An ancient Hebraic text dating to the 13th to 14th century BC has been discovered by sifting through the detritus of an archaeological dig at Mount Ebal in Israel. The text, apparently “the oldest proto-Hebrew text ever found in Israel” per the Jerusalem Post, is inside a small amulet, a tablet of lead, and was revealed with painstaking high-tech scanning known as tomography (this involves computational analysis of numerous x-rays at various angles to create a 3D model of an object) that showed the writing inside. The finding may result in revision to theories about the origins of written Hebrew and the Hebrew Bible.
Latter-day Saints may be intrigued that metal was the medium for one of the most ancient Hebraic inscriptions. They may also be interested to learn that the inscription bears the divine name YWH (similar to YHWH), giving potential evidence that Jehovah was worshiped by the Israelites at least as early as 1300 BC. The inscription is also clearly in the form of a chiasmus, a classic form of Hebrew poetry that also appears to be characteristic of many passages in the Book of Mormon, another ancient text with connections to writing on metal. (Chiasmus is inverted parallelism in which a series or words or concepts are presented and then repeated in reverse order, such as ABCD followed by DCBA. Some resources on chiasmus are provided as an appendix below.) The find of the amulet at an altar site is also consistent with information in Deuteronomy 27 about building an altar on Mt. Ebal and associating divine curses with that site.
One account of the news comes from RNS (Religion News Service) Press Release Distribution Service, ReligionNews.com, “Ancient curse inscription deciphered from tablet discovered during archaeological wet sift on Mt. Ebal,” March 24, 2022, at https://religionnews.com/2022/03/24/ancient-curse-inscription-deciphered-from-tablet-discovered-during-archaeological-wet-sift-on-mt-ebal/. An excerpt follows:
High-tech scans reveal ancient Hebrew script, centuries older than any
other known tablets.
HOUSTON — Today, the Associates for Biblical Research
(ABR) announced the discovery of a formulaic curse recovered on a small,
folded lead tablet. The defixio [formulaic curse] came to light in December 2019 when
archaeologist Scott Stripling, Director of the Archaeological Studies
Institute at The Bible Seminary in Katy, Texas, led an ABR team to wet
sift the discarded material from Adam Zertal’s excavations (1982–1989)
on Mt. Ebal.
The ancient Hebrew inscription consists of 40
letters and is centuries older than any known Hebrew inscription from
ancient Israel. Stripling formed a collaboration with four
scientists from the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic and two
epigraphers (specialists in deciphering ancient texts): Pieter Gert van
der Veen of Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
and Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa. The scientists employed
advanced tomographic scans to recover the hidden text. In collaboration
with Stripling, Galil and van der Veen deciphered the proto-alphabetic
inscription, which reads as follows:
Cursed, cursed, cursed – cursed by the God YHW.
You will die cursed.
Cursed you will surely die.
Cursed by YHW – cursed, cursed, cursed.
According to Stripling, “These types of amulets are well
known in the Hellenistic and Roman periods, but Zertal’s excavated
pottery dated to the Iron Age I and Late Bronze Age, so logically the
tablet derived from one of these earlier periods. Even so, our discovery of a Late Bronze Age inscription stunned me.”
Almost immediately Galil recognized the formulaic literary
structure of the inscription: “From the symmetry, I could tell that it
was written as a chiastic parallelism.” Reading the concealed letters
proved tedious, according to van der Veen, “but each day we recovered
new letters and words written in a very ancient script.”
Another good report comes from Ruth Schuster, “Early Israelite Curse Inscription Found on Mt. Ebal,” Haaretz, March 24, 2022, at https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium-early-israelite-curse-inscription-found-on-mt-ebal-1.10696926. Here is an excerpt:
“Behold, I set before you
this day a blessing and a curse… thou shalt set the blessing upon
Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal.” (Deuteronomy 11:26, 29)
an official curse has been found, engraved on a lead tablet that dates
to the biblical age and had sat in the detritus of an excavation of Mt.
Ebal for decades, the Associates for Biblical Research of Houston, Texas
announced on Thursday.
the dating of the tablet to the Late Bronze Age – the 14th to 13th
century B.C.E. – is accurate, it is the earliest such tablet by a
century or two. Inscribed in proto-alphabetic writing also known as
Sinaitic script or proto-Canaanite script, which dates to the Late
Bronze Age, the hex text is early Israelite, the team claims.
of 40 ancient proto-Sinaitic letters on a lead sheet that was
subsequently folded, and could only to be read by tomographic scanning,
the inscription reads:
“Cursed, cursed, cursed – cursed by the God YHW.
You will die cursed.
Cursed you will surely die.
Cursed by YHW – cursed, cursed, cursed.”
inscription does not leave much room for doubt that it was a curse.
What it might mean for the interpretation of the finds at Mt. Ebal is
According to the biblical narrative, six
tribes, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naftali were sent to the
rocky, barren hill that is Mount Ebal, where the Lord commanded that an
altar be built of unhewn stones, and attend to the cursing. The erection
of the altar is attributed to Joshua, after his forces destroyed the
city of Ai, sparing only the cattle, and hanged its king: “Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord, the God of Israel, in mount Ebal” (Joshua 8:30).
lead tablet containing the formulaic curse, or defixio, was discovered
in December 2019, while wet-sifting discarded material from an earlier
excavation of Mt. Ebal (today near Nablus in the West Bank) by Adam
Zertal from 1982 to 1986. Zertal believed he had found two altars at the
site, one of which may have been the actual altar of Joshua.
