Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Case of Disappearing DNA

Not too long ago, I wrote a summary of the DNA/Book of Mormon issue which I hope was understandable to even those who know very little about DNA. My own experience with reading the DNA articles is that they are difficult to understand, so I tried to break down in common, understandable terms, with as little jargon as possible. One of the things I pointed out there is that people have ancestors whose DNA is undetectable. The notorious Greg Smith has recently brought a case in point to my attention.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Major Non-LDS Press That Took Book of Mormon Geography Seriously

In a sort of introduction to the book version of Journey of Faith: From Jerusalem to the Promised Land, S. Kent Brown tells a short, little-known story about an experience he had while working at the BYU Jerusalem Center in April of 1996.
My friend, the late Charles E. Smith of Simon and Schuster Publishers, came to my office and brought a close associate, Mr. Emanuel Hausman, who was the president of Carta, the publisher of the most important atlases and maps of the Bible. During our conversation, unexpectedly, Mr. Hausman said, “I think that you ought to write an atlas of the Book of Mormon. I have read the Book of Mormon and believe that it is possible to create a series of maps for it. Carta would be willing to publish such an atlas.” I tried to hide my surprise. The thought darted quickly through my mind: “You just heard the publisher of the most distinguished series of atlases on the Bible say that he would be willing to work on an atlas of the Book of Mormon. Unbelievable.” (p. 2)

Brown mentions this only in passing, as it served as the first in a series of events that eventually lead to something very different: the Journey of Faith film. Brown is not clear whatever became of that project itself, but given that 20 years later nothing like that has been published, it is safe to say that it ended up not going anywhere. Still, I do not think that makes Brown’s initial thought any less relevant: the publisher of the most distinguished series of atlases on the Bible was willing to publish a similar set of atlases on the Book of Mormon. This is nothing that will make headlines 20 years later, but it is an example—and small one, to be sure—of a reputable non-LDS publisher taking work on Book of Mormon geography seriously. I guess Book of Mormon geography is not a TOTAL laughingstock among non-Mormons. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Archeology and the Book of Mormon: Some Notes

Anthony J. Frendo is a professor at the University of Malta in Near Eastern Archaeology and the Hebrew Bible, and former department head of both the Classics and Archaeology (1996–1999) and Oriental Studies (1999–2011) departments at the university, both of which he helped found. He’s been a visiting scholar at both the University of Beersheba and University of Oxford. He has been on numerous excavations in both the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean (including Malta itself), including some where he served as a director. He has lectured/presented on archaeology at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, and the Oriental Institute at Oxford University. To go along with all of that, he has a handful of legitimate, peer-reviewed publications on archaeology and history/text published between 1988–2011. In short, while he is not one of the “big names” that tends to come up when discussing the nature of the relationship between archaeology and (biblical) texts, he is not someone that should be taken lightly on the subject, either.

I recently picked-up his much neglected 2011 study, Pre-Exilic Israel, the Hebrew Bible, and Archaeology: Integrating Text and Artefact (New York: Bloomsburg/T&T Clark, 2011). It is not a long study (105 pages, not counting indices, bibliography, and front matter). I am through about the first 40 pages and already I’ve taken several notes, most of which are pertinent to the question of archaeology and the Book of Mormon. A few observations from just a couple will illustrate just how relevant this book is.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Mormon Reads a REAL Atheist’s Blog Post

Many have probably already seen the post, “An Atheist’s Response to the First 31 Pages of The Book of Mormon.” I am going to guess that fewer people have seen “A REAL Atheist’s Response to the First 31 Pages of the Book of Mormon.” This “real atheist” appears to be an ex-Mormon named Benjamin V. (or else a Benjamin posted this on behalf the atheist). In any case, this “real atheist” (RA from here on out) is much less flattering than the first, providing a critique of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. (In keeping with RA’s own practice, I will not link to either of these blog posts.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lehi’s “Missing” DNA

The subject of DNA and the Book of Mormon is a persistent topic of discussion. For a couple of decades now, scholars have realized that DNA is a powerful tool for unraveling human history, understanding relations of different populations, and tracing ancient migration movements. Nonetheless, even DNA has its limitations on what it can tell us about the past.[1] Can DNA shed any light on the migration of Lehi’s family? The latest paper from Interpreter, written by Ugo Perego, a population geneticist who has worked extensively on the origins of Native Americans, and Jayne Ekins, an international lecturer and published scholar on molecular biology and genetic genealogy (both ancient and modern), provide the latest, most up-to-date discussion of the topic.