Looking at the BoM as Pseudepigrapha

By: Mormon Heretic
February 6, 2012

Bob Price

Clay Painter of Mormon Expression interviewed Bob Price, a former Baptist Pastor, turned liberal Christian, turned atheist.  Bob describes himself as religiously friendly, and had some interesting things to say about the Book of Mormon. He is a Fellow at the Jesus Seminar.  Of course, he doesn’t believe in the divinity of the book, but still finds value in the Book of Mormon.  I transcribed the entire interview at my website, but thought I would give some excerpts from the interview here and see your reactions.

Clay, “What draws you to Mormon Studies and the Book of Mormon?  How did you even become involved in that?”

Bob Price, “Well, uh, I think it was now looking back a few years, I somehow got in touch with Mark Thomas at BYU.  I got him to write a fascinating article for the Journal of Higher Criticism that I had started/edited, and he did this thing on basically a history of critical study of the Book of Mormon.  People gradually trying to apply to the text methods of modern biblical criticism, and I just found the whole idea fascinating.  I already figured it was a modern work.  I’d read enough of it to know that and I began to read some of these symposia from Signature Books and I thought ‘Wow, this is just a burgeoning field of fascinating scholarly inquiry so I tried my hand at it and got involved with Mark and the Book of Mormon Roundtable and prepared papers for that, and that’s what most of the stuff in my collection Latter-Day Scripture is.  I just found it so fascinating to consider what I already knew about the Book of Mormon in light of what I had learned about the Bible.

For instance, this original debate that still rages: is the Book of Mormon from the 19th century or is it an ancient book?  Well, I figured that was settled but in light of Biblical studies, for it to be a forgery in a sense, a pious fraud, that looks a lot less bad in terms of the history of scripture because so much of all scripture is pseudepigraphical, it’s almost part of the scripture genre.  It’s over-simplified to say this is a rip-off, it’s a hoax or a fraud.  It’s not quite that way.  It’s just certain writings on certain subjects have to adopt the pose of venerable, ancient, perhaps lost scripture in order to underline the depth and the archaic antiquity of the ideas they are trying to expound.

And so, I wrote an essay that was in Dialogue I think, called Joseph Smith: Inspired Author of the Book of Mormon.  I said, ‘you know you LDS Christians, you shouldn’t be that worried about this.  Here’s what mainstream, at least orthodox, liberal Christians and scholars know about the Bible, an awful lot of it is fake, if you want to call it that.  But that’s no real problem, maybe you could see it that way too and rid yourself of an awful headache, and it would make more sense if you admitted yes, Joseph Smith is the author of our scripture.  Wouldn’t that actually befit his role as a founding prophet more than the idea that he’s just an archaeologist who’s stumbled on an ancient text?

I mean he is the authority, you recognize that in your other books like the Doctrine and Covenants.  Why not come clean and admit that yeah, he wrote this too, and that’s fine. He’s the prophet.  Do you think he is or don’t you?  Of course, I don’t have the personal faith but I look at it in sociological terms.  Is this man the founding prophet of a religious community?  Yes he is.  Is Reverend Moon?  Yes he is.

Functionally, the guy is a prophet and even a Messiah if you want to call him that. You don’t really have to push it farther than that.  And once you see, ok I have a scripture here, revered by zillions of people, maybe I could be of some help showing how the dilemma is not as bad as they think it is, and that’s sort of the approach I’ve taken.  I don’t regard myself as an apologist for the Book of Mormon, but I do think you can reframe the whole debate in a way that’s much more healthy and positive and productive.

Clay, “No that’s great.  You know I hear you saying that Joseph Smith, he’s the author of the Book of Mormon, but let’s not worry about it so much because he’s just doing what thousands of years of history, you know historical prophets have done in the past when they’ve had a message, they’ve reframed it, they’ve claimed authority from other people that have religious clout.  Is that correct?  Is that kind of your main point there?

Robert, “Well, it’s half of it.  I’d go on from there to say that once you recognize this isn’t just a straight forward history, nor is it just a hoax pretending to be straight forward history, you begin to open a window into understanding the deeper dimensions of the text.  Once you say now, this sounds a lot like the Bible, but Smith wrote it, how’d he do that?  Did he combine certain passages because he liked elements of this one and that one and cross them into a new synthesis?

Well yeah he did, and this really did give me great respect for this man, as a creative theologian and writer.  It’s just fascinating, the way in 3 Nephi for instance, his narrative of the Second Coming of Christ into the Western Hemisphere, the way he’s combined various elements of the gospels and why he did and the theological implications.  This guys’ not—I mean even a non-Mormon, even an anti-Mormon shouldn’t look at this guy and say he’s just a hoaxer.  No, No, No.  You’ve got a real creative mind here, a literary genius in some ways.  But you’d never recognize that.  You’d never be free to recognize it if you didn’t realize the sacred game the guy was playing, just like the authors of Deuteronomy and the Book of Daniel, and the Book of Revelation and so much other biblical material did.

Clay, “No that’s good.  Let’s back up just a tad and talk about pseudepigrapha in general.  You mentioned that the Bible is littered with pseudepigrapha.  Do you have kind of a—you mentioned three books there but what books in the Bible are fairly conclusively pseudepigrapha?”

Bob, “Well, unless you’re just a fundamentalist stopping your ears up, Daniel is just very obviously pseudopigraphical and there are many other books not in the canon that take the same approach where the author poses as some wise man of the past, usually more of a scribe than a prophet which is kind of a wink to the reader to signal that this is a literary work, not a transcription of a vision despite the content of it—it’s all a kind of a shtick.  You summarize the history of Israel or the Church or whatever, up until your own time—you the writer, but you say that this is written by an ancient scribe who foresaw it.

Why do that?  Well, it’s a way—these things are usually written in times of great stress.  It’s a way of saying, look, it may look like great chaos to you but God had a plan and that’s working itself out. It’s like a parable about divine providence you might say.  Or sometimes it’s just a case like with the so-called Deutero-Isaiah, or 2nd Isaiah, or 2nd Zechariah.  You had somebody that revered the oracles of an early prophet and had more to say in that community but humbly felt, who am I?  I’m gonna put this under the aegis of the great prophet.  I’m not going to have the brazenness to make myself equal with him.  Another way with less admirable motives, you might say, ‘nobody’s gonna take me seriously if I used my own nom de plume.  If I say here’s the prophecy of Bill or the Apocalypse of Chad.  Who’s going to listen to this?  So I better get a hearing with a great name and then the value of it will be apparent to the reader.  That’s generally called a pious fraud.

It is a fraud, but it is pious.  So Daniel is certainly one of those. Deuteronomy—Moses said all of this?  There’s no way.  The law is totally different than it was in earlier law codes defined in Exodus, etc.  The whole premise is kind of vague and self-contradictory.  Is Moses talking to the people who survived the 40 years in the desert? He talks to them as if they were, ‘you did this, you did that’, but then he says they’re all dead and so I’m giving you, their heirs, a pep talk about the law.  Well what is it?  This isn’t historical.  It’s a chance to update the Torah, and the people think that’s really what happened under King Josiah, much, much later.  Well there’s several of those law codes put under Moses’ name.  The rabbis continue to say that they’re oral tradition of interpreting the Torah was part of the Torah, that ‘oh we really didn’t come up with this, Moses did, and he repeated it orally without writing it down and it came down to us.’  That’s pseudepigraphy.

