Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Insights into Ancient Nahom: Great Article from the Journal of Arabian Studies

Tonight I just found and read a terrific academic article on ancient Nahom, or rather, the ancient Nihm tribe of Yemen and its tribal lands, a region identified on several maps with names like Nehem, Nehhm, or Nahm. The article is "The Origins of the Nihm Tribe of Yemen: A Window into Arabia's Past," Journal of Arabian Studies: Arabia, the Gulf, and the Red Sea, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2014, by Warren P. Aston. You can order the article from the publisher, or view it for free via Academia.edu.
Abstract: The 1999 excavation of the Barʾan complex at Maʾrib in Yemen yielded identical Sabaean inscriptions on three votive altars. These dedication texts list the donor's grandfather as a member of the Nihm tribe, definitively establishing the presence of the tribal name to c.2,800 years ago. The name, rare in southern Arabia, can then be traced through a variety of other inscriptional, topographical and historical sources down to the present-day tribe and its lands. While the consonants NHM refer to ‘dressing stone by chipping’, and may appear in a variety of contexts, an etymological examination of its Semitic roots yields interesting pointers to the possible origins of the name. Multiple links in these roots to terminology such as ‘consoling’, ‘comforting’ and ‘complaining’ have led to the name being long associated with death and the processes of mourning. This paper, therefore, suggests the possibility of the name being specifically associated with a place of burial, perhaps a connection in the distant past to the extensive, still poorly understood, desert necropolis at the ʿAlam, Ruwayk and Jidran complex north of Maʾrib. Being able to firmly document, a specific tribal and topographical name for almost three millennia is significant. Such continuity of a tribal name, perhaps unique in Arabia, would have implications for our understanding of the processes of tribal naming, structure, and movements in pre-Islamic southern Arabia generally.
Aston reviews the three inscriptions, their meaning, location, and dating. Dating to before Nephi's day, three altars have been found in Marib bearing an inscription mentioning the donor, a member of the Nihm tribe. They were given as gifts to a pagan temple in Marib, which is somewhat to the west of current Nihm tribal boundaries (the region marked Nehem or Nehhm on some maps), suggesting either that the Nihm tribe's boundaries or scope of influence was larger anciently than it is today, or perhaps Marib had the nearest holy place to give these gifts.

Aston explores the etymology of the Nihm name in Arabic and in Hebrew:
In attempting to understand its possible origins, the first point to note is that the consonants NHM are exceedingly rare; they do not appear anywhere else in Arabia as a toponym. NHM is attested only rarely in southern Arabian writings as a personal or tribal name; it also appears a handful of times in northern Arabian Safaitic texts. NHM itself has two closely related Semitic roots: NH ̣M [that should be H with a dot underneath] and NHM. The first root, NH ̣M, has the voiceless pharyngeal h ̣ consonant, giving it the basic meaning of 'to comfort, console, to be sorry' and is used in Arabic (as nah ̣ama)to refer to a 'soft groan, sigh, moan'. Likewise, in ancient Hebrew this root is commonly used in connection with mourning a death. Indeed, David Damrosch notes that:
It appears twenty-five times in the narrative books of the Bible, and in every case it is associated with death. In family settings, it is applied in instances involving the death of an immediate family member (parent, sibling or child); in national settings, it has to do with the survival or impending extermination of an entire people. At heart, nah ̣am means 'to mourn', to come to terms with a death.
The second root, NHM, has the simple voiceless laryngeal h and is also found in Hebrew where it means to 'roar', 'complain' and 'be hungry'. In ancient Egyptian the root refers ‘to roar, thunder, shout’, which is similar to the Arabic meanings ‘to growl, groan, roar, suffer from hunger, to complain'. This association with hunger may be connected to the fasting that was often part of mourning for the dead in ancient Yemen and still in many cultures today. It is this second root, NHM, that appears in every known occurrence of the name in epigraphic South Arabian text, whether Sabaean, Hadramitic or Minean in origin. Here, it usually refers to ‘dressed masonry’ or the ‘dressing of stone by chipping’....
The ancient Nihm tribe's wealth and influence may have been related to their expertise in stonework, demonstrated perhaps by the carved stone altars given by one wealthy man to the temple in Marib. That expertise may be associated with the vast complex of stone tombs in the ancient burial associated with Nehem. Aston notes that there are other ancient burial regions, much smaller than the huge ones to the north, that are in the present Nihm tribal boundaries.

Aston's article has interesting insights for students of the Book of Mormon. One of the earliest Hebraic word plays recognized in the text is the one involving Nahom, a place named by others where Lehi's family buried Ishmael. Immediately after Nahom is introduced at the end of verse 34 in 1 Nephi 16, we read of the mourning,  complaining, and murmuring of the daughters of Ishmael, whose complaints include the hunger that they have suffered, and their fear that they will now perish with hunger (1 Nephi 16:35,36). This connects nicely with the meanings that Hebrew speakers would associate with Nahom.

The Hebraic wordplay was interesting internal evidence for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon, long before the discovery by a BYU professor in 1978 than Nehem was actually on some old high-end maps of Arabia. Later we would recognize that this region is in exactly the right place for an eastward turn that could then lead directly to a remarkable candidate, nearly due east of Nahom as Nephi wrote, for the previously ridiculed place, Bountiful. I find that cool. That was before German archaeologists discovered the altars at Marib bearing the ancient Nihm tribal name, showing that the tribe was in the area and influential in Lehi's era (well before, actually). So Nehem is not a modern name. It's rooted in antiquity, with hard evidence chiseled in stone to prove it. I also find that to be cool.

Aston, as you may know, is LDS and well aware of the implications for the Book of Mormon, which he does not raise in this publication. While his interest in the Book of Mormon and Lehi's trail is well known, other scholars and officials also recognize his academic passion for Arabia and especially for preserving and investigating the surprising region at Khor Kharfot and Wadi Sayq, a rare gem in the Arabian Peninsula that also is a leading candidate for the long ballyhooed place called Bountiful. Efforts are underway through his Khor Kharfot Foundation to increase research and preserve the biology of that delicate region, where modern diversion of its water supply is already jeopardizing some of the magnificent trees in the area. It's a remarkable place, a biological and geographical gem in Arabia that needs your help. LDS or not, I hope you'll consider making a donation to this worthy cause.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Daniel Johnson on Horses and the Book of Mormon: New Publication at BYU Studies

Just published: "'Hard' Evidence of Ancient American Horses" by Daniel Johnson, BYU Studies, vol. 54, no. 3, 2015. Recommended reading! One of the best reviews of the data and theories related to the problematic issue of horses in the Book of Mormon. The problem is not fully resolved by any means, but Johnson does a great job of exploring the possibilities and controversies.

If real horses were known to the Nephites, one problem is that we would expect them to show up in more of the art in Mesoamerica. Johnson points to one possibility, but many questions remain.

On the other hand, Brant Gardner in his thorough new book, The Book of Mormon as History (Salt Lake: Greg Kofford Books, 2015), explores horses in the Book of Mormon as a potential issue of translation to English (pp. 295-300), arising from Joseph's personal assumptions about the context rather than a direct translation (this, of course, would favor the "loose translation" approach to the Book of Mormon, at least for unfamiliar flora, fauna, and objects). His treatment of the word "chariot" is especially insightful, linking it to Mesoamerican litters.

Friday, November 06, 2015

The Sizzle of Shazer

Our critics tell us that the Arabian Peninsula evidence can readily be accounted for by glancing at a high-end map of Arabia made before 1830, such as the beautiful map of D'Anville that does indeed show the name Nehem. So far, my requests to explain how that could be done, even with the best available map in hand, have resulted in unsatisfying responses. Find Nehem on  the map, go there, turn east, and voila! So easy. All of which doesn't begin to account for the many specific details that have been of great interest to LDS students. Those details include the finding of plausible candidates for the River of Laman and the Valley of Lemuel, the ability to turn east near Nahom and survive, and the intricate correspondences at the candidates for Bountiful that are, as Nephi described, nearly due east of Nahom. For some of the details related to Bountiful, you can see a list in Warren Aston's 1998 article at the Maxwell Institute, but please see the PDF version of that article to see some images as well (6.3 Mb). Precious few of the evidences for authenticity related to Bountiful can be extrapolated from any map in Joseph's day, and even more modern maps won't help much.

One more detail, the subject of today's post involves the place Shazer. There's more to Shazer than just a name. The Book of Mormon tags it with some context and detail that is usually overlooked by critics. Shazer is introduced as Nephi's group leaves the Valley of Lemuel (1 Nephi 16:11–14):
 11 And it came to pass that we did gather together whatsoever things we should carry into the wilderness, and all the remainder of our provisions which the Lord had given unto us; and we did take seed of every kind that we might carry into the wilderness.
12 And it came to pass that we did take our tents and depart into the wilderness, across the river Laman.
13 And it came to pass that we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction, and we did pitch our tents again; and we did call the name of the place Shazer.
14 And it came to pass that we did take our bows and our arrows, and go forth into the wilderness to slay food for our families; and after we had slain food for our families we did return again to our families in the wilderness, to the place of Shazer. And we did go forth again in the wilderness, following the same direction, keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea.
Nephi's use of borders, as had been pointed out by Kent Brown, appears to refer to mountains in the region. See S. Kent Brown, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail," in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, edited by Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson, and John W. Welch, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002). George Potter and Richard Wellington in Lehi in the Wilderness says that he learned from local Arabs that the name of the mountains in northwest Arabia, the Hejaz, means "borders." He notes that the Hebrew word for borders, gebul, is cognate with Arabic jabal (jebel, djebel) meaning mountain (p. 3). So references to the borders near the Red Sea could logically refer to mountains. Strong's Concordance for gebul also notes that one meaning can be a concrete object marking a limit.

Starting with the proposed location of the Valley of Lemuel, the place Shazer needs to be within a four-day journey along a south-southeast direction.

Regarding the place name Shazer, Nigel Groom's Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Placenames (Beirut: Libraire du Liban; London: Longman, 1983; as cited by Potter and Wellington, p. 73) contains an entry for a similar word, shajir, giving the meaning: "A valley or area abounding with trees and shrubs."

Regarding the name "Shazer," Hugh Nibley wrote:
The first important stop after Lehi's party had left their base camp was at a place they called Shazer. The name is intriguing. The combination shajer is quite common in Palestinian place names; it is a collective meaning "trees," and many Arabs (especially in Egypt) pronounce it shazher. It appears in Thoghret-as-Sajur (the Pass of Trees), which is the ancient Shaghur, written Segor in the sixth century. It may be confused with Shaghur "seepage," which is held to be identical with Shihor, the "black water" of Josh. 19:36. This last takes in western Palestine the form Sozura, suggesting the name of a famous water hole in South Arabia, called Shisur by Thomas and Shisar by Philby. . . . So we have Shihor, Shaghur, Sajur, Saghir, Segor (even Zoar), Shajar, Sozura, Shisur, and Shisar, all connected somehow or other and denoting either seepage--a weak but reliable water supply--or a clump of trees. Whichever one prefers, Lehi's people could hardly have picked a better name for their first suitable stopping place than Shazer. (Lehi in the Desert [Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1952], p. 90.)
In a brief article in the 1992 Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Nibley simply suggested that Shazer is derived from the Arabic shajer, meaning trees or place of trees ("Book of Mormon Near Eastern Background," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992), p. 188).

The Book of Mormon description of Shazer as a place where Lehi's group would stop and go hunting--obviously a place with water and wildlife where one could stay for a while on a long journey--agrees well with the meaning of the word Shazer. Again, the Book of Mormon text provides a highly plausible name that accurately corresponds to the place described. But is there such a place in the area required by the Book of Mormon?

Before going any further, let us note that Shazer is introduced in a classic Hebraism: "we did call the name of the place Shazer" (1 Nephi 16:13). In normal English we would say that we called the place Shazer or named the place Shazer, but in Hebrew one would say that he called the name of the place, for it is the name that is called, not the place itself. This point is made by John L. Sorenson and Melvin J. Thorne, eds., Rediscovering the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City and Provo: Deseret Book Co., Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), p. 89.

But what of the place itself?

