Sunday, July 12, 2015

Nephites

Philip Jenkins has become impatient with a Mormon who argues that there is no more evidence for ancient Israel than for the stories in the Book of Mormon. From "Apples, Oranges and Nephites":
.... Let’s do a thought experiment. Assume for the sake of argument that we did not have the Bible as a resource. Assume that we were reconstructing the history of Palestine in the first millennium BC using entirely non-scriptural sources – from archaeology, from non-scriptural texts and inscriptions, and from the various records (mainly texts and inscriptions) of outside nations. We would see Israel emerging in the thirteenth/twelfth century BC, we would have an excellent idea of its changing social and religious institutions through the centuries, we would know its languages, and we would have plenty of writers, both contemporary and later, to fill in the names of kings, dynasties, etc. We would know a lot about its interactions with neighboring powers, not to mention the presence of Israelites in other nations and regions. We would know a huge amount about domestic architecture and social structures, modes of life, class structures, and so on.

Without using religious scriptures of any kind, then, we would have an excellent view of Israel, its languages, ethnicities, people and history. No sane person would doubt the existence of that Israel, although they might argue over details of its political history.

Now look at Mormonia. Without the Book of Mormon, would any scholar ever have speculated about a Semitic or Middle Eastern presence of any scale or nature whatever in the New World? In nineteenth century racist crank theories, yes, but not in any kind of modern scholarship. If there was no Book of Mormon, we would have not the vaguest, slightest hint of any suggestion of a Middle Eastern/Semitic presence. Without using religious scriptures of any kind, then, we would neither know about nor speculate on any kind of “Nephite” presence in the New World, its languages, ethnicities, people and history. It would not exist, because it doesn’t. ....

Israel was, incontrovertibly, there. The Nephites, just as incontrovertibly were not, and if you think they were, please start showing evidence. I’m getting tired of pleading. .... [more]