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Mythic Iron


Bill Hamblin

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Gen 4:22 tell us that Tubal-cain, an antediluvian descendent of Cain, "worked copper and iron." According to traditional biblical chronology, he lived before the rise of archaeologically verified iron working in the ANE. So, I have two questions:

1- For inerrantists, why do archaeologically unsubstantiated claims of metal-working in the BOM prove it is false, while similar claims in the Bible do not prove it is false. For an Evangelical to reject the historicity of the BOM because of metal-working issues seems a blatant double standard if one insists, at the same time, on the historicity of the Bible, despite its unverified claims of antediluvian metal-working.

2- From a secularist perspective, an account of ancient legendary heroes working unknown metals in the Bible [Tubal-Cain] does not prove the Israelites did not exist. So why does an ancient legendary heroes [shule the Jaredite] working unknown metals in the BOM prove that Nephites didn't exist?

It seems to me we need a consistent standard in evaluating such things, and neither the inerrantists nor the secularists are willing to apply their standards consistently.

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From a secularist perspective, an account of ancient legendary heroes working unknown metals in the Bible [Tubal-Cain] does not prove the Israelites did not exist. So why does an ancient legendary heroes [shule the Jaredite] working unknown metals in the BOM prove that Nephites didn't exist?

What evidence is there supporting the existence of the Israelites? What evidence is there supporting the existence of the Nephites?

It's true that an anachronism in the Bible does not prove Israelites did not exist, but I don't think 'secularists' hang their hat solely on a similar anachronism in the Book of Mormon in disbelieving in the existence of Nephites. Could it be that there is evidence supporting the existence of the Israelites where there is none for the Nephites?

As one who has never really considered the evidence supporting the existence of Israelites, these are honest questions - not rhetorical.

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I have nine Commentaries (none by a LDS) that address this verse, but none of them says anything about the anachronism of iron more than a millennium before its day.

This iron, which is mentioned in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, should be better translated alloy. Other translations have bronze instead...

But the 1611 says Copper.
My 1611 says:
22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-Cain, an instructer of euery artificer in brasse and iron: and the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.

The Literal Version has:

22 And Zillah also bore Tubalcain, the hammerer of every engraving tool of bronze and iron. And the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.

Young's Literal shows:

22 And Zillah she also bare Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron; and a sister of Tubal-Cain is Naamah.

Neither has "alloy", as you can see; it's "iron" in both cases.

The Hebrew is

22 וצלה גם־הוא ילדה את־תובל קין לטשׁ כל־חרשׁ נחשׁת וברזל ואחות תובל־קין נעמה׃
which the Jewish Publication Society translates as:
22 And Zillah, she also bore Tubal-cain, the forger of every cutting instrument of brass and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
It's still iron.

According to Strong, the word is

barzel

iron (as cutting); by extension an iron implement: - (ax) head, iron.

Iron again.

Now that's not to say that the AV has not changed, it has, but not here, as far as I can tell.

Lehi

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2- From a secularist perspective, an account of ancient legendary heroes working unknown metals in the Bible [Tubal-Cain] does not prove the Israelites did not exist. So why does an ancient legendary heroes [shule the Jaredite] working unknown metals in the BOM prove that Nephites didn't exist?

You are setting up a false dichotomy and you know it. The idea that if there is a mistake in the bible that brings into question the existence of a people who exist today is absurd and no one, save yourself has ever proposed that.

No one, to my knowledge has claimed that the bible is a modern work. However, many claim that the part of the bible that you refer to was written much later than is claimed by the text. It was thus an anachronism in a similar manner as the book of Mormon.

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You are setting up a false dichotomy and you know it. The idea that if there is a mistake in the bible that brings into question the existence of a people who exist today is absurd and no one, save yourself has ever proposed that.
Who are these people "who exist today"?

The Israelites were millennia after Tubal-Cain, say 2500 bc v. c. 3750 bc.

The point would be that the Nephites, hypothetical in the view of many, are no more or less likely than the Cainites (sorry) who did not leave a historically verified record. It may not meet your criteria of provenance, but the Book of Mormon is arguably an "autobiography" of a people. The Genesis account is, at best, a second-hand abridgment of Adam's "Book of Rememberance", or perhaps the record of a vision Moses had.

How is that different from the Book of Mormon?

Lehi

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Who are these people "who exist today"?

The Israelites were millennia after Tubal-Cain, say 2500 bc v. c. 3750 bc.

The point would be that the Nephites, hypothetical in the view of many, are no more or less likely than the Cainites (sorry) who did not leave a historically verified record. It may not meet your criteria of provenance, but the Book of Mormon is arguably an "autobiography" of a people. The Genesis account is, at best, a second-hand abridgment of Adam's "Book of Rememberance", or perhaps the record of a vision Moses had.