It turns out that there is a reasonable fit for Shazer, a large, extensive oasis region with what is said to be the best hunting in all of Arabia, and it is in the right location to have been a four-days' journey south-southeast of the established location for the Valley of Lemuel, near a branch of the ancient frankincense trail and in the region of Arabia near the Red Sea called the Hijaz. This oasis is in the wadi Agharr. It's in the right place. But my guess is that you aren't going to come up with this location and its context by glancing at an old map of Arabia.

In Lehi in the Wilderness, Potter and Wellington explain that they initially thought it would be easy to find Shazer, knowing that Nephi's group traveled 75 miles (almost certainly with camels) from the Gulf of Aqaba to the proposed site of the Valley of Lemuel in three days (p. 73). They concluded that the four-day journey from the Valley of Lemuel to Shazer required simply finding an oasis within 100 miles south-southeast of the Valley of Lemuel. However, many challenges stood in their way, and it would require three more field trips in their spare time over the next two years before they knew for sure that they had found Shazer. The following excerpt from Potter and Wellington describes the process of locating Shazer (pages 74,76-78):
Our first attempts at finding Shazer took us to the wells of Bani Murr and an-na'mi, to the east of the valley. Our second trip through the Khuraybah pass proved no more successful. These sites did not fit the description of a valley with trees. In fact, they were downright inhospitable. . . .

It wasn't until the summer of 2000 that the whereabouts of Shazer became apparent. We realized that Lehi's first camp after the valley had to have been at an authorized halt along the Gaza branch of the Frankincense Trail [the Valley of Lemuel was along this branch]. He would not have been allowed to stop anywhere else, and it had to be at a well site. That spring Richard had been reading the works of Alois Musil, a Bohemian academic and explorer who doubled up as a German spy before World War I. . . . One piece of his record stood out to Richard. Musil recorded, "We . . . crossed the old Pilgrim Road of ar-Rasifijje leading southward to the hills of Kos al-Hnane, where spirits abide. Date palms were still growing in parts of the valley, so that the oasis of Sarma could be extended a full twenty-five kilometers to the east."

Musil described a fertile valley with an oasis over fifteen miles long which was approximately south-southeast from the Valley of Lemuel and was crossed by the old pilgrim route that followed the Gaza arm of the old Frankincense Trail that was an active trade route in Nephi's time. We found Musil's description of Agharr most interesting because on a prior trip to Midian we had been told by the Police General at al-Bada that the best hunting in the entire area was in the mountains of Agharr.

Here at last was the solid clue we had been looking for. . . .

[The authors then discuss evidence from old Arab geographers that the first rest stop after al-Bada'a, also known as Midian, was Al-Aghra', which appears to be the wadi Agharr.] Nephi recorded that their first halting place after leaving the Valley of Lemuel was a place of trees where they stopped to hunt.

Now we had evidence from independent sources that the first rest stop after Midian on the ancient Gaza branch of the Frankincense Trail was in a fertile valley with trees, wadi Agharr, and the surrounding mountains presented the best hunting opportunities along the trail. The next step was to visit Al-Agharr. . . .

From al Bada'a we headed the sixty miles south southeast to wadi Agharr and our potential location for Shazer. To our right the Red Sea glittered in the bright noon light, to our left the mountains of the Hijaz towered over us, purple in the midday sun. Between al Bada'a and wadi Agharr we found a few small scattered farms and a few old wells. Here, where the water table was higher, there may well have been halts anciently where the families could have rested each evening as they headed southeast. As we reached wadi Agharr . . . [t]here was a gap in the mountains where the trail led. Through the gap we could see some palm trees in the wadi. Entering the wadi we were amazed to find an oasis that ran as far as the eye could see both to our left and to our right.

Wadi Agharr was exactly as Musil had described--fields of vegetables and plantations of palms stretching for miles. It is a narrow valley, perhaps one hundred yards across, bounded on each side by high walls stretching up a few hundred feet. "Shazer" was certainly an apt description for this location--a valley with trees, set amid the barren landscape of Midian. Here, after three years of fruitless searching, systematically visiting all the wells in a seventy-five mile radius of wadi Tayyab al Ism, we had finally found Shazer.

[The authors then discuss the presence of "Midianite" archaeological sites in the region, dating to the late second to mid-first millennium B.C., suggesting that the valley was fertile anciently.]

On a later expedition we returned to Shazer and drove up into the mountains in the area we thought the men of Lehi's party would have gone to hunt. We spoke with Bedouins who lived in the upper end of wadi Agharr who told us that Ibex lived in the mountains and they still hunted them there. We were reminded of the words of the Greek Agatharkides of Cnidos who called this area anciently the territory of Bythemani. According to Agatharkides, "The country is full of wild camels, as well as of flocks of deer, gazelles, sheep, mules, and oxen ... and by it dwell the Batmizomaneis who hunt land animals." [Alois Musil, Northern Hijaz--A Topographical Itinerary, published under the patronage of the Czech Academy of Arts and Sciences and of Charles R. Crane, 1926, p. 303] It may have been these very animals that Lehi and his sons went out to hunt.

Here at wadi Agharr is a site that perfectly matches Nephi's Shazer. It probably has the best hunting along the entire Frankincense Trail. It is the first place travelers would have been allowed to stop and pitch tents south of Midian, and as the Book of Mormon states, it is a four days' journey from the Valley of Lemuel (1 Ne. 16:13).
A few small photos of Shazer are available on the photo page at NephiProject.com, but a much more impressive photo of the many palm trees at Shazer is on page 77 of Potter's and Wellington's book, which I urge you to read for yourself.

Potter and Wellington offer much more as they retrace Nephi's journey. For example, after Shazer, Nephi writes that they traveled through the "most fertile parts" (1 Nephi 16:14) and then subsequently through "more fertile parts" that can be understood to be less fertile than the "most fertile" parts. These fertile regions were encountered before they turned due east, which began the most difficult part of their journey. Along the ancient incense trail, continuing just after Shazer until Medina, one encounters a region of the Hijaz called Qura Arabiyyah or "the Arab Villages" which are described by Arabs as the "fertile parts" of the land. It is the part of the trail with the highest concentration of farms and rest stops for caravans, and truly fits the Book of Mormon description. After Medina, there are fewer farms, but still enough fertile places to be called "the more fertile parts." (See pages 82-92 of Potter and Wellington, including excellent photos and a satellite map.) knowledge of these many fertile regions in the midst of the barren Arabian Peninsula was largely hidden from the west until recently. These are rare and unusual places in the Arabian Peninsula, and Joseph simply could not have known of them.

Consider what we have here, with the finding of a plausible candidate for Shazer, and the many other "direct hits" the Book of Mormon provides regarding the Arabian Peninsula. Now take a look at a map of Arabia and tell me how he would have placed Shazer so plausibly. Is it just luck that the "most fertile parts" come right after Shazer, followed by the "more fertile parts," after which things become much more difficult and presumably a lot less fertile? "Fertile parts" in Arabia is not part of basic common knowledge. If Joseph understood what "Arabia Foelix" meant on the map and knew of reports of that fertile region, he would have placed the most fertile parts way south on the journey, but those fertile parts were not along the route Nephi took.

Nothing in the information available to him in 1829 could have guided him in providing so many correct details of Nephi's voyage to the sea through the Arabian Peninsula. Nothing would have enabled him to describe the Valley of Lemuel, the River of Laman, or the place Shazer, a four-day journey (by camel) south-southeast of the Valley of Lemuel, with the best hunting in the entire area and an abundance of trees, corresponding well with the Semitic meaning of the name Shazer. Joseph knew nothing of Hebrew or Arabic at the time, and the western world knew precious little about the Arabian Peninsula. Attempting to describe details of the voyage would have been foolhardy in the extreme.

If Joseph or anyone else had made up the story, it would have been important to be as vague as possible, not giving specific directions, distances, and descriptions. The only way such an account could be done with any hope of being plausible would be if the account were written by someone who actually made the trip. To me, a more reasonable explanation is that whoever wrote First Nephi 16 and 17 had firsthand knowledge of the region, knowledge going far beyond what anyone in the States could glean from a map. So the real mystery here is not whether or not Joseph sneaked off to a remote library to gaze at a map, only to not use any of the detailed "local color" he could pull from it to impress people in his day (only to wait for over a century to be noticed).

The real question we need to be asking, if we are looking for answers, is who knew of these places, apparently from firsthand observation, and how that information was transmitted to Joseph. Better questions lead to better answers. 

More Folly Around Nahom: This Time It's My Blunder

This is somewhat embarrassing, but it's best I come clean now. I made a serious mistake in a previous post, "Burying Nahom," when I said that it would be unlikely for Joseph to have traveled 50 miles from Harmony, Pennsylvania to the academic Bountiful of his region, Allegheny College and its amazing library. If he was actually able to frequent that library, it could have helped him find the word Nehem in Arabia enhance a verse or two, and the collection of books there could have helped on a variety of minor details in Joseph's relentless quest to give us tantalizing evidences that wouldn't be noticed for over a century. But as I said, I erred when I rashly argued that the 50 mile journey was just too far to be practical for him. I stand corrected--my apologies!

While Allegheny College is 50 miles away from Harmony, Pennsylvania, that town isn't the Harmony where Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon. That was Harmony Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, which you can find by entering “Harmony Township, Susquehanna, PA” into Google Maps. You can also see that Joseph's Harmony Township is actually around 320 miles from Allegheny College. Ouch. I was off by a factor of six. It's closer to the medical library in Philadelphia which also had a book with a map of Arabia in it showing Nehem, but still way too far. (Click to enlarge.)

Kudos to the good folks at FAIRMormon.org for their helpful information (way down on that page) that exposed my blunder. Painful as it is, I have to give them credit and admit my mistake.  320 miles, not 50. So sorry!

For those who think they have a reasonable theory for how Joseph fabricated the Book of Mormon, if he did it with books and maps, it remains a mystery where and how he got them and, more crucially, how he could have used them to dictate the text we have. 

As a reminder, the Arabian Peninsula evidence, as explained on my Book of Mormon Evidences pages, is about much more than just a lucky hit with the name Nahom. Nahom alone is cool, I'll admit, being in the right place (right where you can turn due east off the ancient incense trails), and being an ancient burial place, and having archaeological evidence that the tribe with a related NHM name was in the region in Lehi's day--not to mention the appropriate Hebrew word play that Nephi appears to have made, linking Nahom to mourning and murmuring. Oh, and did I say that if you go east from Nahom, you can in fact reach an excellent candidate (or two candidates) for the previously-alleged-to-be-impossible place Bountiful on the coast of Oman, which, in light of the extensive field work done there verifying the plausibility of the leading candidate (and some decent arguments for the plausibility of the runner-up), is now, of course, deemed to have been obvious and easily done by just, say, glancing at map of Arabia, which Joseph simply and obviously must have had access to?  

But what could Joseph have gleaned from the best and most relevant Nehem/Nahom/Nehhm-containing map of his era, even if he did manage to steal off to a distant library, or if one came "nearby" as it floated along the Erie Canal (as some have suggested might have happened), which wasn't very close to Harmony, either? Could he have come up with Shazer? The Valley of Lemuel? The place Bountiful? Yes, of course, if you have enough faith. Maybe not if you want to see a little evidence before you believe. Ah, a strange turn of events, with apologists poking the critics for some evidence. But they do have a case to make, a case we'll look at in more detail in the near future. 

As a more important reminder, no matter how interesting the Arabian Peninsula evidence is, there will always be plenty of room for doubt and reasonable arguments against it. I think that's a vital part of the game here in mortality. The purpose of the evidence, in my opinion, is to help those who are willing to exercise faith to get over roadblocks and keep moving forward, in faith. Faith is required to accept the Book of Mormon--but it seems that faith of some kind is also required to accept theories that he fabricated all of its details on his own, with or without the help of the best libraries of his vicinity.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Did Joseph Use a Bible?

In discussions of Book of Mormon translation, many assume that Joseph must have turned to the KJV when quoting relevant passages. However, multiple witnesses of the translation process report that his dictation was done entirely by using the hat method, with his face in a hat to look at whatever he saw on the seer stone, making it impossible to read from a book or manuscript. None of the many witnesses reported the use of a Bible. These witnesses weren't all LDS conspirators, either. One was non-LDS, Michael Morse, Emma Smith's brother-in-law, who stated:
When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon [I] had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation. The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating word after word, while the scribes Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other wrote it down." (W.W. Blair interview with Michael Morse, Saints Herald, vol. 26, no. 12 (June 15, 1879), pp. 190-91.)
This needs to be considered in discussions on Book of Mormon origins.

