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Blog Update: November 2017

Despite warning a couple years ago that I have less time for blogging than ever before, and that I may stop as I now have so many alternative outlets for sharing my ideas, I have generally managed to post fairly regularly here, even if less often than I used to. The one major exception was this summer, when I failed to post anything here from July to September. I was actually doing a lot of research and writing at that time, but none of it made its appearance on this blog. Now that I have started blogging a bit again, I figure I ought to update folks on what happened over the summer.
First, toward the middle or end of June, Loyd Ericson of Greg Kofford Books reached out to me and asked if I would write an essay for their book Perspectives on Mormon Theology: Apologetics. The catch? The book was coming out in about a month, so he needed my essay in about 2 weeks. Although I already had 2 other papers I was working on (see below), I decided to go for it. The outcome was my paper, “Boun…
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Nephite History in Context 1: Jerusalem Chronicle

Editor’s Note: This is the first 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
Jerusalem Chronicle (ABC 5/BM 21946)
The so-called “Babylonian Chronicles” are an important collection of brief historical reports from Mesopotamia, found in Iraq in the late-19th century.1 They are written on clay tablets in Akkadian using cuneiform script, and cover much of the first millennium BC, although several tablets are missing or severely damaged, leaving gaps in the record. One tablet, colloquially known as the “Jerusalem Chronicle” (ABC 5/BM 21946),2 provides brief annal-like reports of the early reign of Nebuchadrezzar II (biblical Nebuchadnezzar), including mention of his invasion of Jerusalem.
Biblical sources report that King Jehoiac…

Nephite History in Context: Artifacts, Inscriptions, and Texts Relevant to the Book of Mormon

A fundamental resource any biblical studies student needs is an anthology of ancient Near Eastern texts which contextualize biblical writings. So naturally, several such anthologies have been complied and published by biblical studies publishers. Perhaps the largest and most comprehensive example is the 4-volume set Context of Scripture, edited by William W. Hallo and K. Lawson Younger, while James B. Prichard’s The Ancient Near East: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures is perhaps the best known and most widely used. There are several others—nearly every serious publisher in the biblical studies field has done one, and no two anthologies are the same. Each is necessarily selective with what it includes and excludes, and different selections are made depending on the purposes and biases of those doing the collecting.
Furthermore, such collections need not be limited to texts. Pritchard’s anthology is of texts and pictures, providing images of hundreds of artifacts, ruins, and pieces o…

The “Best Book” on the Book of Abraham

Review of John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2017), 197 pp.
A couple of months ago, in the spirit of Doctrine and Covenants 88:118, I made a sort of “faith crisis prevention” reading list, consisting of what I considered the 15 “best books” on several important and controversial topics related to the Church, its history, doctrine, and scripture. That list included An Introduction to the Book of Abraham, despite the fact the book was not available yet.
I did this based on having skimmed over an earlier pre-publication version of the book a few years ago. I am now pleased to say, having now read the final, published version of the book, that I absolutely stand by my original recommendation. This is, indeed, the “best book” to read for an overview on the issues and research on the Book of Abraham.
John Gee writes as an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and as a prof…

Responding to the New Video on Nahom as Archaeological Evidence for the Book of Mormon

Many of my (few) readers have probably already seen the new video by Book of Mormon Central on Nahom as archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, starring my good friend (and co-author on a related paper) Stephen Smoot. If you haven’t, check it out:

As usual, comments sections wherever this video is shared have been flooded by Internet ex-Mormons insisting this not evidence for the Book of Mormon. I’ve actually had a few productive conversations with some reasonable people who don’t think Nahom is, by itself, compelling evidence—and I can understand that. But the insistence that Nahom is not evidence at all is just, frankly, absurd. So I’ll just go ahead and preempt about 90% of future responses to this post by responding to the most common arguments against Nahom/NHM now:
1. The Book of Mormon is false, therefore there can be no evidence, therefore this is not evidence. First, this is circular reasoning. It assumes the conclusion (Book of Mormon is false) which the evidence pre…

The 15 “Best Books” to Read BEFORE Having a Faith Crisis

Elder M. Russell Ballard recently stressed that it is important for Gospel educators to be well-informed on controversial topics, not only by studying the scriptures and Church materials, but also by reading “the best LDS scholarship available.” I personally think it is imperative in today’s world for every Latter-day Saint—not just Gospel educators—to make an effort to be informed on both controversial issues as well as knowing reliable faith-building information as well.
(Given that Elder Ballard’s CES address was published to general Church membership in the Ensign, I think it’s safe to say that Church leadership also feels this way.)
An important step in the process of getting informed is reading the 11 Gospel Topic essays and getting familiar with their contents. But what’s next? How can a person learn more about these and other topics? What are the “best books” (D&C 88:118) or “the best LDS scholarship available”?
Here are 15 suggestions.
1. Michael R. Ash, Shaken Faith S…