In the New Testament, it seems to me that the letters of Paul are pseudepigraphical. This is way out there, I mean very few scholars think this, but I follow the Dutch radical school of the 19th century that says that all of these letters are by different Paulinists, and that’s why you have so many different viewpoints in them.  So I think they’re pseudepigraphical.

The Gospels have no names on them, so they were really anonymous.  It was somebody later on, perhaps Polycarp of Smyrna who kind of guessed who had written them, and that’s all it was.  So by far, most of the Bible is anonymous or pseudonymous. The Psalms—there were originally no names on them. They certainly don’t go back to David.

Clay, “Sure. Uh huh.”

Bob, “But neither do they claim to.  That’s just an ancient editorial convention.  We don’t know who wrote virtually any of the Bible, and when you have names, it’s either ancient guesswork or false pen-names.  It’s almost the rule, not the exception.”

Clay, “No, that’s great.  You know, is it fair to say that if we’re going to objectively be critical of all of our scripture, not just our own scripture, not just someone else’s scripture, but if we’re going to be objective and unbiased, and if we’re gonna throw out the Book of Mormon, then heck, we might as well throw out half the Bible.”

Bob, “Oh yeah, you’d have to, yeah.”

Clay, “Or we can be kinder, accept it as pseudepigrapha, acknowledge that is shows insight into the men of the times who wrote it, and may say something about the sociology and religious evolution of that time, and analyze it as that?”

Bob, “Yeah, and that can be edifying too for the reasons you just mentioned.  Any fool can see that the Book of Mormon is the charter for what happened to the Mormon Church’s in their trek across the country. They had their own exodus, their own persecutions.  I mean it’s fascinating.  It’s this updating and Americanizing of the Bible and Christianity.  That doesn’t contradict it being a modern work.  In fact it makes – the truth of it is made all the more clear if you realize it was written in the 19th century.

What are your impressions of Bob Price? For those skeptical of the Book of Mormon, do you find value in looking at it as pseudepigrapha?

85 Responses to Looking at the BoM as Pseudepigrapha

  1. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 7:51 AM

    This is an interesting view point. As soon as you leave the orthodox view of the BoM being historically accurate which science refutes and call Joseph the sole author science argues against that because of the literary genius required to have written it! Therefore letting go of the requirement of historical accuracy scientifically swings the argument in favor of Joseph being an inspired prophet.

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  2. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    #1: Howard:
    Very few, if any, ouside the Church, have called the BoM “literary genius”.
    There is little, or no support, in any manner for the BoM outside the Church(?)

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  3. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    Bob I don’t claim any expertise in this but a Mormon scientist friend presented evidence of multiple authors, use of chiasmus and other information that placed this work well beyond Joseph’s capability. How can it be explained?

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  4. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    Bob Price demonstrates a certain level of Naivety if he thinks the “Church” can just come out and say that Joseph Smith was the sole author of the BoM. there is no one around that knows that for a fact anymore than old Bob beleives Joseph’s version of the how he received and translated the plates. Unless, of course, there are secret confessions deeply hidden in the bowels of the Church archives which will neversee the light of day….

    Based on witnessess, there is more evidence favoring Joseph’s version of the story than big Bob’s even it cannot be proven georgraphically or historically.

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  5. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    I think all the church has to do is go silent on any claims of historical accuracy.

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  6. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    #3,#4: Howard, Jeff,
    I look at the BoM as Pseudepigrapha. But I doubt he wrote in all by himself, or that he brought in many 1800 ideas.
    Remember, we have many, many examples of JS’s
    literary abilities beside the BoM. He was never an “unlearn farm boy”.

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  7. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    Howard:

    I have alway’s struggled with the Chiasmus arguments because:

    1) We don’t even have a clear position on the nature of translation. Word for word, general idea, etc.

    2) The chiasmus arguments from the papers I have read seem to deal more with Chiasmus in narrative theme, rather than text. In other words, the pride cycle becomes chiasmus. This seems a little loosy goosy for me.

    As far as multiple authors go, most of The Book of Mormon was supposed to be an abridgement. So, it doesn’t seem reasonable that any word print studies should be able to identify too many writers.

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  8. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 9:10 AM

    #5: Howard,
    “I think all the church has to do is go silent on any claims of historical accuracy”.
    Do you mean this within the Church itself?

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  9. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 9:12 AM

    Fiction is a much better teaching vehicle than non-fiction which simply amounts to a book of facts.

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  10. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 9:20 AM

    Bob,
    Both within and without. The church refers to the BoM as a sacred record of peoples in ancient America…history…written by prophet-historians. See: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/explanation?lang=eng. Simply refer to the BoM as a story. It is a story about peoples in ancient America.

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  11. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    I disagree with Jeff that there is any evidence suggesting that Joseph Smith’s story is accurate, though I ultimately and completely agree with Jeff’s logic. I really don’t get these revisionist arguments on Book of Mormon origins. This is one scenario where if you throw out the bath water, inevitably the baby goes with it.

    In the Helen Whitney interview with Jeffery R. Holland (PBS: The Mormons), Elder Holland was asked what counter theories to the origins of The Book of Mormon he has entertained. A relevant point in his response was:

    “Now, in terms of more modern theories, there are those who say it’s more mythical literature and spiritual, and not literal. That doesn’t work for me. I don’t understand that, and I can’t go very far with that, because Joseph Smith said there were plates, and he said there was an angel. And if there weren’t plates and there wasn’t an angel, I have a bigger problem than whether the Book of Mormon is rich literature. … I have to go with what the prophet said about the book, about its origins, about the literalness of the plates, the literalness of the vision — and then the product speaks for itself.”

    I think this is what Jeff is getting at, and it is a point I completely agree with. Not that it happened, but if you allow that Joseph Smith just wrote The Book of Mormon, even if he did so under divine influence, you then have to come up with a way to logically wrestle with the fact that he told a completely different story. He taught that he actually had the plates. He even prepared two affidavits from 11 even who insist they saw the plates. If he wrote it, rather than translated it, why the charade. Divine authorship is just a weighpoint down the road of pious fraud, with the ultimate destination of “just plain old fraud”. Holland knows this, so the Church won’t budge.

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  12. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Cowboy,

    Exactly. the whole Church rides on Jospeh’s version of the story.

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  13. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    It doesn’t follow, being in possession of physical plates implies nothing regarding the historical accuracy of the BoM or it’s being non-fiction.

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  14. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 9:43 AM

    Howard…er….yes it does! It implies everything. It implies that the dead angel Moroni who allegedly visited Joseph Smith, really did live as an ancient American (Indian???) on this continent. It implies that the Book of Mormon peoples really did live and record their history. It implies that God preserved the plates, and reserved them for the restoration. It implies that God assisted Joseph Smith with the translation. It further implies that Joseph Smith should be taken serious on his other claims. I am baffled that you would try and argue that the issue is just a non sequitur??? Quite to the contrary, it all follows quite nicely in fact.