Update, Nov 1, 2015: More Things to Keep in Mind, Including the "Good Enough" Theory for KJV Use

I appreciate the many efforts from commenters here to propose theories for how Joseph did the translation of the Book of Mormon, or more specifically, the dictation of the text. Proposing plausible theories for Book of Mormon creation is tough work if one cares to consider the relevant evidence. Some creative and interesting efforts have been offered here, and I thank my readers for at least taking the steps of engaging some of the evidence.

Given the similarities between the KJV text and the Book of Mormon, it has been natural for people in and out of the Church, myself included, to assume that there must have been direct usage of the Bible at least for the longer quoted passages. But upon further reflection, I don't think my previous assumptions fit what we understand about the translation. Here are some key points:

1. The translation took place with a high degree of transparency. Participants and visitors were able to observe the work taking place. Dr. Royal Skousen emphasized this point in his review of the witnesses to the translation in his recently recorded presentation at a Mormon Interpreter forum.

2. Not a single observer indicates anything other than direct dictation from Joseph. They raise no hint of any possibility of a manuscript that he was reading from.

3. Nobody reported that he was using a Bible for the frequent passages based on the KJV. It was just straight dictation, as far as we know.

4. While there would be no shame in using a Bible to reduce the work burden and the possibility of copying errors for those passages that are explicitly quoted from the Old Testament, such as entire chapters of Isaiah, the possibility of using a Bible or any other book is contrary to witness observations, and was explicitly denied by Emma, as she described some of her early work as a scribe:

Q — [Joseph Smith III]. What is the truth of Mormonism?
A — [Emma]. I know Mormonism to be the truth; and believe the church to have been established by divine direction. I have complete faith in it. In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us.
Q —. Had he not a book or manuscript from which he read, or dictated to you?
A —. He had neither manuscript or book to read from.
Q —. Could he not have had, and you not know it?
A. — If he had anything of the kind he could not have concealed it from me.
Q. — Could not father have dictated the Book of Mormon to you, Oliver Cowdery and the others who wrote for him, after having first written it, or having first read it out of some book?
A. — Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and wellworded letter; let alone dictating a book like the Book of Mormon. And, though I was an active participant in the scenes that transpired, . . . it is marvelous to me, “a marvel and a wonder,” as much so as to any one else. (Edmund C. Briggs, “A Visit to Nauvoo in 1856,” Journal of History (Jan. 1916): 454; cited in Russell M. Nelson, "A Treasured Testament," Ensign 23 no. 7 (July 1993), 62.)
5. While many KJV verses are present verbatim, there are also frequent modifications, some subtle but profound. For example, the change of a "that" to a "when" in Isaiah 2:2 as quoted in 2 Nephi 12:2 introduces an apparent unnecessary error in English, but upon further inspection, it may be a beautiful example of a Hebraism (of a sort found in a variety of other places in the Book of Mormon) that actually enhances the significance of Isaiah 2:2 as applied to the context of the Restoration. It's the deep and subtle "mistake" that might suggest advanced Hebrew skills from its author, or yet another brilliantly lucky blunder from Joseph. See "Was Joseph Smith Smarter Than the Average Fourth Year Hebrew Student? Finding a Restoration-Significant Hebraism in Book of Mormon Isaiah" by Paul Y. Hoskisson in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture (MormonInterpreter.com). There are many "errors" of this sort which can be readily dismissed as an error by those with eyes tuned to faults, but which can be sources of enhanced understanding and respect for those who are willing to look and see further.

6. Some of the alleged mistakes from the KJV that have entered into the Book of Mormon text are not necessarily errors, or if errors, may have been introduced by scribes rather than from revelation. This may be the case for the Red Sea questions, both with the introduction of "Red" in the quotation of Isaiah 9:1 (see also FairMormon on this issue), and in the Red Sea versus Reed Sea debate). I'll discuss this more fully in an upcoming post, "Feeling Blue Over the Red Sea?"

7. The Bible-related passages are not due to simple lifting of KJV text. Again, there are many subtle differences, and not just in the passages rendered in italics in many KJV printings. So what was the process in applying KJV language to the Book of Mormon?

8. In addition to the evidence from witnesses, including at least one non-LDS witness, of a translation process that precluded the use of any text or book for the dictated text that was given at a prodigious rate, the allegation of Joseph's direct use of a KJV Bible faces a further impediment: What Bible? There is no evidence that Joseph owned one as he was doing the translation, and an important piece of evidence suggesting he did not. After the Book of Mormon was completed and the typesetting was underway, he began his work of rendering an "inspired translation" of the Bible by taking an important first step: buying a Bible. Here I quote from a page at FAIRMormon.org:

There is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation

The difficult financial circumstances of Joseph's family during the Book of Mormon translation are well known.[8] There is no evidence that Joseph owned a Bible during the Book of Mormon translation.[9] In fact, Oliver would later purchase a Bible for Joseph, who used it in producing his revision of the Bible (which became known as the Joseph Smith Translation). This purchase occurred on 8 October 1829, from the same printer that was then setting the type for the already-translated Book of Mormon.[10] Why would Joseph, poor as he was, get a Bible if he already owned one?

But How Could God Allow Mortal Error in His Work?

Skousen and others have concluded that Joseph dictated the text, including the KJV excerpts, through revelation. If that were the case, how could there be mistakes that were conveyed in that process? How could the Lord pass up on the opportunity to correct the KJV and render a perfect translation ready for peer review that would finally impress and convince our harshest critics?

The theory that makes the most sense to me is that the KJV text is relied on as a general rule, for it is the language of scripture, and passages from the Bible are used verbatim or nearly so when they are good enough. Good enough for what? Good enough for the Lord's work, which is directed at saving souls, not impressing those who are looking for faults. So the language we are familiar with is used, even when it is not the most scholarly way of handling the ancient Hebrew text, as long as it is "good enough." So if a poetic passage from Isaiah refers to prancing satyrs in the KJV but some modern scholars think he might have meant goats, since this is a relatively inconsequential issue, the translation sticks with the KJV satyrs. Sorry, goat lovers. Likewise, when 3 Nephi 12:22 keeps the KJV's untranslated Aramaic word "Raca" instead of rendering an unavoidably debatable translation of this word, for which a correct translation is presently unknown apart from its obvious meaning, based on the context, of conveying contempt, Raca is clearly "good enough" for conveying doctrine, but those looking to find fault will cry fowl, or rather, Raca.

How could God allow errors or imperfections to creep into His holy word? In case you haven't noticed, nearly every aspect of every volume of scripture we have has involved human hands and minds. This includes understanding what was said or what happened in the first place, writing it or speaking it, transmitting it in various ways, translating it, editing it, copying it again and again, and printing it. And then comes the reading and interpretation thereof. Each step has the possibility of human error. There is complexity on every page of scripture, as there is in each life. Error is a reality, one that greatly worried the original authors of the Book of Mormon text, but those errors seem to be in minor matters, while the divine power of the text provides a clear and persistent signal about the divinity of Christ and the reality of the Restoration, in spite of its human errors and "good enough" elements.

In fact, nearly everything God does in His church, both ancient and modern, has involved human agents who are prone to error. He gives us the chance to grow by being involved in His work and having responsibility, but that comes at the price of imperfection. Quite unreliable. A real mess! In terms of the standards of modern scholars, it's all completely unacceptable.

If only He'd just come down and do all the speaking, writing, translating, and typesetting Himself (which should be trivially easy--I mean, He claims to be omnipotent, right?). Then we could have a reliable record at last, one that could be properly reviewed and critiqued in light of the latest scholarship.  Why not, unless He has something to hide? But frankly, hiding seems to be the modus operandi here--everything from His physical presence right down to the alleged golden plates.

Of course, it's not just a definitive written record that we will need for review. We must also require that He regularly subject Himself to scientific inquisition and peer review by leading scholars and highly credentialed skeptics to assess His works, His belief systems and social policies, and His suitability as Lord and God. When appropriate, these review panels would also hold Him accountable for past errors. If only He would meet these reasonable demands, then maybe we'd be willing to seriously consider His claims, right? And with the proper certifications and consensus from peer review, He may even have shot at being worshiped. Conceivable, anyway.

Hmm, when it comes to gaining the admiration of critics, the Book of Mormon will always be between a Raca and a hard place. 

Coming back to reality, God's marvelous work and wonder in the Book of Mormon is not about winning over critics with no need for faith and contemplation on their part. For those who want faults, they are there. Satyrs instead of goats. Raca untranslated. Red Sea, not Reed. Archaic words in Isaiah maintained instead of being updated. There's a boatload of fun for those whose goal is to mock, with remarkable evidences of Semitic origins and divine influence for those willing to consider the possibility and exercise faith, or at least an open mind.

So how did Joseph do the translation? With a manuscript from Solomon Spaulding in one hand and a Bible in the other? Behind a screen with a host of documents he could rifle through to find one phrase or concept at a time? With a team of scholars, a vast frontier library, and the latest maps of Arabia from European presses? Or was it by rapid fire dictation to scribes (completely unnecessary if an original text was available), creating text far faster than most modern translators and authors do, with his head in a hat striving to see whatever a seer sees when gazing into a seer stone, relying on scribes to correctly hear and record his words by hand, giving us an imperfect text filled that continues to surprise and bless those willing to give it a chance nearly 200 years later? As for me, I continue to be surprised and blessed, and encourage you to give it a chance.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Miracle of Elder Nelson in China

There's been a lot of rejoicing in China with the recent visit of Elder Russell M. Nelson and his wife, Wendy, along with Elder Gerrit W. Gong and his wife, Susan. They were all in Beijing last week and then in Shanghai on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon, the attended a devotional where we meet in Shanghai, where about 450 expats (foreign passport holders) gathered. Friends of mine in the Chinese community report that they also met with local Chinese members, which is wonderful.

Elder Nelson, the senior Apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve, was even more impressive than I expected. He spoke with energy, vitality, and humor, expressing love for China and hope for its future, and inspiring us with his witness for Christ and for the Restoration of the Gospel. He observed that the Chinese government had been not just polite but extremely generous and kind in receiving them. In his remarks, it was clear that he loves China and yearns for the happiness of the people here. He is uniquely prepared to help strengthen relationships with China and usher in increased opportunities for the Gospel to bless more lives in this majestic land.

As we learned from Elder Gong's remarks, way back in 1979, President Nelson listened when he heard President Spencer W. Kimball say that the Spirit of the Lord seemed to be brooding over China, and that members would be wise to prepare by learning Chinese. Elder Nelson and his wife responded by studying Mandarin Chinese. Then in 1980, as one of the leading heart surgeons in the world, he brought open heart surgery to China and trained many surgeons here. While he was here, he operated on a famous Chinese opera singer. This week when he came to China, the grandson and son of the opera singer met him in a tear-filled reunion and said, "Thank you for saving our father." Incidentally, that kind of tear-filled moment is straight out of what I often see on Chinese television and is the kind of thing that really resonates with the people here, in my opinion, though it naturally resonates with people in any land. But this is prime-time drama in China, and I just have to say thanks to the thoughtful officials who arranged that cool moment. Wish I had been there!

Russell M. Nelson spoke of the time when Ezra Taft Benson had just become President of the Church in 1985 and gave the Apostles their new assignments. Elder Nelson, as a junior Apostle, was assigned to Europe and Africa, and was given the task to open up Russia and the countries in eastern Europe to missionary work. Elder Nelson initially thought this was impossible. In 1985 at the peak of the Cold War, this did seem like an absurd impossibility. But then came a series of miracles and sweeping changes, allowing Elder Nelson to report back to President Benson, before he passed away, that the assignment had been completed.

