The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon:
Still Losing the Battle

Review of Joel P. Kramer and Scott R. Johnson. The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon. Brigham
City, UT: Living Hope Ministries, 2005. $20.00.

The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon: Still Losing the Battle

Reviewed by David E. Bokovoy

In 1998, Paul Owen and Carl Mosser shocked the turbulent
world of anti-Mormonism with their assessment of anti-Mormon polemics.
According to these authors, Latter-day Saint scholarship analyzing Book of
Mormon historicity had extended far beyond the intellectual scope of
evangelical responses.1 In
recent years, several anti-Mormon organizations have taken up the task of
raising the intellectual bar of Book of Mormon criticism.[2] In one such recent attempt, the
anti-Mormon organization Living Hope Ministries, located in Brigham City, Utah,
produced a sixty-six–minute film entitled The
Bible vs. the Book of Mormon.
Throughout the production, Living Hope
Ministries presents several interviews with evangelical biblical scholars, Near
Eastern and Central American archaeologists, and a Jewish rabbi discussing
issues pertaining to Book of Mormon historicity and the Bible. According to
director Joel P. Kramer, The Bible vs. the
Book of Mormon
project presents the discoveries made by Living Hope
Ministries throughout this interviewing process. However, notwithstanding the
fact that the film represents an expensive, well-organized endeavor, its
obvious rhetoric, coupled with a dearth of genuine scholarship, illustrates the
continued failure of anti-Mormon critics to seriously engage the issue of Book
of Mormon historicity.

This production by Living Hope Ministries is a scholarly
nightmare. Kramer and his colleagues fail to define the parameters of the
investigation. The film commences with a quotation—taken out of
context—from the current introduction to the Book of Mormon: “The
Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.”
Living Hope Ministries then proceeds for some sixty minutes to investigate
whether the Book of Mormon is comparable to the Bible archaeologically and
historically. Viewers should be aware that, in reality, the passage extracted
from the introduction to the Book of Mormon has nothing to do with these issues
but claims, instead, that it “contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of
the everlasting gospel.” Therefore, from an academic perspective, this
tactical blunder in investigating the Book of Mormon in accordance with a
faulty presupposition negates the validity of the entire analysis.

By taking this quotation out of context, the film proceeds
to compare the Bible and the Book of Mormon on issues other than “the
fulness of the everlasting gospel.” “The biblical appeal to
remember,” according to one Jewish scholar, “thus has little to do
with curiosity about the past. Israel is told that it must be a kingdom of
priests and a holy people; nowhere is it suggested that it become a nation of
Throughout the production, Living Hope Ministries has ignored the manner in
which the Book of Mormon claims to be comparable to the Bible. However, even
when the Book of Mormon’s relationship to the Bible is considered in accordance
with the producers’ assumptions, the film proves incredibly problematic.

The production proceeds to give a basic overview of biblical
history entitled “The Bible Story.” This summary includes only the
crucial historical facts pertaining to the land of Israel and the Jewish exile
into Babylonian captivity. Obviously, with this cursory synopsis, the producers
wished to leave their audience with little doubt concerning the absolute
certainty of biblical history. Egypt existed. Babylon existed. Israel existed.
Therefore, since modern readers can today look at a road sign identifying the city of
Jerusalem, viewers should be fully convinced that the Bible remains completely accurate in
its representation of the past.

One of the immediate problems with this logic is the surplus
of ancient Near Eastern texts that discuss known archaeological sites, although
with little or even no real
historicity. The Babylonian tale Atrahasis, for example, describes the days
prior to human existence when “the gods’ load was too great” so
“the great Anunnaki made the Igigi carry the workload sevenfold.”[4] In its introduction, this ancient myth
refers to the gods of Mesopotamia digging out the canals for the Tigris and
Euphrates rivers.[5]
According to the film’s logic, Atrahasis is as historically sound as the Bible
since modern-day readers can open up a current Middle Eastern map and actually
pinpoint these precise bodies of water. Any contemporary visitor to Iraq who
possesses a camera could no doubt return from his or her trip with pictures of
actual signs identifying these two geographical bodies. Obviously, contrary to
the film’s polemic, the ability to identify specific locations described in an
ancient text has little relevancy for determining either its religious or
historical value. Certainly Living Hope Ministries does not assume that a
religious text like Atrahasis provides a correct representation of the past,
even if Atrahasis mentions presently known geographical sites.