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  15. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    #12: Jeff,
    “Exactly. the whole Church rides on Jospeh’s version of the story”.
    I am not sure that is true. I really do
    question the number of Church members who do question the JS version, yet the Church goes on.

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  16. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    Cowboy I think you’ve fallen off your horse on this one.

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  17. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    To the BoM unbelievers,

    You have no proof that Joseph wrote the book, had help writing the book, leveraged other books or stories that were around at the time.

    You only have your speculative unbelief that that the story that Joseph told could be not true.

    But, bottom line you have no other explanation based on all available evidence.

    Yes, there is little to no geographical proof, no historical proof to substantiate the history claimed in the book itself. but, that in itself does not invalidate the claim of how Joseph received and translated the book.

    The proof has just not been found yet. Faith must prevail on that point.

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  18. Jake on February 6, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    In many ways I think the question of how literal the book of Mormon is as a historical record, is not a very interesting question. I can see the validity in all of the perspectives but people have been arguing about it for decades, it seems to get no where and only divides people into the historical-literal people, and the fictional product of Joseph camps. The reason why I think its not interesting is there are two problems, which I think are unknowable so we end up just speculating about them.

    Firstly, the angel Moroni, who is a spanner in the works for the full fictional stance. However, just because Moroni existed, it does not therefore mean that Nephi and the rest of the book is literal and that they existed, it might have been that Mormon and Moroni accidently used myths and legends in writing it, or that they constructed the pseudepigrapha themselves. And even if they did exist, how reliable are their records?

    Secondly, you have the problem of translation. Why did Joseph Smith use a peepstone in a hat to translate it at times? If it was a literal translation, then why the hat and stone, especially when accounts state at times the plates were often covered or not even in the same room at times? Then if he was making it up himself then why use the stone? Both ways seem to make no sense with the accounts we have of how he dictated it to Oliver Cowdery.

    It seems more prudent to me to suspend judging the source for it, and instead look at the different ways of reading and understanding the text. Reading it as literal history every word inspired by God gives some insights into it, reading is as a 19th century intertextual product created by Joseph Smith gives another set insights, its also useful to look at as a history that has the same problems all histories have. The more perspectives through which we look at it the better we can understand it.

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  19. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Jeff,
    What story did Joseph tell? Did he say it was non-fiction or claim historical accuracy?

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  20. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Jake,
    Good analysis but there are other choices besides a literal history or product created by Joseph. For example perhaps Joseph wrote what was revealed to him and it was was largly fiction.

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  21. Mormon Heretic on February 6, 2012 at 10:25 AM

    Bob #2,

    Very few, if any, ouside the Church, have called the BoM “literary genius”.
    There is little, or no support, in any manner for the BoM outside the Church(?)

    Perhaps you should read what Harold Bloom has said. The literary critic from Yale has called Smith “authentic religious genius”. Jan Shipps, and Michael Coe, (along with Bob Price), may not be believers, but they do respect Smith’s religious mind.

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  22. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    #18: Jake,
    “..but people have been arguing about it for decades, it seems to get no where….”.
    I don’t think this is true. Those who favor a ” the literalness of the plates, the literalness of the vision..”, are falling behind everyday, and at a faster pace.

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  23. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 10:37 AM

    I think the problem of understanding and accepting the BoM as fiction is two fold. Non-fiction has been implied by the church and taught to us for as long as we were members. Second we tend to place a value judgement on non-fiction equaling truth therfore it is “good” and on fiction as equaling non-truth therefore it is “bad”. But if you consider consider fiction vs. non-fiction as a means of teaching or transfering knowledge fiction wins and may actually be God’s way of teaching the truth.

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  24. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 10:39 AM

    #21: MH,
    We are not talking about JS’s “religious genius”. I give him that. The question (IMO), is his “literary genius”.
    I have read maybe five books by Michael Coe. He is a good source for understanding Mesoamerica.

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  25. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Howard – you’re making my head hurt. I can’t really say that I’m not sitting in a tube filled with jelly somewhere, living out what I call life, through a computer program that is plugged into my brain and capable of manipulating my senses to create a false sense of reality. We know this, and the philosophers have been discussing it since long before Descarte reduced independent knowledge to a self-awareness of our ability to think. When we come back to reality however, we are left with this:

    ““While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor…..He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants”

    So first – This is exactly what Joseph Smith said about the historical accuracy. It is a stretch to believe that Joseph Smith taught anything but that The Book of Mormon was a literal history. The D&C is filled with references to the local Indian tribes being ancestors of the Lamanites. I mean, really, we could go on and on citing examples. True, Joseph Smith isn’t here for a Q&A so that you can ask him the questions just how you want to, but the preponderence of evidence supports the literal history argument, not the divine authorship.

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  26. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 10:53 AM

    Jeff (#17):

    We could say a lot about this, but in sum all you have stated is this:

    1) The Book of Mormon exists
    2) We have no way to verify the origin of the books contents.
    2a) The Book alleges an ancient American history that is in some cases contradictory, and in others just unverified.
    2b) No alternative theory for the books existence has been proven.

    So, now that we have cleared the air, is it reasonable to say that the evidence for is as strong as the evidence against? I would say no. We have two means in which books of any kind are believed to come into existence:

    1) Human beings write them by drawing on personal creativity, knowledge, experience, etc.

    That this method of creating books exists, is not under dispute.

    2) Some posit that in addition to method 1), another method also exists. That God somehow either creates the book, or uses other divine means to bring them about.

    This method while widely held, is often very confusing and selective about which books fall into this category. Religion is generally the determining factor. A religion generally advances it’s book as being a creation of method 2), while arguing for some lesser form for other books said to have come about by the same method. There has never been any proof of this method, and so there exists a great amount of uncertainty as to whether and when this method exists or that it exists at all.

    Taking all of the above into consideration, I think we have ample reason to doubt the divine claims of The Book of Mormon. That isn’t proof, but I would argue that it is well reasoned doubt under the circumstances. Seeing however, that there will be no reasonable way to prove the Book of Mormon false, the onus is on the believer to prove it true. In essence, I don’t think it is fair to imply that the probabilities are equal. Evidence would seem to suggest that it is most likely false.

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  27. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    “an” account. I have no argument with that it is an account there are other accounts historical and scientific accounts. Are we to believe the D&C contains no fiction?

    Simply put who cares if the BoM is fiction? Was the biblical flood historically accurate? How does fiction vs. non-fiction affect the usefullness of the BoM or the Bible to humankind? It doesn’t so why defend the undefendable especially in a much more scientifically sophisticated world than Joseph’s day? Are we still waiting for religon to disprove science?

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  28. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Cowboy,

    “Evidence would seem to suggest that it is most likely false.”

    Not really. It’s 50-50 at best because you can reason doubt does not mean it is false.

    One can reason doubt about a myriad of things because it is not possible to prove, therefore the burden falls on the doubter to go beyond just plain doubt, even if it is implied by your own recounting of the “evidence.” And while you are entitled to your opinion of the evidence, it only validly suggests it to you.