We can easily see some of the big changes that made this possible, such as the Berlin Wall coming down. But there were a host of small miracles also that we may not know. One of them involved a Russian sister, a young mother named Svetlanain living in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), who would be part of the required initial group of at least 20 members that was needed for the Church to apply for recognition in Russia. In about 1987 or 1988, Svetlana felt a need to get a Russian Bible. She said to her husband, “I want a Bible in Russian” and asked her husband if she could go to Helsinki to buy one. He agreed, and off she went. It seems that finding a Russian Bible was not as easy as just showing up and walking into a bookstore, for the way she found it involved something of a miracle. While in Helsinki with her son, she walked through a park where the ground was covered with leaves. She stumbled on an object under the leaves. She stopped to pick it up, and found--can you guess?--a Bible in Russian. She was so excited that she ran to a nearby woman and exclaimed in Russian, “I found a Bible in Russian!” The other woman happened to speak Russian also, and she said, “Wonderful! Would you like another book about Jesus Christ in Russian?” The woman was the wife of the Mission President, whose college major had been Russian. "What are the odds of that?"

Svetlana was baptized in 1991, and I think some of her family members also joined and were part of the initial group in 1991 that allowed the Church to meet the requirements to successfully apply for recognition in Russia in 1991.

In telling this story and in making other remarks about the opening of doors in Europe and Russia, we naturally thought of China and our yearning for doors here to be opened even wider (they are not closed, just not open as wide as we wish).

Regarding the completion of the assignment to open doors for the Church in Eastern Europe and Russia, Elder Nelson said, "You may ask, 'How did you do it?' I will tell you, I just watched the Lord do it." Here in China, we are watching. 

Elder Nelson was remarkably inspiring. So was Wendy Nelson. What an intelligent, interesting, faithful woman. She spoke of the reality of angels, among other things, and reminded us to exercise faith in seeking the blessings of heaven to fulfill our work here, and that includes having the faith to receive the help of angels and other miracles. This is a day of miracles.

One of the little miracles associated with this visit was the Relief Society President of the Shanghai District months ago felt strongly drawn to the date of October 24 to schedule a women's conference for the District. Because of her efforts, this day was already on the calendar for women around the District, and travel plans were already in place for many, when the surprise announcement of Elder Nelson's visit came only about two weeks before the October 24 date. Her inspiration made this day more successful. The Women's Conference was a lot of fun. I was there for part of it, giving a presentation with my wife on travel tips in China and where to eat and what to do in Shanghai. In fact, we were the last presentation before the devotional began at 4 PM. An unusual warm-up act.

Prepare for more miracles from China!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Strength of Moses

Having just addressed some basic problems in the use of the Documentary Hypothesis, or, more generally, biblical criticism ("Higher Criticism") as a tool to dismiss Book of Mormon evidence from the Arabian Peninsula, I began considering in more detail some of the specific non-P content that the anonymous writer "RT" had pointed to in a blog post at Patheos.

Let me first point out that the presence of a story element or theme that is linked to P does not mean that it did not exist in Hebrew records or oral traditions before P was composed. In fact, making up major story elements that were unknown to any in its intended audience would lead to obvious difficulty in getting the story to stick. Friedman makes that point in Who Wrote the Bible? Another highly respected scholar, Joel Baden, also makes this point in The Composition of the Pentateuch: Renewing the Documentary Hypothesis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), p. 189:
This conclusion can be extrapolated over the entire priestly narrative. Where the priestly and nonpriestly stories diverge (and similarly where the J and E diverge), we may attribute the differences to the unique traditional bases on which the authors drew or to the unique renderings of common tradition among different schools and authors. Where the priestly and nonpriestly stories converge, we may attribute the similarities to the common elements of the tradition known to the authors. Only if it is imagined that the nonpriestly authors invented the entirety of the pentateuchal narrative out of whole cloth can it be argued that the similar narratives in P derive from non-P. If, on the other hand, we accept that J and E wrote their narratives on the basis of common Israelite traditions, then there is no reason to believe that P could not have done the same. The claim that P is a reaction to the nonpriestly text cannot be established on the grounds of its general plot outline, at least as long as we take seriously the insights of tradition criticism. The bulk of the argument for P as a reaction lies in its specific differences from non-P. Yet a striking number of these differences have no theological or ideological contents; they are simply differences in detail. The genealogy of Genesis 5 presents a variation on that of Genesis 4:17-26, but there is no obvious significance to the variation.
With that in mind, I began looking at RT's list of P material in the Book of Mormon. As mentioned in my previous post, RT states that the "knowledge of P is reflected in 1 Ne 3:3 (Gen 46:8-27; Ex 6:14-25); 4:2 (Ex 14:21-22); 16:19-20 (Ex 16:2-3); 17:7-8 (Exodus 25:8-9); 17:14 (Ex 6:7-8); 17:20 (Ex 16:3); 17:26-27, 50 (Ex 14:21-22); 18:1-2 (Ex 35:30-33)."

I began, naturally, with 1 Nephi 3:3, which supposedly draws upon priestly material in Gen. 46:8-27 and Ex 6:14-25. Already I'm puzzled. Nephi merely states that the brass plates contained "a genealogy of my forefathers." To claim that the brass plates contains the genealogy of Nephi's forefathers requires P? Yes, the long genealogies listed in the OT were hypothesized by Harvard scholar Frank Moore Cross, the professor and mentor of Richard Elliott Friedman, to come from a priestly source, a non-extant "Book of Generations" or "Book of Records" (see Cross, Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic (Cambridge, Mass., 1973)). Even if one believes priestly sources were all created out of whole cloth after the Exile, the idea of having a genealogy of one's forefathers surely was not absent in the Hebrew world until after the Exile.

The astute reader will note that Baden in the quoted paragraph above points to two related genealogies, one priestly and one non-priestly, as an example of differences in detail. A table of sources for Genesis provided by ThreeJews.net is helpful in looking up sources (tables for all the books of the Pentateuch can be found in their Documentary Hypothesis tab). It compares assignments made by Richard E. Friedman's in The Bible With Sources Revealed (2003) and Samuel Driver's Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (9th ed 1913). This table shows that Genesis 4:17-26 is attributed to J by both scholars and while the genealogy in Genesis 5 is almost entirely priestly (identified as P by Driver and as from the Book of Records, a priestly source, by Friedman). So if the giving of genealogical information in Genesis 4 can be found in a non-priestly source, what is the basis for claiming that 1 Nephi 3:3 shows impossible knowledge of P in the Book of Mormon?

The second item on the list is less of a stretch. 1 Nephi 4:2 definitely refers to the Exodus, which has a lot of P influence. Here are Nephi's words to his brethren:
Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea.
RT states that 1 Nephi 4:2 as well as 1 Nephi 17:26-27,50 draws upon priestly material in Ex. 14:21-22. The tables at ThreeJews.net, however, show that the part of the Exodus account about crossing the "dry ground" in Ex. 14:21b (the language used in both passages of 1 Nephi) comes from the J source, according to both scholars. The other parts of Ex. 14:21-22 are assigned to P. But this does not mean that the other sources are unaware of the crossing of the Red Sea. Also, Nephi's use of "strong" to describe Moses is interesting, and made me wonder what he was quoting exactly, for the way he uses the word "strong" struck me as suggesting some deliberate allusion to something, but what? I'll return to that later, even though it's the main point of this post.

Continuing with the list of incriminating material, 1 Nephi 16:19-20 is said to draw upon Ex 16:2-3, and 1 Nephi 17:20 is said to be related to Ex. 16:3. The murmuring of some family members in the wilderness and the desire to have stayed in comfortable Jerusalem has a parallel to murmuring of the Israelites in Ex. 16:2-3, which is assigned to a priestly source. Again, because the version of an incident in the Torah has been taken from P does not mean that knowledge of it was absent in J or E, nor does it mean that the story was unknown to the Israelites before any of these documents were composed in final form. The parallel, possibly intended, does not require a unique priestly source. Some language is similar, which may be deliberate on Nephi's part, or partly influenced by the translation process in which KJV phrasing appears to be deliberately and frequently used when it fits. As for the basic issue of complaining sorely on a difficult journey, these things happen. It is difficult to conceive of any significant journey across a desert that would be free of tribulation and whining from some, just as few Latter-day Saint families can drive from, say, Salt Lake to California without some bouts of overly dramatic whining.

1 Nephi 17:7-8, where the Lord reveals to Nephi the manner of making his ship, is said to draw upon Exodus 25:8-9, where the Lord shows Moses the "pattern of the tabernacle." There may be an allusion here, but it's not necessary. In any case, the tabernacle was an ancient physical reality, according to important investigative work from Richard Elliott Friedman discussed in his famous Who Wrote the Bible?, and not a late priestly invention. The priestly document focuses on the intricate details of how it is to be made, but the idea of an inspired or revealed tabernacle was not a late invention, and especially not a post-exilic invention. While the priestly document gets into the intricate details of how things were made, that doesn't make the thing itself or the revelation behind it unique to the priestly source.

1 Nephi 17:14 supposedly draws upon Ex 6:7-8, both using the phrase "deliver from destruction" and "bring you out". This may be Nephi drawing upon a P source, or a related E source, or it may be an artifact of the Book of Mormon translation, where there is a strong tendency to translate related concepts into KJV language. But again, since P probably predates the Exile, it's not necessarily a problem.

Finally, 1 Nephi 18:1-2 is said to be linked to Ex 35:30-33. The instructions to Nephi on how to create "curious workmanship" in timber for the building of the ship is supposed to be related to the "curious works" in gold, silver, and brass that an inspired Israelite created. Something of a stretch, perhaps, and not the kind of thing that requires an ancient priestly source.

Overall, the links to priestly sources are not seriously compelling (perhaps the murmuring language is the best fit?), but are also not a problem, especially given the evidence from Friedman (also accepted generally by David Bokovoy) that P comes from the days of Hezekiah.

But what about the "strength" of Moses? A search for "strong" + "Moses" at Biblegateway.com reveals that the word strong is used with Moses to describe others, not him. The Pharaoh will use a strong hand, and he urges Joshua to be strong, but we don't get Moses identified as strong, though of course he had great divine power. A search of "Moses" + "strength" has the same result: the sea is strong, Joshua is strong, but not Moses.

So where did Nephi come up with the concept of Moses being strong?

Last night I read an old article by Noel Reynolds about the Book of Moses, the text Joseph created/received through revelation well after the Book of Mormon was translated. In "The Brass Plates Version of Genesis," a chapter in By Study and Also by Faith (1990), he argues that the intricate relationship in language and themes between the Book of Mormon and the Book of Moses can best be explained by having the material of the Book of Moses or something similar having been present on the Brass Plates. The dependence, he argues, can be seen to be one-way: the Book of Mormon appears to be relying upon content in the Book of Moses and not the other way around. I know, critics will scoff, but he gives some arguments that have merit, and I urge you to read his article and consider what he say.

If the Book of Moses were related to what is on the Brass Plates, then I think I've found a possible source for the strength of Moses. In Moses 1, after Moses encounters the Lord, he is left to his own "natural strength" (Moses 1:10) and is then visited by Satan who urges Moses to worship him. Moses refuses, Satan becomes angry, and Moses fears:
19 And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

20 And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

21 And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.
We have three references to strength and Moses in verses 10, 20, and 21 of this chapter. First, in his natural strength, he is able to be tempted by Satan. But he overcomes the temptations and power of Satan as he receives strength from the Lord (mentioned twice). This is what makes Moses strong. OK, this doesn't occur in the context of crossing the Red Sea, but it is preparatory for his ministry and work. Moses receives strength from the Lord.

Update, Oct 23: In my haste to get this post out this morning before running, or rather, pedaling to work (both my wife and I usually go to work on our bicycles, though we are also close enough to walk--such a blessing to be able to do that in Shanghai, a sprawling city of roughly 30 million people with sorely congested traffic), I failed to look a little further in Moses 1 where the real pay dirt is. I just found it moments ago while reading from Moses 1 to my wife, late at night, and rambling about Noel Reynold's hypothesis as she was drifting off to sleep. (She's been losing sleep other nights as I've rambled about various aspects of the Documentary Hypothesis. She didn't know she was going to be married to a blogger one day when she married me.) Take a look at Moses 1:25:
25 And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.
There it is. Not just two references to Moses receiving strength from the Lord to overcome Satan (quite an appropriate form of strength for Nephi to wish for his brothers), but also a clear promise that Moses would be made strong, stronger even than the waters that would obey his command--an obvious reference to the future miracle of leading the Israelites across the waters to the promised land, as in 1 Nephi 4:2. If Moses 1 is closely related to material on the brass plates, then Nephi may very well have been alluding to that material when he urged his brethren to be strong like Moses, who led the Israelites through the waters of the Red Sea. From the brass plates, it may be possible that Nephi would specifically refer to the strength of Moses in the context not only of resisting the temptations of Satan, but in crossing the Red Sea.

