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Robert F. Smith

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  1. While it is true that Yigael Yadin's vocalization of the masculine name Yehuda-ben-Alma (Nahal Hever Letter 44) was later rejected by his colleagues, there is no actual certainty that it must read Allima "Strong, Powerful,”[1] or Alema "Eternal" (1 Maccabees 5:26). In Mandaean-Gnostic the masculine name is vocalized Alma. Reading consonantal texts (no vowels) is always fraught with difficulty, and it is uncharitable to fix on only one version or opinion in such an endeavor. Compare also Arabic alma “sagacious, smart, shrewd, clever, bright, intelligent.”[2] [1] The Documents from the Bar‑Kokhba Period in the Cave of Letters. Hebrew, Aramaic and Nabatean‑Aramaic Papyri, eds., Yigael Yadin, Jonas C. Greenfield, Ada Yardeni, and Baruch Levine (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society/ Hebrew Univ. Institute of Archaeology/Shrine of the Book/Israel Museum, 2002), 47 = Dead Sea Discoveries, 10/2 (Brill, 2003). [2] Hans Wehr, Arabic-English Dictionary, ed. J. Cowan (Ithaca: Spoken Language Services, 1994), 1031.
  2. Your suggestion earlier that a lot of trade was going on throughout the Americas should be emphasized. Non-LDS scholars (the only ones who can apparently be trusted) point this out all the time, though partisans tend to ignore them. Richard Forbis, for example, states: Serious discussion is possible, as long as it is sincere, and as long as we consider works by actual scholars, such as anthropologist Brant Gardner.
  3. The Hebrew or Aramaic masculine name Alma certainly appears in use by Bar Kochba, but (unlike Callister and my colleagues) I am not interested in such late evidence. The pausal Hebrew form is not a problem. Our lack of a vast Classical Hebrew literature is the problem. Unlike neighboring nations of Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Egypt, which have large libraries of literature (a vocabulary of about 15,000 words each), the Israelites have only enough literature to provide half their actual vocabulary (7,500 words). So, we must use Hebrew grammar to extrapolate from the roots we have to all legitimate forms. Hebrew is merely a Canaanite dialect. Since the name does exist in Northwest Semitic Canaanite (Ugaritic) and at Ebla, it seems reasonable to accept the hypothetical Hebrew form Alma -- especially since it appears to be involved in word-play. Notice how a single line of approach to the problem is not used. Again, as I have repeatedly pointed out, Callister is a tax attorney, not a Hebraist. It is uncharitable to demand that he perform dog tricks like a Hebraist.
  4. So, if Callister wants to do a virtual pesher or midrash on Ezek 37, he just has to be off base -- same as the Essenes at Qumran. There is no room for such interpretation. Yet Jesus did exactly that on the road to Emmaus. Secular scholars simply do not accept His claim that the prophets spoke about Him. Yet Jewish scholars now state unequivocally that the Essenes interpreted the Servant Songs of Isaiah in the same messianic fashion as the Christians soon would. How can that be if Callister is so wrong?
  5. The writing on coins is quite beside the point, and Clark cites anti-Mormon sources which explicitly claim metal plates to be anachronistic -- going against the best scholarship of that age, probably just unaware of the other sources Clark cites. Once it has been established that metal codices were in fact produced contemporary with Lehi & Nephi, the call to perfection becomes just a fallacious quibble. Thomas' built his entire case on that fallacy. See my Quora answer, Feb 21, 2019, online at https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-oldest-archaeological-evidence-of-scripture-in-the-form-of-a-bound-book-as-we-recognise-it-today-as-opposed-to-a-scroll/answer/Bob-Smith-3106 . Ignoring the recent lengthy Chinese example (pictured by the official Chinese News Agency Xinhua) is not particularly auspicious for a meaningful discussion. At the same time, as I pointed out long ago, we are not talking about a 500-page codex in short-hand (cursive) Egyptian. The number of sheets required is not large: “The ‘Golden’ Plates,” FARMS Update, October 1984, reprinted in John W. Welch, ed., Reexploring the Book of Mormon: The F.A.R.M.S. Updates (Provo: FARMS/SLC: Deseret Book, 1992), 275-278. Online at https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/mi/66/ The false claim has always been that barley did not exist in the New World at all in pre-Columbian times (especially not cultivated barley), and this same false claim has been made about other flora, fauna, and cultural products. Whenever, the opposite is shown, we hear an automatic "but" directed to a new goal post. Not just the New World anymore, but specifically wherever and whenever the Jaredites, Mulekites, or Nephites & Lamanites were supposed to be located. New archeological discoveries are thus automatically discounted.