How is that different from the Book of Mormon?

Lehi

You are right that many biblical scholars and archaeologist question the existence of the Canaanites for the same reasons we question the existence of the Nephites--No evidence.

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You are right that many biblical scholars and archaeologist question the existence of the Canaanites for the same reasons we question the existence of the Nephites--No evidence.
Sorry, the "Canaanites" were post-diluvians. The "Cainites" long prior.

Lehi

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You are setting up a false dichotomy and you know it. The idea that if there is a mistake in the bible that brings into question the existence of a people who exist today is absurd and no one, save yourself has ever proposed that.

John, a careful reading of Hamblin's OP reveals that was not what he was suggesting at all.

- From a secularist perspective, an account of ancient legendary heroes working unknown metals in the Bible [Tubal-Cain] does not prove the Israelites did not exist. So why does an ancient legendary heroes [shule the Jaredite] working unknown metals in the BOM prove that Nephites didn't exist?

Sargon

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posted as an FYI - 2006 saw the published findings of a significant archaeological site related to metallurgy the Edomites, as referred to in the Bible. BAR carried an article about last summer:

Recently, two archeologists, Thomas Levy, an archaeologist at the University of California, San Diego and Mohammad Najjar, director of excavations and surveys at the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, submitted a report on their findings of the ruins of a large copper-processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas, in the lowlands of the ancient kingdom of Edom, present day Jordan.

The result of their findings is reported in an article written by John Noble Wilford and published in The New York Times on June 14, 2006. The focus of the debate is the question of when Edom became an organized society and the relationship between Edom and the kingdoms of David and Solomon.

Below are excerpts of Wilfordâ??s article:

In biblical lore, Edom was the implacable adversary and menacing neighbor of the Israelites. The Edomites lived south of the Dead Sea and east of the desolate rift valley known as Wadi Arabah, and from time to time they had to be dealt with by force, notably by the likes of Kings David and Solomon.

Today, the Edomites are again in the thick of combat - of the scholarly kind. The conflict is heated and protracted, as is often the case with issues related to the reliability of the Bible as history.

Chronology is at the crux of the debate. Exactly when did the nomadic tribes of Edom become an organized society with the might to threaten Israel? Were David and Solomon really kings of a state with growing power in the 10th century B.C.? Had writers of the Bible magnified the stature of the two societies at such an early time in history?

An international team of archaeologists has recorded radiocarbon dates that they say show the tribes of Edom may have indeed come together in a cohesive society at early as the 12th century B.C., certainly by the 10th. The evidence was found in the ruins of a large copper-processing center and fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas, in the lowlands of what was Edom and is now part of Jordan.

The findings, Levy and Najjar added, lend credence to biblical accounts of the rivalry between Edom and the Israelites in what was then known as Judah. By extension, they said, this supported the tradition that Judah itself had by the time of David and Solomon, in the early 10th century, emerged as a kingdom with ambition and the means of fighting off the Edomites.

The Hebrew Bible mentioned the Edomites no fewer than 99 times. In Genesis, Esau, Jacob's twin brother, is described as the ancestor of the Edomites, and a reference is made to â??the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites.â? Levy said this statement showed that the Israelites acknowledged Edom's early political development.

Most criticism has come from advocates of a â??low chronologyâ? or â??minimalistâ? school of early biblical history. They contend that in David's time Edom was a pastoral society, and Judah not much more advanced. In this view, ancient Israel did not develop into a true state until the eighth century B.C., a century and a half after David.

More widely held in recent years is the estimate that Edom did not become a complex society and kingdom until the eighth or seventh centuries, presumably as a consequence of rule by the Assyrian empire.

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It's true that an anachronism in the Bible does not prove Israelites did not exist, but I don't think 'secularists' hang their hat solely on a similar anachronism in the Book of Mormon in disbelieving in the existence of Nephites. Could it be that there is evidence supporting the existence of the Israelites where there is none for the Nephites?

Thanks for making my point. If it is a faulty argument to reject the existence of the Israelites because they had legendary beliefs about antediluvian metallurgy, it should be equally faulty to reject the existence of the Nephites on this ground.

(The question here, I should note, is not whether the Nephites really existed or not. The question is whether the Jaredite metal-working issue is a valid argument against the existence of Nephites. Please keep this distinction in mind. If it is not valid in the case of Israel, it cannot be valid in the case of the BOM.)

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You are setting up a false dichotomy and you know it. The idea that if there is a mistake in the bible that brings into question the existence of a people who exist today is absurd and no one, save yourself has ever proposed that.