The Jerusalem Post also discusses several aspects of this story. See Judith Sudilovsky, “Researchers decipher oldest known Hebrew inscription on ‘cursed’ tablet: Mt. Ebal discovery aligns with biblical texts in Deuteronomy, Joshua,” Jerusalem Post, March 24, 2022, updated March 26, 2022, at https://www.jpost.com/archaeology/article-702271.
A peer-reviewed publication based on this work is expected to follow later this year. There is the possibility of error in the dating and other aspects of the find, but at the moment this looks like a highly interesting find that may be of interest in studies of the Bible and perhaps even have relevance to studies of the Book of Mormon.
Many thanks to Noel B. Reynolds for kindly alerting me and others to this exciting news. I look forward to his thoughts and the thoughts of other scholars on the matter as they explore the details of this find and examine its implications.
Resources on Chiasmus
I’ve discussed chiasmus on Mormanity many times, and I also offer a page on chiasmus and the Book of Mormon at JeffLindsay.com. Some excellent resources on the topic include:
- John Welch and Donald Parry, editors, Chiasmus:
TheState of the Art (Provo, UT:BYU Studies and Book of Mormon Central, 2020), provided via BYU Studies Quarterly 59, no. 2 supplement (2020). This special edition includes many outstanding essays such as Neal Rappleye, “Chiasmus
Criteria in Review,” pp. 289-309, and Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, “Truth or Cherry Picking: A Statistical Approach to Chiastic Intentionality,” pp. 311-317. Most of the essays deal with biblical examples of chiasmus.
- John W. Welch, “Chiasmus
in the Book of Mormon,” BYU Studies 10, no. 3
- John W. Welch, “Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,”
Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4, no. 2 (1995): 1–14; republished
for a mainstream audience as John W. Welch, “Criteria for Identifying and Evaluating the Presence of Chiasmus,”
in Chiasmus Bibliography, ed. John W. Welch and Daniel B. McKinley
(Provo, UT: Research Press, 1999), 157–174.
- Boyd F. Edwards and W. Farrell Edwards, “Does Chiasmus Appear in the Book of Mormon by Chance?,” BYU Studies 43, no. 2 (2004): 103-130.
- “How Much Could Joseph Smith Have Known about Chiasmus in 1829?,” Book of Mormon Central, 2017, https://knowhy.bookofmormoncentral.org/content/how-much-could-joseph-smith-have-known-about-chiasmus-in-1829.
- Carl J. Cranney, “The Deliberate Use of Hebrew Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 23 (2014): 140-65.
- Dennis Newton, “Nephi’s Use of Inverted Parallels,” Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 79-106
- Donald Parry, Poetic Parallelisms in the Book of Mormon: The Complete Text (Provo, UT: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2007). This book highlights many forms of apparent Hebraic parallelism in the text of the Book of Mormon, including many proposed chiastic structures in the Book of Mormon.
- John Welch, “What Does Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon Prove?” in Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins, pp. 199-224.
- Noel B. Reynolds, “Nephi’s Outline,” in Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, ed. Noel B. Reynolds (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1982), 53-74.
61 thoughts on “News from Mount Ebal: An Ancient Hebraic Inscription on Metal, a Chiasmus, Possibly Dating to the 13th Century BC or Earlier”
A masterpiece. Thank you Jeff…I loved this gem! Keep up the good (great) work.
Fascinating find. But the suggestion that it might have relevance to the Book of Mormon is ludicrous.
Why stop at "ludicrous?" Why not carry on with such synonyms as, "absurd, ridiculous, farcical, laughable, risible, preposterous, foolish, idiotic, stupid, inane, silly, asinine, nonsensical, crazy, mad, insane."
Such adjectives do not tempt critical thought, however. Special minds invoke this kind of raspy language — especially under the veil of anonymity, which forbids all accountability.
John S. Robertson
Feel free to explain the find's relevance to the Book of Mormon, John. I'm all ears.
Feel free to become responsible, and not hide behind your mask. Pease find it in your heart to engage meaningfully, which is impossible under your cloak of anonymity, which your licenses you to use language that is unacceptable in intelligent discourse. Shedding anonymity really would make your contributions meaningful, even exciting. Accountability, –OK?
John S. Robertson
Thanks for your sincere and substantive discussions over the years. Unfortunately, over the same time, team Lindsay deteriorated into pure ad hominem. It is curious team Lindsay assailed you for using the word ludicrous, but not for using the word fascinating!
In the subculture of faithless LDS, the find has relevance to Book of Mormon apologetic rhetoric. The rhetoric pattern goes like this: Some skeptical entity once claimed evidence against the Book of Mormon. At the time of claim, a complete retort was not possible, but now new information invalidates it. Conclusion: It is always folly to question our narrative.
With metal etching, the rhetorical pattern involves what team Lindsay has now confessed is a strawman. The strawman pretends some mythical critics claimed the ancient cultures never, ever etched on metal. Evidence of metal etching is now discovered, ergo those who questioned the narrative were wrong to do so and bad people.
