Bill Hamblin: End of Debate?

Bill Hamblin: End of Debate? August 1, 2015

Bill Hamblin is presently not saying much in our continuing debate.

Frankly, I am pretty much done with the whole thing, and plan to end my contributions to the exchanges, unless he specifically makes any statements demanding a direct response. For me, the whole Book of Mormon thing is about historical methodology, rather than that Book itself, and I’ve made all the points I wanted to. Anything I said from now on about the Book of Mormon would be repeating myself, so why do it? Anyone who’s interested can check out the online record. Much like when we started, he has his views and I have mine.

Where we go next is very much his call.

It’s been instructive for me in lots of ways, in helping me define questions of my own methodology. So just what is the difference between evidence and proof? I know the answer well enough, but it’s interesting framing it. And just what is empirical scholarship? I have learned quite a bit about Meso-American history in the process, not to mention Mormonism.

We have both said some quite harsh-sounding things, but always aimed at each other’s ideas, rather than personalities. His words about me, for instance: “It is hard to imagine a more toxic combination of utter ignorance, arrogance and contempt in scholarship.” Ouch! And I have responded in kind. But it’s good having people who are both experienced academics free to discuss ideas in a robust and adult way. Professional speaks to professional, and we learn in forthright debate. Non-academics tend not to understand those exchanges, seeing them as way more personal or even malicious than they are. Hamblin has his sense of humor in debate, I have mine.

In one way, Hamblin is much smarter than me. No, really. He has a capacity that I don’t to set aside blogs and the Internet awhile in order to focus on other things in the real world. Enviable, and I should learn from him. He’s still wrong on other stuff, though.

One thing that did bother me was when one commentator suggested that I and other Ancient Book of Mormon critics were trying to make Hamblin look like “some clumsy idiot,” an unscholarly crank. That’s ironic given the number of times I have repeated just what a good, professional, scholar the guy is, in his main field of ancient Middle East history. To take one example, the Jerusalem book he co-wrote is really valuable, and I’m using it a lot. Clumsy idiot? Crank? Never my words, nor my meaning.

Oh, and the other thing: never once was I criticizing Mormons, rather than “Ancient Book of Mormon Studies” folks. Big difference!

I am hoping to become extremely wealthy as a result of these exchanges. I assume the LDS Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, will want to use all my materials in their future classes in apologetics. I will only request a small royalty, but the volume of traffic will be significant. Maybe they should have me come and lecture?

Lord, but I love walking Rock Canyon.


I have collected links to all the contributions in this debate – both Bill Hamblin’s and mine – at one convenient web page. They are quite numerous!





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  • Josh Smith

    Dr. Jenkins,

    I’ve really enjoyed these exchanges between Dr. Hamblin and yourself. You offer a valuable perspective on LDS apologetics, and broadly on LDS thought, as a scholar who is knowledgeable about history and religion. Your comments made me think more deeply about history and methodology. I can’t speak for others, but at very least you got people thinking and talking about issues they would not normally consider.

    Hopefully current members of the LDS church got as much out of the exchanges as I did as an exmormon.



  • philipjenkins

    Much appreciated!

  • Jeremiah Wolfenstasi

    I was really hoping that Professor Hamblin would answer the Tower of Babel question. That would have really been the icing on the cake in this debate. I guess I knew he wouldn’t but one can only hope.

  • paul

    The LDS scholarly class – Miller, Bokovoy, Givens, Green, et al – are busy staking out symbolic interpretations for the Book of Mormon, and the blogs Times & Seasons and By Common Consent are alive with their somewhat-less-than-historical perspectives. This is interesting given such scholarship’s traditionally poor reputation & reception within the faith, where for so long anything other than compete acceptance of the literal BoM story was absolutely heretical. Such scholars have (also) traditionally been shunned and excommunicated, and it is indicative of the current desperate situation that these thinkers have been not only accepted but encouraged. The Mormon Church has proven to be a flexible and adaptive survivor among American religions, but the inevitable downgrading of BoM and Book of Abraham to something along the lines of inspired fiction will have long-lasting ramifications. I’m guessing that the Authorities are counting on the rank&file not really giving a hoot one way or the other, it is “culture” above all anyway – – but that’s a dangerous assumption as the Information Age is just really getting underway.

  • philipjenkins

    It will be interesting to watch this develop!