The possible relationship between the Book of Moses and 1 Nephi 4:2 around the strength of Moses is not one of the things Reynolds identified in his essay, and while it seems interesting to me, perhaps is wishful thinking on my part. But perhaps it's one more issue to consider in weighing the documents behind the Book of Mormon. Perhaps the alleged weakness of Book of Mormon references to stories of Moses will turn out to be a strength.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Nahom Follies, Part 2: Could Nephi Have Known the Exodus Story? Does the Documentary Hypothesis Trump the Arabian Evidence?

First, a word of apology. To prepare for this post, I reread an outstanding book on the Documentary Hypothesis, Richard Elliott Friedman's best-seller, Who Wrote the Bible? , second edition (New York: HarperCollins, 1997). I read the first edition (1987) in the early 1990s and was impressed, but wasn't ready to really learn and understand how significant his research was. Upon rereading, I found it remarkably interesting, even brilliant, with a style that is reads a little more like a thrilling murder mystery than a scholar's review of esoteric research. But my second reading requires this apology: My apologies to tennis stars Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and others for not paying full attention during their recent matches at the Shanghai Rolex Masters Tennis semifinals on Oct. 17, 2015, where I spent much of a Saturday trying to serve two masters--or rather, trying to read while two masters served.

Overview and Summary

In my previous post, "Burying Nahom," I addressed a rather sloppy recent attack among the Patheos.com blogs on the Arabian Peninsula evidence for the plausibility of Nephi's account in the Book of Mormon. Now I'd like to discuss a much more careful criticism from another Patheos Blog, written by someone much more familiar with the Book of Mormon who has the skills and intellect to develop more powerful arguments against First Nephi. I'm referring to the anonymous writer "RT" at Faith Promoting Rumor, whose post "Nahom and Lehi’s Journey through Arabia: A Historical Perspective, Part 1" sets a high standard for Book of Mormon criticism.

RT offers a variety of criticisms against the significance of Nahom and related finds. While I feel he overlooks many vital points, I think he makes a particularly interesting and serious criticism when he appeals to the extensive biblical scholarship behind what is known as the "Documentary Hypothesis" to suggest that First Nephi is obviously fiction, and therefore the Nahom evidence doesn't count because it can't possibly be anything other than coincidence. I'll address other aspects of his critique later, but I feel this is the part of his attack on Nahom that most strongly demands a response. His tone is reasoned and cautious, his approach seems reasonable, his documentation is thorough, and his logic seems solid. In spite of that, RT, like Philip Jenkins, the previously discussed "Nahom Follies" writer, misses some important information.

As I'll show below, one of the most important things he misses is the significant scholarship of Richard Elliot Friedman who persuasively demonstrates that the priestly text, P, which provides much of Pentateuch, was not a late manuscript from after the Exile, but much more likely comes from the time of King Hezekiah, dating it to before Nephi's time (see Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, second edition, (New York: HarperCollins, 1997)). Thus it is no longer impossible for priestly material to have been known to Nephi.

Yes, the final redaction to combine the distinct older documents into the Torah as we know it apparently came after the Exile and was probably done by Ezra, but the Exodus story is an ancient one that was widely known among the Jews of Nephi's day. Details of how it happened vary among the hypothesized documents and within the OT of our day. Recently Friedman has further explained why it's a serious mistake to use the Documentary Hypothesis and the alleged lack of archaeological evidence for the Exodus to argue that the Exodus was fiction. See "The Exodus Is Not Fiction: An Interview With Richard Elliott Friedman," Reform Judaism, Spring 2014, http://www.reformjudaism.org/exodus-not-fiction. He sees evidence that the Exodus in some way was a historical event and points to evidence in support of some aspects of the concept, though he argues it probably happened to a much smaller group of Hebrews (perhaps the Levites only).

As I'll also show that the references in the Book of Mormon to themes in the Pentateuch lack the major unique elements that characterize P (the importance of central sacrifices, an emphasis on Aaron, etc.), so the case for Nephi relying on material unique to P may be questioned. On the other hand, some LDS scholarship suggests that the brass plates may have been a largely Elohist (E) document, with strong influence from the Northern Kingdom, which is plausible given that the brass plates are a record associated with the tribe of Joseph.

The evidence from the Arabian Peninsula is not vaporized by a Documentary Hypothesis death beam. It still counts as evidence, and indeed, the evidence may be useful in helping us to make critical adjustments to our theories of scriptural formation. If First Nephi has external evidence of authenticity, then it gives us a precious lens into the world of the Jews just before the Exile, allowing us to learn of a sacred record on brass plates that was kept in reformed Egyptian. By examining and inferring what was on the brass plates and what traditions Nephi and his family had, either from the brass plates, oral tradition, or other records, we can obtain precious data about ancient records, the intrigues of priests, the corruption of scripture, and the preservation of the Word of God in spite of all the human influences that get in the way. If Nahom is authentic evidence, it's more than just evidence to help us understand the plausibility of the Book of Mormon; it may be a vital step toward understanding the origins of the Old Testament and testing various elements of the Documentary Hypothesis.

Too Biblical to Be Real?

RT's post at Faith Promoting Rumor leads up to his use of the Documentary Hypothesis by first pointing out that Nephi's parallels to Exodus are suspicious.
The first problem that the apologetic argument faces with regard to Nahom as an authentic ancient reference is that the larger journey narrative recounted in 1 Nephi is for the most part implausible as real history. The account contains many story elements and language that indicate it originated as imaginative mythological literature modeled along biblical patterns, whereas it lacks evidence of certain details that we would expect to find if it were in fact a realistic report of an Israelite family journeying from Jerusalem through the deserts of Arabia.
This is not a problem if one understands that Nephi is writing a sacred text, and that he is likening the scriptures to their situation and creating a moral parable from his journey that he sees, at least eventually, as a divinely crafted parallel to the Exodus. In my opinion this fits what we know of the ancient religious mindset. Types and paradigms of this kind were vital and deliberate, and sometimes richly applied. Nephi is writing sacred history and emphasizing the ways in which his story follows a divine archetype. In fact, he's retelling and probably reshaping his story (not fabricating it!) to emphasize sacred themes in much the same way that the authors of the Bible, according to biblical scholars, may have adapted their writings to achieve specific purposes. This does not make Nephi's work a pious fraud, but a pious retelling or pious redaction of his experience. This should not come as a surprise, for he explains that on the small plates that he is engraving, his purpose is to focus on spiritual things, not mundane details that are more likely to be found on the related but more extensive and more secular large plates.

Recognizing and emphasizing parallels to biblical themes does not render the story fake, no more than if your pioneer grandmother used Exodus themes when she retold her story fleeing enemy mobs by a dry crossing the (frozen) Mississippi River as they fled Nauvoo on the way to the promised land across the plains. The miracle of the quails and many other aspects of the pioneer journeys to Zion could be written with extensive references to Exodus without rendering them non-historical, no matter how much detail was left out in the process.

Given the significance of Exodus to the Hebrews, I think a sacred journey to the Promised Land that didn't consider parallels to Exodus would raise even more serious questions than RT raises (unless he's completely right in his most serious argument based on the Documentary Hypothesis, which we'll address below).

As modern scholars have dug into Nephi's writings, they have found that Nephi's interweaving of key Hebraic themes is pervasive, subtle, and skillful, even to the point of making clever Hebraic word plays (Nahom included) and crafting Semitic poetry in ways that make it difficult to imagine young Joseph Smith doing this, whether using loads of available books to guide him in slowly crafting a thoroughly-researched manuscript or just dictating the text on the fly, as multiple witnesses attest. The interwoven biblical themes in his text are crafted so well, that it should, in my view, count as evidence for ancient origins rather than modern. Consider, for example, the deliberate ways in which his slaying of Laban is patterned after David and Goliath, serving as an important basis for his descendants in recognizing the validity of Nephi's claim to be the rightful ruler of the people. This is explained in detail in Ben McGuire's "Nephi and Goliath: A Reappraisal of the Use of the Old Testament in First Nephi," which also does much to explain why Nephi's focus on preparing a sacred text is not aimed at providing the kind of details RT is asking for. (It also provides some evidence relevant to the Documentary Hypothesis and the relationship between biblical sources and the brass plates that Nephi had.)

Exploring Nephi's use of biblical allusions and themes in his writing, including clever Hebraic word plays, is a fertile field for ongoing scholarship and discovery, not a trivial exposé of poor modern authorship from young Joseph. There is depth and subtlety here. Yes, the story is heavily grounded in biblical themes--not because it never happened, but because it happened to a Hebrew family steeped in the ways of Hebrew writers as they crafted a sacred text that not only would serve to help bring people to the Messiah, but would also serve other purposes such as reinforcing the basis of their political rights.

However, RT has a significant point that may overthrow my reasoning above, for if he is right, there's no way that a real Nephi could have written about the Exodus. Let's explore RT's most potent weapon as he unleashes the Documentary Hypothesis against the Arabian Peninsula evidence.

The Documentary Hypothesis vs. Nephi

Here is what I consider to be the most serious attack RT makes in his post:
[P]erhaps most damagingly, the allusions and references to the book of Exodus in the BoM show that the form of the narrative it presumes corresponds to that found in the Bible, combining both non-priestly (non-P) and priestly (P) material. As is well known, one of the more significant conclusions of two centuries of biblical scholarship is that the story of the Exodus is actually a product of multiple literary sources/strands that were developed and combined over time, including a non-P source (sometimes divided into separate Yahwist and Elohist sources or early non-P and late non-P strands) and a P source that covered similar material but had distinctive theological emphases and content as well. Although many scholars believe that some of the non-P material may date to the pre-exilic or monarchic period, the P source is at the earliest exilic and more likely from the post-exilic/Persian period. The P source would also by necessity have been composed before it and non-P were combined together into one continuous Torah narrative, meaning that the project to conflate the sources would have occurred even later during the Persian period. So in direct opposition to what we would expect if the BoM were ancient, the author of 1 Nephi seems to have known and made use of an Exodus that contained both P and Non-P.
  • The knowledge of P is reflected in 1 Ne 3:3 (Gen 46:8-27; Ex 6:14-25); 4:2 (Ex 14:21-22); 16:19-20 (Ex 16:2-3); 17:7-8 (Exodus 25:8-9); 17:14 (Ex 6:7-8); 17:20 (Ex 16:3); 17:26-27, 50 (Ex 14:21-22); 18:1-2 (Ex 35:30-33).
  • The knowledge of non-P in 1 Ne 1:6 (Ex 3:2); 2:6 (Ex 3:18; 8:27; 15:22); 2:7 (Ex 3:12, 18; 8:27; 17:15; 18:12); 2:11-12 (Ex 14:11-12); 2:18-24 (Ex 15:26); 3:13, 24-25 (Ex 4:21-23; 5:1-2, 6; 7:20; 8:1, 8, 25; 9:27); 3:29-30 (Ex 14:19-20); 5:5-8 (Ex. 18:9-11); 6:4 (Ex 3:6, 15; 4:5); 16:10, 26-29 (Num 21:8-9); 16:35-36 (Num 14:1-4); 16:37 (Ex 2:14; Num 16:1-3, 13-14); 17:13 (Ex 13:21); 18:9 (Ex 32:4-6; Ex 32:18-19).
The extensive borrowing and revisioning of the Exodus story in the BoM is thus most easily reconciled with a modern origin for the narrative. Not only would this provide a setting for such an all-inclusive revisioning to have taken place, but it would explain why various aspects of the borrowing do not reflect the social, intellectual, and literary world of ancient Israel.

That certainly sounds devastating. If the cumulative weight of two centuries of scholarship compels us to recognize that the Jews of 600 BC were not familiar with the Exodus story, at least as we know it, then how could Nephi refer to it? While parts of the book of Exodus from the non-P source may have been available before the Exile, the significant portions attributed to the a priestly source (P) were, according to RT, not around before the Exile. The two were not combined until long after the Exile, so there is no way Nephi could have used both.