Living Hope Ministries attempts to contrast the Bible’s
historicity with the Book of Mormon’s alleged lack thereof; the organization’s
agenda is easily witnessed through the film’s immediate transition from the
Babylonian captivity and King Herod’s renovations to the producers’ summary of
the Book of Mormon story. Unlike their succinct summation of the Bible devoid
of any and all references to the supernatural, the producers’ recounting of
Book of Mormon history moves into a description of extraordinary events
involving angels, hidden plates, and Jaredite barges. The film’s polemical
agenda is obvious through this skillful, but wholly misleading, diversionary
tactic. Through the introductory comparison between the Bible and the Book of
Mormon, Living Hope Ministries effectively establishes the premise for its
scheme by encouraging its audience to ponder how Mormons could ever sustain a
belief in the miraculous events described in the Book of Mormon, especially
when compared with something so totally rational as the biblical account of the
Jewish exile.

But is this bare-bones historical outline summarized by
Living Hope Ministries all there is to “The Bible Story”? In an
effort to feign accuracy, Living Hope Ministries should have included at least
references to the biblical description of Noah placing animals of every species
upon the ark, Moses parting the formidable Red Sea, Balaam speaking with his
obstinate donkey, Elijah miraculously ascending into heaven, Elisha’s floating
ax head, Jonah’s survival in a fish, and Jesus rising from the dead. Surely,
when prefaced with these sorts of biblical events, Book of Mormon references to
angels, hidden plates, and Jaredite barges appear far less extraordinary.

The film’s agenda can be surmised in one dramatic scene in
which biblical archaeologist Gabriel Barkay states, “It [the Book of Mormon] doesn’t
make sense to me. . . . I don’t think it has anything to do with the
culture of 600 BC, and I’m an
expert on that period.” Based on this assessment, however, one has to
question to what extent Barkay (a respected contributor to his field) has, if
ever, seriously engaged the Book of Mormon.[6]
In reality, the Book of Mormon commences with a very plausible historical claim
regarding an Israelite family that flees into the wilderness prior to the
Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
Nephi’s reference to the fact that God commanded his father Lehi to “take
his family and depart into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:2) immediately
relates the Book of Mormon to biblical views regarding the
flight-into-the-wilderness motif. As Susan Bratton has shown, “the Bible
implies that wilderness fosters dependence on the divine, vastly improved
spiritual vision, and the drive for new ministries.”[7] This biblical theme recurs prominently
throughout subsequent chapters in the Book of Mormon, marking a strong
historical, literary, and even religious tie between the two works.[8] Since The
Bible vs. the Book of Mormon
commences with Kramer’s disingenuous
claim that Living Hope Ministries wanted to learn if the Book of Mormon is
truly comparable to the Bible, surely these sorts of important connections
should have been addressed in its inquiry.

Conceptually, the Book of Mormon’s immediate reference to a
biblical-like flight into the wilderness parallels the book’s final episode
describing Moroni’s wilderness escape: “I make not myself known to the
Lamanites lest they should destroy me. . . . And I, Moroni, will not
deny the Christ; wherefore, I wander whithersoever I can for the safety of mine
own life” (Moroni 1:1, 3). The prominent role of wilderness journeys
throughout the Book of Mormon clearly links the Nephite record with the Bible
in a manner intentionally ignored by Living Hope Ministries. “Israel’s
religious life as a partner of Yahweh begins in the wilderness,” notes
Ulrich Mauser. “The desert is the place of God’s initial and fundamental
revelation to his people . . . the wilderness is the womb of a
fundamental datum of the religion of the Old Testament.”[9] Certainly, the same observation proves
correct for the Book of Mormon.

