Jump to content

Not so easy?


Bill Hamblin

Recommended Posts

For those that think it should be easy to find conclusive proof of the BOM through archaeological evidence, I offer the following challenge.

All that survives in Mesoamerica from pre-400 AD is archaeological artifacts, and some Maya royal inscriptions and reliefs. Assume, for the sake of Argument, that Diocletian's persecutions of Christianity were successful, Constantine never converted, and Christianity disappeared around 300 AD. Using solely archaeological artifacts and imperial Roman inscriptions, reconstruct the history of Christianity. What, precisely, could we prove about Christianity using solely archaeological artifacts and Roman royal inscriptions? To give you a little help, you can turn to Graydon F. Snyder, Ante Pacem: Archaeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine, 2nd ed.(Mercer UP, 2003), which includes all major archaeological data.

Link to comment

Good point. Just think, you could make up absolutely anything you wanted about early Christianity, and since no one could "prove" you wrong, I'm betting you could convince a bunch of people you were right. Especially if your version of events made them feel good.

But are you really making a good comparison?

All that survives in Mesoamerica from pre-400 AD is archaeological artifacts, and some Maya royal inscriptions and reliefs

Well, the Book of Mormon makes some pretty strong claims for which there might be an expectation of some sort of record, doesn't it?

I'll spend some time noting some of the claims made in the Book of Mormon that I think would be detectable by modern research methods, but in the meantime, I'd like to put forth one of my questions:

If the Book of Mormon weren't true, what would have been different when Columbus discovered the New World?

For example, if there had been no Book of Mormon migrations:

Would the Native Americans have light skin or dark skin?

Would their religion be different? If so, how?

Would their culture or language be different? If so, how?

Would their cities, towns, and political organizations have been different?

Would their numbers be different? More or fewer? Why?

Would they have had horses? (Did they?)

How would new world food, plants, animals, and technology been different?

Would their DNA have been different?

To put it plainly, do you think the events in the Book of Mormon had any perceptible effect on the people who lived in the New World, to the degree that anything would have been different in 1492 had the Jaredites, Lehites and Mulekites hadn't sailed?

Link to comment

Let's say about 400 AD all Christians were wiped out. And let's say there were actually MILLIONS of them that were wiped in a great battle to end all battles.

Yes...I think we would both know AND find traces.

No one asks for conclusive proof. We ask for something solid. A sword. Come on - there were some BIG battles and cities. There were millions of white people running around. I think they would have made a pretty big splash on the world that would still be visable. The Mayans were never even that great a civilization and we can find lots about them.

Link to comment
Yes...I think we would both know AND find traces.

The problem is not finding traces. The problem is indentifying them. We find lots of pots. How would we know if a pot is Nephite or not?

I note that no one has actually responded to the challenge.

Link to comment

Well I don't think millions were killed in the last battles of the nephites/lamanites. The record records about 230,000 lamanites were killed and no mention of nephites except that they all died out. Even if if one million nephites were killed its still not millions. I can think of the First World War when the same types of numbers were happening, deaths and wounds and things. What kind of Effect did that have? I think the War had an effect but not a profound revolutionary effect. There were enough soldiers to fight in WW2 and Europe is still populated today.

Link to comment

I think the War had an effect but not a profound revolutionary effect. There were enough soldiers to fight in WW2 and Europe is still populated today.

Even better...seems like you're posturing that even if the war wiped out all those who could swing a sword...there still should be Nephites left over - right?

He means if you found a sword, how do you know 'everyone' wasn't a believer in Roman Diety instead of a Christian?

Sword was a bad example - at least for the Romans. Let's think more - suppose we believed that all of most Christians identified themselves by the fish symbol. And there was, for the sake of argument, 1 million of them. I believe we would still find fish symbols today. Look at every great civilization - there are always markers. We may not know how to identify them at first...but their secrets come out. In the case of the BoM - you WOULD know how to identify them. Writing on a cave somewhere that correlates with BoM history? How about Egyptian characters (or some sort) that talk of a great sea journey and battles and Jesus visiting. I know, I know...you can make some Mayan glyphs work in such ways. But those are Mayan glyphs. If there were millions (yes, over the years there should have been were there a million at the very end) we should find plenty to tell of their passing. And you guys would be right there to sway "Nephite!!!"

