On Names, Culture, and Religion: Three Tests for Historicity

Mormon and Moroni by Joseph Brickey. “There is reason to believe that the story of Israel’s ancestors (Gen. 12–50), though understood in the light of later experiences, reflects to some degree the cultural background of the millennium starting with Hammurabi’s reign (second millennium B.C.E.).” So states Bernhard W. Anderson in his volume Understanding the Old … Read more

A Recent Experience with a Greek Manuscript

Not too long ago, as I was walking along the shores of the Aegean, I stumbled upon a fragmentary papyrus that read thus: οἱ δὲ ἵπποι οἱ ποτάμιοι νομῷ μὲν τῷ Παπρημίτῃ ἱροί εἰσι, τοῖσι δὲ ἄλλοισι Αἰγυπτίοισι οὐκ ἱροί. φύσιν δὲ παρέχονται ἰδέης τοιήνδε· τετράπουν ἐστί, δίχηλον, ὁπλαὶ βοός, σιμόν, λοφιὴν ἔχον ἵππου, χαυλιόδοντας … Read more

Does Helaman 13–16 Plagiarize View of the Hebrews?

A popular, if not highly imaginative, depiction of Samuel the Lamanite preaching to the Nephites. In his “Letter to a CES Director,” Jeremy Runnells claims that the story of Samuel the righteous Lamanite preaching repentance to the apostate Nephites in Helaman 13–16 demonstrates Joseph Smith was guilty of plagiarizing Ethan Smith’s book View of the Hebrews. (On … Read more

Why Were the Plates Necessary?

By the way, there’s really no reason to think Joseph Smith didn’t actually have these in his possession. A question I’ve encountered from time to time is why, if Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon through revelatory means, were the golden plates necessary. Jeremy Runnells, for instance, wonders how this doesn’t make useless “the … Read more

Saved by Charis: A Review of “Relational Grace: The Reciprocal and Binding Covenant of Charis”

Paul Writing His Epistles attr. Valentin de Boulogne (17th century). Paul had a thing or two to say about salvation. The Book of Mormon famously teaches, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it … Read more

A Note on Archaeology

From the archaeologists Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley, in their 1992 volume Re-Constructing Archeology: Theory and Practice. Archaeology, we contend, is an interpretative practice, an active intervention engaging in a critical process of theoretical labor relating the past and present. It is entirely misleading to pose the problem of understanding and explaining the past in … Read more

Why Were the Gold Plates Necessary?

I am now roughly halfway through From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon. It is excellent. I’ve found many nice little nuggets I could blog about. For example, Michael MacKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat note the irony that Joseph Smith’s earliest antagonists (those who knew him the best) were … Read more

Book Notice: “From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon”

The Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University and Deseret Book have co-published a new book titled From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon. I have picked up a copy just today, and have been able to quickly skim through the contents of the book. Co-authored by Michael Hubbard … Read more

William Whiston was a Fraud!

Flavius Josephus, in the opening lines of his autobiography (probably written in the last decade of the 1st century AD), provides his genealogy in an apparent attempt to legitimize himself before his Roman audience. After describing his ancestry, Josephus concludes:   Thus have I set down the genealogy of my family as I have found … Read more

A Follow-Up and Correction

In my post here I stated that I essentially agreed with a comment made by David Bokovoy on the nature of biblical historiography. Biblical authors were not historians, at least not in the modern sense of the term. They were storytellers. Their accounts were certainly sacred, but they were also entertaining, and sometimes even political … Read more