Though Living Hope Ministries attempts to portray the Book
of Mormon as an irrational piece of nineteenth-century fiction, from a biblical
perspective there is obviously nothing extraordinary in the idea of a seer
“prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city
Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Nephi 1:4). Ancient Israel witnessed its
fair share of false prophets who feigned divine authority in their predictions.
Hence Lehi’s biblical contemporary, the prophet Jeremiah, specifically
identified a true messenger as one who had “perceived and heard [God’s]
word” (Jeremiah 23:18). In Jeremiah 23:18, “perceived” is the
King James translation for the Hebrew verb raʾah,
which means, in its most basic sense, “to see.”[10] Therefore, according to the
stipulations provided by Jeremiah, a true prophet had both seen and heard God’s

In his own account, Nephi demonstrates an evident awareness
of this biblical standard. Immediately after describing his father Lehi’s
experience with a biblical-like pillar of fire, Nephi specifically notes that
Lehi “saw and heard much; and because of the things which
he saw and heard
he did quake and tremble exceedingly” (1 Nephi 1:6). Nephi also
informs his readers that Lehi “went forth among the people, and began to
prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard,
. . . and he testified that the things which he saw and heard
. . . manifested plainly of the coming of a Messiah”
(1 Nephi 1:18–19). In this opening chapter of the Book of Mormon,
Nephi matches his apparent effort to portray Lehi as a true prophet, who had seen and heard
God’s word, with a continuous repetition of the biblical designation my father.

The Book of Mormon commences with Nephi’s statement “I
make a record in the language of my father
(1 Nephi 1:2). Indeed, Nephi’s expression my
appears a total of twelve times in the initial twenty-two
verses of the Book of Mormon. The repetition provides yet another significant
link between the Bible and the Book of Mormon ignored by Living Hope Ministries
in their quest to demonstrate that the Book of Mormon is not comparable to the
Bible. Throughout the Old Testament, “there are certain well-known
passages in which the prophetic leader is called abi,
‘my father,'” a title previously unknown in that sense to the prophet
Joseph Smith, yet apparently recognized by the prophet Nephi.[11] “And Elisha saw it,”
reports the author of 2 Kings concerning the chief prophet Elijah’s ascent
into heaven, “and he cried, My father, my father . . .”
(2 Kings 2:12). In reality, these types of subtle cultural and religious
links between the Bible and the Book of Mormon appear continuously throughout
the Nephite record.[12]
Therefore, in a film allegedly devoted to a comparison between the Bible and
the Book of Mormon, Living Hope Ministries should have acknowledged at least a
few of these numerous connections. Yet, of course, its real agenda was based on
neither objectivity nor genuine scholarship.

Contrary to the assertions of critics like Kramer and his
associates, the teachings presented throughout the Book of Mormon are clearly
contiguous with the Bible. Book of Mormon sermons rely extensively on the
literary, cultural, and religious traditions of ancient Israel. One of the
classic biblical themes presented throughout the Book of Mormon includes the
notion of rising from the dust. This Book of Mormon admonition reflects the
account of man’s creation described in Genesis 2:7. The imagery of rising from
the dust held considerable meaning for Lehi, who, following his initial
admonition in 2 Nephi 1:21, continued the theme: “Shake off the
chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from
the dust” (2 Nephi 1:23).

Lehi’s repetitive invitation reflects the use of creation
imagery in the Old Testament. In an important study devoted to an analysis of
this motif, biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann has illustrated that the Bible
features a connection between rising from the dust and enthronement.[13] “To be taken ‘from the
dust,'” he notes, “means to be elevated from obscurity
to royal office and to return to dust means to be deprived of that office and
returned to obscurity.”[14] Lehi’s use of this biblical image
clearly reflects Brueggemann’s observation: “Come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust”
(2 Nephi 1:23). Unfortunately, by ignoring these sorts of crucial links
between the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Living Hope Ministries stands guilty
of a misrepresentation. In this film in which Kramer and his anti-Mormon
colleagues attempt to answer the question “is the Book of Mormon
comparable to the Bible?” viewers should expect to encounter at least a
few references to these sorts of links. However, not only do the producers of
the film reveal their ignorance of these issues, but, even more seriously,
Living Hope Ministries manifests a tendency toward intentional distortion.

One of the clearest examples of falsification is the subject
of coinage in the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, Living Hope Ministries is
guilty of presenting the false impression that the Book of Mormon actually
describes the use of coins in Alma 11. Hence, according to the film’s logic,
the Bible has more evidence for historicity than the Book of Mormon because
archaeologists have uncovered coins in the Old World, but have yet to do so in
the New. In reality, when it comes to biblical coinage, “very little metal
money is found at Palestinian sites from ca. 1300 to 587 B.C.E.[15] And for good reason: The first coins
were struck in western Asia Minor in the late seventh or early sixth century BC.[16]
The original Book of Mormon family would have had very little, if any, exposure
to this medium of exchange.

Since money in the Old Testament does not refer to coins,
Kramer and company err in their argument. “The references [to Old
Testament money] designate measures of value in goods or in precious metals.
The metals are not coined, however, in specific weights.”[17] Alma 11 does not describe a coinage
system but rather a weights-and-measures system in which the Nephites
“altered their reckoning and their measure, according to the minds and the
circumstances of the people” (v. 4). Surely Living Hope Ministries
was aware of the fact that the chapter summary placed at the beginning of Alma
11, which includes the word coinage, is
not part of the actual text. Why would they falsify? Perhaps because the use of
measures instead of coinage in the Book of Mormon provides evidence for its

Another example of deception in the film includes the
producers’ scorn of the Book of Mormon phrase reformed
In their efforts to dismantle the Book of Mormon, Living
Hope Ministries presents the false impression that the term reformed Egyptian appears in the Book of
Mormon as a proper name. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Instead, the word reformed functions as
an adjective, meaning “altered, modified, or changed.”[18] Mormon, for example, directly states
that “the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian,
[were] handed down and altered by us” and that “none other people
knoweth our language” (Mormon 9:32, 34). Thus, according to Mormon, the
Nephites altered the form or shape of the Egyptian characters. The Book of
Mormon expression reformed Egyptian describes
the Egyptian system modified and adapted to suit Nephite needs. According to
this definition, archaeologists have uncovered important examples of reformed
Egyptian, including hieratic and Demotic.[19]
There are also a number of historical examples of Semitic languages written in
a “reformed” or modified Egyptian script.[20] In a staged scene, the film presents
a segment with evangelical scholar Simon Gathercole denying the validity of the
Book of Mormon reference to reformed Egyptian. However, Book of Mormon scholars
have made information concerning the legitimacy of the expression completely accessible,
leaving no excuse for Gathercole’s dramatic question, “What’s ancient
reformed Egyptian?”

On a related subject, the same deception holds true for the
film’s segment regarding Nephite literacy. Living Hope Ministries attempts to
land a crucial blow against the Book of Mormon’s historicity on the grounds of
the scarcity of Egyptian or Hebraic scripts discovered in areas associated with
Book of Mormon geography. Contrary to the film’s assertion, though, the Book of
Mormon never claims that a large literate population inhabited ancient America.
In presenting the information in Helaman 3:15, Living Hope Ministries neglects
to include the subsequent verse, which specifically states that the written
records “have been handed down from one generation to another”
(v. 16). This reference does not suggest that the Nephites produced a
large supply of written documents. To the contrary, the ability to hand down
the written documents described in verse 15 places an obvious limitation upon
these texts.

According to the Book of Mormon, the Nephites originated
from the land of Jerusalem ca. 600 BC.
Studies have indisputably shown that literacy rates in ancient Israel were
quite low, especially when compared with contemporary Western standards.[21] In the words of biblical scholar
James Crenshaw,

An agricultural economy such as that prevailing in Judah
and Israel provided few inducements to formal education, despite the rhetoric
in Deut. 6:9 encouraging the people to write the commandments on doorposts and
gates. In fact, the demands of daily chores—tending sheep and goats,
preparing land for cultivation, attending to olive groves and
vineyards—discouraged formal schooling.[22]

As a result, “it was [evidently] normal practice
in antiquity for people to read out loud, and hence interested but illiterate
bystanders would be able to obtain the information presented in the text.”[23] In harmony with this trend, Nephi
demonstrates a need to explain the source of his unusual talent: “I was
taught somewhat in all the learning of my father; . . . therefore I
make a record of my proceedings in my days. Yea, I make a record in the
language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the
language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:1–2).