  6. O.K., but that does not negate the Callister's main point on plates, which is that the idea was being mocked by anti-Mormons. Excellent points, of course, Clark, and I thank you for providing such good references. Thank you for those references. However, Sunderland and Hyde make Callister's (and my) point very well. Anti-Mormons did in fact ignore or were ignorant of more scholarly sources -- which you also thankfully cite. This anti-Mormon pattern continues into the present, i.e., no matter what non-LDS scholarship says, the anti-Mormon always quibbles, demanding perfect evidence (which never exists in any field). This is anti-intellectualism at its grandest: Always deny, no matter what. Never give an inch, or those damnable Mormons will take a mile. The antis always move the goal posts. One hankers for honesty in public discourse.
  7. Prof Phillips based his conclusions on actual field-work in an LDS ward (of which he was a trusted member), and careful study of LDS demographics. He has since left the LDS faith, even though he doesn't seem hostile to it.
  8. If it was not regarded as anachronistic in Joseph's day, why did Alexander Campbell say: "The imposter was too ignorant of the history of the Jews and the nature of the covenants of promise, to have even alluded to them in his book, if he had not supposed that he had the plates of Moses in his own keeping, as he had his 'molten plates' of Nephi" (Campbell, "Delusions," Feb 10, 1831). The idiotic mockery continues into modern times: https://reasonsforjesus.com/joseph-smiths-golden-plate-story-debunked/ , and http://www.mormonthink.com/book-of-mormon-problems.htm#didntexist . Callister himself correctly said in his FairMormon address "They now insist that the Book of Mormon is the wrong type of document to be written on metal—specifically, they think it is too long." That is Ryan Thomas' main complaint, and Callister's riposte is correct. Thomas is quibbling. The fact that such records were in fact kept by civilizations contemporary with and earlier than Lehi & Nephi is strong evidence of the non-anachronistic practice. Length is not a substantive issue, though some such early records were very lengthy: Creating bronze, silver, or other metal plates for their permanence was standard practice by Hittites, Canaanites (Byblos), Egyptians, Etruscans, Romans, and other ancient peoples. For example, the treaty of 1259 B.C. between the Hittites and Egyptians was engraved on silver plates for both Raameses II and Hattusili III. Although they no longer exist, copies were found in both Egypt (monumental inscriptions) and at the Hittite capital (clay cuneiform). The famous fifth century B.C. 12 bronze tablets of early Rome have not survived. An ancient Hittite account, called the Deeds of Suppiluliuma, dating to the 14th century BC, was likely written on bronze tablets. Although many sections of the document are poorly preserved, the remaining portions suggest it would have been quite long. (Hans Güterbock, ed., “The Deeds of Suppiluliuma as Told by His Son, Mursili II,” Journal of Cuneiform Studies 10/2 [1956]: 41–68, 75–98, 107–130 -- the implication that this record was anciently engraved onto bronze comes from the text itself. One of the colophons in fragment 28 reads “Not yet made into a bronze tablet.”) There are the gold Etruscan Pyrgi Tablets: Philip C. Schmitz, "The Phoenician Text from the Etruscan Sanctuary at Pyrgi,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 115/4 (Oct - Dec 1995):559-575. There is the Etruscan Gold Book from 600 B.C. (a six-page 24-carat gold book bound with rings, found in a tomb in Bulgaria ca. 1943), an eight-page cuneiform golden codex found in 2005 in Teheran, Iran (from the Achaemenid period and bound with four rings), and a recent find of gold plates of about the same size as the Book of Mormon plates in a royal tomb in China.[1] [1] Jenny Stanton, “Gold plates and coins among valuable haul unearthed by archaeologists at 2,000-year-old royal tombs in China ,” Daily Mail Online, Dec 27, 2015, online at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3375474/Gold-plates-coins-valuable-haul-unearthed-archaeologists-2-000-year-old-royal-tombs-China.html , with Xinhua photo: . Alma likely is the hypocoristic form of segolate ˁelem > ˁalmâ,[1] i.e., short for hypothetical Hebrew *ˁAlma’ ’El "Lad of ’El," the Ugaritic epithet of King Kirta, ġlm ’Il "Lad of El." The ending may be hypocoristic, or have a vocative meaning, with the shortening of two-part names beginning “very early.”