It is amazing how much I can learn from other people about things I know, but that I didn't know I knew.

Sargon understands the argument. You do not.

The argument is: if the fact that Israelites had beliefs about legendary antediluvian metal-working does not prove the Israelites did not exist, then BOM beliefs about legendary Jaredite metal-working should not prove that the Nephites did not exist.

The issue at hand is the validity of a particular argument of the critics. It is not whether the Nephites existed. Try to stay focused. There may have been no Nephites and this particular argument of the critics may still be invalid. It is perfectly possible to devise fallacious arguments for true conclusions.

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It is amazing how much I can learn from other people about things I know, but that I didn't know I knew.

Sargon understands the argument. You do not.

The argument is: if the fact that Israelites had beliefs about legendary antediluvian metal-working does not prove the Israelites did not exist, then BOM beliefs about legendary Jaredite metal-working should not prove that the Nephites did not exist.

The issue at hand is the validity of a particular argument of the critics. It is not whether the Nephites existed. Try to stay focused. There may have been no Nephites and this particular argument of the critics may still be invalid. It is perfectly possible to devise fallacious arguments for true conclusions.

The difference appears to be this:

The Bible citation indicates that a later, metalworking culture attributed their skills to a prior "mythical" group. In the Book of Mormon, you have a non-steelmaking Nephite group attributing steelmaking to an earlier, possibly mythical group, which is more problematic.

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Thanks for making my point. If it is a faulty argument to reject the existence of the Israelites because they had legendary beliefs about antediluvian metallurgy, I should be equally faulty to reject the existence of the Nephites on this ground.

(The question here, I should note, is not whether the Nephites really existed or not. The question is whether the Jaredite metal-working issue is a valid argument against the existence of Nephites. Please keep this distinction in mind. If it is not valid in the case of Israel, it cannot be valid in the case of the BOM.)

Close, but no cigar.

The metallurgy issue raises an anachronism that supports the argument that that the BoM is a work of fiction, and not a translation of an ancient document.

Since you can obviously have fictional accounts of real people, the existence of an anachronism rendering a work fiction does not in and of itself prove that people mentioned in the fictional account do not exist.

However, I should note that if the only evidence that you have that Nephites existed is the BoM, then disproving the authenticity of the BoM pretty much disproves the existence of Nephites.

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The difference appears to be this:

The Bible citation indicates that a later, metalworking culture attributed their skills to a prior "mythical" group. In the Book of Mormon, you have a non-steelmaking Nephite group attributing steelmaking to an earlier, possibly mythical group, which is more problematic.

I am not saying the Jaredites are mythic. I am saying the attribution of steel-working to Shelum may be legendary.

Nephi worked steel/bronze.

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Close, but no cigar.

The metallurgy issue raises an anachronism that supports the argument that that the BoM is a work of fiction, and not a translation of an ancient document.

Since you can obviously have fictional accounts of real people, the existence of an anachronism rendering a work fiction does not in and of itself prove that people mentioned in the fictional account do not exist.

While it is true anachronistic metallurgy (if such there is in the BOM) is consistent with a 19C fictional BOM, it does not prove the BOM is 19C. The accounts of Jaredite Shule legendarily working metals is also consistent with an ancient BOM; that is, ancient peoples anachronistically attributed metal-working to their ancestors, as exemplified by the Bible.

The issue, in other words, although consistent with 19C fictional authorship, is not evidence in favor of 19C fictional authorship.

Yes, he did, according to the text, which in turn makes the text problematic.

But Nephi came from the ANE, where metal-working is well attested. By analogy, would you insist that a Viking text describing metal-working in Vinland is anachronistic because the Inuit did not work metals?

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While it is true anachronistic metallurgy (if such there is in the BOM) is consistent with a 19C fictional BOM, it does not prove the BOM is 19C. The accounts of Jaredite Shule legendarily working metals is also consistent with an ancient BOM; that is, ancient peoples anachronistically attributed metal-working to their ancestors, as exemplified by the Bible.

The issue, in other words, although consistent with 19C fictional authorship, is not evidence in favor of 19C fictional authorship.

It depends on how you define evidence. Much of what passes for evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon is really nothing more than parallelism, and what you have here is something that parallels quite nicely with 19th-century mound builder mythology. The decision one has to make is which is more likely. Obviously we disagree in our conclusions.

But Nephi came from the ANE, where metal-working is well attested. By analogy, would you insist that a Viking text describing metal-working in Vinland is anachronistic because the Inuit did not work metals?

I would if there were accounts that the Vikings had become politically and culturally dominant among the Inuit and that Viking technology had been taught to the Inuit and practiced by them. Seems pretty obvious to me.

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