A cursory survey of Book of Mormon references to the issue
of literacy supports a conclusion exactly opposite to the view proposed by
Living Hope Ministries. Most Book of Mormon texts suggest that the vast
majority of Book of Mormon people, much like their biblical counterparts,
lacked the basic ability to read, let alone to write and leave epigraphic

Now it came to pass that I, Nephi, did teach my brethren
these things; and it came to pass that I did read
many things to them
, which were engraven upon the plates of brass.
. . . And I did read many things unto
which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might more
fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written
by the prophet Isaiah. (1 Nephi 19:22–23)

And now I read unto you
the remainder of the commandments of God, for I perceive that they are not
written in your hearts; I perceive that ye have studied and taught iniquity the
most part of your lives. (Mosiah 13:11)

And it came to pass that Mosiah
did read, and caused to be read
, the records of Zeniff to his
people; yea, he read the records of the
people of Zeniff, from the time they left the land of Zarahemla until they returned
again. (Mosiah 25:5)

And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would
believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading
the scriptures unto the king.
(Alma 22:12)

This general Book of Mormon trend certainly relates to
the evidence regarding literacy levels in the ancient Near East, a fact
rendering Peter Williams’s observation in the film regarding literate
societies, that they leave written records, completely irrelevant. Besides, the
Nephites did leave behind a written
record—that is, the Book of Mormon.

In another error, Kramer appears in the film’s background
eliciting an invalid comment made by Rabbi Chaim Richman regarding Israelite
temples and 2 Nephi 5:16, a Book of Mormon verse that refers to the
Nephites’ building a temple like unto Solomon’s. While Rabbi Richman’s
statement regarding most contemporary Jews’ rejecting the notion of a temple
anywhere outside Jerusalem may be true, ancient Israelites clearly did not
share this belief. Rabbi Richman fails to recognize that “although the
Hebrew Bible emphatically declared the Jerusalem Temple to be the sole
legitimate site for Israelite worship during the monarchial era, other temples
and shrines are known through textual and architectural remains.”[24] Archeological evidence suggests that
Jews actually continued to build temples outside the city of Jerusalem during
the Hellenistic and Persian periods.[25]
Biblical scholar Joong Ho Chong
has gone so far as to suggest that religious Jews living in Babylon
during the exilic period probably built temples in the land of Mesopotamia.[26]

The general scholarly consensus seems to hold that the view
espoused by Rabbi Richman concerning Jerusalem as the only
place that God chose for a temple represents a much later theological
development.[27] Ronald
Clements suggests that this notion, witnessed for example in Deuteronomy 12,
originally developed in the Babylonian exile out of a fear that the destruction
of the Jerusalem temple would discredit the holy city in the minds of Jews.[28] Clearly, the mandate espoused by
Rabbi Richman would have had no relevancy for the Nephites.

In their discussion of the alleged lack of evidence for
pinpointing Book of Mormon geography, Kramer and Johnson deliberately neglect
the Book of Mormon’s internal evidence, which quite frequently indicates a
strong case for toponymic links with Hebrew. For example, one of the important
Book of Mormon sites ignored throughout the film is the city Jershon. In recent
years, scholars have noted the connection between the Book of Mormon name Jershon and the triliteral Hebraic root yrš,
meaning “to inherit.”[29]
Though the name Jershon does not appear
in the Bible, it serves in the Book of Mormon as a designation for the land
given to the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi as an inheritance. Filled with
compassion for their converted brethren, the Nephites declared, “this land
Jershon is the land which we will give our brethren for an inheritance” (Alma 27:22; see also
27:24, 26; 35:14).[30] In
addition to this link, the Book of Mormon contains another startling piece of
evidence connecting ancient Near Eastern traditions regarding acts of
possession with the land of Jershon.