Here RT is appealing to what is known as the Documentary Hypothesis. This is a vital aspect of biblical studies in which scholars, after even more than two centuries of exploring the details of the Old Testament, have determined with a great deal of plausible arguments that the Bible as we know it has been crafted from at least four original sources written by different people or groups in different places and times, then finally edited together into the complex and sometimes contradictory Masoretic text that we now have.

The now classical Documentary Hypothesis owes much to Julius Wellhausen, a scholar who over a century ago pulled together a great deal of previous scholarship and painted a compelling picture that attempted to reverse engineer the making of the Bible, explaining how different styles of language, different names of deity, and different versions of the same story were patched together in the Old Testament. He concluded that there were 4 original documents behind the Pentateuch, each known by a single letter:
  • J, the Yahwist source (J is the first letter of Yahweh when written in German), written around 950 BCE in the southern Kingdom of Judah, so named because it tends to use Yahweh (Jehovah) as the name for God. (Friedman puts J between 848 and 722 B.C.)
  • E, the Elohist source (E) : written c. 850 BCE in the northern Kingdom of Israel, so named because it prefers to use "Elohim" as the name for God. (Friedman puts E somewhere from 922 to 722 B.C.)
  • D, the Deuteronomist source (essentially the book of Deuteronomy) : written c. 600 BCE in Jerusalem during a period of religious reform (Josiah's era). 
  • P, the Priestly source: written c. 500 BCE by Kohanim (Jewish priests) in exile in Babylon. (As we will see, Wellhausen's dating of P is based on several serious errors, according to Friedman.)
Many scholars concluded that J and E were combined prior to the Exile and were available as a redacted document known to scholars today as JE. In theory, JE and D could have been known to Nephi, but RT argues that P was not, and the combination of these documents was not available until even later, after the Exile, by someone such as Ezra.

So if Nephi relies on the Exodus story told in P, and P wasn't written in his day, there may is a problem.

No Exodus story in 600 BC = no real Nephi = who cares about Nahom and Bountiful, right?

Does the Documentary Hypothesis trump Nahom? Does it trump any and all Book of Mormon evidence?

Some fellow Christians and some devout Jews at this point may wish to jump in and help me by pointing out that the Documentary Hypothesis is a theory in flux, filled with weak spots, devoid of extrinsic evidence outside of internal textual analysis (i.e., no manuscript for any of the individual sources has ever been found), and the target of many arguments against it. But I'm not going to focus on the arguments against the basic concept of the Documentary Hypothesis. I think it has significant merit and needs to be considered, tentatively and cautiously. In my view, it cannot be easily dismissed and may have a lot to offer.

For those who value the scholarship behind the Documentary Hypothesis, in spite of many unknowns, here's the most critical factor that RT is missing in his misapplication of the Documentary Hypothesis: There is significant, credible evidence that Wellhausen was seriously wrong in dating of P. The crafting of the P manuscript, according to one of the world's foremost scholars conducting research in the details related to the Documentary Hypothesis, occurred before the Exile, probably in Hezekiah's era, before Josiah and before Nephi. That scholar is Richard Elliott Friedman, who was a student of Frank Moore Cross at Harvard, where he obtained his ThD. He is now the Ann and Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, and was a visiting fellow at Cambridge and Oxford and a Senior Fellow of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. He is the author of seven books, including the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible? and Commentary on the Torah. He participated in the City of David Project archaeological excavations of biblical Jerusalem and served as a consultant for PBS’s Nova: "The People of the Covenant: The Origins of Ancient Israel and the Emergence of Judaism" and A&E’s "Who Wrote the Bible?" and "Mysteries of the Bible."

Let's consider the credible case made by Richard Elliott Friedman in his award-winning book, Who Wrote the Bible?

He identifies three serious mistakes that led Wellhausen and others to place P after the Exile. These were:
  1. The idea that the prophets (e.g., Jeremiah and Ezekiel) do not ever cite material from P.
  2. The notion that the Tabernacle was not historical but a fiction created after the Exile and inserted into P to provide a rational in the words of Moses for the centrality of the Temple, which is never mentioned in the Pentateuch. The fabricated tabernacle, according to Wellhausen, was created in P to provide an ancient rationale for the Temple.
  3. The idea that P takes the centralization of worship for granted, as if it were written in a time when there was no doubt that centralization was the norm (i.e., after the Exile).

Friedman shows how each of these were serious mistakes. Jeremiah and Ezekiel actually do cite P material several times, showing that P existed before the Exile. For example, Ezekiel 5 and 6 provide a lawsuit of sorts against Israel for not keeping their covenant with God, and the covenant referred to is detailed in Leviticus 26, a P source which Ezekiel relies on with many nearly verbatim passages. Ezekiel and Jeremiah use other portions of P as well (e.g., Ezekiel draws upon P elements of the Exodus narrative).

The evidence that made the Tabernacle, in Wellhausen's view, seem like a conveniently crafted half-scale model of the Second Temple was based on considering the dimensions of the First Temple, not the second, and Wellhausen got other things wrong in his analysis. Friedman points to a strong strand of textual evidence showing that the Tabernacle was historical and, in fact, was stored in the First Temple. Finally, Friedman points out that P sources repeatedly teach centralization of worship at the tabernacle, something Wellhausen missed.

Further evidence for Friedman's early dating of P include analysis from Professor Avi Hurvitz of Hebrew University in Jerusalem showing that the language of P is an earlier stage of biblical Hebrew than Ezekiel. Since that 1982 publication, at least five other scholar have published linguistic evidence that P's version of Hebrew comes from before the Exile to Babylon.

Finally, Friedman points out that Wellhausen's theory of P being a post-exilic document and a pious fraud to justify the second Temple does not fit the content of P. P emphasizes the ark, the tablets, cherubs, and the Urim and Thummim--relics that were completely absent from the second Temple. "Why would a second Temple priest, composing a pious-fraud document, emphasize the very elements of the Tabernacles the the second Temple did not have?"

Friedman notes that the person who wrote P "placed the Tabernacle at the center of Israel's religious life, back as far as Moses, and forever into the future." This person had to be living before "They cast your Temple into the fire; They profaned your name's Tabernacle to the ground" (Psalm 74:7, one of several passages alluding to the Tabernacle having been kept in the first Temple).

The data related to the content and the purposes behind the priestly source led Friedman to not only conclude that P was pre-exilic, but that it could be dated specifically to the time of King Hezekiah. That leaves plenty of time for P material to become available to Nephi, or even be recorded on the brass plates (though Sorenson notes that Book of Mormon seems much more closely aligned with the Elohist document).

For further reference, a detailed, scholarly book on the Documentary Hypothesis written for an LDS audience is David E. Bokovoy's Authoring the Old Testament: Genesis-Deuteronomy (Part One) along with Part Two (the paperback is just one volume; it's split in two for Kindle readers). Bokovoy generally accepts the dating of Friedman, and adds many insights about the Mesopotamian sources that appear to have been used by those crafting the various sources. He also explores implications of the Documentary Hypothesis for Latter-day Saints, observing the Book of Mormon account shows a process very similar to the Documentary Hypothesis in play, and also noting that Joseph Smith's concerns about the corruption of ancient scripture and the missing or altered elements in the Bible is consistent with what we can observe happening in the Bible text through the tools of Higher Criticism.

Some of Bokovoy's views may be troubling to some LDS readers, such as his view that the Book of Moses given by Joseph Smith could not possibly have come from Moses. Regarding the Book of Mormon, while he sees some merit in John Sorenson's hypothesis about the dominance of E in the brass plates and the Book of Mormon, he points out a number of places where P and D are relied on, such as references to the Creation story and the Flood. He leans toward Blake Ostler's "expansion theory" for the Book of Mormon, arguing that Joseph may have taken a simpler ancient text and expanded it, enriching it with detailed prophecies about Christ that the Nephites might not have actually had. I struggle with that notion, but admire his thorough scholarship and clear writing, and feel this work is a valuable one for serious students of the Bible to consider.

Another thoughtful article for LDS readers on the Documentary Hypothesis is Kevin L. Barney, “Reflections on the Documentary Hypothesis,” Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 33 No. 1, Spring 2000: 57-99.

Must Bible Believers Fear the Documentary Hypothesis? Insights from the Book of Mormon

The Documentary Hypothesis, while it has weaknesses and many detractors, must be recognized as having a great deal of serious scholarship behind it. But many people who believe in the Bible as the word of God may feel threatened when they encounter this. After all, it can be quite disturbing to suddenly learn that Moses apparently didn't write the Books of Moses (that is, the Books of Moses as we now have them--the Hypothesis does not prevent him from having written or having passed sacred history on through oral traditions). To be told that the great stories that are the foundation of the Bible might have been cobbled together from multiple conflicting sources can turn the miraculous word of God into a much-more imperfect, man-made work. Can that even be trusted as scripture anymore?

The editorial processes that are being uncovered in the Bible actually reflect some of the Book of Mormon's warning that the record of the Jews in our day, the Bible, would be heavily edited and have significant losses. That complex editorial process is also what Book of Mormon readers see happening right before their eyes as they observed the many records that Mormon has cobbled together from records in Hebrew, reformed Hebrew, and at least one Jaredite language, records which he tweaked, redacted, and commented upon to give us the "crazy patchwork" record of the Book of Mormon, which then went through further changes as it was translated into English (or rather, a puzzling mix of pre-KJV Early Modern English influences coupled with KJV English and some modern English--what these various influences are and how and why they are there remains a hot topic for research and speculation). To study the Book of Mormon carefully is to unveil a complex combination of sources used by Mormon in his work of redaction. Still today, the more we learn about the Book of Mormon and its translation, the more complex and varied it becomes. Surely we should be able to be comfortable with a complex and heavily edited Bible, especially when LDS scripture teaches us to expect heavy human editing over the centuries of its transmission.

We can see and recognize the hand of humans in each stage of the Book of Mormon's creation: first from the hand of Mormon, including Mormon's editing, his concern about errors that he may be making unintentionally and because of the difficulty of working with the written language (not to mention the challenge of writing on metal plates, devoid of a backspace key--it looks like he may have used "or" instead), his recognition that his limited writing abilities would lead to mocking by future readers, etc. Then we have the hand or tongue of Joseph translating it in a process of steady oral dictation without reference to other documents, giving us text with clear signatures from Early Modern English that really should not be there. In this process, we also see the human touch of Oliver's hand and the hand of other scribes who wrote down what they heard but sometime made obvious errors, many of which they caught and corrected. We can see and retrace the oral process of hearing and writing as we examine the Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, a divine fruit with clear human influence. Then we have the human influence of preparing a printer's manuscript, and the influence of the printer's hand in adding punctuation and making other changes and sometimes some clear mistakes in printing the manuscript. Then there are other editorial changes, some from Joseph, some from Parley P. Pratt and others, bringing us to modern editions such as the 1981 Book of Mormon in which many attempts were made to correct some of the usually minor mistakes that had crept into the text. And naturally, when this text is translated into German, Chinese, or Navajo, numerous new human influences enter into the sacred text. A divine text becomes "divine plus," or maybe "divine minus." We cannot separate human influences from sacred records, and the sacred text of the Book of Mormon makes that remarkably clear, while also serving as a divine record that, in spite of errors, can be called the "most correct book." It is a remarkable witness of Jesus Christ and of the reality of the Restoration.

If we can accept the Book of Mormon in spite of its human influences, we should be able to benefit from the divine richness of the Bible that remains in spite of questions, problems, and abundant human influences. We must temper our expectations and remain flexible, recognizing that some things we thought we understood may not necessarily be that way. But that same recognition needs to be applied to the decrees of scholars: what is declared as fact today may not be so tomorrow, and in my view, it would be a shame to abandon God in the process because of what may one day become an abandoned theory of humans.

In an age when the Documentary Hypothesis is shattering the faith of some Jews and Christians, the true but patchwork and human-smudged Book of Mormon may be just the thing to bear witness of the core truths of the Bible. The Book of Mormon may help remind us that the fingerprints of Deity are still in those ancient records in spite of many human smudges. The Book of Mormon may be just the thing, that is, if it in turn can withstand the fierce assault of the Documentary Hypothesis on its own integrity, for the Book of Mormon relies heavily on the Bible in ways that allow Documentary Hypothesis advocates to also challenge the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

The apparent consensus among the majority on the classical Documentary Hypothesis may not be as firm as RT implies. While I think many aspects of it may be valid, there is tremendous diversity among believers of the Documentary Hypothesis, and a significant body of serious scholars and students of the Bible who find it inadequate. It must be treated with both respect and a dose of caution.

