Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Test of Antiquity

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims that the Book of Mormon is an ancient holy book.  But is it really ancient as the claim?

J.Warner Wallace wrote an excellent article about examining the claims for the antiquity of books.  Read the article, copied below, and you will learn that the BOM fails all tests of antiquity, proving it was just written by Joseph Smith (with a lot of plagiarism from the KJV Bible) in the early 19th century.

The First Question to Ask of an Ancient, Holy Book: Is It Ancient?
January 25, 2017/3, by J. Warner Wallace

Many of the world’s best-known religious texts are silent when it comes to claims about history. Many Eastern religious scriptures, for example, describe spiritual principles devoid of historical location or setting. Texts such as these are proverbial in nature, proclaiming ancient wisdom without any connection to historical context. The Abrahamic religions are very different, however. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Mormonism make claims about ancient history. For this reason, these religious worldviews are both verifiable and falsifiable. We ought to be able to corroborate the historical claims of ancient religious texts just as we could other historical documents. Such verification would certify their antiquity, if nothing else. On the other hand, if the claims of an ancient holy book are consistently incorrect related to the ancient world it allegedly describes, we ought to consider the text with suspicion.

It’s also important to remember that not every ancient text makes a claim about “divinity”; there are many texts from antiquity that are ancient, but not “holy”. If a text claims to be both ancient and holy, it needs to pass the first test related to antiquity before it can hope to qualify in the second category as holy. After all, a book cannot be holy or divine if it is lying about ancient history.

The test of antiquity was incredibly important to me as a skeptic examining the claims of scripture for the first time. As I became interested in Christianity, my Mormon family encouraged me to examine Mormonism as well. I read the entire Book of Mormon before I completed the Old and New Testament. I wanted to determine the “antiquity” of the Gospels and the Book of Mormon before I could examine the question of “divinity”. I needed to know if the New Testament gospels were written early enough to have been written by eyewitnesses who were actually present to observe what was recorded in these accounts. Similarly, I needed to know if the Book of Mormon was an accurate account of the history of the American continent from 600BC to 400AD (as it claims). My first investigation was centered on the foundational question: Are these ancient holy books truly ancient?

What kinds of questions can an investigator ask when trying to answer this important question related to antiquity? I considered the following:

Are historical events cited in (or omitted from) the text in a manner that is reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the references to language, proper names and titles reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the references to culture, government or civilizations reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the references to geography, native animals and plants reliably and accurately ancient?

Are the other corroborative documents that are reliably and accurately ancient?

Are there additional, successive historical references that are reliably and accurately ancient?

I asked these questions of the gospel accounts and the Book of Mormon and came away with two very different sets of answers. There are many good reasons to accept the early dating of the gospels and their reliability as eyewitness accounts. In each of the above listed criteria, the gospels pass the test. I’ve written an entire chapter in my book examining the evidence for early dating and the historical reliability of the gospel eyewitness accounts. After examining the accounts using the tools that are employed by historians and detectives, I concluded that the gospels are reliable. Unfortunately, the Book of Mormon doesn’t withstand evidential scrutiny nearly as well. Written in the first half of the 19th century, it fails to record anything about the ancient past that can be verified in any of the ways I’ve described. In fact, in each of the categories of inquiry I’ve offered to answer the issue of antiquity, the book of Mormon fails miserably.

I once asked a Mormon Scholar to tell me how she knew the book of Mormon was a true, reliable account of the ancient past. She told me that she had asked God about it and she believed that God had given her a “spiritual confirmation”. It struck me that this method for determining antiquity was misguided. While prayer might be one way to determine if and ancient holy book is holy, there are other, better established investigative approaches that ought to be employed to determine if an ancient holy book is ancient. We shouldn’t attempt to answer questions about divinity before we answer questions about antiquity. If a text is lying to us about events in the ancient past, it cannot be from God. For this reason, the first question we ought to ask any text that claims to be an ancient, holy book is simply this: Is the text truly a work from the ancient past?