The narrative in question is the opening narrative of the Book of Mormon, where it asserts over 2500 years ago Jews kept the Torah and other scripture in book format with the characters written on brass pages (“plates”). What is not a strawman is 1830ish skeptics asked if “writing” on “brass” is even correct vocabulary. What is not a strawman, is later skeptics suggested Joseph Smith’s imagination got the idea of metallic scripture stored in the treasury from the Apocrypha, where an account of a king ordering one of his decrees to be copied onto tables of brass and stored conspicuously.
There is no record of a skeptic ever claiming ancient cultures never etched their important events on metal the same way ancient culture etch their important events on stone. However, in the mind of the dragon slayers, such a dragon existed, and they slayed it!
One notices this rhetorical pattern is rife with straw men. One favorite straw man: skeptics claimed plagiarism in producing the Book of Mormon. As similar sounding writings from the time and place of the Book of Mormon's English production were discovered, the word plagiarism was a natural suggestion. However, notice how the utlm page cited above does not claim Smith plagiarized the Apocrypha, it claimed he “borrowed” from it, in the same way all authors borrow from their influences. The predominate modern analysis of the Book of Mormon uses the discovery of similar writings to show the Book of Mormon narrative and style was merely the ether in which Joseph Smith was swimming, something that is undisputed.
The apologetic explanation is merely: So what? That it was the ether in which Smith was swimming is just one big coincidence. The beauty of the end product means it could not have been the product of Smith’s imagination. Of course, the beauty in the eye beholder sounds a little too hokey, so the rhetoric then derives its own supposed quantifiable supports, none of which engages in sincere and substantive dialogue according to the understanding of basic research methodology.
The whole polemic comes down to a cultural disconnect. In my culture, skepticism is the chastity of the intellect. In the faithless LDS subcultural, skepticism is evil that needs to be slain with ad hominem stabs, and with every stab, a demand to know your exact ID and location so they can stab harder.
So many of the rising generation of skeptics assume that the arguments they regurgitate against the Book of Mormon are founded on deep wisdom and carefully scrutinized facts. Thus, with each new revelation about ancient writing of scripture on metal, they repeat the claim that writing on metal plates was a well-known concept in Joseph Smith's day, and that pretty everything about the Book of Mormon could have been readily derived from Joseph's environment, including the account of Lehi's Trail (one rare map of Arabia with Nehhm or Nehem, a few squiggles for wadis, and Felix Arabia is all he needed).
But were these things were really such obvious nothingburgers BEFORE compelling evidence for their plausibility was found?
The learned Reverend M. T. Lamb in "The Golden Bible, or, The Book of Mormon: Is It From God?" (New York: Ward and Drummond, 1887), p. 11, came to this forceful conclusion:
But after a very careful study of the book, a conscientious and painstaking examination of all the evidence he has been able to gather both for and against it, the author of these pages has been forced to reject every one of the above claims. He is compelled to believe that no such people as are described in the Book of Mormon ever lived upon this continent; that no such records were ever engraved upon golden plates, or any other plates, in the early ages; that no such men as Mormon or Moroni or any other of the prophets or kings or wise men mentioned in the book, ever existed in this country; that Jesus Christ never appeared upon this continent in person, or had a people here before its discovery by Columbus. In short, that no such civilization, Christian or otherwise, as is described in the Book of Mormon had an existence upon either North or South America.
"No such records were ever engraved upon golden plates or any other plates." He doesn't seem to be hinting that the basic idea of records on metal plates was well known and plausible, albeit a pious fraud in Joseph's case. No, the very concept of such props is absolutely rejected–almost as if it were too funny for words.
In 1857, the critic John Hyde, Jr. specifically argued that the idea of ancient Hebrews writing on metal plates was implausible. In Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs (New York: W.P. Fetridge, 1857, pp. 217-218), we read this:
The plates. We must remember that it is a Hebrew youth, who "has lived at Jerusalem all his days," until he leaves for "the wilderness." . . . The writing materials then in use, and it was only very few who could use them, would be those such a youth would be familiar with. Now the Jews did not use plates of brass at that time. Their writing materials were
1. Tablets smeared with wax.
2. Linen rubbed with a kind of gum.
3. Tanned leather and vellum.
4. Parchment (invented by Attalus of Pergamos).
5. Papyrus. (M. Sturat, O. Test. Can.)
All the writings of the Jews long anterior and subsequent to Zedekiah were in rolls. (Isa., xxxiv. 4; Jer. xxxvi. 25; Ezek., iii 9, 10l Ps. xl. 7; Zech. v. 1, etc., etc.) These rolls were chiefly parchment and papyrus. . . . The use of this material superseded the stones filled with lead (Job), Hesiods leaden tables, Solon's wooden planks, the wax tables, so clumsy and easily erased. This material rolled up could be bound with flax and sealed. . . . The Jews used this material. The Egyptians, whose language Nephi gives his father, used this material. Contradiction and inconsistency are stamped on any other assertion. This is another strong proof of imposture.
