I have been mulling over a debate I am having with Dr. Hamblin.
Briefly, he believes that Ancient Book of Mormon Studies (ABMS) is a real academic discipline, and I don’t. He writes, for instance, “Certainly more professional academic research work is done each year on the Book of Mormon, than, say, Old Persian studies. By any objective standard, this is a thriving and independent academic discipline.” I do now have an explanation to my puzzle, namely that he clearly has no idea what an academic discipline actually looks like.
He mentions Old Persian Studies. A few minutes of web searching turned up the following schools where Old Persian can be studied and researched, and where you can obtain an academic qualification in that subject: Harvard, Yale, Chicago, UCLA, UT Austin, Duke, Columbia, and several campuses of the University of California, including Berkeley. This does not include overseas schools such as Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, St. Andrews, SOAS… etc. My list, in other words, scratches the surface.
For comparison, here is a list of schools where Ancient Book of Mormon Studies can be studied and researched, and where you can obtain an academic qualification in that subject. I am including universities, colleges, seminaries, and higher ed institutions of all kinds, including community colleges:
*Cue Sound Effects*: tumbleweeds rolling, crickets chirping, mournful sound of distant harmonica, coyote howling…
Right! There aren’t any.
I can offer a similar contrast between the prestige and reputation of journals in the two respective fields, but it’s pointless. Old Persian Studies is a real academic discipline, ABMS is not. This is not difficult, honestly.
Let me say right away that on the surface, Dr. Hamblin’s statement is seemingly more nuanced, as he says he is talking about academic study of the Book of Mormon, much of which research is indeed credible, reputable and done in excellent academic settings of various kinds. That means studies of the post-1830 period, and the actual history of modern Mormonism, so technically his statement might be correct. But in the context, it is clear that he is talking about the worthless and discredited “Ancient” subset of that topic.
I apologize for using the word “discredited”. It never had any credibility to start with, so it really couldn’t lose it.
Many people might indeed work and publish each year on the ancient contexts of the Book of Mormon. None of that, though, qualifies in any sense as “professional academic research work.”