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Nephite History in Context 4: The Iron Dagger of King Tutankhamun

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth contribution to my new series Nephite History in Context: Artifacts, Inscriptions, and Texts Relevant to the Book of Mormon. Check out the really cool (and official, citable) PDF version here. To learn more about this series, read the introduction here. To find other posts in the series, see here.
The Iron Dagger of King Tutankhamun
Background
The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 was a worldwide sensation, and to this day is widely regarded as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all-time due to the veritable treasure trove of artifacts found inside. The treasure was so great that to this day many of the items have yet to be studied. Likewise, Tutankhamun (ca. 1336–1327 bc) remains the best-known Pharaoh of Egypt in popular culture today, but details about his actual reign and accomplishments are still generally unknown among the public. Some are aware that he ascended to the throne as a mere child, about 8 years old, but few r…
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REVIEWING THE REVIEW: VOL. 7, ISS. 1 (1995)

Overview
It’s been a while since I did one of these. And, to tell the truth, this one was practically all written back in 2015, which is also when I actually read this issue. I just never got around to writing the “Overview” and the “Final Thoughts,” and so this post languished unpublished. But today, I had to track a quote down in an old FARMS Review and it reminded me of how much I genuinely enjoyed it and miss it. I know that these days it’s really not very cool to in the Mormon Studies crowd to actually like anything the old FARMS crowd did—especially the FARMS Review—but the truth is they were a lot of fun and engaging to read. And while they were certainly polemical at times—which is not inherently a bad thing, in my view—they were not nearly as mean and nasty and they are frequently made out to be. (And I am willing to wager I’ve actually read a lot more of their stuff than most people who complain about how mean they are.)
Anyway, about this issue. Since its 4 years since I re…

Nephite History in Context 3: Vered Jericho Sword

Editor’s Note: This is the third contribution to my new series Nephite History in Context: Artifacts, Inscriptions, and Texts Relevant to the Book of Mormon. Check out the really cool (and official, citable) PDF version here. To learn more about this series, read the introduction here. To find other posts in the series, see here.
Vered Jericho Sword
Background
Vered Jericho was a small ancient Israelite fortress first excavated in the winter of 1982 by archaeologist Avraham Eitan. It’s located roughly 3.7 miles (6 km) south of Jericho proper, on the northern side of Wadi es-Suweid. The walls still stand over 6 and half feet tall (2 m) and nearly 3 feet (0.9 m) wide, with two towers on each corner flanking the gate. Inside the fort is a courtyard and two dwelling structures. The fort may have also had cultic or ritual functions as a “high place” (beit bamah). It dates to the late seventh to early sixth century BC, and was destroyed by fire, quite likely in either the Babylonian siege of …

Getting to the Heart the Divide on Book of Mormon Geography

In recent weeks, I’ve been reflecting on the oft-times acrimonious debate between Heartlanders and Mesoamericanists, especially in the wake of my friend Stephen Smoot’s recent post about Letter 7. I am not sure I have anything particularly profound to offer on the subject; the reality is I and many others have long realized that both sides are talking past each other, and both sides likely blame the other for that impasse. But I would like to proffer a question that, I think, helps cut through all the noise and gets to the heart of the matter.
Imagine, for a second, archaeologists down in Veracruz, Mexico, made an absolutely astounding discovery: a stela, dated to the late-4th century (i.e., AD 350–400), written by a ruler in the area boasting of how he had utterly destroyed a people called the Nephites at a nearby place called Cumorah. There’s no question about the authenticity of this find, and there is no doubt about the translation.

Brace Yourself: The Old Testament is Coming!

With the start of 2018, Mormon’s around the world braced themselves for another dreaded Old Testament year. “Here we go again,” you may have thought, “I’ve got to sludge through all this weird stuff in the Old Testament again, wondering what on earth it could all possibly mean and how it’s relevant to me.”
I get it: the Old Testament is odd and confusing for a lot of reasons, not the least of which being the fact that it was written over 2000 years ago, by a different people in a different time. It feels like so much hard work making sense of it, only to end in confusion and despair. But once you start to understand the Old Testament a little bit, it’s actually a pretty cool book. It does take a little effort to make some sense of it, but it really does not need to be as hard as it feels sometimes. Learning to use the right tools in scripture study—and the study of the Old Testament in particular—can make all the difference.
My friend Benjamin Spackman has already make some great rec…

Nephite History in Context 2c: Bethlehem Bulla

Editor’s Note:This is the third part of the second contribution to my new series Nephite History in Context: Artifacts, Inscriptions, and Texts Relevant to the Book of Mormon. Check out the really cool (and official, citable) PDF version here. To learn more about this series, read the introduction here. To find other posts in the series, see here.
Bethlehem Bulla
Background
Some of the most important and valuable inscriptions from ancient Israel and the surrounding region are the short inscriptions written on tiny seals, typically used for enclosing documents to ensure it is authentic and has not been tampered with. Such seals are usually made out of a semi-precious stone (though other materials were also used) and typically have the owners name inscribed on it, thus binding important documents with his or her “signature.” Nearly 3000 seals and clay seal impressions (called bulla; pl. bullae) have been found in Israel and the surrounding region, dating from the tenth–sixth centuries BC,…

Nephite History in Context 2b: Letters of ʿAbdu-Ḫeba of Jerusalem (EA 285–290)

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of the second contribution to my new series Nephite History in Context: Artifacts, Inscriptions, and Texts Relevant to the Book of Mormon. Check out the really cool (and official, citable) PDF version here. To learn more about this series, read the introduction here. To find other posts in the series, see here.
Letters of ʿAbdu-Ḫeba of Jerusalem (EA 285–290)
Background
The Amarna Letters make up the bulk of the 382 cuneiform tablets found at Amarna, Egypt in 1887. The letters date to the mid-fourteenth century BC (ca. 1365–1335 bc), with most of them coming from the reign of Akhenaten (ca. 1352–1336 bc), though some date to the reigns of Amenhotep III (ca. 1390–1352 bc) and perhaps Smenkhkara (ca. 1338–1336 bc) and Tutankhamun (ca. 1336–1327 bc). The collection includes international correspondence between Egypt and other nations, such as Assyria and Babylonia, but most of the letters are to and from vassal kings in the Syria-Palestine region, whic…