Jabs about the plates continue:
The genealogies were kept by public registrars and were written in Hebrew on rolls of papyrus and parchment, not on plates, nor in the Egyptian language. They were very extensive, embracing all members of the family, and were sacredly preserved. . . . This mass of names, embracing from Joseph, son of Jacob, down to Lehi, even though they had been, as pretended, engraved on brass plates, would have formed an immense volume and a great weight. (p. 219)
To have told one of those old Levites, specifically punctilious and even superstitious, that some one had copied their law in the language of the Egyptians (idolaters and enemies) in the first place, and had it durably engraved on brass, when they were handling so delicately these papyrus rolls, would have called it an infamous imposture. Every wise man will imitate the skepticism of that Levite. (p. 220)
All this vast mass of matter, it is pretended, was on these singular brass plates: the Pentateuch, history, prophecies, and of course the Psalms, for was not David a prophet? Add to all this the genealogies of their families ever since Abraham! One man could never have carried it all. (p. 221-222)
LaRoy Sunderland'a pamphlet, Mormonism Exposed and Refuted (Piercy & Reed Printers, New York, 1838), as cited by Michael Ash, has two relevant passages:
The book of Mormon purports to have been originally engraved on brass plates…. How could brass be written on? (p. 44)
This book speaks… of the Jewish Scriptures, having been kept by Jews on plates of brass, six hundred years before Christ. The Jews never kept any of their records on plates of brass. (p. 46)
I'd be interested in the early anti-Mormon sources you have found that recognize the obvious or at least plausible aspects of ancient peoples writing on metal plates before numerous examples of such were found in the Old World and used to defend the Book of Mormon. Ditto for those noting the plausible aspects of Nahom, the River Laman, and Bountiful, and those from the 1830s, before the publication of Stephens and Catherwood about their adventures in Mesoamerica, that acknowledged that it is, of course, well known that advanced ancient civilizations were once prominent in the Americas with great temples, roads, and written records. The Saints felt they were taking a pummeling over the lack of evidence for such things from the Americas and were greatly excited in the early 1840s when Stephens and Catherwood first made the glories of ancient Mesoamerica part of America's common knowledge.
Stuart Martin, writing in 1920, says that no one pointed out to young Joseph that gold would corrode if left buried so long, ridiculing the concept of preserving a text on buried gold plates. (Mystery of Mormonism, printed by Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p. 27). Someone also forgot to explain this to King Darius before he commissioned the writing on gold plates preserved in a stone box.
OK, I'm disappointed that you think "the suggestion that it [the discovery of ancient Hebrew writing on a lead amulet] might have relevance to the Book of Mormon is ludicrous." After all the time you spend here, I was hoping you might have picked up a few things about the Book of Mormon, such as:
1. It claims to involve ancient writing by Hebrew speakers whose story began in 600 B.C.
2. Those ancient Hebrews brought scriptures with them that were recorded on metal plated (the brass plates) comprising the Pentateuch and other writings from ancient Hebrews.
3. They created additional metal plates to preserve their own writing.
4. The Book of Mormon also purports that worship of Jehovah as the Creator and God of Israel had been in place among the Israelites for centuries before 600 B.C., while many scholars today claim that Jehovah worship was not a big factor in that era and YHWH as the God of the Hebrews only become significant after the Exile.
5. The Book of Mormon treats the Exodus and the arrival of the Hebrews into their promised land as real historical events, contrary to many scholarly claims today, making the possible confirmation of details related to Deuteronomy 27 and other passages of relevance to the Book of Mormon as well.
So just to refresh your memory, ancient inscriptions of Hebrew or proto-Hebrew from way before 600 B.C. is relevant to the Book of Mormon. Ancient writing of Hebrew on metal is relevant to the Book of Mormon. The Worship of Jehovah in 1300 BC is relevant to the Book of Mormon. The reality of the Exodus and the origins of the Hebrews and the nation of Israel in Canaan is relevant to the Book of Mormon.
I hope that helps.
OK, sorry, I forget to mention the one thing I gave the most attention to in my post: the Book of Mormon purports to draw upon the "learning of the Jews" in at least the early writings of the small plates, and that learning is now known to include a wide variety of rhetorical and poetical tools such as chiasmus, a genuine hallmark of much ancient Hebrew writing and prominently at play in the inscription on the lead amulet. One of the most commonly cited evidences for authenticity of the Book of Mormon as an ancient record from Hebrew speakers is the abundance of high-quality, meaningful, and often clever chiasmus in its pages, especially among the writers most familiar with the brass plates. So a find from 1300 BC showing Hebrew writing in a very clear, obviously deliberate chiasmus is, like it or not, at least somewhat relevant to the Book of Mormon.
I think there's a real case that very ancient Hebrew chiasmus is at least relevant to the study of the Book of Mormon and debates about its origins. Let me know if you'd like me to flesh out the argument more fully or if this helps to make my claim of relevance seem a little less ludicrous.
Thank you. I stand vindicated. Not an single of example of a skeptic claiming ancient cultures did not etch on metal.
Like I wrote previoulsy, the LaRoy quote had quotes around "written on" "These plates, the book of Mormon says, were “written on.” " With quotes around written on, like I said, questioning if that is the correct vocabulary.
The skpetical observations Jeff list are still valid today and is why the ever powerful Fairmormon Cabal has, for the last decade, been incapable for of updating the wikipedia article: "Nevertheless, there is no known extant example of writing on metal plates from the ancient Mediterranean longer than the eight-page Persian codex, and none from any ancient civilization in the Western Hemisphere. "
Really, "OK." I think that your claim that "written on" is not the right vocabulary (referencing brass plates) is to criticize unnecessarily. The definition of "to write" is to put marks on a surface. Metal plates have surfaces, and using an instrument harder than the surface is nothing short of "writing." I think that most people would agree that "the Persian codex was 'written on'" is a perfectly acceptable use of "write." The word "write" has expansive referents. Composers "write" musical compositions, for example. They put marks on surfaces. People write on computers, because they are putting visible marks on a visible computer screen.
