Paul A. Douglas
2. And a related question is, how can we account for the numerous anachronisms in the Book of Mormon – chariots, horses, goats, wheels, elephants, steel, wheat, etc.?
Anachronism – [uh-nak-ruh-niz-uh m – noun]
Something or someone that is not in its correct historical or chronological time, especially a thing or person that belongs to an earlier or later time:
An effective technique we can employ as we attempt to establish the authenticity of any historical writings is the identification of any anachronisms found within it. Anachronisms are chronological slips or mistakes. They might include the mention of events that could not have occurred during the period under discussion; they could be names, places, tools, languages, etc. that did not exist or were not known at the time of the writing.
For example, in the play Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 5, Shakespeare has Juliet say, “The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse.”
Romeo and Juliet, however, was set in the 1300s, well before the first mechanical pendulum clock was invented.
That’s an Anachronism.
It was a slip, like the one in the motion picture Spartacus where the film editor didn’t notice that some of the slaves were wearing wristwatches?
Now, ‘The Bard of Avon’ was not trying to fool anyone and a slave wearing a wristwatch at the time of Christ is amusing. But when we put a serious writing to the anachronism test, and it comes up short it can be an indication of fraud and deception. When we put the Book of Mormon to the anachronism test, it fails and it does so miserably.
The following are just a few examples:
Horses are cited fourteen times in the Book of Mormon. Not only is there no evidence that horses existed on the North or South America during the history of the Book of Mormon (2500 B.C. – 400 A.D.), but there is considerable compelling scientific evidence that horses became extinct by the end of the Pleistocene era (2.5 million to 12,000 years ago). Horses only reappear in the Americas when the Spaniards brought them from Europe in about 1519 at the earliest.
Elephants are mentioned in (Ether 9:19) supposedly swinging their trunks for the Jaredites (2500 BC). But again, fossil records indicate that they became extinct at the end of the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago).
Chariots are mentioned numerous times in the Book of Mormon (Alma 18:9-10, 12, Alma 20:6, 3 Nephi 3:22). Again, there is no archeological evidence to support the use of wheeled vehicles in the pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. They would be of little use anyway without horses to pull them.
Cattle are mentioned in Ether 9:18, here again, there is no evidence that Old World domesticated cattle inhabited New World before European contact.
Iron and steel are mentioned a number of times (1 Nephi 16:18, 2 Nephi 5:15, Jarom 1:8, Ether 7:9). Again, there is no evidence of hardened steel in the pre-Columbian Americas. The Book of Mormon also refers to “swords,” stating that “the blades thereof were cankered with rust” (Mosiah 8:11). This quote refers to the Jaredites’ final battlefield where an estimated 250,000 warriors were killed. But again, no such battlefield, no such soldiers, and no such swords have ever been found.
Metalwork 2 Nephi 5:14-15 reads: “And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords… And I did teach my people to build buildings, and to work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance.” How is it possible that a small group of ‘immigrants,’ likely no more than 50 in number, manage all the following.
- Make Steel – a complex process of mixing iron with carbon
- Mine Iron Ore – and extract elemental iron from iron ore
- Mine Coal – first refined into coke as required in the production of iron
- Mine Limestone – also required in the production of steel
- Copper mining
- Mining Tin and Zinc – for the production of “brass”
- Gold mining
- Silver mining
- Refining this tin or zinc which does not appear in an elemental state
- Smelting and fluxing of these metals
- Roasting – required to eliminate sulfur in both copper and silver
- Construct Complicated Furnaces – to produce the metals
- The Manufacture of Hardened Mining Tools
- Expertise in Prospecting – how did they locate and identify ores?
Mining, smelting, refining, roasting, all leave indestructible evidence. Yet during Book of Mormon times in what is now the Northeastern United States or in Central America, we have not found any evidence of a complex metallurgical society.
Silk is mentioned six times in the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13:7,8, Alma 1:29, Alma 4:6, Ether 9:17, Ether 10:24). Silk, of course, is a product of the Orient and completely unknown in the pre-Columbian Americas.
The word, ‘compass’ (Alma 37:38), is dated at 73 B.C. in the Book of Mormon, even though, this instrument was not invented until the twelfth century.
A Monetary System based on weights of precious metals is mentioned in (Alma 11). No such system or even one single coin has ever been found – not a seon, shum, limnah, amnor, senums or ezrom. In fact not a single onti!
Here we have the Shakespeare clock striking eight, only in spades.
The word “Bible,” denotes a canon of scripture (2 Nephi 29:3, 4, 6 and 10) that is problematic. Bible, the Anglicization of the Greek word Bibilia, means book. Greek, however, wasn’t spoken in Israel until long after Lehi’s emigration to the Americas (600 BC).
