Monday, September 14, 2015

Book of Mormon Criticism: Anachronisms Aren't an Issue for Me

As a former history teacher, and out of personal curiosity, I've read a lot criticisms of written claims that have been dismissed by later discoveries. The criticisms made sense in their time, but they faded into irrelevance in the light of future knowledge.  It really is incredible how common such misguided criticisms have been and still are.

That doesn't prove anything one way or another with regard to the Book of Mormon and people's criticisms of it over time, but it is fascinating how many claims of anachronisms in that book have dropped away in light of later discoveries. The best example probably is the elephant reference, since it occurs only in the Book of Ether, the most ancient record in the book (and we have no clue what time period that covers, really) - and since there are American Indian references to elephant-like creatures that would fit the general time frame.

Language (specific vocabulary words) is another non-starter for me, since "translations" always depend on the vocabulary of the translator and, almost always, include approximations for words that don't translate perfectly. (The existence of non-English, non-translated words in the Book of Mormon actually is a good argument for a "translation process" of some kind.) Although it often is a criticism, the use of "adieu" is a perfect example of vocabulary precision in the Book of Mormon, since the root meaning of that word fits perfectly (and I mean perfectly) the context of the passage - far better than any single English word would. I came to that conclusion on my own, because I wanted to see why in the world Joseph would have used that word - or, from a traditional perspective, why that word would have appeared to him. I looked it up in a dictionary, saw the original, complex meaning, saw where it was used and, just as importantly, where it was not used, and realized it was the perfect choice for the context.

There are legitimate concerns about the historicity of the Book of Mormon, including the way that King James Bible passages and phrases occur in it, but I've yet to see a historical anachronism that I believe is a serious threat.

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