraham.html

  • Darren

    This second post will ask a simple question. you wrote, “Abraham follows a style of life that is very well known from documents and archaeological remains from that period. He comes from a known city, travels to a known kingdom, and mixes with known peoples and tribes in known places and cities. By “known” I mean confirmed from contemporary documentary and archaeological sources.” May we use this same standard for the Book of Mormon based on what we know from the ancient New World?

  • Darren

    I think you grossly missummarized why people think there’s a connection between the entrada and the Nephite final battle.

    They think there’s a connection because a) they occur at the same time and b) both report of a sudden raise in bloody savagery in terms of how wars are fought.

    Here’s a few verses from Mormon to Moroni:

    “18 O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy. Behold, I am but a man, and I have but the strength of a man, and I cannot any longer enforce my commands.

    19 And they have become strong in their perversion; and they are alike brutal, sparing none, neither old nor young; and they delight in everything save that which is good; and the suffering of our women and our children upon all the face of this land doth exceed everything; yea, tongue cannot tell, neither can it be written.

    20 And now, my son, I dwell no longer upon this horrible scene. Behold, thou knowest the wickedness of this people; thou knowest that they are without principle, and past feeling; and their wickedness doth exceed that of the Lamanites.”
    (Moroni 9)

  • Darren

    I just came acorss this article via facebook. Perhaps Mike R. Ash has been reading the ongoing posts in this neck of the woods.

    “Of the approximately half dozen known written language systems in the New World (all of which are located in Mesoamerica), only the Mayan language can be fully read with confidence. Scholars can understand some basic structure of some of the other languages, but they cannot fully understand what the ancients were saying. In other words, there is a problem with deciphering the epigraphic record. According to the experts, “the pronunciation of the actual names of the earliest Maya kings and other name-glyphs from other writing systems is not known with certainty.”3

    For the time period in which the Nephites lived, scholars are aware of only a very limited number of inscriptions from the entire ancient New World that can be read with some degree of certainty. Even with these fragments, however, scholars are still uncertain from these inscriptions just how the ancients pronounced the proper names and place names (toponyms). Four of these readable inscriptions merely give dates or a king’s name–a very limited cultural context. Another five inscriptions contain historical information and proper names–the mention of the cities Tikal and Uaxactun (for which the ancient pronunciation remain uncertain) and five kings from these two cities (whom we know by iconographic symbols and whose ancient pronunciation remains uncertain).4

    With such sparse epigraphic information, how could we possibly recognize, under current conditions, the location of cities we know as Bountiful and Zarahemla, or if the religious rulers were actually named Nephi or Moroni? The critics like to claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, but the truth is that there is scant archaeological data to tell us anything about the names of ancient New World inhabitants or locations–and names are the only means by which we could archaeologically identify whether there were Nephites in ancient America.”

    That said, may we proceed using the same standards you implamented regarding the authenticity of Abraham based on the data available from New World archaeology?

    http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/publications/archaeological-evidence-and-the-book-of-mormon

  • philipjenkins

    Oh my, I have seen this Ur argument before and I find it difficult to believe that anyone would raise it.

    Hmm, let me see.

    Option 1. I can follow the standard interpretation of Ur based on a century or so of highly reputable mainstream scholarship. Looking randomly at bibliographies I have used recently in my writing, I see a few notable contributions to that splendid and impeccable literature, including

    Piotr Michalowski, The correspondence of the kings of Ur (Eisenbrauns, 2011);

    Harriet Crawford, ed., The Sumerian world (Routledge, 2013);
    or

    Nili Samet, The lamentation over the destruction of Ur (Eisenbrauns, 2014).

    I highlight especially the Crawford edited collection, which is superb.

    OBVIOUSLY the Bible is referring to the famous Ur. Why on earth would it do otherwise. If someone says they came from New York, we don’t assume it might be the village of New York, Idaho.

    OR

    Option 2. I can take seriously the wacky fantasies and speculations of Book of Mormon fundamentalists, who cite seriously a text like the Book of Abraham that even honest Mormon scholars admit is a gross forgery. (You do know the story of its “translation,” right?)

    If any of those “Ancient Book of Mormon Fantasies” folks ever put that idea about Ur in a real mainstream journal related to Middle Eastern studies, archaeology or Assyriology, do let me know immediately. They certainly haven’t yet.

    Let me take my time before making my choice….

  • Dr_Doctorstein

    I’d like to respond here to something Darren wrote below, namely that his “goal is not so much for non believers to buy them [pro-Book of Mormon arguments] as it is to present plausibility.”

    I understand this. In fact, I see this as the primary goal of LDS apologetics. It’s not about presenting a persuasive positive case for the Book of Mormon’s ancientness. Rather, it’s about helping believers to “doubt their doubts.” It says to believers, “It might look like there’s a mountain of evidence against the book’s ancientness, but here are some reasons that it might be ancient *in spite of* that evidence.”

    Hence we get arguments like these:

    — No horses in the New World? “Horses” might mean “tapirs.” (Not likely, but I suppose it’s possible.)