Reference is made in 2 Nephi 31:13 to the “Holy Ghost.” However, the word “ghost” also did not come into parlance until hundreds of years after it was supposedly inscribed in the Book of Mormon.
Likewise, the word, “epistle” (3 Nephi 3:5) is a transliteration of the Greek word epistolos, and again would have been unknown by Book of Mormon people. Ditto, the fifteen mentions of the Nephite city of ‘Judea’ (Alma 56:9). This is the Greek form of the Hebrew name, Judah, and again completely out of place. The same thing for the Greek word Timothy (3 Nephi 19:4) derived from Timotheus.
The name ‘Isabel’ (Alma 39:3) is given to a harlot. However, this name first name appeared in France and Italy in the middle ages. Again, wrong time, wrong place.
Six times, we find the abbreviation “&c” (and so forth), a convention peculiar to the nineteenth century in the Book of Mormon – never used before, never used after.
The words “alpha” and “omega” appear in 3 Nephi 9:18. These, of course, are the English spellings of the Greek words found in the Book of Revelations in the Bible.
As the Book of Mormon was not recorded in Greek, why were these words used? The obvious answer is that Smith simply copied from the King James version of the Bible.
As well, there are numerous instances where the Smith uses words that were not relevant to his time. Rather, these are words peculiar to the English spoken in the early 1600s (“prayest,” “durst,” “thou,” “thee,” “thy,” “thine,” “hast,” “doth,” “knoweth,” “hearest,” “cometh,” “thirsteth,” etc.). Did God really select these words for the Book of Mormon? This obviously shows the writer’s exposure to King James terminology.
In fact, why would the Book of Mormon be translated into King James/Elizabethan English in the first place, a language neither spoken in 1830 America nor in the day of Mormon, Moroni, et al? Does God speak Elizabethan English or was this a cunning ploy Smith employed to give his writing a greater gravitas and make the numerous passages he plagiarized from the King James version of the Bible fit in more seamlessly?
Scores of passages in the Book of Mormon, either in part or whole, exact or paraphrased, have been taken directly from the King James version of the Bible. Some researchers have estimated that as much as 4% can be traced to this English translation.
And perhaps the most egregious error Smith made throughout the Book of Mormon was the use of the word “Christ.” He uses it as though it was the surname of the Lord Jesus. However, as any seminarian can tell you, the word “Christ” is the Anglicization of the Greek word Christos, meaning the anointed or chosen one (the equivalent of the Hebrew word Mashiach, or Messiah.)
Much is made of the appearance of the word ‘adieu,’ (Jacob 7:27) because it is so obviously out of place. It is, of course, from the French language and only evolved from the Latin about 700 A.D.
It is not then surprising that virtually all non-Mormon archeologists and scholars have concluded that the Book of Mormon’s many anachronisms, and of course much of its subject matter, clearly reveal a 19th-century influence, leading them to the almost indisputable conclusion that it is a work of fiction composed during Joseph Smith’s time and nothing more.
The Problem of the Wheel
There is also the problem of the wheel. The use of the wheel would have certainly been known to Lehi, et al., as it was in use in Mesopotamia from before 3,000 BC. Simple machines using the wheel, such as the cart or wagon, pulled by humans or animals, of course, made the transport of goods much easier.
As I have mentioned already, the Book of Mormon uses the term chariot repeatedly, which shows that the Nephites and Lamanites understood and utilized the concept of the wheel (Alma 18:9-10, 12, 3 Ne. 3:22, Alma 20:6, 3 Ne. 21: 14).
Archaeologists tell us however that the wheel was never used in Pre-Columbian America, although the knowledge of the wheel may have been in existence, but limited, it would seem, to children’s toys.
If the Nephites and Lamanites used chariots, why wouldn’t this extremely valuable technology continue to be used by the descendants of these Ancient Americans? If Lehi’s descendants did use the wheel, there would be evidence of wheels in the Americas before Columbus as technology spreads quickly, especially, something like the wheel, one of the greatest innovations of all time.
One might argue that ancient Americans may have known about the wheel but lost the knowledge, but that is really a stretch as is the suggestion by a few intrepid apologists, that Book of Mormon chariots did not have wheels. But rather they were dragged by horses (or tapirs).
Remember when we discussed Occam’s Razor, and the maxim, if you hear hoof-prints, think horses, not zebras, if you accept chariots without wheels, it is analogous to hearing hoof prints and thinking unicorns!
FairMormon produced the attractive chart below showing those anachronisms within the Book of Mormon that have now been ‘confirmed.’ The problem is that there is no supporting evidence or references provided.
The chart is intended to show how many things believed to be anachronistic in 1842 have now been proven to have existed in the Americas in Book of Mormon times.
The problem is the information it contains is completely bogus.
For example, in the 2005 iteration, it lists Hebrew language, brass plates, swords (steel and otherwise) as confirmed.