Link to comment
I believe we would still find fish symbols today. Look at every great civilization - there are always markers.

Instead of opining about what you believe we should or should not be able to do based historical evidence, why don't you actually respond substantively to my three "not so easy" challenges. You are asking supporters of the BOM to do analogous things with the BOM text and Mesoamerican archaeology. If it is such an easy thing to do, do the equivalent.

Link to comment
Would the Native Americans have light skin or dark skin?

It would appear that they had both. A recent discovery in Peru is of a city of "fair skinned" peoples. Thus, the idea of a "two toned" people as presented in the B of M is plausible.

Would their religion be different?  If so, how?

Did the Roman, Greek, Jewish or other religions which came into close contact with Christianity "change" in anyway? If so, how?

Would their culture or language be different?  If so, how?

Assume that the Nephite language did influence the surrounding Mayan language. How long would such effects last after the Nephite influence was destroyed? It's been 1600 years and the area has not been static. You have aztec influence from the North. Spanish dominations after the 1400's. So, even if the Nephite language did exert some influence, how long would it have lasted in view of all the other lingual influences that were prevalent?

Would their cities, towns, and political organizations have been different?

I'm not sure the comparison is apt, but I think it is. The neighborhood where I live has experienced a substantial influx of latinos (mexican, central american, etc). They didn't show up and build adobe homes. There is no split bamboo w/ corrugted tin roofs. They live in the same type of homes I live in. They don't fire their own pottery, they buy tupperware, just like me. So, if an archeologist discovered their home 2000 years from now, how would he know that they were any different from me?

Would their numbers be different? More or fewer?  Why?

How would you know after you consider the massive depopulations that were experience post-columbus?

Would they have had horses? (Did they?)

My own personal opinion? Yes, they had horses but only in a limited fashion. I think they were a "royal perk" or status symbol. Another example that may be apt or may not. When I lived in Montana, their was a neighbor who rasied tigers (big, very scary tigers!). Assume that 2000 years from now some archeologist digs up tiger bones in Montana. How would he deal with the info? Tigers shouldn't be there according to the common wisdom, yet he's got there in a strata where they shouldn't be. So, he can a) rock the boat and claim tigers existed in Montana. cool.gif ignore the evidence and assume the site was contaminated by some subsequent incursion.

I mention this because it's my understand that horse bones have been found in mesoamerica at stratas where they should not be but that they have been excused/explained as being contaminants from the subsequent Spanish incursion into the area.

Take it for what it's worth.

How would new world food, plants, animals, and technology been different?

Got me on this one. I thought Sorenson had documented several old world plants in the new world context?

Would their DNA have been different?

According to Whiting et al., no, it wouldn't, at least not in any detecable way this far removed from the events.

C.I.

Link to comment
For those that think it should be easy to find conclusive proof of the BOM through archaeological evidence, I offer the following challenge.

I guess the challenge doesn't really apply to me, as I am not aware of any evidence that "conclusively" proves the BOM one way or another. There may be relevant evidence making that more or less likely, but that's something entirely different than conclusive proof.

As to the challenge itseld, I don't know what we would be able to prove. I have to admit that I'm ill equipped to adequately tackle the challenge. (Not to mention disinclined to spend the necessary time.) However, at a minimum, I'll probably check out the resource you provided.

I do have a couple questions, however, about your challenge.

You ask, "What, precisely, could we prove about Christianity using solely archaeological artifacts and Roman royal inscriptions?"

First, is the challenge to come up with "conclusive proof" or evidence? If it's to come up with conclusive proof, then I'll admit it's unlikely to be possible and not worth even undertaking. If it's evidence, then I don't know. But like I said, I may be willing to take a peek.

Second, why the limitation to archeological artifacts and Roman royal inscriptions? I understand the underlying assumption that Christianity disappeared around 300 A.D. But is doesn't necessarily follow from that assumption that the only evidence would be archeological and royal inscriptions. I also realize that perhaps this limitation was to make the challenge similar to that offered by critics of the BOM. However, I'd be more than willing to consider non-archealogical and pre-400 A.D. inscriptional evidence of the BOM. For example, if Mayan descendents (or other Native Americans) had an oral tradition or history with some similarities to the BOM, that would be considered evidence. Not conclusive, but it could make it more or less likely.