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  29. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    I have a testimony that the Book of Mormon is fiction.

    What is wrong with this? Nothing. Except that you have never heard it before.

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  30. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 11:09 AM

    “Simply put who cares if the BoM is fiction? Was the biblical flood historically accurate? How does fiction vs. non-fiction affect the usefullness of the BoM or the Bible to humankind?”

    Why don’t you ask that question of the Vatican? I’d bet they’d take a different position on the matter. The same thing goes for the “Brethren” in Salt Lake. I would expect that they hold a vested interest in the literal truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, as their authority sort of hinges on it too.

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  31. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    Jeff:

    I think I clearly articulated why my position isn’t “plain doubt”. Secondly, nothing you have said explains why the probabilities must be equal? Now, I’ll be the first to admit that using probabilities in something like this is problematic. I am not suggesting that anything past has a “probability” of being true, but that standing from a position of uncertainty, how do I ascertain the liklihood of truth to maximize good decision making? From that standpoint, given the points I have outlined, the two positions are not equal. This is particularly instructive given Howards argument that the Book of Mormon need not be historical to be divine. Pretend for a moment that I proved Solomon Spaulding wrote the Book of Mormon. Couldn’t Howard just argue that Spaulding was the inspired author, and Joseph Smith was the inspired spokesman, in God’s “mysterious” plan? This is the point about proving a negative. I couldn’t do it. Which is why the onus is on the believer to support the unusual claim.

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  32. Ben S on February 6, 2012 at 11:17 AM

    The carelessness with which terms are being tossed around here undermines the conversation. A text can be ancient without being historical. Saying something like “accurate history” or “literal history” assumes much about both genre and historiography.

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  33. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Cowboy,
    I agree with you they do have a vested interest.

    Why? What is their vested interest? Their authority does not hinge on the literalness of these books rather their authority would be eroded if they were to reverse their position quickly, which means they have no real authority instead they have assumed authority or they must claim revelation for an about face such as the lifting of the preisthood ban.

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  34. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Ben S,
    Re: 32 please elaborate.

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  35. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Howard:

    If you are saying that Joseph Smith was a prophet only in the sense that he wrote a book you get personal spiritual value from, then ok. I don’t personally see why you would be so concerned about using the BoM for any kind of “guide”, but I don’t care enough to argue it either. When the BoM is used to justify the hierarchy and authority of prophets, then I get interested.

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  36. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    Cowboy,
    I personally believe that Joseph was one of the great prophets, that the brethren are lessor caretaker prophets and I believe the BoM is largely fiction.

    How do you see the BoM is used to justify the hierarchy and authority of prophets?

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  37. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 1:09 PM

    By extension of Joseph Smith. “If Joseph Smith was a Prophet, then so are we”. Or so the argument goes. I suppose you can alway’s insist that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, but by accepting that The Book of Mormon was fiction, I think you lessen his case by weakening the evidence.

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  38. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    I disagree the BoM can teach the same valuable truths, the same lessons, the same gospel being fiction. It changes nothing of importance except it is a more honest approach and would find greater respect and less challange from those outside the TBM base.

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  39. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    #38: Howard,
    The BoM teaches no valuable truths or lessons that can’t be learned better elsewhere__if it is fiction.
    Those who read the BoM outside of the Church, find nothing valuable in it.

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  40. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 1:54 PM

    Well said from Bob:

    Adopting a divine fiction perspective gets the Book of Mormon out of the hot water of having to support it’s claims, into the lukewarm water of “who cares”.

    Secondly – I would encourage you to list what “truths” The Book of Mormon teaches, if we accept it as fiction. After all, it teaches that Christ visited the America’s, right? Well, now if that is fiction, he didn’t. So what truth’s are learned? Love your neighbor? Okay, I suppose you get that point. What about repentance and salvation? If you extend the fiction argument to the Bible as well, now you have undermined Christ entirely, and the main purpose of The Book of Mormon, to show people to “what source they may turn for a remission of their sins”. When you fictionalize The Book of Mormon you undermine it’s key points, and reduce the weight of those key “truths”. Either way you look at it Howard, you can’t make a strong case for it the way you are going. I really think this is a zero-sum game. If those “truths” aren’t truth’s at all, it’s hard to see why they would be imperatives. Could it still be “inspirational” good reading? I suppose it would be the whole eye of the beholder thing, but certainly not the best literature for that sort of thing.

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  41. Jake on February 6, 2012 at 2:27 PM

    Ben S makes a good point about genre. I don’t quite know what he means by saying that a text can be ancient and not historical, but the idea that we have genre’s such as fiction and non-fiction and the assumptions that we make about them is important. Both genre’s are very flexible. Where is the line that divides the two? Is Shakespeare’s play Henry VIII a work of fiction or of non-fiction? Both fiction and non-fiction are invariably interwoven in any literary work, and writers usually derive fictional elements from a factual world.

    Terms such as fiction to describe the book of Mormon are often used for the sensational rhetorical effect. It assumes that if something is not a straight forward non-fiction work it automatically makes it entirely fictional. If we go back to the OP the point is that we should be moving away from such binary definitions of what it is. As the OP says: “I’d go on from there to say that once you recognize this isn’t just a straight forward history, nor is it just a hoax pretending to be straight forward history, you begin to open a window into understanding the deeper dimensions of the text.”

    Even, if we accept what Joseph said happened with actual gold plates, delivered by the Angel Moroni and all the rest, it still doesn’t make the work a straight forward history. It still remains complex, as we don’t know the extent to which the gold plates were used by Joseph, we don’t know the extent to which it was a written as a straight forward history by Mormon or Moroni, we don;t the extent to which Joseph’s ideological framework imposed itself on the text in his interpretation/translation.

    A third option could be argued in saying that the gold plates merely provided a catalyst for Joseph to gain the inspiration needed to write it, so what he wrote (dictated) was inspired by possessing the plates, but not actually what was written on it. This allows for Joseph’s story to remain in tact, whilst allowing room for the BOM to be more mythic then literal.

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  42. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    Cowboy and others,

    I don’t have to prove the BoM is a literal anything because that is not my basis for beleiving the book in the first place. Anymore than I base my belief in the Bible or any other historical record in which i was not a witness.

    But you have an entirely different basis for you allegation that is it fiction or inspired fiction or whatever.

    It is no more or less valid that my belief. I don’t use evidence, but you seem to want to for your position.

    The only problem is there is no evidence to the contrary. There is no way for you to prove that Joseph Smith made it up. Folks have been trying to almost 200 years and no one has suceeded thus far.

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  43. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Jeff:

    In order for you to hold your belief that The Book of Mormon is true, you are entitled to do so on the basis of rationale you see fit. I wouldn’t dispute that. Perhaps the problem with my argument is that I am operating from the general assumption that you (and anyone else who believes The Book of Mormon) also hold that I should believe it as well. And that implied in that is that if I were more reasonable, rational, intelligent, faithful, good, whatever, I would share your position without argument. You of course do not have to prove that The Book of Mormon is true, unless you are going to insist that I should believe that as well. If your position is “well, I believe it, but I understand why you don’t”, then I guess we are at an understanding. In which case you have my position of why I don’t believe it, but still my respect if you choose otherwise.

