Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tzimins are not Really Tzimins (They’re Horses)

A Tzimin
In his Letter to a CES Director, Jeremy Runnells marvels that, according to “unofficial apologists” (what is with the need to implicitly discredit anything not “official” anyway?), “horses aren’t really horses (they’re tapirs)” in the Book of Mormon. Kevin Christensen has already pointed out that this assertion actually flattens the nuance found in the essay Runnells uses to make this claim, including the tentative evidence for horses in America. In the past, I have reviewed the work of Dr. Wade Miller, a geologist and paleontologist who has tested several pre-Columbian horse specimens which appear place horses in the New World around Book of Mormon times. This evidence is inconclusive, but demonstrates the kind of openness that remains part of the horses/Book of Mormon discussion which gets glossed over by Runnells and many others. No apologist is half as ridged as any ex-Mormon about horses being tapirs. The ex-Mormons talk about it incessantly. It is all just a big joke to them.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Nahom/Nihm: What are the Chances?

Most involved in online debates about the historicity of the Book of Mormon are familiar with Nahom, mentioned in 1 Nephi 16:34, though the average Mormon probably couldn’t even tell you that Nahom is in the Book of Mormon. It becomes important in online debates because scholars believe they have found the name and place attested to in archaeology. Reactions from skeptics have ranged from denying there is any plausible connection to brushing it off as a coincidence.  Both sides talk in terms of probabilities that have never been demonstrated. “The odds that a place by that name would be exactly where the Book of Mormon says it is are astronomical!” says the believer. “There are so many names in the Book of Mormon and so many names in the ancient Near East, Joseph Smith was bound to get one lucky guess!” declares the critic. Both of these statements need to be tethered in by the data, of course.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Easier Shall be Made Harder and the Harder Shall be Made Easier

Review of James E. Faulconer, The New Testament Made Harder: Scripture Study Questions. Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2015.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Scholarship of Hugh Nibley and John Sorenson: The Myth of Non-Respectability

It is not uncommon to hear people say that Hugh Nibley and John Sorenson were not real, respectable scholars. That, supposedly, no one outside of Mormons have even heard of them or read their scholarship. It is certainly true neither one looms as largely in broader academia as they do in Mormon intellectual circles. Neither of them is like a Richard Bushman in their respective fields. But it is an exaggeration to say that they were irrelevant and unrespectable in their disciplines. A brief gander at the non-Mormon who’s who of contributors to the 2-volume festschrift for Hugh Nibley, and magnanimous praise they heap upon him, ought to be more than enough to dispel such myths. Sorenson’s festschrift also has non-LDS contributors, and the leading Mayanist of his generation—Michael Coe—refused to engage him at conferences because he was “too formidable.” Coe has also heaped praise on Sorenson in—of all places—a Mormon Stories interview, where he says that Sorenson is a friend, and declares him the leading researcher on paradigm shifting research on pre-Columbian transoceanic contact, which Coe admits he finds persuasive.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

“The Things Which my Father Saw”: The Chiastic Inclusio of 1 Nephi 11–14

A less common image of the tree of life that I thought was really cool looking.
When recording his sweeping vision found in 1 Nephi 11–14, Nephi appears to have framed it with an inclusio. According to Wikipidia, “In biblical studies, inclusio is a literary device based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing or an envelope structure, which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section.” Wikipidia goes on to explain: