Sunday, November 25, 2012


"And here is the point, about myself and my co-thinkers. Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake. We do not hold our convictions dogmatically: the disagreement between Professor Stephen Jay Gould and Professor Richard Dawkins, concerning "punctuated evolution" and the unfilled gaps in post-Darwinian theory, is quite wide as well as quite deep, but we shall resolve it by evidence and reasoning and not by mutual excommunication."
--Christopher Hitchens (author, god is not Great)

Apologetics must be tiring. Insensitive, ignorant critics of religion are constantly questioning and prodding and pointing out supposed "flaws" in logic, rhetoric and scripture. Coming up with adequate responses to these incessant, belligerent attacks from the ungodly without succumbing to the dreary inanity of it all, must challenge the sanity of even the most pious. How do brave and valiant religious apologists do it?

Setting aside my facetious humor for a moment, it does seem like certain religious apologists have their work cut out for them. I have spent a lot of time researching and blogging about apparent flaws in the Book of Mormon. Today is no different.

One of the most intriguing anachronisms of the Book of Mormon is that of various passages cited from the Old Testament which should not be there. Let me explain. According to the story, the first book of the Book of Mormon is about a family leaving Jerusalem prior to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. This is explicitly stated as the primary reason for their exodus (roughly 600 BC). Before their final departure they stole the Brass Plates from a wicked (inebriated and decapitated) man. These Plates apparently contained a copy of the Old Testament as recorded up to that point. Therefore, anything which appears in the Old Testament after 600 BC (or after the fall of Jerusalem), should not be in the Brass Plates or in the Book of Mormon (as quoted from the Brass Plates).

Well, it turns out there are several passages from the book of Isaiah which, according to the vast majority of Bible Scholars, were written several years after the Brass Plates were allegedly taken. So the question for Mormon apologists is how can these passages be present in the Book of Mormon?

There are a few explanations for how this may have occured. One explanation is that the primary reasons for the current timeline of Isaiah, as accepted by the vast majority of Bible Scholars, are flawed.

Most scholars accept what is called the Deutero-Isaiah theory, which is the idea that the book of Isaiah was actually written by at least 3 different authors; the first being Isaiah himself prior to the Babylonian captivity (chapters 1-39), the second being an anonymous author during captivity (chapters 40-55), and a third author after the Jews were freed (chapters 56-66). Scholars use methods like changes in language, context, and historical names and events to determine this timeline, which I will not go into detail here.

The Mormon apologist response to this is that using these contextual methods to determine a historical timeline is inappropriate since the book is one of prophesy. Well, this is silly when you consider the fact that certain names and events would not have made any sense to the people at the time of Isaiah (pre-captivity), thus rendering the prophesy useless.

Another explanation for misplaced Isaianic passages within the Book of Mormon is pointing out that other passages from the Bible are also present in the Book of Mormon, like the Sermon on the Mount. As apologists will explain, these passages have an appropriate context, like Jesus appearing to a group of people and laying out the Beatitudes, which makes it consistent with the rest of the book. And this is true. However, the fact that the book claims that Jesus appeared and quoted passages of scripture changes the nature of the claim substantially. No such claim is made in the case of Isaiah, as these passages are described as being quoted from the Brass Plates directly. No divine intervention was required! It was simply "copy and paste".

Another problem Mormons face with all this copying and pasting is that there are known errors in the various Bible passages quoted in the Book of Mormon. By this I mean, the Book of Mormon uses entire chapters of the King James Version of the Bible, complete with errors in that version. This means that Joseph Smith very clearly used the KJV when writing those passages in the Book of Mormon. If he had been citing a divinely inspired book as he claimed, which would have come about independently of the KJV, then such errors should not be present, and should instead be consistent with the oldest Biblical manuscripts.

You can read more Mormon apologetics on Isaiah here if you want.

The point I am trying to get at with all of this pseudo-scholarship is that Mormon apologists quite often find themselves in this awkward position of standing in opposition to the majority of Bible scholars. They have to challenge the consensus in order to remain relevant and viable. In order for the Book of Mormon to be true, the vast majority of Bible scholars have to be wrong about the timeline of Isaiah, among other things. And the only reason these types of conflicts occur is because of something Mormon apologists have chosen to accept and assert without any reason or evidence. Is it any wonder, then, that their apologetic style is equally unsupported?

You would think apologists would be a lot more apologetic...


Here is Mr Deity exploring some more Book of Mormon anachronisms:

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