On the other hand, Latter-day Saints are in a surprisingly good position with respect to some of the findings behind the Documentary Hypothesis. We can readily recognize that the creation of scripture can involve multiple documents from many time periods and sources that are combined into a patchwork of sorts as they are redacted by one or more editors, for that is the very process taking place before our eyes in the Book of Mormon, with the important and fascinating distinction that Mormon often allows us to see or infer what source material he is drawing upon. In the Book of Mormon, we can see a scriptural text being redacted before our very eyes, even to the point of having its own version of doublets, of stories told twice or more, especially with the inspired inclusion of the small plates that apparently puzzled Mormon because he recognized he was providing a large amount of duplicated information.

The complexity and textual sophistication of the Book of Mormon record is one that can help us better appreciate the origins of the Bible. This is especially so when we try to infer what was on the brass plates and how their content might differ from today's Masoretic text. John Sorenson, for example, wrote favorably of the Documentary Hypothesis ("The 'Brass Plates' and Biblical Scholarship," Dialog, vol. 10, no. 4, pp. 31-39). He proposed that the brass plates may have largely been related to E, the Elohist document. Evidence for that proposal includes the heavy use of "Lord" instead of "Jehovah" among the names for deity in the Book of Mormon: apart from a quotation from Isaiah, "Jehovah" only occurs once, in the last verse of the book. Further evidence includes the many prophets from the Northern Kingdom that are quoted.

Sorenson's hypothesis seems to fit in light of the broad characteristics of the 4 sources. According to Friedman in Who Wrote the Bible?,  E challenges the religious establishment in Judah with its priests from the family of Aaron, favors Moses over Aaron, favors prophets such as Samuel over priests (the word "prophet" never occurs in J and occurs only once in P!), and favors Ephraim, and was probably written by a Levite priest from Shiloh which is in Ephraim, from whence Samuel came. The author may have considered himself to be a descendent of Moses. On the other hand, J favors the religious establishment in Jerusalem, favors Aaron over Moses, and never mentions the Tabernacle, which was originally associated with the city of Shiloh, source of the branch of Levite priests that were considered a threat to the priests descended from Aaron in control in Judah.

Other characteristics of note:
  • E contains three chapters of law, which is what we expect in a document written by a priest or priests, while J does not. 1 Nephi 1:15-16 states that the law of Moses was recorded on the brass plates. 
  • The bronze serpent is an important symbol in E and is associated with a great miracle performed by Moses. E is the only source for that story, which also plays an important role in the Book of Mormon. The P document, on the other hand, praises Hezekiah for destroying the bronze serpent, viewed as a tool of idolatry.  
  • E and D refer to the mountain where Moses received his revelation as Horeb, while J and P call it Sinai. While Nephi may make allusions to Moses' experience on the mount as he also obtains revelation on mountains, Sinai is mentioned by name once by Abinadi in Mosiah 12:33, which does not strengthen Sorenson's hypothesis. (Of course, one could argue that whatever it was called in the original Book of Mormon text, Sinai would be a plausible "translation" to make the reference clear with how modern readers know the name of that mountain.) Consistent with Sorenson, the revelation at Horeb/Sinai was important in E but less so in J, which emphasized the covenant to the patriarchs and the House of David over the covenant at Sinai. 
  • The ark of the covenant does not appear in E (nor in the Book of Mormon) and the Tabernacle does not appear in J (in the Book of Mormon, the word tabernacle, possibly alluding to the Tabernacle of the Pentateuch, occurs in a quotation in of Isaiah 4:6 in 2 Nephi 14). 
  • E has no Creation story and no Flood story, at least not that was compiled into the Masoretic text. The brass plates discuss the Creation and the Flood. 
  • When Moses strikes a stone at Meribah and brings forth water from the rock for thirsty Israel, this is a positive miracle in E, but the story is repeated in the Bible from P and there becomes negative, somehow an act of disobedience that dooms Moses to die before entering the promised land. The Book of Mormon mentions that miracle in a positive light (1 Nephi 17:24). Further, the Book of Mormon is so positive about Moses that even his apparent death may have actually have been the miracle of being translated by the Lord (Alma 45:19), in apparent disagreement with the OT but also alluded to by Josephus

The sharp differences between J and E and between all four sources, for that matter, have led some to reject the Bible and their faith entirely. Friedman explains repeatedly that differences in texts that may reflect different interests and perspectives of those shaping the records do not imply that the basic events being treated are all fiction. It is important to also recognize what is shared between these sources. Of J and E, he writes:
The two versions, nonetheless, would be just that: versions, not completely unrelated works. They would still be drawing upon a common treasury of history and tradition because Israel and Judah had once been one united people, and in many ways they still were. They shared traditions of a divine promise to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They shared traditions of having been slaves in Egypt, of an exodus from Egypt led by a man named Moses, of an extraordinary revelation at a mountain in the wilderness, and of years of wandering before settling in the promised land. Neither author was free to make up—or interested in making up—a completely new, fictional portrayal of history.

In style as well, once one version was established as a document bearing sacred national traditions, the author of the second, alternate version might well have consciously (or perhaps even unconsciously) decided to imitate its style. If the style of the first had come to be accepted in people’s minds as the proper, formal, familiar language of recounting sacred tradition in that period, it would be in the second version’s interest to preserve that manner of expression....

Another possible explanation for the stylistic similarity of J and E is that, rather than J’s being based on E or E’s being based on J, both may have been based on a common source that was prior to them. That is, there may have been an old, traditional cycle of stories about the patriarchs, exodus, etc. which both the authors of J and E used as a basis for their works. Such an original cycle would have been either written or an orally passed-down collection. In either case, once the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were established, the authors of E and J each adapted the collection to their respective concerns and purposes. [emphasis mine]
There may be corrupted, altered, or fabricated details between the versions, but there is a core of ancient experience behind these accounts, or even other ancient records, a possibility Friedman also acknowledges.

As an aside, an interesting aspect of the brass plates is that they contained many prophecies of Jeremiah (1 Nephi 5:13) and other prophets. Jeremiah or his scribe is identified by Friedman as the author of Deuteronomy (D), both Dtr1 (the first version of D, before the Exile) and a much smaller body of adjustments made after the Exile, known as Dtr2. If Jeremiah's writings were on the brass plates, Dtr1 could easily have been there, too. Thus, information from all five of the "Books of Moses" may have been present on the brass plates, either from a version of E plus D (Dtr1) and prophetic writings, or an older, more complete document related to E plus D and prophetic writings. If so, Nephi's reference to the "five books of Moses" (1 Nephi 5:11) found in the brass plates could be reasonable. The information may not have been neatly organized in five books, and instead he may have called it the Torah of Moses, with "five books of Moses" being a reasonable translation for modern readers. Or perhaps there were five distinct groupings.  Bible scholarship here may cause us to question whether this phrase was Nephi's or a translator, but questions raised by the Book of Mormon can also help us modify our understanding of Bible origins.

Ultimately, the Book of Mormon may be exactly what the world of Bible scholars and students need to re-evaluate, revise, and perhaps even validate theories on the origin of scripture. If Nephi uses something from P, for example, and we have evidence for the authenticity of Nephi's record, that's the kind of evidence that ought to help us push back on any theories that require P to be post-exilic. When RT applies a popular theory to exclude Book of Mormon evidence, he may actually have things quite backwards. The evidence, if it holds, may be a useful tool in the end for revising weak spots in the theory. Of course, the translated text of the Book of Mormon may not always accurately reflect what was on the gold plates and/or brass plates due to artifacts of translation and even "expansion" by Joseph Smith, as Blake Ostler has proposed. This is where work pointing to frequent evidence of at least some tight control in the translation of the text may be especially helpful and relevant (e.g., Hebraisms and Hebraic poetry, names, and even the puzzling and controversial issue of Early Modern English influences in the text that are independent of or distinct from the patterns of KJV language).

There is much more research to be done and much more to understand. I suspect that as we seek to better extract what was on the brass plates and to relate that material to Bible scholarship, we may learn more about both the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

Are You Saying that an Alleged Sacred Text Engraved on Precious Metal around 600 BC Challenges Some Aspects of the Documentary Hypothesis?

That's exactly what I'm saying. Well, almost exactly, if you'll kindly change one word in that question: delete alleged, because the engraved sacred text is NOT alleged, but real, tangible, and has now been scientifically studied by scholars who have confirmed its date, its reality, and its relevance. Oh, I'm not talking about those engravings, not the gold plates of Nephi nor the brass plates he brought to the New World. I'm talking about the much smaller silver plates, or rather, two small silver scrolls that were found near Jerusalem that have been carefully examined and dated to pre-exilic times around 600 BC, which quote from a passage in Numbers that is part of the P document. This archaeological find further destroys the argument that P was a late creation after or during the Exile. See:
If finding P material on tiny silver plates from Nephi's day helps to overturn some aspects of the "two centuries of scholarship" behind previous theories about the Pentateuch, we might do well to also consider the possibility that Nephi's writings and allusions to Exodus themes, including allusions to possible P material, may be useful in helping us recalibrate the tools used in establishing various versions of the Documentary Hypothesis or competing theories of Bible origins.

As mentioned above, John Sorenson has laid a foundation in evaluating the Book of Mormon in light of the Documentary Hypothesis by pointing out the strong Elohist (E) elements of the Book of Mormon text. I suggest that there are many more veins to explore, using some of the techniques applied by Bible scholars in exploring the OT test. The Book of Mormon is complicated by the lack of the original gold plates to explore, but we do have the translated text, including the richness of Royal Skousen's Earliest Text of the Book of Mormon. There are complex issues to explore, such as the complexities of the dictated language with its strange reliance on a form of English, long thought to just be Joseph's bad grammar, now being shown to contain a strong vein of Early Modern English predating the KJV. Yet there are also apparent Hebraisms that have survived translation, many Hebraic word plays that can be reconstructed. There is also the translation factor of a strong preference for KJV phrases to be used, apparently when appropriate, even when those phrases come from the New Testament. The Book of Mormon is cast into the familiar language of scripture in a complex, subtle, and pervasive way, yet loaded with grammatical structures that predate the KJV. In addition, there are the complexities of numerous documents and authors contributing to the Book of Mormon, whose individual styles also seem to survive translation. Pulling out the various signals that give us the Book of Mormon and extracting more detailed information about what may have been on the brass plates and what Nephi and others knew and said in 600 BC and later, is an opportunity for further scholarship that I trust will be fruitful.

A Lack of P Influence in the Book of Mormon, and Is That a Problem or Strength?

Sorenson's hypothesis that the brass plates were influenced by E seems reasonable given that the plates were from the tribe of Joseph and would be expected to have some of the same influences that the northern E appears to have. Likewise, even though P dominates the Torah, providing over 50% of it and a larger portion of Exodus, the Book of Mormon in my tentative view appears to lack the major characteristics that have helped scholars identify P. These uniquely P elements include an emphasis on the need for priests descended from Aaron and a favoring of Aaron over Moses, extensive details on the construction of the tabernacle, the concept of central sacrifices and worship, the idea that no sacrifice was practiced before the revelation at Sinai, the exalted status of Aaron and the priesthood, and the use of the divine title El Shaddai prior to Sinai.

In P, God is also less anthropomorphic and more ethereal or cosmic. There are no angels. The emphasis is on the law and the role of the official Aaronid priests, who are essential for the purity and worship of the people. P also serves to establish the income of priests, ensuring that sacrifices are made under their control which gives them food, and that tithing is paid through them. In describing some of the characteristics of the priestly source, Friedman in Who Wrote the Bible? says this:

The issue is not just sacrifice. For the author of P, it is the larger principle that the consecrated priests are the only intermediaries between humans and God. In the P versions of the stories, there are no angels. There are no talking animals. There are no dreams. Even the word “prophet” does not occur in P except once, and there it refers to Aaron. In P there are no blatant anthropomorphisms. In JE, God walks in the garden of Eden, God personally makes Adam’s and Eve’s clothes, personally closes Noah’s ark, smells Noah’s sacrifice, wrestles with Jacob, and speaks to Moses out of the burning bush. None of these things are in P. In JE, God personally speaks the Ten Commandments out loud from the heavens over Sinai. In P he does not. P depicts Yahweh as more cosmic, less personal, than in JE. 

