This video discusses what an anachronism is, what can cause them, examples from the Bible and Book of Mormon and most importantly why they need not challenge someone’s faith.
Hey, guys. In this video we’re going to be talking about anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. Now, what is an anachronism? Well, here is the definition, “An element in a text that is out of time, or has not been proven to exist in the time and place of the text’s setting.” So, for example, if you are reading a book, and it said, “After George Washington retired, he enjoyed spending time with Martha watching TV in the living room,” you would know that that is an anachronism.
That is out of place. It doesn’t make sense. So, critics have used this with the Book of Mormon, saying there is things we haven’t found in the Book of Mormon from archeology, and that therefore proves that the Book of Mormon didn’t happen. It’s not historical. An example from the Book of Mormon would be a steel sword, the sword of Laban was made of steel. Prior to, just a few decades ago this was considered to be an anachronism. No steel swords have been found in Israel, but several decades ago they did find a large sword. It’s actually now on display at the Jerusalem, Israel museum, and they’ve got it dated back to the late seventh century B.C.
So, there are three things that may account for anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. Number one is objects or facts not yet discovered, like the steel sword we just talked about. There is a mantra that archaeologists often will use, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, ” or in other words just because we haven’t found something doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist. There’s a great resource on the FairMormon website, where they actually show 60 items that may be considered items you could look through archaeology to try and prove, or in this case disprove as an anachronism.
As of the date 1842, 87% of the items on this list had not been confirmed. If you fast-forward now to 2005, the list now stands at only 25% in the unconfirmed category. Some fun ones, just to point out for example, that have now been confirmed that weren’t in 1842: cement, for example, highways, javelins, human sacrifice. Those are several different examples now that have been discovered.
The next category that could be anachronistic are the original authors used a term in a novel way that we do not expect. This might be, for example, people from the old world described things they see in the new world with old world terminology. An example of this might possibly be the horse. In the Shaken Faith Syndrome book, Michael Ash has a great chapter on anachronisms. He talks a lot about this number two, number three categories, and how things could work out in those categories. Things we haven’t found yet that is, so talking about the horse is an example.
He says, “In similar fashion, it is possible the Nephites used the term horse for some different, yet functions like a horse, kind of animal. Figurines, for example, of the pack-bearing South American alpacas, which are related to the camel, have been unearthed as far north as Costa Rica. Perhaps, more importantly, the Kʼicheʼ languages of highland Guatemala have expressions like keh, K-E-H, which means both deer and horse, and the cognitive kehay, which means mount or ride. An early pre-Spanish incense burner, discovered in Guatemala, shows a man riding on the back of a deer, and a stone monument dating to 1700 A.D. shows a woman riding a deer. Until recently, many people in Siberia road on the backs of deer, and in such cases the deer served as horses.”
He goes on to talk about how the Aztecs called the Spanish horses “a deer”. That’s the only term that they were familiar with to use to describe these horses that the Spaniards had, and then he says, “If early Native Americans had no problem expanding their definition of deer to include horses, why could not the Nephites expand their definition of horse to include deer if the American genus of deer in some ways acted like horses? It’s not only possible, but virtually mandatory that the same phenomenon would be found in the Book of Mormon if it really derived from an ancient culture that intermingled with another foreign culture,” so kind of interesting point there. There have been some discoveries recently, people are arguing pre-Columbian horses as well, so some interesting points there.
Number three, the modern-day translator’s choices. A great example of this would be from the King James translators translating the transcripts of the Bible, and looking at, for example the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus talked about candles on candlesticks, letting your light so shine before man. Well, there weren’t such things as candles in Jesus’s day, or candlesticks. There were oil and lamps, that’s what they used, but the King James translators thought it would be much more easier to understand for their time, and culture, to use those words, so very likely Joseph had the same experience, and maybe used some of the terms in his culture, and time, that would relate to things that we would understand in our day and age, and that’s how God often speaks to his people, and that may very well be the reason for some of these anachronisms as well.
Now, just to share, last couple of things, with you. It is challenging also where the Book of Mormon possibly took place in Mesoamerica. It’s a very hot, humid type of climate, very acidic soil. Things disintegrate very quickly there. It’s very hard for archaeologists, except for just in cave-type areas, because of this. Also, only about 2% of the areas had any kind of archaeology performed on it, of any type, so it’s a very undiscovered area as well. So, those are some challenges.
Thought I’d share a couple of things here that are interesting. Lions are mentioned in the Bible. They were just discovered in 1983, two lions, even though archaeologists have been digging things up in Israel since 1864, but prior to 1983 we didn’t throw the Bible out, because we hadn’t found lions prior to that. Horses were used by the Huns of Central Asia in fourth and fifth centuries A.D. Low estimates of 20,000 horses, high estimates of 200,000 horses, but until 1974 there wasn’t a single horse bone found in the entire territory of that empire. Interesting. Last, records say elephants roamed Syria, and Upper Euphrates well into the Middle Ages, and pharaohs used to hunt them for sport, yet they’ve now disappeared without a trace. We haven’t found any of that.
Now, with all of this I do want to finish with a quote from President Hinckley. I’ve shared this before. This was in General Conference, when he was an apostle in 1984. I want to just share a little snippet from the quote I shared before, “The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable men may sincerely question its origin; but those who read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God,” and I sincerely do believe that that is the case, and have my own witness of that.
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Shaken Faith Syndrome, Chp 13: Anachronisms – Michael Ash
FairMormon Website: https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Bo…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.