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 presented (in this case, Nahom/NHM) is intended to challenge, and then uses that assumed conclusion to dismiss the evidence. Not a valid argument. Second, something need not actually be true in order for evidence which supports it to exist. Lots of things which are not true can be and have been supported by evidence. So even if we grant the conclusion (which, for the record, I do not), that does not prove that NHM/Nahom is not evidence which supports the opposite conclusion (the Book of Mormon is true).
2. There is no evidence for X, Y, and Z in the Book of Mormon, so this is not evidence either. This is a red herring, or more simply a type of misdirection. Instead of dealing with the actual argument and data built around NHM/Nahom, this argument points to (perceived) deficiencies in evidence for other Book of Mormon claims (horses, metallurgy, New World cities, etc.) and then argues (or implies) that since there is no evidence for these things, this also does not count as evidence. Whether NHM/Nahom is evidence is an independent question from whether or not there is other evidence, and it is entirely possible to have evidence for somethings and not for others—evidence is not an all or nothing scenario. So lack of evidence for, say, horses, does not mean there is no evidence for, say, Nahom.
3. Nahom is not identical to NHM because vowels. When people actually begin engaging the actual correlation, this is usually the first argument. But it is literally impossible to get any closer with the inscriptional evidence, since most ancient Near Eastern writings do not use vowels. To demand stronger evidence than what the very best data itself could ever conceivably support is simply irrational and unfair. Furthermore, scholars have generally accepted correlations between biblical names and inscriptions with far less phonological similarity than Nahom and Nehem/Nihm.
4. Joseph Smith could have gotten a similar name (Nahum) from the Bible. Well, sure he could have. But nothing in the Bible would have suggested that he should use it as a place name at the end of a south-southeastward trail along the Red Sea; or that he should have a deceased character buried there; or have his group turn eastward there; or that he should have a “bountiful” coastal land eastward from there, and so on. This only explains a single dimension of this multidimensional evidence.
5. Joseph Smith saw a map with Nehem/Nehhm on it. When these maps were first discovered, they were dismissed as evidence for the Book of Mormon because they didn’t prove the place was there in 600 BC. Now that archaeology confirms NHM is older than 600 BC, these maps are suddenly supposed to explain how Joseph Smith knew that? Come on. To my knowledge, none of these maps have been placed closer than ~300 miles from Joseph Smith while translating the Book of Mormon. And they have hundreds of names. Why only Nahom? And why not actually spell it as it appears on the maps (Nehem/Nehhm)? Oh, and these maps still don’t explain all the details above. And finally, some of both Joseph’s supporters and critics appear to have used maps to debate the fine points of 1 Nephi in the 1830s and ’40s. Yet none of them got the details of 1 Nephi right, and none of them noticed Nehem or made a connection to Nahom. So why are we to think Joseph Smith did?
6. The archaeological evidence is for a tribal name, not a place name. The inscriptions say that the donor was a Nihmite, which is—per the British Museum catalogue entry for the inscription—a person from the Nihm region. Nehem is a tribal territory, and thus the name of both the tribe and the place. The conflation of the tribal and place name is also evident in the way the tribal name shows up in Arabian geographical treaties and lists from the Islamic era.
Several of these are already explained in the video, and yet people still respond with these objections. So odds are this preemptive effort is in vain, but alas, still I try. Anyway, enjoy the video and be sure share it!