This all seems to contrast with the Book of Mormon, where God is anthropomorphic and is seen and heard by men, where angels play a vital role throughout the text, where religion is not centralized and even a temple (more than one, in fact) can be built without scandal in a new land (as the Jews at Elephantine, Egypt did).

While the Book of Mormon mentions Moses over 30 times, always in a positive light (unlike P), the treatment of his brother Aaron is quite unlike P. While the Book of Mormon features the name of Aaron as a name, including the name of a small city, the Aaron of the Old Testament is never mentioned, nor is the Aaronic Priesthood, which seems like a puzzling omission if Joseph Smith was fabricating the Book of Mormon to pave the way for a Church that has both the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods. Priests are ordained, but there is no requirement that they be descended from Aaron or anyone else, it seems; even Lamanites can become priests (Alma 23:4) and prophets.  The priests of the Book of Mormon are expressly unpaid (Alma 1:26), having to labor with their own hands, in strong contrast to P. They are ordained to teach and serve, not to live off the labors of the people--with the notable exception of the wicked priests of King Noah, who show some of the same blindness and corruption that the priests of Jerusalem did in Lehi's day.

Critics have complained that the Book of Mormon is far too unlike the Bible (or rather, unlike P) by failing to emphasize sacrificial rituals (though sacrifice certainly was part of their worship, as we learn in a mere two or three verses, not expanses of P-like text as some critics require). In fact, a number of common complaints about the Book of Mormon's contradicting the Bible or being too unbiblical really are complaints that the Book of Mormon is not following P. The Documentary Hypothesis may helps us better appreciate why that weakness may be a strength of the Book of Mormon, or at least an intriguing, plausible feature worthy of further study.

RT complains that the Book of Mormon is too biblical in drawing upon the Exodus so thoroughly, though I would argue that this is actually a hallmark of the ancient Hebrew world and not a basis for denying the historicity of a pivotal event retold with themes from sacred archetypes. Contra RT, other critics deride the Book of Mormon for being not biblical enough, for failing to show the importance of centralized worship, for thinking that a temple could be built outside of Jerusalem, for not having complex sacrificial rituals established under the order of an elite group of Levites only, etc., but these are complains about the relative unimportance of P in the Book of Mormon, which actually makes sense if the Nephites have been heavily influenced by a northern kingdom E-like text and their forefathers were at odds with the established priests in Jerusalem in Lehi's day.

A Suggested Update for RT

Getting back to the issue of Nahom, in his blog post, RT admits that the south-southwest direction, the description of fertile regions, turning east, etc., suggest a realistic trip. I love the way he sums it up:
In my opinion, the most plausible detail provided in the narrative of 1 Nephi 1-18 is the description of the general route followed by Lehi on his way through Arabia to the coastal location of Bountiful. From all the reporting of events that occurs in this part of the BoM (setting aside the reference to Nahom), the few comments that clarify that the party of Lehi traveled to the Red Sea (1 Ne 2:5-6) and then moved along the Red Sea in a south-southeast direction down the western side of the Arabian peninsula (1 Ne 16:13), “keeping in the most fertile parts of the wilderness, which were in the borders near the Red Sea” (1 Ne 16:14), and then turning east before reaching the coast of Irreantum (1 Ne 17:1, 5) seem to represent informational detail most certainly rooted in real world geography. That is to say, the route appears to accurately account for the shape of the Arabian Peninsula in relation to the Red Sea and Arabian Sea and further agrees in a general way with what we know about the topography of the region and where cross-country travel was most practicable therein. Some of the more “fertile” parts of Arabia are indeed in the high western zones and foothills of the Hijaz, where the climate is slightly more temperate and rare rainfall in the mountains has contributed to the creation of oases on the eastern slopes that sustain more diverse flora and fauna. For millennia this strip of land “bordering the Red Sea” has enabled human transit and trade from north to south and facilitated the development of overland roads. So for Lehi to have followed this general track is notable and [here we go!] in theory could lend support to the assumption that the author of the account was trying to depict real history. [emphasis mine]

Hmm, plausible directions and description for going from Jerusalem to Bountiful--a previously mocked and unknown place that now has an excellent and plausible candidate nearly due east of Nahom--all amount to a general track that is "notable." OK, at least we have an admission that this achievement is notable. [Respecting a complaint from RT, my previously rather unfair and hyperbolic paraphrase of RT at this point has been deleted. The following paragraph is also a bit hyperbolic and tongue-in-cheek, but has been retained, though slightly modified. It is not a direct paraphrase of RT's words, but a tongue-in-cheek attempt to show the humor that I see in RT's treatment of the Arabian Peninsula evidence as merely "lend[ing] support to the assumption that the author was trying to depict real history."]

This is an important model for dealing with all future "evidence" that may be uncovered by anthropologists, linguists, archaeologists, botanists, biologists, and other experts. No matter how interesting it may seem, how close and relevant it may appear to something in the text, the text itself can always be dismissed in this manner: "the parallels in the text to these external finds are notable and may, theoretically speaking, lend support to the notion that Joseph Smith was sincerely attempting to sound like he was trying to depict real history." Then we can point out the numerous details associated with the finds that are not in the text. We can explain that the brief references in the text that relate to the external evidences are brief, vague, and ambiguous. And then we can argue that the parallels or bulls-eyes actually miss the mark somewhat, for things in real life are always more complicated than any brief account and, with a sufficiently critical eye, we can always find imperfection and fault with telegraphic descriptions of complicated events.

He continues with on this descending trajectory:
However, when we examine the description of Lehi’s route more closely it becomes clear that its links with real world geography do not provide unequivocal support for the historicity of the narrative. First, the geographical information offered in the text is for the most part vague and highly general in nature, limited mainly to general travel directions and large bodies of water associated with macro-scale Arabian geography, whereas more precise detail about the route is almost wholly lacking, consisting of an occasional generic topographic feature such as a nameless river and valley (1 Ne 2:6) or mountain (1 Ne 16:30; 17:7), or the mention of unspecified “fertile” areas near the Red Sea (1 Ne 16:14, 16). Because of this relative dearth of information about the places visited by the Lehi group, the modern reader is presented with the peculiarity that while he/she can easily grasp the general course of their journey and has a rough idea of where it began and ended, almost everything in between is nebulous and blurry. Not surprisingly, researchers of the BoM have been unable to agree on the precise path followed by Lehi in Arabia or even to identify a single site visited by the group apart from Nahom.
I think that's a stretch. Potter's identification of the Valley Lemuel and the River Laman, though not without alternate candidates, has many compelling correspondences in its favor. Remember, until he did the field work and found the river in a plausible location, the impossibility of such a river existing in Arabia was a major source of anti-Mormon mocking and a sure crutch for any anti-testimony. But then suddenly, surprisingly, there is a river--now a small stream after significant diversion of its waters for other purposes--in a majestically walled valley that would provide safety, shade, comfort, and even trees and fruit, with a river flowing year-round (if that is what is meant by "continually," though perhaps Nephi just meant it was more than a dry wadi whose brief periodic water flows depended on rain, unless they stayed there for several months or more). Why does this not count as identifying a site visited by the group apart from Nahom?

After reading Potter and Aston, I would reword RT's claim as follows:

Original from RT: "researchers of the BoM have been unable . . . even to identify a single site visited by the group apart from Nahom."

Revision: "researchers of the BoM have been unable . . . even to identify a single site visited by the group apart from Nahom, the Valley Lemuel and the River Laman, the place Shazer, and, of course, the place Bountiful."

That little tweak would significantly enhance the accuracy of the RT's article. Of course, if that makes him uncomfortable, he can add the caveat that "there is no consensus on these places especially in light of alternate candidates that have been proposed, for example, for the Valley Lemuel and the place Bountiful."

That's what I think evidence needs to do: help us tweak or revise our theories. Don't let old paradigms bury new evidence before it's even been considered.

A Reminder

As a reminder, the Nahom evidence is more than just a name on a map. Nahom is near the only place where an eastward turn is possible away from the incense trails. Taking that turn and going east brings you to an excellent candidate for a place long thought to not exist, Bountiful. This is more than just a "notable" attempt to sound like a real journey. Given the implausibility of using anything short of modern tools such as satellite maps to identify a Bountiful-like place on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and to describe its location ("nearly due east") relative to an actual, accessible, place with a rare place name (Nahom/NHM), is it more likely that the details of the First Nephi journey are best explained as a description from someone who actually made the journey or had first-hand knowledge of Arabia, as opposed to a farmer whose R&D team managed to find a map of Arabia.?

Kent Brown offers this view in his chapter, "New Light from Arabia on Lehi's Trail" in Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, one of many online books available at the Maxwell Institute. Here is one except regarding the significance of the eastward turn in Lehi's journey, right after the group has buried Ishmael at the ancient burial place of Nahom/Nehhem:

The most important piece in this section concerns Nephi's note that "we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth," after events at Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1). This geographical notice is one of the few in Nephi's narrative, and it begs us to examine it. We first observe that, northwest of Marib, the ancient capital of the Sabean kingdom of south Arabia, almost all roads turn east, veering from the general north-south direction of the incense trail. Moreover--and we emphasize this point--the eastward bend occurs in the general area inhabited by the Nihm tribe. Joseph Smith could not have known about this eastward turn in the main incense trail. No source, ancient or contemporary, mentions it. Only a person who had traveled either near or along the trail would know that it turned eastward in this area. To be sure, the longest leg of the incense trail ran basically north-south along the upland side of the mountains of western Arabia (actually, from the north the trail held in a south-southeast direction, as Nephi said). But after passing south of Najran (modern Ukhdd, Saudi Arabia), both the main trail and several shortcuts turned eastward, all leading to Shabwah, the chief staging center for caravans in south Arabia. One spur of the trail continued farther southward to Aden. But the traffic along this section was very much less than that which went to and from Shabwah. The main trail and its spurs ran eastward, matching Nephi's description. Wells were there, and authorities at Shabwah controlled the finest incense of the region that was coming westward from Oman, both overland and by sea. It is the only place along the incense trail where traffic ran east-west. Further, ancient laws mandated where caravans were to carry incense and other goods, keeping traffic to this east-west corridor. Neither Joseph Smith nor anyone else in his society knew these facts. But Nephi did.

That's a remarkable feat, like so much about the miraculous and divine Book of Mormon that is, like the Bible, still covered with human fingerprints. In the many steps of engraving, editing, translating, and printing, human hands have played a role. Understanding that process, imperfections and all, can and should help us better understand the Bible and its origins. And understanding the best scholarship on the origins of the Bible may ultimately help us better understand the Book of Mormon, but it's a two-way street. Evidence needs to be considered both ways, not prematurely buried in spite of showing vigorous signs of life when it doesn't fit the reigning paradigm.

Related resources:

Richard Elliott Friedman, "The Exodus Is Not Fiction: An Interview With Richard Elliott Friedman," Reform Judaism, Spring 2014, http://www.reformjudaism.org/exodus-not-fiction

Richard Elliot Friedman, "Current Thought About the Documentary Hypothesis," Introduction to Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism, Jeffrey Tigay, Editor.

Kevin L. Barney, “Reflections on the Documentary Hypothesis,” Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought, Vol. 33 No. 1, Spring 2000: 57-99.

"Bible Texts on Silver Amulets Dated to First Temple Period," Haaretz.com, Sept. 19, 2004.

"Ketef Hinnom," Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketef_Hinnom.

Stephen Caesar, "The Blessing of the Silver Scrolls, " BibleArchaeology.org, 2010.
John Van Seters, " Some remarks of the paper by Rolf Rendtorff, "What happened to the 'Yahwist'?", SBL Forum , n.p. [cited June 2006]. Online: http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=561.

Amazon description of John Van Seters, The Edited Bible: The Curious History of the "Editor" in Biblical Critism.

Konrad Schmid, "Genesis and the Moses Story," BibleInterp.com, Oct. 2010, http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/3gen357926.shtml.

Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, "The Exodus: Does archaeology have a say?," Jerusalem Post, April 4, 2014.

Kevin Christensen, comment on the Documentary Hypothesis, http://lds.net/forums/topic/8162-documentary-hypothesis-and-the-lds-position/page-2.