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  44. FireTag on February 6, 2012 at 3:12 PM

    I regard the BofM as true on the basis of personal testimony. I regard the BofM as an anomaly based on the science; neither an “ancient” nor a “nineteenth century fraud” (pious or otherwise) provides a satisfactory explanation of its origins. So it doesn’t surprise me that anyone defaults to their testimony or lack thereof in deciding whether the BofM is inspired.

    But the unanswered question, then, is what we mean by INSPIRED. Is there an inspir-er sending something? Is Joseph discovering something that is at least real (like Einstein discovering that E=mc^2) even if impersonal? Or is Joseph just telling wonderfully creative yarns?

    So, if there is inspiration by the Divine, why did the Divine bother? Taking the heat off of trying to defend the book by calling it pseudepigrapha only makes it more important that we answer the “why” question.

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  45. Ben S on February 6, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    I don’t have a lot of time, but let’s say we dig up a papyri which is undisputably dated to AD 35.
    Furthermore, this papyri is a fragment of something, but the only sentence we can read says “Jesus went to Tarshish.”

    Now, the text is indisputably ancient. Is it historical? That depends on its genre. Many genres (such as parables) do not make historical reality claims, though they have high verisimilitude (i.e. resembalance to reality. Think “realistic fiction” instead of sci-fi or fantasy, with low verisimilitude.)

    Is it historically accurate? The question only applies if it belongs to a historical genre AND Jesus actually went to Tarshish.

    We don’t talk about The Borne Identity being good history or bad history, or historically inaccurate, because we recognize it belongs to a non-historical genre with high verisimilitude. Before we go evaluating something as to whether it is good history or bad history, we have to evaluate whether it belongs to a genre making historical claims.

    Something that is ancient AND historical may well have historiographical issues (i.e. how does the editor/author know what he knows, what’s his bias, what if he says Tuesday but meant Monday, etc., plus the fact that ancient historiography is very different than our own) or genre issues, since genre categories in antiquity don’t always match up with our own.

    So, ancient is not equivalent to historical is not equivalent to “true”, and a literal/figurative distinction has nothing to do with anything.

    Again, is Borne Identity literal or figurative? The descriptors don’t really apply because of the genre question.

    For myself, I’m convinced the BoM is ancient though it has the same historiographical limitations of any ancient document; further, I’m convinced that it fails as inspired fiction because it would not then meet its own stated purposes as given in Moroni’s intro; lastly, I’m not about to ask anyone out of the Church because of a lack of belief in a historical Book of Mormon.

    Speed comment, apologies for any incomprehensibility.

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  46. jmb275 on February 6, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    Re MH-
    Great post. I largely agree with Price. I have taken this pseudepigraphical approach for about 2 years now. I do think Joseph was a genius, and I have a lot of skepticism surrounding the historicity of the BoM. But I will still defend it as scripture. It’s just not problematic for me. I don’t feel I have to explain all of Joseph’s behavior. Damn, I can’t even explain all my own behavior!

    Re Cowboy-
    I suppose for me I don’t find it that difficult to accept the pseudepigraphical viewpoint. I don’t think it requires me to fully make sense of Joseph any more than I’m required to fully make sense of Muhammad even though I don’t think the Quran is divine.

    Re Jeff-
    Jeff, no offense, but I don’t think you understand how probability and likelihood work. Just the prior probability distribution would suggest the extreme unlikelihood of an angelic visitation that produces instructions to a hidden set of golden plates. You would need a mountain of likelihood evidence to budge the prior even a little bit. You can’t isolate a moment of time and initialize the prior with a 50% chance of being right. That would suggest that at any given moment the likelihood of an angel appearing to me right now and showing me hidden golden plates is equivalent to the flip of a fair coin. And that nothing I do right now will influence that likelihood in the next moment. It’s just not a reflection of reality, not to mention a pretty direct contradiction of spacetime. In any case, this is a stupid discussion to have anyway because, as you’ve said thousands of times, believing in Joseph and the BoM is a matter of faith, not evidence or probability. It’s okay to admit we believe something that’s unlikely. It’s also unlikely a man raised himself from the dead!

    In any case, I don’t disagree with you that the entire modern church hinges on the veracity of Joseph’s story. My real big beef with your comment is just that you’ve readily isolated the evidence for and against the BoM and Joseph, but I don’t think you’ve given the same kind of analysis to the Quran and Muhammed. After all, for each argument you’ve given so far, I could say the exact same thing about the Quran. But I doubt you believe in it like you do the BoM. At the end of the day this is about faith.

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  47. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Bob what does being historical non-fiction add to your #39 argument? If the Spirit is our scriptural teacher what difference does fiction or non-fiction make?

    Cowboy your 40 comment tends to read into my 36 & 38 comments to the point of taking them out of context and to an extreme without considering and weighing the rest of what I have written here. I guess you mean to test my logic. My point is simple if the BoM isn’t completely or even mostly historically accurate that does not invalidate it as a teaching/learning tool particularly when you add the influence of the Spirit on the reader.

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  48. Ryan on February 6, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    Yeah, Ben, we tend to want our answers in nice, tidy, simple packages – but so many things are far more complicated than that.

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  49. Ray on February 6, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    Fascinating post. Thanks!

    I finally got through all the comments and was going to say something in agreement with Ben, but Ryan beat me to it – so I just will second those comments.

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  50. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    If I told you I had a news clipping about my 50th high school reunion helded in the boys gym of my small high school that said 50,000 attended, you would not say “I don’t know if that’s true, I wasn’t there, I wasn’t a witness”.
    The BoM is not only Fiction, it is Science Fiction. Science CAN prove these things never happened, and has. That’s why it is not accepted by the World of Science.

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  51. Cowboy on February 6, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Howard:

    My point is that, if The Book of Mormon isn’t to be taken literal, then every outgrowth of The Book of Mormon ought to be up for grabs as well. For example, why refute that The Book of Mormon is a literal record, bearing witness of a guiding “spirit”, and then accept that spirit as a literal reality. You say that you can add the spirit to your equation to guide the reader, but what is the spirit? It obviously is not something ever really guided Lehi with the vision of the tree of life. It clearly didn’t elucidate that vision to Nephi. So, why expect it to be of literal value now?

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  52. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    Cowboy,

    “And that implied in that is that if I were more reasonable, rational, intelligent, faithful, good, whatever, I would share your position without argument.’

    Not at all. This seems to be a standard comment among the unbelievers that somehow we expect you to believe, if you’d only come to your senses.

    I DON’T. I did not write that, imply that or believe that. All I said is that there is no evidence that Joseph Smith authored the BoM by himself or with some other unknown person. That folks have tried for almost 200 years to prove that and they can’t.

    You choose to believe there is evidence, either direct or indirect that disputes Joseph’s account of how got the BoM. that’s fine you can do that, free from any assumptions on my part about why.

    But you cannot prove he didn’t recive the way he did. And there is more witnesses on his side than on the contrary side.

