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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Article(s) of the Week: Gardner and Bokovoy Clean House!

I wish to begin a new series here at the blog, which I have called Article(s) of the Week. This new series will begin today and every Sunday (if time and circumstance permits) I wish to post something new. My purpose in doing this is two fold:

1. I wish to share with the reader what I think are some excellent papers on issues surrounding the Book of Mormon

2. I wish to discuss some of themes or ideas presented in the paper(s).

For the inauguration of this new series, I wish to post two essays written by two of my new favorite Book of Mormon scholars; Brant Gardner, Mesoamerican Anthropologist, and David Bokovoy, Biblical/Hebrew scholar. These two essays are reviews of the anti-Mormon video The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon which is a screed produced by Living Hope Ministries. This particular Evangelical anti-Mormon group has also produced another video entitled DNA vs. The Book of Mormon.*

The basic argument of the video runs as follows:

1. Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon claim to be historical texts.
2. The Bible has been proven to be historically trustworthy by archaeology. Therefore, we should accept it as the Word of God.
3. The Book of Mormon has no such archaeological evidence for its behalf, and we therefore should not accept it as the Word of God or historical. 
4. This means that Mormons should therefore abandon Mormonism and convert to fundamentalist Protestantism.

As I watched this video, I was taken aback by the many distortions, misrepresentations and flawed logic that it exhibits. I was further taken aback by the libelous comments of Thomas Murphy against Dan Peterson (at one point in the video he flat out calls Dr. Peterson a liar) and the fact that he and the other participants never really engaged in LDS research on this subject. 

At one point, for example, a prominent Israeli archaeologist commented on how the Book of Mormon has "no authority" at all or does not fit in an ancient Near Eastern background. I was left to wonder if this scholar was familiar with the book Glimpses of Lehi's Jerusalem edited by J. Welch and D. and J. A. Seely or Lehi in the Desert by H. Nibley. These tomes show powerfully how the Book of Mormon fits nicely in an ancient Near Eastern background.

At another point in the video, a British scholar comments on how the presence of Greek names and words (such as Timothy, Baptism or even Christ) in the Book of Mormon compromises it as an ancient text. However, considering that 1) the presence of Greek names amongst ancient Hebrews from Lehi's time and earlier is well attested** and 2) the Book of Mormon is a translation, which would account for Joseph Smith applying familiar terms such as baptism or Christ to the original word in reformed Egyptian, I was startled that this scholar would claim such. 

One of the major flaws in this video, therefore, is that the scholars interviewed make dogmatic and triumphant judgments without giving any attention to the work of Latter-day Saint scholars. Like the group of Egyptologists gathered by Rev. Spalding in 1912 who blasted the Book of Abraham***, so these scholars make proud and rash assertions without looking at the Latter-day Saint response to such.

There is much more that I could be write on this subject, but I will allow Messers. Bokovoy and Gardner fill in for now. They show the flaws and shortcomings of The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon and why this anti-Mormon propaganda piece fails miserably to take into account the real evidence and the facts. In his review, Gardner demonstrates how this video has failed to handled the data regarding the Book of Mormon and Mesoamerican archaeology/anthropology while Bokovoy, in his review, shows the poor methodology of the video and its claims regarding Biblical archaeology. 

Behind the Mask, Behind the Curtain: Uncovering the Illusion in the FARMS Review (17/2. 2005. 145-195) by Brant Gardner.

The Bible vs. The Book of Mormon: Still Losing the Battle in the FARMS Review (18/1. 2006. 3-19) by David Bokovoy.

* I have addressed some of the claims in this video in my post on DNA and the Book of Mormon.

** Thanks to Robert Boylan for pointing this information out to me.

*** In 1912, Rev. F Spalding sent the 3 facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, along with Joseph Smith's offered translations, to the top Egyptologists of the western world to test the Prophet. These scholars did little more than pass their hasty opinions and judgments on the matter without looking at all the evidence and data. When pressed by Mormon scholars such as B. H. Roberts, John A. Widtsoe and Janne Sjodahl on areas in which they were wanting, these same Egyptologists responded by simply flashing their PhDs and asserting their rank and academic record. In effect, they glibly waved their credentials without doing a complete analysis of the Mormon arguments or all of the evidence. For an excellent overview of this, the reader is recommended Joseph Smith and the Critics and Joseph Smith and the Sources by Hugh Nibley and the original responses to Rev. Spalding by the Latter-day Saint scholars.