John S. Robertson
p.s. As an aside, even if you hesitate to quit your anonymity, your case could be improved if you softened your rhetoric, which seems hard for you to do. "The ever powerful Fairmormon Cabal," for example, does not help readers to sympathize with your reasoning. It sounds like you are angry.
John S. Robertson
John, seem to have me mixed up with someone else. I've said nothing about the term "written on," nor have I used the phrase "Fairmormon cabal." That was someone else. (You can distinguish my replies by my pseudonym appended to each.)
Anyway, your objections to my pseudonymity have got me wondering whether, back in the day, anyone ever glanced at the latest Federalist Paper and said, "I'm not bothering with anything that 'Publius' fellow has to say until he reveals his true identity." (This is my way of saying pseudonymity has a long and sometimes honorable pedigree. If it was good enough for James Madison, it's good enough for me.)
You mean it's not enough to show that our critics stated that the Jews didn't write scripture on brass plates or gold plates, but we need to find someone saying that no cultures anywhere "etched" anything on any kind of metal? Talk about raising the bar! The debate was whether it was plausible that ancient Hebrews could have written scripture on metal plates. The idea of the gold plates and the brass plates was ridiculed. Is there any evidence of someone before about 1930 saying, "You know, ancient cultures did sometimes write sacred texts on metal plates and bury them in stone boxes, sure, that's common knowledge, but we just don't think Joseph really had such plates." Can you provide one such example?
Examples of writing on metal plates have been found long after 1830 showing that in the Old World, writing on plates was known and specifically that Hebrews writing sacred matter on metal was known. That's relevant and sufficient to cast doubt on the claims against the plausibility of scripture on metal plates. The relevance of this latest find does not require me to show people making vastly broader claims than they needed to in order to ridicule the Book of Mormon. The find is cool and relevant to Book of Mormon issues.
As for Wikipedia, the word "extant" rules out the noteworthy example of the Diamond-Cutter Sutra from Korea, comprising 19 gold plates. But the fact that it's not available to be seen now does not mean it did not exist. In fact, photographs were taken of it. See the article by David B. Honey and Michael P. Lyon, "An Inscribed Chinese Gold Plate in Its Context: Glimpses of the Sacred Center," with the following:
"Complete sets of such gold plates are apparently no longer extant in China. But a famous example of the Jingangjing—a Chinese translation of the Vajracchedika-prajnaparamita, or Diamond-Cutter Sutra, dating to the eighth century (fig. 10)—was inscribed on nineteen gold plates measuring 14.8 x 13.7 cm found in a bronze box within a stone box buried under a five-storied pagoda in Iksan, Korea."
Footnote 65 indicates that "A photograph of this set of plates, National Treasure No. 123, is contained in Kum sok gong ye [Gold and Other Metallurgical Products], Hankuk ui Mi [The Beauty of Korea], vol. 23 (Seoul: Chungang Ilbosa, 1985), plates 119—20; description on p. 220, and The March of Islam (Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1988), 122—23." I've ordered the latter book and may be able to provide an update later.
John S Robertson –
I was thinking the same about you and how you flipped out in response to the word ludicrous. You sounded super angry — over a simple word.
Cabal is a word particular to Jimbo Wales and the Wikipedia community. The Fairmormon group is powerful, but not all powerful, because I have been able to defeat them on wikipedia, it just takes a great deal of time.
You are also missing the dialogue with regards to "written on". The dialogue was according to the intent of LaRoy Sunderland in the context of the whole paragraph. Engraven brass is engraven on. LaRoy was trying to imagine what it means to write on brass in particular. Just as all artist renderings of the narrative have attempted to imagine, some showing a stylus, etc. Is ink brushed on the metal, etc.? LaRoy was not all communicating that the concept of engraving on metal was cartoonish and nonsensical concept for ancients, as the straw man suggests.
I will wait for the real OK to chime in. Lots of PhD's on this blog, but OK is the smart participant, regardless of any degree.
But I do not dispute that extant metal writing on metal plates is not currently known from Mesoamerica, and that we need to be very cautious about claims to the contrary. See a good discussion from Daniel Johnson in "Ancient gold plates in Mesoamerica," Deseret News, April 30, 2011.
“The debate was whether it was plausible that ancient Hebrews could have written scripture on metal plates.”
Yes that is your INVENTED debate, as I keep saying. Anything is plausible. Fact is, even your invented debate is less plausible today than in LaRoy Sunderland’s day. Even in the 20th century, it still seemed highly probable to the lay person. When I was in the 20th century it made sense to me to use metal, as metal was easier to transport than stone for long-term record keeping. Not until the internet did the high improbability become well known, let alone 50 generations of warrior prophet scholars keeping the remanents of their cultural institutions need for their Jedi traditions to propagate for a 1000 years hidden.