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  53. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Cowboy,
    The Spirit is an experience that many people believe and claim they have so is thinking so is living.

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  54. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 4:08 PM

    JMB,

    “Jeff, no offense, but I don’t think you understand how probability and likelihood work. Just the prior probability distribution would suggest the extreme unlikelihood of an angelic visitation that produces instructions to a hidden set of golden plates.”

    Thanks for the insult! Probability is not at issue here. We are not throwing dice or taking a political poll.

    There is much more at play here. We are talking about a past event and historical fact, whether available or not. You are free to think it is unlikely that Joseph saw an angel, recieved the plates from him, translated them and published the Book Of Mormon. Is it Likely based on what we think today, not very. But there is no hard evidence to the contrary.

    Is there faith involved, you bet. But then I think there is faith involved in everything.

    But ask the New England fans how faith and probability worked for them yesterday.

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  55. jmb275 on February 6, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Re Jeff-

    Thanks for the insult! Probability is not at issue here. We are not throwing dice or taking a political poll.

    Ah, sorry. I didn’t mean it as an insult. To be clear, Jeff, probability is ALWAYS the issue. I’m not talking about statistics here, or polling people. I’m talking about likelihood, about Bayesian probability here. What we do in every field, in almost every decision of our lives is bayesian probability. No one knows anything really for certain, it’s all hedging our bets against the idea that the future will behave like the past. All of science, all of history, all of economics is a game of probability. Saying something has a 50-50 chance can be interpreted multiple ways. Statisticians see frequency of random events, Bayesians see belief in likelihood of a single event.

    The problem isn’t that the event did or did not occur in reality (since that is not subject to randomness), the problem is in our uncertainty of knowing the truth about it. To that end, all we can do is weigh the evidence and make an educated guess. Everyone’s evidence will look different. What you call lack of “hard evidence” someone sees as conclusive.

    All I was trying to say is that you claimed

    Not really. It’s 50-50 at best because you can reason doubt does not mean it is false.

    One can reason doubt about a myriad of things because it is not possible to prove, therefore the burden falls on the doubter to go beyond just plain doubt, even if it is implied by your own recounting of the “evidence.” And while you are entitled to your opinion of the evidence, it only validly suggests it to you.

    But it’s not 50-50 at best. Like I said, you’ve implicitly assumed something about the nature of it’s correlatedness with other events spanning space and time. Specifically, that the prior distribution governing our belief in the event is initialized at 50% chance of truth. But that’s a naive assumption.

    Sorry if I offended, I didn’t mean to.

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  56. Jeff Spector on February 6, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    JMB,

    don’t worry, thin skin day. :)

    I didn’t mean the 50-50 as a probability, only a figure of speech for it could go either way. But, in my mind the facts, as we know them at this point, favor Joseph only because there is no other story with more credibility that is based on any real evidence.

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  57. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    #56: Jeff,
    Circumstantial evidence is against the JS story. That’s why most people don’t accept it. There are other ways to tell the story that have more “credibility”.

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  58. Ray on February 6, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    Back to one of the main points of the post, it is almost comical to me that one of the complaints from the religious right about the BofM is that it just couldn’t have happened – that it had to be made up. This from the same people who often accept Biblical inerrancy.

    I think that lies at the heart of the position being described in the post: There really isn’t ANY religous “scripture” in existence that is **objectively** factual, especially when it purports to be of ancient origin. Given that reality, the BofM can be studied, at the very least, according to the same standard that can be used by an unbeliever to examine the Bible – and such an examination can be useful for beleivers, as well.

    I have no problem with that stance – none, whatsoever.

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  59. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    #58: Ray,
    Parts of the NT can be shown as “factual” and “objective” by the records of the Romans.

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  60. Mormon Heretic on February 6, 2012 at 6:23 PM

    Bob, you’re missing Ray’s point. Even if we look at the New Testament, for example, (1) we don’t know who wrote any of the books–it’s a guess as Mr. Price says, and (2) there are lots of things that disagree. For example, Luke says there was a census when Cyrenius was governor of Syria, but that’s 10 years after Herod died–a major event in Matthew. So which is it? While most accept the Herod portion of Matthew over Luke as reliable chronologically, there isn’t Roman evidence of “the slaughter of the Innocents” as recorded in Matthew, making it unreliable historically as well.

    So if people quibble with the BoM claiming Jesus was born “at Jerusalem”, rather than Bethlehem as mentioned in Matthew, there is other evidence to support that Jesus was really born and raised in Nazareth. So the Bible seems to have some “literal history” problems as well–it can’t even really verify the birth of Jesus very well.

    So, is the Bible not credible? Well, it’s value has always been the spiritual teachings, not literal history. If we look at scripture to corroborate history or archaeology, we’re looking at for the wrong reasons. Bob Price is saying the same things about the Book of Mormon. If the BoM gives meaning and makes you a better person, Bob says fine–embrace that. On the other hand, if it doesn’t provide meaning to you, then you shouldn’t embrace it. It seems like a rather pragmatic position. While Mormons feel it has meaning, and hope others see that meaning, I can’t see them arguing this point. If the book doesn’t speak to you, you don’t have a testimony and shouldn’t stay part of the religion.

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  61. jmb275 on February 6, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    I really like Ray’s #58 comment. Well said.

    Re Jeff-

    But, in my mind the facts, as we know them at this point, favor Joseph only because there is no other story with more credibility that is based on any real evidence.

    I know. I understand. I’m saying that you are making an implicit assumption about the likelihood of the event. More explicitly, you have initialized your prior with a uniform distribution. That is, you consider all events are equally plausible, and we only need add up the evidence to figure out what’s correct. Since there’s not compelling evidence against (again, evidence by YOUR definition only), and only for, we add that to our prior, and presto, we believe.

    The point I’m making (and I swear I’ll shut up after this), is that making that assumption is naive. Any single event is not uniformly probable with every other event. Events are NOT usually uncorrelated, but that’s what a uniform equi-probable distribution implies.

    Think of it like this. You likely do not believe that if I’m a psychopathic murderer, and a sadistic rapist, that I am likely to be the next prophet. Why? Suppose tomorrow I wake up, and produce a revelation such that no reasonable human could have produced it without divine intervention. Would you believe in my revelation? Probably not. Why? What if there is no compelling evidence against my claim, I have witnesses to my angelic visitation, etc. You probably won’t believe me because your belief dictates that you examine more than just the circumstantial evidence surrounding my claim. You look at me, my history, my reliability, my actions, the odds of another “restoration” of the truth in light of what you already believe to be the restoration of the truth, etc. All those things, conflated with your probable view that such a person would not be worthy of being called by God, would make it nearly impossible to believe me no matter how compelling my story is to you. (BTW, for the record, I’m NOT implying that Joseph was anything like a murderer or a sadist, it’s just an example)

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  62. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 7:22 PM

    #60:MH,
    The Bible has thousands of proven facts: places it names and have been found, it gives true names of real people, it tells of true events in history.
    All that the Bible says, is not true. But many things are.
    The BoM can’t do this. It can’t show ‘real’ places, name ‘real’ people, or confirm ‘real events happening in America.

