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Feedback #6

Names and e-mail addresses have been witheld to protect the guilty. If you recognise your letter here, and wish to have your name and address displayed, feel free to contact me.

Received: 5/29/98

I saw your website and just wanted to make a couple of comments. First of all I believe it is too bad that there are so many prideful (and they always do seem to make the most noise) people out there believing the have all the answers. Some profess to be Christian and some not. For those who profess to be they should know better than make any predictions on God's timings. They just discredit themselves, and to those who do not read the bible for themselves also God and His word. You have a lot of failed prophecies here about Christ's second comming. Obviously, you did your research. You know how these self proclaimed prophets are wrong. But what I don't noticed on your website are prophecies (i.e. those black and white in the bible) that have succeeded. Consistently, God's prophecies have come true without failure, yet people's prophecies have failed again and again. This I find an interesting trend. It would suggest to me to trust God and not people. If you trust in people (as I see you don't) you are bound to be dissapointed.

I also used to believe that the Bible contained predictive, fulfilled prophecy, but when I examined them closely, several problems emerged.

In order to be a true prophecy, I believe that the following conditions should be met:

1) The prophecy must be stated as a prophecy. One might think this is obvious, but a little look at the way the Old Testament is abused by Christians will reveal otherwise. For example, when Christians point to Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of the suffering Messiah, they first need to establish that Isaiah 53 is indeed intended to be a prophecy about theMessiah. This is not at all clear from the context.

2) The prophecy must be specific, and clearly apply to the person/event for which fulfillment is claimed. For example, Micah 5:2 is often quoted by Christians as a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. However, many millions of people have been born in Bethlehem. How do we know that Jesus was the one intended by this prophecy? Secondly, how can this be a prophecy of Jesus if he never was a "ruler in Israel"? (Note: claiming future fulfillment is an invalid argument).

3) The time period in which the prophecy is supposed to be fulfilled must be clearly stated. For example, many Christians point to Isaiah 7:14 as a prophecy of the Virgin birth of Christ. But, Isaiah clearly gives a time limit for his prophecy in 7:16 of only a few years. How then can we apply the prophecy to an event 700 years in the future?

4) The prophecy must not be one that could be deliberately fulfilled. For example, Zechariah 9:9 speaks of a king coming to Jerusalem riding on a donkey. This is not a particularly difficult thing to do.

5) There must be independent proof that the prophecy was written before the event. For example, I Kings 13:2 contains a prophecy of Josiah a very long time before he was born. But, there is no proof that I Kings 13:2 was written before I Kings 21.

There are others, but these should suffice for the moment. If you think that you have an example of a fulfilled prophecy that meets these requirements, feel free to present it, and we can discuss it. On the other hand, if you feel that these conditions are too restrictive, tell me why and we can discuss that too.

Received: 6/1/98 (in response to above)

I believe that your points are well put. But if it says in Micah that the messiah is to be born in Bethlehem and he is then the prophecy is fulfilled (even if millions of other have been born there) What do you think about Daniel chapter 9. There is a prophecy there which gives a time frame when the Messiah is to come with respect to the decree that the temple could be rebuild. From my calculations the time that comes to right about the time Jesus was born. (please do the research and calculations yourself. As a Christian I am probably a bit biased)

Okay - here are my thoughts on Daniel 9.

The prophecy starts out with a "commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" (Daniel 9:25). Sixty-two weeks after this point, the Messiah will be "cut off" (Daniel 9:26).

The first thing to note is that the author of Daniel seems a littleconfused about whether this period will be sixty-nine weeks (9:25) or sixty-two weeks (9:26). I believe that there is an answer, which I will discuss later.

Now, what commandment was he talking about? A decree of Cyrus to end the Jewish exile and allow the temple to be rebuilt is recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:1-3.

Ezra 1:2-3 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.

Is this the decree that Daniel was referring to? Yes. Both Chronicles and Ezra state that the Decree of Cyrus was given in fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy that the Jews would be seventy years in Babylon.

II Chronicles 36:22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia...

(Ezra 1:1 reads exactly the same, indicating that it was copied from II Chronicles).

Daniel also links the decree with the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Daniel 9:2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

So, the decree of Cyrus has to be the commandment that the author of Daniel had in mind. How accurate was he?