Not sure what your point about the Korea 12th century plates is. It is in the Wikipedia talk page, not in the article, because Lamb’s claim was the Mediterranean. So there is your request, Lamb deliberately limited his observation to the environment of ancient Hebrews. The Korea plates further validate another criticism, massive amounts of records on soft metal pose a problem for the plates on the bottom. The weight could erase some characters, ergo the Korean plates were vertically stacked. So again, the criticism is more and more valid, not weaker, as you falsely suggest.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The actual Sunderland quote, without the elipses:
These plates, the book of Mormon says, were “written on.” One writer says of another p. 149: “I saw the last which he wrote, that he wrote it with his own hand.” How could brass be written on?
Sunderland is clearly showing the idea of writing on brass with a stylus makes little sense. Etching, engraving, painted, etc., possibly, but writing as if on parchment?
The same goes for Rev. Lamb quote above. Lamb and Sunderland above don’t dispute metal engraving as plausible. They don’t accept the account that was supposedly engraved, contrary to Jeff’s lie. Just read Lamb’s quote again.
This isn’t the first time it has been explained to Jeff. Even if there was linguistic here that could explain it to Jeff, Jeff would still repeat his lie. It is just who he has decided to be until death.
It could be that Rev. Lamb as well as Sunderland do not dispute the plausibility of metal engravings, like you, they don't believe you can write on metal as if on parchment.
What if they also wrote on perishable media?
I think it is fair to say that there is no evidence, no plausible evidence, that there is a significant amount writing on metal plates that doesn't have concomitant perishable media to write on.
Jacob gives the first clue that both Nephites and Lamanites used perishable media as well. “[W]hatsoever things we write upon anything save it be upon plates must perish and vanish away; but we can write a few words upon plates” (Jacob 4:2). So they "write on" perishable media as well on brass plates. Please accept the fact that "writing" is more generic than "engraving." It is a well known linguistic fact that generic words can stand in the place of specific words. I'll refrain from giving a lot of examples, but English "write" can stand in the place of the more specific "engrave or carve." (Jewish Amulets Written on Metal Scrolls In: Journal of Ancient Judaism)" "Newspapers were first invented by the Romans around the year 131 BC. The first newspapers were written on metal or stone and posted in public areas for people to read. They were called Acta Diurna, which means ‘daily acts’." etc.
One of the best examples of perishable writing is from (Alma 14:8):
And they brought their wives and children together, … that they should be cast into the fire, and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.” I doubt that brass plates could have been burned up by the same fire that destroyed the wives and children.
Here are some other examples:
● The chief judge … put forth his hand and wrote unto Korihor(Alma 30:5), and Korihor put forth his hand and wrote, saying… (Alma 30:5).
● Moroni and Ammoran wrote epistles to each other (Alma 54-55).
● Moroni and Helaman (Alma 58 ff), wrote to each other concerning the affairs of war.
● The Lamanite King “appointed teachers of the brethren of Amulon, [who] “taught them that they should keep their record, and that they might write one to another” (Mosiah 24:4-5).
Now, as for Omni 1:9:
Now I, Chemish, write what few things I write, in the same book with my brother; for behold, I saw the last which he wrote, that he wrote it with his own hand; and he wrote it in the day that he delivered them unto me. And after this manner we keep the records, for it is according to the commandments of our fathers. And I make an end.
We know from context that writing in question was engraving on metal plates that were passed from generation to generation. Despite these facts—
Those who wrote on metal plates reported that it was difficult for three reasons: The plates were small, engraving was demanding, and producing plates required ore. “I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates” (Jacob 4:1). Moroni also explains, “we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands” (Ether 12:24). And behold, I would write it also if I had room upon the plates, but I have not; and ore I have none.
—it would have been eminently possible, however, for brothers Chemish and Omni to watch each other as they were finishing up their final entry with their few final words. The Book of Omni is notoriously short, by the way. They were brothers after all, and they were obviously not fond of engraving in any case, as per their complaints.
You engrave brass, and carve stone. But it is not a lie to say that "newspapers" cannot be written on brass or stone. You would have to be a non native speaker of English to say otherwise — or lapse into mental paresis. Besides, I'll bet there were people who might have enjoyed watching an engraver of metal, or carver of stone writing their Acta Diurna.
John S. Robertson
p.s. It may strike some to be a little curious for Anonymous appeal anonymously to Jeff to cancel John S. Robertson because his nonsense is embarrassing (embarrassing to Anonymous?). What would we do without anonymity in Cancel Culture?
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Sorry about the mixup, OK. Nice comeback.
John S. Robertson
John S. Robertson –
Really neat analysis, but not the original subject. The subject was since 1830 have any skeptics (what team Lindsay calls “anti-Mormons”) suggested ancient people did not engrave metal. Team Lindsay failed to produce a single legitimate example.
The LaRoy Sunderland example was LaRoy asking if “write” on brass (particularly brass) is the correct vocabulary. Your answer to LaRoy is yes. Which is really neat, but means you concede team Lindsay was lying in suggesting LaRoy denied ancient people knew of the concept of engraving/etching.
It is particularly a lie on team Lindsay’s part because they have been corrected regarding the LaRoy quote several times, but they (including Jeff) continue to repeat the lie. Their repetition shows their straw men are deliberately constructed. Constructed in order to create the false idea that there is more evidence for the BoM hypothesis today than in 1830. Just the opposite is verifiable fact.
