Saturday, February 23, 2013

Book of Mormon versus Bible

The Bible and the Book of Mormon are both similar in this respect: each claims to be an ancient record of God's dealings with his people the Israelites culminating in an account (to varying degrees) of the incarnation, life, ministry, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am interested in seeing how these two books compare on the basis of the literary and textual evidence available for them.

The New Testament

1. The indisputable fact is, the New Testament is backed by over 5,600 original language manuscripts the earliest of which was inscribed only a few decades after the events it records. This is the single, largest manuscript body in all of ancient literature by several orders of magnitude. (The average number of manuscripts for other ancient literature numbers in the single digits, most of the best rising only to 20 or so and the very largest outside the NT reaching only to about 600.)

2. This incomparable volume of original language mss is further backed up by an additional 14,000+ translation mss. The NT was rendered beginning at least in the second century to be translated into other contemporaneous ancient languages such as Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Ethiopian and others.

3. This largest and best mss tradition in human history is further substantiated by sufficient extra-biblical citations and quotations found throughout the writings of Christian leaders in first three centuries of the Christian church to re-assemble almost the entire NT from these sources and absolutely enough to provide a largely redundant and unshakable foundation for all normative historically orthodox Christian dogma.

4. Finally, even the enemies of Christianity (Rome and the Jewish establishment) provide us with additional extra-biblical material that fully substantiates many parts of the gospel, the history of the early church and the teachings of Christianity. Jewish and Roman historians and commentators (Josephus, Tacitus, Pliney, etc.) All provide us with documentation that corroborates the claims of the New Testament and the Christian church which existed in their day.

The Book of Mormon

1. There are exactly no manuscripts of the BoM. In fact, there is no evidence to support the essential claim of Mormonism that the actual language ("Reformed Egyptian") in which the ONE copy was supposedly written ever even existed as an actual, real language. In fact, there are NO "Reformed Egyptian" manuscripts of ANY document anywhere on earth.

2. There are no translations in any contemporaneous languages. 100% of the puny documentary evidence we DO have for the BoM indicates only that it began its existence in the early 1800s, in English which is traceable to only ONE source - one man, Joseph Smith.

3. There are no extra-scriptural citations of the BoM among any ancient sources. That is, no one, prior to Joseph Smith, ever wrote anything referring to or citing the BoM.

4. Not only is there not a single confirming report from outside the BoM about anything described IN the BoM, there is not even a single mention of any of the BoM's whole civilizations, by any contemporaneous peoples.

Based on the literary/documentary evidence, I see a solid, valid and incontrovertible body of reasons why a rational person would begin to investigate the claims of the New Testament. Simply put, the NT's content is deeply woven into, and in fact, inseparable from the fabric of historical reality. Thus it is at least possible that it is telling the truth and deserves investigation.

Is there some reason why a sane person, looking at the state of the literary/documentary facts pertaining to the BoM would begin to consider its claims? No. I don't see any reason to even begin to entertain such a consideration.

But perhaps I am wrong. I invite Mormons to try to set me straight. Show me that my comparison of the documentary evidence of the BoM to the New Testament is incorrect or invalid. Show me that the four conditions describing the state of the documentary evidence for the BoM is wrong. THEN (and ONLY then) can you reasonably tell me why I should start praying about the BoM to see if, in fact, it is the Word of the God of Truth. Until then, your claims will remain indistinguishable from pure fantasy.

A change has been made in the First Book of Nephi, evidently in an attempt to strengthen the Mormon claim that baptism was practiced by the people in the Old Testament.

 This verse is taken from Isaiah 48, and appears as follows in the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon:

"Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord ... " (Book of Mormon, 1830 edition, page 52)
In modern editions it reads as follows:
"Hearken and hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism, who swear by the name of the Lord ... " (Book of Mormon, 1964 edition, 1 Nephi 20:1)
It is interesting to note that even the signed statement by the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon has been altered. In the 1830 edition (last page) it read:
"... that Joseph Smith, Jr. the Author and Proprietor of this work, has shewn unto us the plates ... "
In the 1964 edition it reads:
"... That Joseph Smith, Jun., the Translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates ... "

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