Link to comment

Instead of opining about what you believe we should or should not be able to do based historical evidence, why don't you actually respond substantively to my three "not so easy" challenges.

Because comparing BoM peoples from AD33 to AD 300 is not the same as comparing early Christians up to the same period. Christians were simply one small group within a larger empire. Their peoples slowly built up over the centuries until they dominated the poltics of said empire.

The Nephites, on the other hand, started AD 33 as the only power. They WERE the empire. As the years passed they grew more populace and stronger. At the end of the time you alot they are the major power in the area - unchallenged, as far as you can know, by any other nation or state.

1. People struggling to make a place for themselves in a hostile empire. To be a Christian invited death in some places.

2. People who are the rulers of the state. They build the temples. They build the roads and write the books and histories.

Which would you think to find evidence for?

Link to comment
The Nephites, on the other hand, started AD 33 as the only power.  They WERE the empire.

Bzzzt. Wrong. But thank you for playing. I don't suppose you can provide envidence from the text for this gem can you? No? Didn't think so.

As the years passed they grew more populace and stronger. 

Within the context of a larger pre-existing population, yes.

At the end of the time you alot they are the major power in the area - unchallenged, as far as you can know, by any other nation or state.

That's certainly not what the text intimates. You don't get to assert what we must believe. We only have to rely on the text for that and nowhere does the text say they were alone on the continent and sole power. In fact, it very strongly implies the existence of antecendent populations.

C.I.

Link to comment
4 Nephi 1

2 And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.

<snip>

20 And he kept it eighty and four years, and there was still peace in the land, save it were a small part of the people who had revolted from the church and taken upon them the name of Lamanites; therefore there began to be Lamanites again in the land.

(Emphasis added)

Verse 2 is clear and explicit. We can discuss where, exactly, the "land" was. But wherever it was, there were only two groups: the Nephites and the Lamanites. And since it wasn't until ~200 AD that some revolted and became "lamanites", it implies that before then, there were no Lamanites, which means only Nephites.

Also interesting is verse 27:

27 And it came to pass that when *two hundred and ten years had passed away there were many churches in the land; yea, there were many churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did adeny the more parts of his gospel, insomuch that they did receive all manner of wickedness, and did administer that which was sacred unto him to whom it had been forbidden because of unworthiness.

So here we have a claim of religious belief tied to a period of time. We also have a blanket statement saying this religious belief was uniformly all over the land. So, if we want to "test" a geography, we can look at the religion of the people who lived there from 33-200AD.

Hmmm....do we know anything about the Mayan religion from 33-200AD? Could this indicate whether or not they were post-Mosaic-law Christians? Is there an archaeologist in the house?

(Of course, the apologetic response might be to ask "what would we expect to find that would indicate Christianity?", but I'm more than willing to look at what has been found, and see if the apologists can relate it to Christianity in any conceivable way).

Here is a list of some Mayan gods. Any guesses which are God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost?

http://www.students.dsu.edu/rummelf/mayan_religion.htm

Link to comment

Confidential Informant says:

I don't suppose you can provide envidence from the text for this gem can you? No? Didn't think so.

Then, after I quote evidence from the text saying exactly what he was looking for, responds:

Brant's covered all this before.

I'm sure he may try again, but it won't make any difference.

To this I say:

If you weren't looking for evidence from the text, why did you ask for it? In what whay does the "text" require a response?

If I remember correctly, Brant's "response" is characteristically apologetic: we're supposed to assume that the "text" is being poetic, or mythical, or exaggerated. In other words, we're not supposed to believe what the text actually says.

So, if we're not supposed to believe what the text says, what's the point of asking for evidence from the text?

Link to comment
Verse 2 is clear and explicit. We can discuss where, exactly, the "land" was. But wherever it was, there were only two groups: the Nephites and the Lamanites.