Team Lindsay has never, ever once offered a retort to the fact Ignatius Donnelly's list of evidence that the discovered New World is the remnants of the lost City of Atlantis rivaled team Lindsay’s in quantity and quality. None of Donnelly’s list is considered serious or meaningful “evidence”. Ditto for team Lindsay.
The fact team LIndsay continues to insist with emotional rambles their evidence is evidence shows internally the facts disturb them. They would be better off saying there is no evidence because the complete scene of the BoM is burried deep either under water and land. Just as in Indiana Jones movies God keeps deliberately hiding the Ark, doesn't mean the Ark didn't exist.
Thanks for your kind reply. I, too, liked my really neat analysis.
John S. Robertson
To anonymous 1:33 PM, March 28, 2022,
You are correct about the softness of pure gold plates. However, one metallurgist long ago pointed out that a gold-copper alloy called tumbaga could be used: The leaves are pliable and durable. In order to engrave them, one need only use an acid (say citric acid) on the surface to remove a thin surface of copper, thus allowing for easy etching of both sides of each leaf. I mentioned this back in October 1984, https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/node/228 .
Aside from that, we have Orphic gold plates buried with the dead, a Phoenician Text from the Etruscan Sanctuary at Pyrgi (Pyrgi Tablets), an Etruscan Gold Book from circa 600 B.C. (a six-page 24-carat gold book bound with rings, found in a tomb in Bulgaria ca. 1943), an eight-page cuneiform golden codex found in 2005 in Teheran, Iran (from the Achaemenid period and bound with four rings), etc.
The word "brass" in KJV usage actually refers to bronze. Creating bronze, silver, or other metal plates for their permanence was standard practice by Hittites, Egyptians, Etruscans, Romans, and other ancient peoples. For example, the treaty of 1259 B.C. between the Hittites and Egyptians was engraved on silver plates for both Raameses II and Hattusili III. Although they no longer exist, copies were found in both Egypt (monumental inscriptions) and at the Hittite capital (clay cuneiform). The famous fifth century B.C. 12 bronze tablets of early Rome have not survived.
Alan Millard interprets Hebrew גליון גדול gillayon gadol (Isaiah 8:1 = 2 Nephi 18:1; cf. Isaiah 3:23) as “large writing tablet,” saying:
"In light of the Ketef Hinnom amulets, the “large writing tablet,” gillayon gadol, may denote a sheet of metal, assuming the gilyonim of 3:23 are “mirrors,” on which letters would need to be written by incision with a graving tool (heret)."
Millard, “`Take a large writing tablet and write on it’: Isaiah – A writing prophet?” In Katherine J. Dell, Graham Davies, and Yee Von Koh, eds., Genesis, Isaiah and Psalms: A Festschrift to Honor Professor John Emerton for his Eightieth Birthday (Brill, 2010), 115-116.
"Nevertheless, there is no known extant example of writing on metal plates from the ancient Mediterranean longer than the eight-page Persian codex, and none from any ancient civilization in the Western Hemisphere. "
That is to say, evidence among the subject people or tangentially related people (the Mediterranean or New World ancestors) for engraving beyond novelty purposes is still not forth coming, aftter two hundreds years of searching, even though it was a 1000+ year practice requiring extensive knowledge infrastructure to accomplish.
This fact has implications for the nature of God. God does not just passively make things appear as they are not, He does so actively hiding evidence and planting other evidence at the scene.
“Even their cumulative weight is counterbalanced by what appear to be striking intrusions into the Book of Mormon text of anachronisms, 19th-century parallels, and elements that appear to many scholars to be historically implausible and inconsistent with what is known about ancient American cultures.” -Terryl L. Givens
The 19 gold plates of the Diamond-Cutter Sutra from Korea are now "nothing beyond novelty purposes" because no longer extant? The extensive tradition of legal records on copper plates in India (see Indian copper plate inscriptions," Wikipedia) were just "nothing beyond novelty purposes"? The copper plate tradition in ancient India is quite interesting, and is related to a tradition that the Jews in a colony at Cochin, India kept extensive records on copper plates. They are not extant, but may have been in the 1700s when Captain Alexander Hamilton visited Cochin. See Captain Alexander Hamilton, A New Account of the East Indies, vol. 1 (London: 1744), 323–24, available at Archive.org and Google Books. He reports:
They [the Jews in Cochin, India] have a Synagogue at Cochin, not far from the King’s Palace, about two Miles from the City, in which are carefully kept their Records, engraven in Copper-plates in Hebrew characters; and when any of the Characters decay, they are new cut, so that they can shew their own History, from the Reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the present Time….
They declare themselves to be of the Tribe of Manasseh…
I have previously discussed Hamilton's statement on this blog.
Such plates, now no longer extant (looted? in hiding? destroyed?), suggest that at least one Jewish colony was motivated to record their history on metal plates. This goes beyond "nothing beyond novelty purposes."
Hamilton's statement is consistent with Neal Reynolds's recent work suggesting that a Manassite scribal tradition may have been behind the rare and exotic brass plates (likely an alloy that we would call bronze today).
Writing on metal plates was an extraordinarily rare thing, obviously. It involved great cost and high levels of skill. Such records on metal, especially sacred or vital legal records, were not meant to be left about randomly like pottery shards for archaeologists to find. They were precious and obviously kept hidden rather than on display. The longer the record, the more rare and precious it was, and the more likely to be stolen and, if made of valuable metal, melted down and reused.