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  63. Jettboy on February 6, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    The Book of Mormon is an ancient scripture, and so is the books of the Bible. Psuedopogrypha is a nice name for liars! What bothers me greatly about the kind of viewpoints expressed here is it totally ignores the importance of seeing it as genuine, exactly what it says it is. Mormonism is a fundamentalist religion. Its theology makes no sense if its seen as post-modern “pious fraud.” Doesn’t matter how interesting or informative. A fraud is a fraud. Otherwise, don’t call it a religion. Essentially without the truth claims a religion is only a philosophy, and poor one at that.

    Besides, the Book of Mormon argues intensely that its a true and ancient artefact.If you don’t believe in angels and miracles as it claims very explicitly throughout, then you are, as stated in Mormon 9:17-23, damned:

    “17 Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his aword the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought?

    18 And who shall say that Jesus Christ did not do many mighty amiracles? And there were many mighty miracles wrought by the hands of the apostles.

    19 And if there were amiracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not; if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles.

    20 And the reason why he ceaseth to do miracles among the children of men is because that they dwindle in unbelief, and depart from the right way, and know not the God in whom they should trust.

    21 Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth.

    22 For behold, thus said Jesus Christ, the Son of God, unto his disciples who should tarry, yea, and also to all his disciples, in the hearing of the multitude: Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;

    23 And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned . . . ”

    As Moroni says in Ether 12:23-27 about the book:

    “23 And I said unto him: Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing; for thou hast made all this people that they could speak much, because of the Holy Ghost which thou hast given them;

    24 And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.

    25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we acannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our bweakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.

    26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;

    27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their aweakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make eweak things become strong unto them.”

    I could go on with quotes, but the point would be the same. The Book of Mormon doesn’t leave much room for doubting its authenticity and its whole purpose for existence is wiped out if not seen as genuine.

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  64. Mormon Heretic on February 6, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    JMB, Uniform Distribution, Bayesian Probabilities…wow, next thing you’re going to start talking Gamma Distributions and Poisson Distributions and Bayes Theorem! I feel like I’m back in a probability class… :) Who’da thunk we’d end up here?

    Bob, just how much of the Bible do you believe? Is Moses real (no evidence), the Exodus (no evidence), Adam, Moses, David, Solomon, Jonah, Abraham, Jonah (no evidence of any of these people.) We can’t even find Mount Sinai (it’s generally agreed that it’s not the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, despite thousands of years of tradition.)

    For that matter, what’s your take on the Resurrection–an event that can’t possibly be corroborated scientifically? Nor can Paul’s vision on the Road to Damascus? Just how much of the Bible is reliable?

    So we have Bethlehem, Nazareth, etc. And how does that really affect your faith in events that can’t possibly be corroborated scientifically? (Immaculate Conception, Parting of the Red Sea, Resurrection to name a few.)

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  65. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 8:59 PM

    #64: MH,
    Many of the Bibles “facts” and “events” have been corroborated scientifically. Again, many are wrong.
    Do you know of anything person, place or event “corroborated scientifically concerning the BoM?

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  66. Mormon Heretic on February 6, 2012 at 9:03 PM

    Bob, which “facts” and “events” have been “corroborated scientifically” in the Bible? Really, which ones? If you can answer that, then I’ll answer your question.

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  67. Howard on February 6, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    Jettboy,
    Please quote in a few words exactly what it says it is.

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  68. Bob on February 6, 2012 at 10:08 PM

    #66: Mh,
    Fact: Where Damascus is.
    Events: When Passoveris was held.
    Persons: Paul

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  69. Mormon Heretic on February 6, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    So, Bob, I could write a book about Paul celebrating Passover in Damascus. I guess that’s all it takes to be legitimate in your mind, right? Or does it require a bit more?

    Oh by the way, if you read the longer version of the interview, Bob Price believes that none of the letters attributed to Paul were in fact written by Paul, so I guess that shoots your “facts” about Paul in the Bible right out of the water. Let me quote Mr. Price.

    I follow the Dutch radical school of the 19th century that says that all of these letters are by different Paulinists, and that’s why you have so many different viewpoints in them. So I think they’re pseudepigraphical.

    I guess it’s time to try again on these thousands of undisputed biblical facts of yours. These “facts” about Paul are disputed by none other than Bob Price himself.

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  70. Mormon Heretic on February 6, 2012 at 11:32 PM

    I guess I should go further and address the Passover and Exodus (which as I mentioned there is no evidence of Moses or the Exodus.) Since you mentioned Passover, how do you like this quote?

    During Passover celebrations in 2001, Rabbi David Wolpe created international headlines in Israel by proclaiming to his Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, “the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.”

    Here’s a few other quotes in regard to the Exodus (and Passover).

    Prof Philip Davies, University of Sheffield, “When it comes to the Exodus, we have no evidence that it happened, and a good deal of evidence that it didn’t. They made it up.”

    Professor Eric Cline, George Washington University, “We do not have a single shred of evidence to date. There is nothing archeologically to attest to anything from the biblical story: no plagues, no parting of the Red Sea, no manna from heaven, no wandering for 40 years.”

    Dr. Kathlyn M. Cooney, Egyptologist, Stanford University,, “the most likely reason that we’re not finding any evidence for the Exodus in Egypt is that it didn’t happen the way that the Bible said it did, or that it didn’t happen at all.”

    Since Passover is so entwined in the Exodus, what reason do we have to believe that the Passover isn’t made up?

    You got me on Damascus. Yup, it’s really in Syria. But so what? The fact that Damascus is in the Bible makes it somehow reliable? I could write a novel that takes place in Damascus. Is that literal history because I mentioned the name of a real place?

    So please tell me, what in the Bible is literally reliable? You seem to be sidestepping all the spiritual things: Resurrection, Visions, miracles. Are these things not reliable for you Bob? Is it because spiritual things can’t be proved scientifically?

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  71. Bob on February 7, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    #70: MH’,
    What I am saying is there ARE facts in the Bible and they are true proven to be true. I can prove there was a Paul__can you prove there was a Nephi? I can prove there was a Damascus. Can you show me a BoM city? I can show you the Passover. Can you show me a boat trip?
    I am not “sidestepping” the spirital, I am showing the proven as shown in the Bible.

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  72. Jeff Spector on February 7, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    JMB,

    OK, I see what you are getting at, but that does not really work in real life.

    While most pedophiles are men, does not follow that all men therefore are probably pedophiles. Even though the probabilities may demonstrate otherwise, real life and real actions prevail. Therefore, I know that I am not a pedophile despite a statistical likelihood that I could be.

    Same with the Joseph story. While our rational mind might consider the story unlikely, in the final analysis, there needs to be evidence to support it one way or another..

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  73. Cowboy on February 7, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    “Same with the Joseph story. While our rational mind might consider the story unlikely, in the final analysis, there needs to be evidence to support it one way or another..”

    Agreed, but based on the current evidence I think it is a stretch to say that the likelihoods are presently equal.

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  74. Jeff Spector on February 7, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Cowboy,

    “I think it is a stretch to say that the likelihoods are presently equal.”