In a treatise concerning legal symbolism in Mesopotamia, Israeli scholar Meir
Malul has noted the significance of the Akkadian expression “i/ana (libbi)
x ar
ādum,” meaning “‘to descend to x.'”[31]
This expression occurs in one sale document from Old Babylonian Susa, two Nuzi
texts, a Middle Babylonian letter, and a neo-Babylonian sale document. Three
other Old Babylonian texts from Susa contain the variation ana mātim
ādum, “‘to descend to the land,'” which seems
to convey a special nuance of the general meaning common to this and other expressions—claiming
and taking possession of something.[32] The expression “to go down
to x” as a symbol of possession also appears in the Old Testament:

And it came to pass, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead,
that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it. And the word of the
Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go
to meet Ahab king of Israel . . . he is in the
vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to
possess it.
(1 Kings 21:16–18, emphasis added)

In this passage detailing King Ahab’s efforts to obtain
the vineyard of Naboth, the Hebrew word translated as “to possess” is
the verb yrš,
the same root that provides the apparent base for the proper noun Jershon in the Book of Mormon.

A similar usage to that witnessed in Mesopotamian legal
documents and the Old Testament also appears in the Book of Mormon’s description
of Jershon: “And they [the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi] went down into the land of Jershon, and took possession of the land of Jershon”
(Alma 27:26).

The Book of Mormon contains further examples of the
technical expression to go down to x in
the context of possession/inheritance. The prophet Nephi, for example, twice
incorporated this statement into his speech prior to the acquisition of the
brass plates. Through the power of repetition, Nephi contrasted the idea of
descending to his father possessionless
with descending to the land of Lehi’s possessions:

We will not go down
unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which
the Lord commanded us. . . . therefore let
us go down
to the land of our father’s inheritance,
for behold he left gold and silver, and all manner of riches. (1 Nephi

These statements concerning descent and possession supply
additional evidence for understanding Jershon as an authentic location
specifically designated for the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi as a place of
inheritance. This connection between Book of Mormon geography and ancient
Semitic languages and culture reveals the types of important clues that the
film The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon
all too conveniently neglects.

In their efforts to contrast the supposedly rational,
historical nature of the Bible with the purportedly irrational, fictitious
framework of the Book of Mormon, Living Hope Ministries includes a variety of
misleading statements from archaeologists and theologians familiar with the
Bible and the ancient Near East. Because of this, the film leaves viewers with
the erroneous perspective that scholars have verified the Bible’s historicity.
However, much of the archaeological and textual evidence accepted by
contemporary biblical scholars proves detrimental to the views advocated by
groups like Living Hope Ministries.

In his recent book describing the archaeological and textual
evidence for religious developments in ancient Israel, prominent Near Eastern
archaeologist William Dever notes:

A generation ago, when I was a graduate student, biblical
scholars were nearly unanimous in thinking that monotheism had been predominant
in ancient Israelite religion from the beginning—not just as an
“ideal,” but as the reality. Today all that has changed. Virtually
all mainstream scholars (and even a few conservatives) acknowledge that true
monotheism emerged only in the period of the exile in Babylon in the 6th
century B.C.,
as the canon of the Hebrew Bible was taking shape. . . .

I have suggested, along with most scholars, that the
emergence of monotheism—of exclusive Yahwism—was largely a response
to the tragic experience of the exile.[33]

While problematic for many Christians, these views endorsed
by “virtually all mainstream scholars” present few, if any,
challenges for Latter-day Saints. The fact that biblical Israel was originally
henotheistic, meaning that it worshipped one God while acknowledging the
existence of other deities, stands in harmony with Latter-day Saint beliefs,
marking a strong tie between modern revelation and the ancient world.

Sadly, Living Hope Ministries ignores the implications of
contemporary archaeological and biblical discoveries. “Of course, no
archaeologist can deny that the Bible contains legends, characters, and story
fragments that reach far back in time,” state Israel Finkelstein and Neil
Asher Silberman in their recent survey, The Bible
“But archaeology can show that the Torah and the
Deuteronomistic History bear unmistakable hallmarks of their initial
compilation in the seventh century BCE.[34] If groups like Living Hope Ministries
wish to support their beliefs with contemporary scholarly evidence, they carry
an ethical responsibility to acknowledge the significant problems that this
evidence presents for their own religious and historical views.[35] Most contemporary biblical scholars
reject the historical and theological perspectives Living Hope Ministries
associates with the Bible.

