Friday, September 12, 2014

Mark Wright vs. Earl Wunderli: How Perspective Changes Everything

A Depiction of Mesoamerican human sacrifice, from Mark Wright's Article.
Notice the jaguar and macaw, on each side waiting to be sacrificed next. Cf. Alma 34:10
Last year, Earl Wunderli published study claiming to show that the Book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith strictly by internal evidence. It has been critically reviewed by Brant Gardner, Robert Rees, and Matt Roper with Paul Fields and Larry Bassist (forthcoming from BYU Studies Quarterly). For Wunderli, one of the curiosities that seems to indicate a 19th century authorship for the Book of Mormon is that, “when Jesus appears, he invites the multitude to thrust their hands into the sword wound in his side and feel the nail holes in his hands and feet. How Nephites would know the significance of the wounds is a question.” (Earl M. Wunderli, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us about Itself [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2013], 217.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

An Open Letter (#2) to Jeremy Runnells

The “Letter to a CES Director,” written by Jeremy T. Runnells, has been making its rounds online and growing in popularity for some time now. Runnells lays out his laundry list of issues that caused him to lose his faith.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

An Open Letter (#1) to Jeremy Runnells

The “Letter to a CES Director,” written by Jeremy T. Runnells, has been making its rounds online and growing in popularity for some time now. Runnells lays out his laundry list of issues that caused him to lose his faith.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Book of Abraham and Logical Fallacies 101


In a recent Facebook discussion on the Book of Abraham, I asked the question, “Why should I trust Ritner over Muhlestein?” I posed this question after reading both Kerry Muhlestein’s arguments for human sacrifice during the Middle Kingdom period of Egypt (Abraham’s era), as published in the Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 51/2 (2008): 181–208, and Robert Ritner’s counter-argument in response to the Church’s new Gospel Topics essay. I offer an evaluation of Ritner’s critique and gave my reasons for finding Muhlestein’s argument more persuasive. After a little prodding, I got a couple of great answers that give me some additional perspectives to consider on this question.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Convergence Challenge

My first exposure to the idea or concept of “convergence” between text and history was in Brant Gardner’s 6-volume commentary Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon (Kofford, 2007–2008). Gardner, in turn, had borrowed the concept from William Dever, a prominent Syro-Palestinian archaeologist who studied the relationship between the biblical texts and archaeology. I decided that, in order to fully understand how the concept worked, I ought to pursue Dever’s work myself, and so I have since read his What Did the Biblical Writers Know & When Did They Know It? (Eerdmans, 2001) and Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Eerdmans, 2003). Both are excellent books, though I do disagree with some conclusions in each one. I certainly learned much more about his method reading them, and although I would make some adjustments (based on the different nuances I have seen used by other, equally reputable scholars who come to somewhat different conclusions than Dever), I am nonetheless just as impressed as Gardner is with Dever’s concept of “convergences” as a means for determining historicity, and have made it a central element in my own method to examining the historicity of the Book of Mormon.