    And I never really meant to imply that. In fact, my argument that the likelihood that the Joseph story is correct is much higher because he has witnesses and a story and the other possibility, that he wrote it himself or with help has no credible evidence.

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  75. Bob on February 7, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    #74: Jeff,
    “He has witnesses”. All family or friends__ they are not credible evidence.(IMO).
    How about Dan Vogel’s book “Joseph Smith__doesn’t it give some credible evidence?

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  76. Jeff Spector on February 7, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Bob,

    “All family or friends__ they are not credible evidence.(IMO).”

    Ah, so friends and family are never credible evidence?

    Not read the vogel book.

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  77. Jettboy on February 7, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    Bob, do you believe in the Truth of the Doctrine and Covenants? If not, why not considering it has more proof than the Bible does with places, names, dates, etc.? If it does have proof of its Truth, then doesn’t that make the Book of Mormon equally as True since it states that the Book of Mormon is True?

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  78. Cowboy on February 7, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    The witnesses argument has never impressed me much, largely because the witnesses didn’t record their “witness”, rather they signed it. Then comes all of the familiar debate about what the witnesses actually said. We won’t get anywhere by rehashing that. I think the stronger evidence against the witnesses is just the nature of what they are alleging. I don’t live in a world that operates the way they say it does. From that basis I find the likelihood extremely out of their favor.

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  79. Ray on February 7, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Bob, there are some really good studies now that actually do place a very high likelihood on some of the names and general descriptions in 1 Nephi. There weren’t decades ago, but there are now.

    That’s irrelevant, really, to the point of the OP.

    To say it differently:

    There have been numerous debates among the Republican presidential candidates over the last few months. These have happened in our VERY recent history. If I asked 100 random people AND another 100 political commentators who are getting paid to provide their “expertise” who won each debate – and, especially, if I asked them exactly what each candidate MEANT by what he or she said (providing them exact quotes to use) – I can guarantee I’d get different answers (and some of them would be radically different).

    What I’m saying is that any time opinion of any kind is injected into something, “truth” gets muddies instantly – and “proof” is a think of fanciful imagination. I agree that we have no “real” proof of the BofM being factually correct (even though there is quite a bit of reasonable evidence by now) – but we also have absolutely no real proof of the Bible being factually correct in any way that makes it different than any other record purporting to be historically accurate.

    It’s set in an area we can identify, so, of course, the place names will be provable – in SOME cases. Beyond that, it’s just as suspect historically as the BofM – and, thus, ANY meaning anyone takes from it is based on their own subjective interpretation of it. It’s not the historical accuracy that matters; it’s what people take from it.

    In that sense, it doesn’t matter if it’s inspired fiction or inspired non-fiction. The key for those who read it is to decide if it is inspriational for them – if it rings true in their own hearts – and that’s equally true of the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

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  80. Mormon Heretic on February 7, 2012 at 1:52 PM

    Bob,

    Here’s the problem. You are holding the Bible and Book of Mormon to different standards. As you well know, the Book of Mormon starts out in Jerusalem, and I believe you know that place exists. King Zedekiah was king, so that person exists as well. Jeremiah is mentioned in the Book of Mormon, so there’s another character. All of these are “proven” scientifically, so what’s wrong with the Book of Mormon being scientific since it has the real place of Jerusalem mentioned, along with Zedekiah and Jeremiah?

    You seem to have a double standard here. I’ve asked you to give me facts of the Bible, and all you can come up with is Damascus. Well, then I guess the BoM is on par, because it names Jerusalem.

    Yet you seem to agree with Mr Price that the BoM is pseudepigrapha, but ignore the fact that Price also believes the New Testament (and much of the Old Testament) is Pseudepigrapha. You say Passover, but I have already demonstrated that many scholars question the Exodus, and therefore the Passover, so sorry Bob, that’s just not going to cut the mustard as a fact.

    As for Paul, Price believes that all of the letters attributed to Paul are pseudepigrapha as well, so you can’t claim Paul wrote any of the New Testament. This means some unnamed person (let’s call Henry) probably wrote much of the New Testament. Price also believes Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts are pseudopigrapha as well, so we’ve just thrown out pretty much the entire New Testament as on the same ground as the BoM. The only things we haven’t discussed are Revelation of John (which I think you’ll agree is just a weird book about a vision, so not really scientifically verifiable), and a few letters insignificant from James. So, Bob, if we can throw out the New Testament as pseudepigraphic, just what facts are there that make it any different than the Book of Mormon? If JS wrote BoM, and Henry wrote NT, what’s the difference except that Henry lived first? If the roles were reversed and the BoM had been here 2000 years, and the Bible was 190 years old, do you see the problem that Price is demonstrating?

    And please, be specific this time. You seem to ignore the tough questions.

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  81. FireTag on February 7, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Just for the record, Price is probably a minority in saying Paul wrote NONE of the letters attributed to him. It is more widely held that a few of the Pauline letters contain Paul’s actual words, with later modifications, and several of the letters written in their entirety by a “next generation” of followers.

    Since Price is part of the Jesus Seminar, he would also probably take the position that similar portions of the actual words of Jesus exist buried in the gospels of the NT, but with a lot of later stuff thrown in.

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  82. Bob on February 7, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    #80: MH’
    Antiquities, nearly always used in the plural in this sense, is a term for objects from Antiquity, especially the civilizations of the Mediterranean: the Classical antiquity of Greece and Rome, Ancient Egypt and the other Ancient Near Eastern cultures. Artifacts from earlier periods such as the Mesolithic, and other civilizations from Asia and elsewhere may also be covered by the term.
    Archaeology has been finding artifacts for hundreds of years showing the Bible has FACTS and HISTORY within it. Archaeology has not done this for the BoM.
    I am not saying the BoM has no story to help you live. I am saying, without artifacts, the BoM story is likely not history or fact.

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  83. Cowboy on February 7, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    Bob:

    I don’t think that anybody is disputing whether the Bible has “any” verifiable facts in it. It’s just that none of those about which the Bible speaks, that matter, are verified. You argue that the Bible is on better footing than The Book of Mormon, because it is supported by more “facts”. That really isn’t a good argument, as all that the verified facts justify, is an argument we already agree upon. Namely, that the Bible was a product of antiquity. Nothing more. What separates the Bible from other books of antiquity are it’s assertions of divine things. None of those things have an ounce of “science” as per the scientific record, of verifialbe creedence.

    Interestingly, the comparison of Biblical archaeology to BoM archaeology, is quite flawed anyway. After all, secular arguing that places mentioned in the Bible actually exist, does little to advance biblical Christianity. Yet, if a single Book of Mormon location were found, even a secular study of that location would go very far towards advancing the notion that Joseph Smith was indeed a Prophet. So, the arguments are similar, but also unique. Suffice it to say, the Bible and Book of Mormon are on more or less equal ground when it comes to the divine veracity of their claims.

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  84. Mormon Heretic on February 7, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    Bob, more generalities, and no specifics. I guess I rest my case.

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  85. Bob on February 7, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    #84: MH,
    ” “Let us pass over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”
    (Last words of dying Stonewall Jackson). I rest too.

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