If anything, the film The Bible
vs. the Book of Mormon
provides evidence that anti-Mormons still
have a long way to go before they can claim to have contributed to the
discussion regarding Book of Mormon historicity. True, Egypt existed. True,
Babylon existed. And yes, we know that Israel also
existed. But does the mere attestation of these cultures sustain the validity
of biblical history and theology, especially as interpreted by Living Hope
Ministries? Contrary to the assertions featured in the film The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon, acceptance
of the Bible as a spiritual guide requires faith on the part of its reader,
just as it does for a belief in the religious validity of the Book of Mormon.
In my opinion, it is both deceptive and spiritually problematic for anyone to
suggest otherwise.


[1]     Paul
Owen and Carl Mosser, “Mormon Scholarship, Apologetics, and Evangelical
Neglect: Losing the Battle and Not Knowing It?” Trinity
n.s., 19/2 (1998): 179–205.

[2]     Richard
Bushman expresses a similar sentiment in his recent biography of Joseph Smith:
“On the whole better trained, with more technical language skills than
their opponents, they [Book of Mormon proponents] are located mainly at Brigham
Young University and associated with the Foundation for Ancient Research and
Mormon Studies (FARMS). As a loosely coordinated group, they are as assiduous
in demonstrating the historical authenticity of the book as the critics are in
situating it in the nineteenth century.” Joseph
Smith: Rough Stone Rolling
(New York: Random House, 2005), 93.

[3]     Yosef
Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and
Jewish Memory
(Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), 10.

[4]     Atrahasis
tablet I as cited in Stephanie Dalley, trans., Myths
from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others

(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 9.

[5]     Dalley,
Myths from Mesopotamia, 9.

[6]     See
John W. Welch, David Rolph Seely, and Jo Ann H. Seely, eds., Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2004); and the DVD
entitled Journey of Faith (Provo, UT:
FARMS, 2005).

[7]     Susan
P. Bratton, Christianity, Wilderness, and
Wildlife: The Original Desert Solitaire
(Scranton, PA: University of
Scranton Press, 1993), 106.

[8]     In
addition to the examples cited above, see 2 Nephi 5:5; Enos 1:3; Mosiah
18:4–5; etc.

[9]     Ulrich
Mauser, Christ in the Wilderness: The Wilderness
Theme in the Second Gospel and Its Basis in the Biblical Tradition

(London: SCM, 1963), 27, 29.

[10]   Ludwig
Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and
Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament
(Leiden: Brill, 2001), 2:1157.

[11]   James
G. Williams, “The Prophetic ‘Father': A Brief Explanation of the Term
‘Sons of the Prophets,'” Journal of Biblical
85 (1966): 345.

[12]   For
a recent survey concerning several literary, cultural, and religious links
between the Book of Mormon and the Bible, see David E. Bokovoy and John A.
Tvedtnes, Testaments: Links between the Book of
Mormon and the Hebrew Bible
(Tooele, UT: Heritage, 2003).

[13]   Walter
Brueggemann, “From Dust to Kingship,” Zeitschrift
fŸr die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
84 (1972): 1–18.

[14]   Brueggemann,
“From Dust to Kingship,” 2.

[15]   John
W. Betlyon, “Coinage,” in The Anchor
Bible Dictionary
, ed. David Noel Freedman et al. (New York:
Doubleday, 1992), 1:1078.

[16]   Betlyon,
“Coinage,” 1079.

[17]   Betlyon,
“Coinage,” 1076.

[18]   See
William J. Hamblin, “Reformed Egyptian,” at
(accessed 7 March 2006).

[19]   For
a general introduction on hieroglyphs, see W. V. Davies, Egyptian
(London: British Museum
Publications, 1987).