[2] Also, Alma is a male proper name at ancient Ebla. The clincher is word-play on his name in the BofM -- Matt Bowen, “‘And He Was a Young Man’: The Literary Preservation of Alma’s Autobiograhical Wordplay,” FARMS Insights 30/4 (2010). [1] In his entry in the Book of Mormon Onomasticon (BYU), Paul Hoskisson says that “When an ending is added to a Hebrew segholate noun, such as elem, the original /a/ vowel of the segholate qatl form returns (The pausal form, because of the shift in accent, also reveals the original /a/ vowel, e.g., as in the pausal form in 1 Samuel 17:56); hypocoristic endings commonly represented a theophoric element (the name of a deity in a sharply contracted form), most often by a single final consonant, usually aleph, but also with final he, such as in the second occurrence in the Bar Kokhba letter. For example the hypocoristic name Abda (1 Kings 4:6 passim) shows up in its plene form in 1 Chronicles 9:16 as Obadiah. The same is true of the biblical personal name Shebna (Isaiah 22:15), which is most likely ‘a short form, probably from’ Shebanyah(u) (Koehler & Baumgartner, Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament [Leiden: Brill, 1994-2000]). There is also an Ammonite analog to ALMA, ˁbd' that would mean ‘the servant of [the god]’." Cf. Robert Deutsch and André Lemaire, Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection (Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications, 2000), nos. 150 and 177. [2] Noth, IPN, 36, citing Lidzbarksi. Since non-LDS scholars agree that barley was cultivated in pre-Columbian times,* and that cement was in fact used, I don't understand why those are "weak" claims. Even more importantly, a Sumerian word for "barley (and other grains)" shows up in Mosiah 9:9, sheum, likely a holdover from Jaredite times. Sumerian ŠE/ ŠE.UM is also the measure of “one barleycorn” (a fraction of a shekel in weight, volume, or length). John Huehnergard, A Grammar of Akkadian, 528. * “…extensive archaeological evidence also points to the cultivation of little barley in the Southwest and parts of Mexico,” Michael T. Dunne and William Green, “Terminal Archaic and Early Woodland Plant Use at the Gast Spring Site (13LA152), Southeast Iowa,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology, Spring 1998, p. 8; rye was also collected in the New World -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nUZTRXVrac .
  9. Today, the vast majority of Israelis drink water which comes from water purification (desalination) plants along the Mediterranean coast. They use a lot of grey water for agriculture.
  10. What always strikes me in these discussions is the fact that the anachronisms or problems with the Bible are far more numerous and difficult than anything in the BofM, and that the results for many Evangelical scholars is to dispense with the faith -- which contains the seeds of its own destruction, and the death of God. In the case of Bart Ehrman, however, I was a bit surprised to hear him say that it wasn't the anachronisms which led him to atheism, but rather the untenable philosophical-theological basis of Christianity. I do agree with him that those problems (particularly theodicy) are the most critical of the normative Judeo-Christian tradition. Literary anachronisms are normal and fully understandable, and present no significant problem for the believer.
  11. Wherein did Callister mislead or use false arguments? Sounds more like he is damned if he does, and he is damned if he don't. At least he didn't deliberately lie, as in the CES Letter -- which lacks both depth and rigor.
  12. I don't see the problem, or the harm. Callister has presented something at the introductory level, for the unwashed masses. His is not some grandiloquent piece designed to slay all the dragons, and we should not expect it to. I always hear complaints that "the Church didn't tell me this in a timely fashion," etc. Well, here it is in easily digestible form for the simple-minded. Moreover, I see nothing anti-intellectual about it. Why do you find it embarrassing?
  13. The very same scenario plays out in the Evangelical apologetic world. Same ole, same ole.
  14. Any specifics, or are you thinking in a general sense? I see it as a very basic introduction to BofM apologetics. Callister, a tax attorney by profession, isn't really qualified to dive in much deeper. Also, although we frequently hear on this board that the internet is a huge reason for defections from the LDS faith, Rick Phillips of North Florida Univ finds that unconvincing:
  15. Sounds like a bad case of the summer doldrums, the dog days of August, and some ennui thrown in for good measure. Hey, but nothing has really changed, and here's the evidence: Elise Solé, “Church leader fired for secretly photographing woman inside H&M dressing room,” Yahoo Lifestyle, Aug 20, 2019, online at https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/church-leader-fired-for-secretly-photographing-woman-inside-hm-dressing-room-202624903.html , "A Mormon church member was fired for covertly photographing a woman in a dressing room inside H&M." The richest person in Utah is Gail Miller, at $1.5 billion – her late husband was Larry Miller. https://www3.forbes.com/billionaires/the-richest-person-in-every-state-2019/10/ .
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