Confirmed when and by whom? Absolutely untrue.
I am also curious as to why horses are shown as ‘indeterminate,’ perhaps this refers to the tapir nonsense!
Let me assure you categorically that the Hebrew language, brass plates, swords (steel and otherwise) have NOT been discovered.
This is one of the most blatant examples of FairMormon being dishonest, in behalf of the LDS Church that I have seen.
This chart is nothing more than obfuscation, solely intended to mislead. It is dated 2005, twelve years before I write this.
If FairMormon and the LDS Church really had what this chart says they had, would they not be trumpeting all these ‘important discoveries’ across their own media and beyond over the past twelve years?
They have not because it is a lie.
It also lists as ‘indeterminate’ horses, goats, large armies and the language that no one has ever heard of – ‘Reformed Egyptian Script.’
Where is the evidence that backs any of these classifications?
I’m sorry, but it makes one wonder in what universe are these apologists living. Where is the evidence for their assertions?
Come on FairMormon, if you have nothing just be silent, don’t lie about it.
There are many hard-working professional linguists who would love to know more about the discovery of the Hebrew language in the America’s that FairMormon alludes to.
Somehow since this lovely chart was created, every non-Mormon linguist seems to have missed this ground-breaking find!
Is horse listed as indeterminate because some half-wit at BYU floated the idea that Book of Mormon horses were really tapirs or deer?
I have a spread on the North Saskatchewan river up in Canada, and I have many deer on my land? Anyone who knows anything about the temperament of deer will tell you it is beyond absurd to suggest you can ride them!
When you click the link FairMormon has provided in attempting to refute my claims, it takes you to twelve more generic apologetic sub-links largely irrelevant to what I have written.
I would like to address each of them but this letter would exceed 2,000 pages if I did. But let me look at one of their sub-links from ‘Animals or possible animal products,’ labeled, ‘Linen and silk textiles in ancient America.’
A click brings you to a quote by, who else, John L. Sorenson, the Church’s ‘go to’ archaeologist/apologist.
“Linen and silk are textiles mentioned in the Book of Mormon (Alma 4:6). Neither fabric as we now know them was found in Mesoamerica at the coming of the Spaniards. The problem might be no more than linguistic. The redoubtable Bernal Diaz, who served with Cortez in the initial wave of conquest, described native Mexican garments made of “henequen which is like linen.” The fiber of the maguey plant, from which henequen was manufactured, closely resembles the flax fiber used to make European linen. Several kinds of “silk,” too, were reported by the conquerors. One kind was of thread spun from the fine hair on the bellies of rabbits…”
OK, so according to Sorenson they didn’t exist, it is all just a big misunderstanding, a matter of labels – semantics. When the Book of Mormon says linen it means henequen, silk isn’t silk its hair from the bellies of rabbits when it refers to, barley it meant hordeum, a species of grass native to the Americas. By horse, the Mormon writers meant tapir, by cattle they meant buffalo, and when they use the word pig this is really code for the chic, a ‘wonderfully active, small dog, with a snout like a sucking pig.”
FairMormon states: “When they say “directly” support, they typically mean that they are looking for a direct corroboration, such as the presence of the name “Nephi” or “Zarahemla” in association with ancient American archaeological data.”
First of all, I am not sure who ‘they’ are but I am sure ‘they’ are not looking for road signs when they speak of “no direct corroboration.”
Direct corroboration would be the discovery of evidence of the places, animals or technology that match the Book of Mormon claims. The skeletal remains of an elephant would be an example of direct corroboration, one piece of armor or a sword from the many battles involving millions of people would be direct corroboration. Locating a Nephi coin would be direct corroboration.
FairMormon provides the following quote by John L. Sorenson (without any citation):
“Without even considering smelted iron, we find that peoples in Mesoamerica exploited iron minerals from early times. Lumps of hematite, magnetite, and ilmenite were brought into Valley of Oaxaca sites from some of the thirty-six ore exposures located near or in the valley. These were carried to a workshop section within the site of San Jose Mogote as early as 1200 B.C. There they were crafted into mirrors by sticking the fragments onto prepared mirror backs and polishing the surface highly. These objects, clearly of high value, were traded at considerable distances.”
I can understand why he starts with, ‘Without even considering smelted iron,’ as there is none to consider. Rather he talks about lumps of meteoric minerals fashioned into primitive mirrors as being proof of iron or steel. Now there is a stretch.
FairMormon also reports the discovery of wild barley in Arizona. While I would like to have seen some peer-reviewed articles, this is nonetheless something that the reader might want to investigate further.