So, Mormons — How do you explain the Book of Mormon failing the antiquity test?


2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who came up with this "test of antiquity" you speak of? You? I've never heard of such a think in the LDS religion or culture. Those of us who are members, most of us, do not need to use a test to determine anything about the truth fullness or validity of our Church or the Book of Mormon or Bible. A huge component of our Gospel is Faith. Believing without seeing. Better put, KNOW ING, without any need for a physical validation. The person you mention that you asked how she knew the Book of Mormon was true...that she had prayed about it, we'll, she's absolutely 100% CORRECT. That is how you find out if it is true and correct. That, if you prefer to look at it this way, is validation. However, Members don't use that word. We read the Book.of Mormon with open hearts and minds, trying to without judgement. When we finish the Book, we pray to Heavenly Father, asking with Faith, humility, and true intent, having a real desire of wanting to know it is true. You will receive an answer to your prayer. Sometimes right away, maybe not right away. If not right away, maybe it's not the right time in your life to know due to a hardened heart and and having an attitude of judgement, no humility and not willing to listen to the Spirit. Church History is important and it is studied in our Church. But needing to know all of these answers you want to the questions you have, isn't more important or necessary to decide whether or not the Book of Mormon is real or true. There are going to always, ALWAYS be questions we have about life, why this or that happens, how things work, and especially questions about the LDS religion that no one can answer, even the Prophet or a well known scholar of the religion. That's just how it's going to be. And that is exactly what faith is about. Faith without works is dead. It sounds like you have no faith in anything when it comes to religion. Having faith plus knowledge plus action brings so many things to light, blessings and miricals and just unbelievable things.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The test of antiquity has been around for a very, very long time. It was developed to expose forgeries by determining the very things stated in the article, all of which the Book of Mormon fails.

The test of truth isn’t by praying about it, because all you end up with is subjective feelings. Why is it that only Mormons have prayers answered as being affirmations of the Book of Mormon?

Faith must have a factual foundation, which is not present in the LDS faith. All the prophecies of Joseph Smith have been proven false, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham have both been proven beyond any reasonable doubt to be fraudulent documents, etc.

How do you explain that I read the BOM with an open mind and found it to be fraudulent? I even demonstrate all the problems with it in my series on the BOM in October 2014 (which I suggest you review)? How do you explain that discovering all the lies in the LDS history, BOM, prophecies, etc, is what lead ME to leave the Mormon church?

You receive an affirmative answer from yourself, not from God, because God wouldn’t affirm that which contradicts His revealed Word in the Bible. But the LDS excuse when someone doesn’t believe the BOM is true is because, as you said, they have a hardened heart and having an attitude of judgement, no humility and not willing to listen to the Spirit. Very convenient — “if you don’t believe what we say, then it is because of your attitude”! I call that a logic fallacy.

It sounds like you have no faith in anything when it comes to religion.
I wonder why you would lake such a statement. I have faith in the veracity of the Holy Bible, I have faith that in that book one finds the true ETERNAL God (not a god who was a sinful man who had to work his way to godhood) and the true ETERNAL Son of God who is equal with the Father and was born of a virgin (without an “immortal man” - your god - having sex with Mary) and died on the cross to pay for our sins and rose again from the dead to prove the sacrifice was accepted. I am a born-again Christian, with faith based on facts. Your faith is based on believe lies you’ve been told.

Having faith plus knowledge plus action brings so many things to light, blessings and miricals and just unbelievable things.
Really? But you do not have the true knowledge of the LDS religion or you would leave it. Just what miracles have you personally witnessed? What unbelievable things have you personally witnessed that could only be ascribed to God?

I highly recommend you read my series on the BOM, and even the rest of the articles just from October and November 2014 where I also expose the false prophecies of Smith, false doctrines, fraudulent priesthood.

I pray that your eyes will be opened to the truth and that you will seek repentance and salvation in the true Jesus of the Bible.