OK, thank you for explaining how we can distinguish your anonymous posts from other anonymous posts. That pseudonym at the end is helpful. But I think John might be wondering if it's possible for you to leave it off at will, or for others to add it as well. But John, no, I don't think that could ever happen. But just as a test, here goes:
Whoa, easier than I thought!
The implausibility of Jews writing on metal plates was also an issue in the Braden-Kelly Debates between E.L. Kelley of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Clark Braden of the Church of Christ held in Kirtland, Ohio, Feb. 12 to March 8, 1884, published as Public Discussion of the Issues Between the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Church of Christ (Disciples) (St. Louis, MO: Clark Braden, 1884), p. 109, available at https://www.google.com/books/edition/Public_Discussion_of_the_Issues_Between/Vy5OAAAAYAAJ??hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA319&printsec=frontcover&bsq="only material then in use":
"All this voluminous literature, which would have made a wagon-load if on parchment, was engraved on plates and not on papyrus, the only material then in use, and was carried off by five men , who were dodging round to save their lives, when it must have required a caravan of teams to have hauled it. This rigmarole represents copies of the Pentateuch and the Scriptures as being common, well known, in open use with their tables of genealogy. Not a hundred years before they were almost unknown ; and in the days of Zedekiah's father so little were they known that reading a copy found by accident revolutionized the nation. This enormous load of plates was carried by Lehi in all his journeyings. Laban's sword was steel, when it is a notorious fact that the Israelites knew nothing of steel for hundreds of years afterwards. Who but as ignorant a person as Rigdon would have perpetrated all these blunders? When Lehi saw that caravan – load of plates, got ten by making the owner drunk, by murder, robbery and lying, he revelates and prophecies that these plates of Laban shall go forth to all nations. As not a single plate of Laban has ever gone forth to any body, the Mormon God was mistaken when he inspired Lehi with that prophecy."
So apart from ridiculing the idea of extensive records on metal plates (still a common tactic), Rev. Braden is arguing that in biblical times and presumably in Israel, papyrus was "the only material then in use" for writing. No, he does not unnecessarily expand his argument to a global scale by saying that no other civilizations ever conceived on writing on metal, but his argument clearly underscores the point that the practice of writing records or sacred text on metal plates was not accepted as plausible by critics of the Book of Mormon in the 19th century.
Great observations by Clark Braden, just as valid today as in 1884. Thanks for sharing.
to Anonymous 1:06 PM, March 31, 2022,
Yes, it is certainly true that collections of metal plates (like the Book of Mormon or Plates of Brass) are quite rare, but that should be no surprise. The fact which should be made clear is that the technical, metallurgical capacity did exist anciently, and there are several striking examples which have managed to survive, including a 2015 find by archeologists in a Western Han Dynasty royal tomb in Nanchang, China:
A large collection of 9" x 4" gold plates. Jenny Stanton, “Gold plates and coins among valuable haul unearthed by archaeologists at 2,000-year-old royal tombs in China ,” Daily Mail Online, Dec 27, 2015, online at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3375474/Gold-plates-coins-valuable-haul-unearthed-archaeologists-2-000-year-old-royal-tombs-China.html — includes a photo of dozens of 23cm by 10cm by 0.3cm gold plates.
"The fact which should be made clear"
It only needs to be made clear if you talking to some straw man.
No one argues metallurgy did not exist, only to what extent, how common place, how widespread, and in what capacity. Wagon loads of metallic writings was and still is not accepted. Metallic swords in the Western Hemisphere modeled after a 600 BC hebrew sword — swords that would have provided miltary advantage the same way the Spanish conquistadors metal gave their small numbers advantage — was and still is not accepted.
Pointing to China or Korea is way beyond any straw man. Jeff's India example fairs a little better because at least he is attempting to tie it to Hebrews in India, but alas the article he links says this regarding it: "unproven potential example" Jeff's connection seeker's hunting yielded an "unproven potential example " Sigghh… it all reeks of wasting and squandering intellectual potential that could otherwise be spent actually living the gospel, doing good, solving real world problems.
to Anonymous 11:21 AM, April 01, 2022,
"squandering intellectual potential that could otherwise be spent actually living the gospel, doing good, solving real world problems."
A point well taken, and should be applied on the broadest possible scale.
At the same time, replying to sophist proxy attacks on the Gospel of Jesus Christ might also be a worthy endeavor.
"should be applied on the broadest possible scale."
Broadest is too extreme and unhealthy. I limit my time to much less than a tenth of team Lindsay's, stricking a nice balance to my successful replies to sophist proxy attacks on the Gospel and not letting the nonsesne here linger on me.
Saying that people who find reasons to defend their faith "reek of wasting and squandering intellectual potential that could otherwise be spent actually living the gospel, doing good, solving real world problems" is an interesting word-salad.
It might be a bit presumptuous, or even a little self-indulgent, to suppose that such people are too occupied not to honor what they hold to be sacred, not to live the Gospel, not to do good, not to solve real-world problems, and so on. I just can't believe that you believe that such people are incapable of being good—doing good works—on the side a little bit maybe? Maybe, when we find ourselves before the judgment bar, we all will find ourselves caught up short. I suppose, like it or not, our loving God, not us, will sort it all out for us.
I daresay, however, that "reek" might be misplaced, if I'm not being too judgmental.
John S. Robertson