[20]   See
John A. Tvedtnes and Stephen D. Ricks, “Jewish and Other Semitic Texts
Written in Egyptian Characters,” Journal of
Book of Mormon Studies
5/2 (1996): 156–63.

[21]   See
Ian M. Young, “Israelite Literacy: Interpreting the Evidence: Part
I,” Vetus Testamentum 48 (1998):
239–53; and Young, “Israelite Literacy: Interpreting the Evidence:
Part II,” Vetus Testamentum 48
(1998): 408–22; compare the conservative response by Richard S. Hess,
“Literacy in Iron Age Israel,” in Windows
into Old Testament History: Evidence, Argument, and the Crisis of
“Biblical Israel,”
ed. V. Philips Long, David W.
Baker, and Gordon J. Wenham (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002),

[22]   James
L. Crenshaw, Education in Ancient Israel: Across
the Deadening Silence
(New York: Doubleday, 1998), 39.

[23]   Young,
“Israelite Literacy: Part II,” 422.

[24]   Beth
A. Nakhai, “Temples: Syro-Palestinian Temples,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East,
ed. Eric M. Meyers (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 5:173.

[25]   Edward
F. Campbell Jr., “Jewish Shrines of the Hellenistic and Persian
Periods,” in Symposia Celebrating the
Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the American Schools of Oriental
Research (1900–1975),
ed. Frank Moore Cross (Cambridge:
American Schools of Oriental Research, 1979), 159–67.

[26]   Joong Ho Chong, “Were There Yahwistic
Sanctuaries in Babylonia?” Asia Journal of
10/1 (1996): 198–217.

[27]   For
an introduction to the basic issues, see Bernard M. Levinson, Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 23–52.

[28]   Ronald
E. Clements, “The Deuteronomic Law of Centralisation and the Catastrophe
of 587 B.C.,” in After the Exile: Essays in Honour of Rex Mason, ed.
John Barton and David J. Reimer (Macon, GA: Mercer
University Press, 1996), 5–25; for an alternative conservative
view, see Pekka Pitkπnen, Central Sanctuary and
Centralization of Worship in Ancient Israel from the Settlement to the Building
of Solomon’s Temple
(New Jersey: Gorgias, 2003), who suggests that
the mandate to build a temple only in the place that God chose did not prohibit
the construction of additional non-Jerusalem shrines.

[29]   Research
by Stephen D. Ricks and John A. Tvedtnes, “The Hebrew Origin of Three Book
of Mormon Place-Names,” in Pressing Forward
with the Book of Mormon,
ed. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne
(Provo, UT: FARMS, 1999), 89.

[30]   Ricks
and Tvedtnes, “Hebrew Origin,” 89.

[31]   See
Meir Malul, Studies in Mesopotamian Legal
(Kevelaer, Germany: Butzon & Bercker, 1988),
391–92; Malul, “ʿāqēb
‘Heel’ and ʿāqab ‘To
Supplant’ and the Concept of Succession in the Jacob-Esau Narratives,” Vetus Testamentum 46/2 (1996): 198.

[32]   Malul,
Studies in Mesopotamian Legal Symbolism,

[33]   William
G. Dever, Did God Have a Wife? Archaeology and Folk Religion in Ancient
(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005), 294–95, 297.

[34]   Israel
Finkelstein and Neil A. Silberman, The Bible
Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its
Sacred Texts
(New York: Free Press, 2001), 23.

[35]   Of
course, acceptance of every critical theory held by contemporary biblical
scholars would present unique challenges for Book of Mormon historicity.
Presumably, Living Hope Ministries avoided
addressing topics such as Deutero-Isaiah and source criticism since these
issues stand in direct conflict with an evangelical approach to the Bible and
would have also negated their erroneous claim that current scholarship supports
a conservative assessment of biblical historicity. For an analysis of the
relationship between higher criticism and the Book of Mormon, see Kevin L. Barney, “Reflections on the Documentary
Hypothesis,” Dialogue 33/1 (2000): 57–99. For a scholarly
assessment of the relationship between history and the Hebrew Bible, see Marc
Z. Brettler, The Creation of History in Ancient
(London: Routledge, 1995).