The December 1983 issue of the popular magazine Science 83 reported the discovery in Phoenix, Arizona, by professional archaeologists of what they supposed to be pre-Columbian domesticated barley. That same month, F.A.R.M.S. carried a preliminary notice of the discovery. This Arizona find is the first direct New World evidence for cultivated pre-Columbian barley in support of the Book of Mormon. Mosiah 9:9 lists barley among several crops that were cultivated by the Nephites in the land of Nephi, and Alma 11:7 singles out barley as the primary grain into which silver and gold were converted in the Nephite system of weights and measures.1
Keep in mind however that a few grains of a wild barley in Arizona does not parallel the domesticated variety taken from the Holy Land to the Americas and used to feed millions of people, but when you are grasping at straws a few grains of wild barley become the Holy Grail.
There is a pre-Columbian city located on the Yucatan Peninsula called Tulum which is often included in LDS tour packages and identified as a Book of Mormon site. The tour guides describe it as ‘possibly’ one of the places mentioned in the Book of Mormon and make a big fuss over the depiction of the “Descending God,” which the guides often tell their Mormon tourists represents Jesus Christ visiting the Book of Mormon people.
The problem is that the extensive archaeological research conducted at Tulum has shown conclusively that the time period is all wrong. “All structural and ceramic evidence at Tulúm, as well as its corpus of murals and reliefs, date from the Middle and Late Postclassic (AD 1200-1520) period.”
Athena Review Vol. 2, No. 1, “Maya sites in Quintana Roo: Tulúm
Furthermore, the ‘Descending God’ image supposedly being a depiction of Jesus Christ has been dismissed by all reputable scholarly authorities. The ‘Descending God’ is a representation of the Bee God Ah Muzencab based on their apparent antennae and insect-like torso. Sure, Jesus with antennae! No only that, it has also been found in the Madrid Codex.
The Mayans, Incas and the Olmec’s built complex societies, with temples and fortifications but they just don’t fit with the Book of Mormon peoples.
There is simply no archaeological evidence of the Jaredite people or the Nephites described in the Book of Mormon that is accepted by mainstream archaeologists.
“The Jaredite civilization in the American covenant land is said to have been destroyed as the result of a civil war near the time that Lehi’s party arrived in the New World (approximately 590 BC). The Olmec civilization, on the other hand, flourished in Mesoamerica during the Pre-classic period (1200 BC to about 400 BC).
Although the Olmec civilization ended suddenly and for reasons that are not yet clear, there are indications that some of the Olmec people survived and interacted with other cultures.” 12
Likewise, no Central or South American civilization is recognized to correlate with the Nephites of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon makes no mention of Lamanites or Nephites erecting impressive works of hewn stone as did the Maya or various South American peoples.
“While “walls of stone” are mentioned in Alma 48:7 there is no suggestion they were constructed of hewn stone. The remnants of massive wall piles of stone made by mound builder societies are known to exist in the eastern United States.” 13
I am troubled by the fact that while the Church knows full well, that the Mayans, Aztecs, etc. just don’t fit with the Book of Mormon peoples, they allow this confusion to persist.
Sadly, as have mentioned before, the Church supplies its young missionaries with archeological slides of Mayan ruins that can mislead prospects. Please, remember the 13th Article of Faith. This needs to stop.
2 “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon,” 1984.
3 Robert Wane Hope, “Ten Years Of Middle American Archaeology.”
4 John L. Sorenson, Metals, and Metallurgy Relating to the book of Mormon Text, FARMS, Provo, 1992.
5 Del Dowdell Who Really Settled Mesoamerica
FairMormon’s Comments on my Questions about Anachronisms
Anachronisms claimed to exist in the Book of Mormon
Summary: “Anachronism” = out of time; something which is not in its proper historical context. It is claimed that a number of items or concepts in the Book of Mormon are not consistent with what is known about ancient American geography, history, or anthropology. These “errors” used as evidence that the Book of Mormon is a 19th-century work rather than an ancient record.
FairMormon has chosen not to respond directly to what I have written here but rather provides fifteen more generic links to previously written apologies, nine of which are irrelevant to this interrogatory.
Climate in the Book of Mormon
Cultural issues in the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon Geography
Items described in the Book of Mormon
Freemasonry and the Book of Mormon
Population and demographics in the Book of Mormon
Scientific questions related to the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon textual issues
Warfare in the Book of Mormon
Again, I would say to FairMormon, if you intend on taking the lazy man’s approach to responding to my thoughtful comments by just providing links to your previous rather lame general apologies, then my response to you is:
• Knowledge of the Wheel?
• Scientific community
• Non-LDS archaeologists
• Hill Cumorah
• Population problems
• Impossible events
• King James Bible
• Nature of God
• The most correct book?
• BOM lacks doctrine
• The Anthon visit
• Literary value
• More BOM difficulties
• Six sources used
• Response by the Church
• Ending summary by critics
• Editor’s comments
• Sunstone BOM debates
On the Next Page we will Examine the Issue of DNA Studies and the Book of Mormon Narrative: