Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Book of Mormon's Slip is Showing

Have you ever watched the History Channel show Pawn Stars? Although many customers are obviously pre-selected and the facts are scripted ahead of time, my boys still like to watch how different quirky items claiming to be from years past get inspected to see if they're the real deal (and worth some real money) or simply forgeries that are worthless. I find it interesting as to how the experts that the staff call into the store look for telltale clues as to the legitimacy of the item.

The reason I bring this up is I recently came across a passage in the book of Mormon that would set off all the bells and whistles of Rick Harrison and his crew immediately. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi was part of a wave of Hebrew exiles, fleeing the Babylonians that were conquering Jerusalem at that time. These refugees supposedly built boats and sailed to the Americas, as they were told by God. Nephi also recounts how he had known of a stunning prophecy of the coming Messiah; a prophecy that gives more detail about the Savior to come than any Old Testament prophet ever did.  He writes:
"For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (2 Nephi 25:19)
Here's my question. At this date in history, the Babylonian empire was at its zenith. They would be overthrown by the Medo-Persians. We also have this book itself claiming it was written in "reformed Egyptian." The Greeks didn't come along until some 300 years later.

So, given all this, how in the world would Nephi use a word like "Christ", which is a transliteration of the Greek word Χριστός, the language of the New Testament? Hebrew prophets before Nephi would've called Jesus "anointed one" or "Messiah" (משיח), but not "Christ". Greece was a series of fragmented city-states at that time that fought among themselves as much as fighting any others. It wasn't until after Alexander the Great conquered the known world by 323 B.C. did the establishment of Greek as the common language become  settled across the empire.

But here we see a supposed Hebrew prophet who was raised near Jerusalem and could write in a modified Egyptian language using a term for the Messiah that only comes from a Greek word.  Does this sound believable?  It's kind of like claiming you found a book written by George Washington where, when visiting New York he borrowed a 20th century advertising slogan and exclaimed, "I love the Big Apple!" Such points are clear signs that the book's author sits well outside its historical setting - and they are a clear sign of a forged document.


  1. Anonymous10:54 AM

    I guess you'd say it's kinda like this Truth be told, none of the words in the Bible were technically around during Christ's time either as those are all English words. I mean afterall it is an English TRANSLATION.

  2. I think you missed my point. Sure, Messiah is a translation of the Hebrew "Meshiack", but Christ is a transliteration of a Greek word. This is a tell=tale sign that the book was written after the Greek term became popular, yet this book was supposedly written 300 years before. Remember, Joseph Smith claimed that God actually gave him the translation word by word from Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics. He also stated "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion" ( Joseph Smith's History of the Church, Vol. 4, p.461). Again, this is exactly what one would look for to spot a forgery.

  3. Lenny,
    Good insight, but I have one question; The septuagint uses the word christos (so I am told) for the hebrew word "mashiyach" (messiah) in about 40 text including Daniel 9:25. We know the Septuagint was a very early translation, around 200-300 BC, of the Hebrew to Greek text. It was popular amongst the Hellinistic Jews and early christians. I am just wondering how this fits into the argument. That would be the line of thinking I would use to defend my position if I held to the Mormon beliefs.

  4. Anonymous4:16 PM

    Impetus to create a Greek Old Testament translation came from a burgeoning adoption of the Greek language by the jewish population in the post-Alexandrian era, as you state, after 300 BC. Before Alexander, greek was confined to the Peloponnesus and various greek colonies of limited extent around the Mediterranian. The Jews were being deported over to Babylon starting in 597 to 587 BC, and this would be the timeframe for the alleged prophesies of Nephi - 3 centuries before Greek was in jewish use and 3 centuries and more before the Septuagint came to be. I don't see any support for the case based on the Septuagint.

  5. The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith in the 1820's. The words Joseph Smith translated could have been many words; Prince of Peace, Saviour, Redeemer, many words that would have described Jesus Christ. Since it was translated 2100 years after you suggested the actual Greek term in 300 BC, it's obvious that Joseph Smith translated the noun to what we now know and knew for more than two thousand years as Jesus Christ. More importantly, read the Book of Mormon and ask of God with true intent and a sincere heart to get your own testimony of the truthfulness of the book. Please read James Chapter 1 Verse 5...... If you lack Wisdom ask of God. I know Jesus Christ lives and Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. It continues to bless my life immensely.

  6. Mark,

    Translated from what? We cannot know if the translation is a good one unless we have a manuscript of the original language to compare against. IF it was God who revealed the translation to Joseph Smith word by word as he reported, then the words should be perfect as they are coming from God.

  7. Good point, Lenny.

  8. I'm confused here... since there is no source material to confirm or deny a particular word in their book, and since it is all a lie anyway, why would they not just say if ever questioned about it, that it was a prophetic utterance of a future designation? Or, simply, the word there that whats-his-name translated, from the 'source' (so-called), was into the English of the day, as we,(they), understood it at the time?