But since "Lamanite" was a catchall term by this time in the narrative and not a apellation of direct lineal descent, it doesn't show what you claim it does. To the Nephites, all non-nephites were Lamanites no matter what their actual lineage.

Thus, when it says there were Nephites and Lamanites, it does not in anyway preclude the existence other peoples not actualy descended from Laman.

C.I.

P.S. What you call "apologetic" in Brant's answers is nothing more than him applying the standard scholarly methodolgies to the text. Why is that "apologetic"?

ci

Link to comment
For those that think it should be easy to find conclusive proof of the BOM through archaeological evidence, I offer the following challenge.

All that survives in Mesoamerica from pre-400 AD is archaeological artifacts, and some Maya royal inscriptions and reliefs. Assume, for the sake of Argument, that Diocletian's persecutions of Christianity were successful, Constantine never converted, and Christianity disappeared around 300 AD. Using solely archaeological artifacts and imperial Roman inscriptions, reconstruct the history of Christianity. What, precisely, could we prove about Christianity using solely archaeological artifacts and Roman royal inscriptions? To give you a little help, you can turn to Graydon F. Snyder, Ante Pacem: Archaeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine, 2nd ed.(Mercer UP, 2003), which includes all major archaeological data.

I think there are a few critical differences in the analogy between "proof of the Book of Mormon" and "reconstructing the history of Christianity".

Unfortunately, my local library doesn't have Snyder's book, and I don't care enough about Early Christianity to buy it. So perhaps you could help me understand your question by telling me a few things:

-What archeaological reasons are there to believe that the Christians existed at all before 300AD? Is it possible the entire backstory was invented after the 4th Century?

-If there is universal agreement in the existence of Christians before 300AD, why is this? What has led to the consensus? Is a belief in their existence predicated on faith to some degree?

-Do athiest or non-Christian scholars even debate the existence of a Christian church from 33-300AD?

-As someone who has doubts about much of the Bible, should I understand your question to imply that a belief in early Christians is about as rational as a belief in the Nephites? And for me to doubt the claims of the Book of Mormon should also encourage me to doubt the claims of pre-Constantine Christianity?

But, if the situation is as you imply, and the early evidence for early Christianity is as pathetic as the evidence for Book of Mormon claims, than in the absence of more convincing evidence, I would be just as skeptical of those who would make fantastic claims about the ancient, short lived sect of "Jesusians".

Link to comment
Second, why the limitation to archeological artifacts and Roman royal inscriptions?

Because this would be analogous to the types of data that survive from Mesoamerica.

I understand. That's why I said:

"However, I'd be more than willing to consider non-archealogical and pre-400 A.D. inscriptional evidence of the BOM. For example, if Mayan descendents (or other Native Americans) had an oral tradition or history with some similarities to the BOM, that would be considered evidence. Not conclusive, but it could make it more or less likely."

But is it really the case that the only tupe of data on the BOM is pre-400 A.D. I remember on my mission people citing, rightly or wrongly, the Popol Vuh as evidence in support of the BOM. While I'm in no position to evaluation the validity of the Popol Vuh as evidence, it's my understanding that it's not a pre-400 A.D. document.

But assuming that to be the case, if I accept the challenge, why should I be limited to the types of data similar to what purportedly survives from Mesoamerica? I still don't see why I shouldn't be able to consider any evidence that would might exist had Christianity ended in 300 A.D. I recognize that, because of the assumption, it may be difficult determining which additional evidence would exist or what what wouldn't. But since we're playing with hypotheticals, I think I should be allowed to indulge so long as I can come up with a reasonable justification for my inclusion of the "evidence."

Link to comment

I was over visiting with our relief society president yesterday and she had a house full of pagan artifacts and non from her Asian country of origin. She has jackolanterns, scarecrows, witches and a picture of what she calls a temple with no caption explaining what it was. To me it looks like a catholic cathedral with a trumpet player on top. She even has a picture of a man with a red robe, a statue of an ox (does she pray to it?) and several pieces of miniature furniture. No, she must have lied about being an immigrant and I can find no evidence that she is LDS. She even has a plant made out of plastic: what, I ask you, does this signify? Does the fern symbolize eternal life?

Link to comment

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...