    — No Israelite DNA? Well, maybe the Lamanites were not the Indians’ “principal ancestors” but just a small group whose DNA has disappeared into that of the larger population. (Again, not likely, but possible — at least if we throw out a century of LDS belief going all the way back to Joseph Smith.)

    — KJV errors show up in the translation? Well, maybe Joseph those errors weren’t in the original text; maybe Joseph recognized when the original was quoting the Bible, and at those points he simply set the plates aside and cribbed from the family Bible to save time. Or maybe they aren’t really errors at all; maybe those Bibe scholars are wrong about that. Again, not likely, but I suppose it’s just barely possible.

    Etc. In spite of the extreme unlikelihood that in each of these cases the least likely scenario turns out to be the correct one, again and again and again, I suppose the Book of Mormon might be ancient. Odds are pretty slim, but hey — anything to protect one’s testimony from the corrosive acid of modernity, right?

    Anyway, the point is that, as Darren seems to have admitted, these sorts of things do not amount to evidence *for* the Book of Mormon. They’re reasons it *might* be true in spite of the evidence against it. Imagine a conversation like this:

    CRACKPOT: I know there’s a teapot orbiting Alpha Centauri.

    ASTRONOMER: Oh, really? I see no reason to believe that. It seems false on its face, and I’m certainly not aware of any evidence of it.

    C: Well, try to follow my logic here. We usually detect exosolar planets by their gravitational effects on a star, or by the the way they dim the star’s light during transits, right?

    A: Yes, that’s true.

    C: And would you also agree that in the case of a Centaurian teapot these effects would be extremely small?

    A: Yes.

    C: And do we possess any telescopes with enough resolution to detect such effects at a distance of 4.37 light years?

    A: No, we certainly don’t.

    C: Is it not also true that astronomers have turned out to be wrong about stuff in the past?

    A: Yes, that’s true.

    C: Well then, given these indisputable facts, it seems mighty arrogant of you to sit there and tell me categorically that there’s no teapot orbiting Alpha Centauri. This is typical of the narrowness of the modern secular worldview that blah blah blah….

    Anyway, if I may return to the question that sparked this whole Hamblin-Jenkins debate, this sort of reasoning might suffice for LDS apologetics, it cannot be the basis of an academic discipline. There’s no more an academic discipline of Ancient Book of Mormon Studies than of Centaurian Teapotology.

  • philipjenkins

    Hah, you can’t reject that hypothesis until you have read the catalogs of every teapot manufacturer on the planet.

    Oh, and can you please give it its correct name of Ancient Book of Mormon Fantasies? “Studies” implies something academic, serious, or vaguely worthwhile. They wish.

  • Dr_Doctorstein

    Heh.

    [EDIT: Oops. Having now read “Nahom Part Deux,” I see you’ve already got this covered.] Hamblin himself seems not to have read some of the relevant apologetics. In one of his comments to your “Myth of ‘Therefore,'” he professes ignorance of early 19th-century maps with the name “Nahom.” But surely he must be familiar with “The Nahom Maps,” by James Gee, which details the existence of several late-18th-century maps featuring “Nahom” or “Nehem” or “Nehhm.”

    Of course, Gee thinks these maps validate the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, whereas critics say they might have been a mundane source used by Joseph in writing the book himself. (It seems more likely to me that Joseph simply cribbed “Nahom” from the biblical book of the same name, and that the correspondence to the Yemeni “Nehem” is a coincidence.)

    Here’s the abstract to Gee’s article:

    “Several maps from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries support details of Lehi’s journey as recorded in the Book of Mormon. In 1751, the renowned cartographer Jean Baptiste Bourguignon D’Anville became the first to include Nahom (or Nehem), Ishmael’s burial place in the Book of Mormon, in his map of Asia. This map and a 1771 map of Yemen are the basis for most accurate maps of Arabia from 1751 to 1814….”

  • Blaine Johnson

    Homophony arguments based on place names are too weak. Out of curiosity, I made a table of modern city names that exactly match the spelling of 85 Book of Mormon city names. Results are sorted by country:

    Book of Mormon City Names Matching Modern City Names

    It was done quickly so if anyone wants to test it for accuracy I used this list of Book of Mormon place names and this database of world city names. The first column includes common Biblical names also found in the Book of Mormon (eg. Jerusalem, Judea, Noah), while the second column only includes unique Book of Mormon place names not found in the Bible. City names without matches were dropped from the list.

  • philipjenkins

    The astronomical teapot analogy is so good because it explains exactly my point about the burden of proof. I can’t disprove the Mystic Teapot. Believers have to prove it. The point seems obvious to me.

  • Obese

    I’d love to see the same transparency on this side….

  • “The Book of Mormon 1981 edition did include that the Lamanites were the primary ancestors of the Indians as that the mainstream thought of the time. but, the fact of the matter is that the Church never endorsed any of the doctrines we are now talking about.”

    If the words published in the LDS church’s own publications, especially their holy book, essentially stating a belief as fact cannot be considered an “endorsement of doctrine,” what on earth can?