The decree of Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple was given in 538 BC. If we understand each "week" to be seven years, this means that sixty-nine weeks (Daniel 9:25) is 483 years, and sixty-two weeks is 434 years. The former takes us to 55 BC, and the latter to 104 BC, both far too early to apply to Jesus.

Some Christian apologists have tried to remove the focus from Cyrus, and instead claim that the commandment that Daniel refers to was that of Artaxerxes recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-6. This decree was given in 445 BC, which then takes us to 39 AD, if we use sixty-nine weeks. This is a little too late for Jesus, so other imaginative apologists have proposed that Daniel meant to use a "prophetic year" of 360 days. (Actually, the Jews used a lunar calendar of 12 months of thirty days. Every thirteen years, they would add an extra month to bring the lunar calendar back in line with the solar. This gives them an average year of about 364 days). If we then use 360 day years, we can get pretty close to 33 AD, the supposed years of Jesus' crucifixion. (There are, of course, severe problems with this date, since we do not know when Jesus was born. The two gospels that mention Jesus' birth put it ten years apart - Matthew in 4 BC, Luke in 6 AD).

However, a close reading of Nehemiah will indicate that the king never commanded the city to be rebuilt. Rather, all he did was promise safe conduct to Nehemiah, who was the one who proposed that the city be rebuilt. Further, as we have seen, Daniel linked the commandment with the prophecy of Jeremiah, which brings us back to Cyrus.

Getting back to the sixty-nine weeks of 9:25 versus the sixty-two weeks of 9:26, there is a simple solution if we take a step back and consider exactly when the book of Daniel was written.

The consensus of modern scholars is that the book was written in two parts. The later part, which includes chapter 9, was written about the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, approximately 164 AD. This then gives us a better idea of what the author had in mind with this "prophecy".

You see, there was a somewhat embarrassing problem with Jeremiah's prophecy. Instead of seventy years in Babylon, the Jews actually only spent about 48 years in exile, until the time of Cyrus. So, what to do with Jeremiah's apparently failed prophecy?

The solution that the writer of the second part of Daniel employed was to take the seventy years of Jeremiah as a prophecy not simply of the exile, but all the way up to the end of time. Have a look at Daniel 9:24:

Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Thus, Jeremiah's seventy years becomes, in the author's mind, seventy weeks of years, or 490 years. The first seven weeks, or 49 years, is the time that the Jews spent in Babylon. This seems to be what the author was trying to say in 9:25. Following this time would be sixty-two weeks, or 434 years. This takes us to about 104 BC. Given the fact that the author of Daniel was very confused about Jewish history (the book of Daniel abounds with historical problems), we may surmise that he actually meant to take us to about 170 BC. This was when the author expected the Messiah to arrive. After this point, a final seven years would seal up the end of time.

Whatever the author actually meant to say, it is clear that Daniel 9 is not a prophecy of Jesus, unless we allow some very loose interpretations of history.

P.S. -- Don't forget to update your website with the failed May 31 rapture date. (I'm still here, so I assume the rapture didn't take place)

Yup - I updated all the entries. Marilyn still hasn't answered my e-mail. Wonder why?

Received: 5/28/98

I have been fascinated with the online discourse of the origin of the mormon bible and its relationships to both the masons and the king james version of the bible (not to exclude solomon spalding). Thank you for your efforts. What I have found, is that people refuse to apply this "intellect and reason" to their day-to-day decisions. Perhaps this is because individuals do not have either the information that they need, available to properly analyze certain topics. Or, perhaps, they are simply too lazy... Or, perhaps they fear the consequences...

A little of all, I suspect. Mostly, I think your last point is the correct one. Most believers are comfortable with their world-views, and prefer not to "rock the boat", so to speak. This is why you will find that most successful religions tend to denigrate reason and independent thought as "evil", and try to dissuade their followers from reading outside of the "approved" literature. They are aware, either consciously or unconsciously, that their belief-systems cannot survive a logical search for truth, and so look for defense mechanisms to prevent apostasy.

Received: 5/24/98

Being a novice on this "puter" thing and the internet I lost your home page, but this has been haunting me since I first found it. I feel like I should respond on what you perceive as descreptincies in the Bible. The only one I can recall concerned the geneology of Jesus. One Gospel follows the literal geneolgy, the other follows the geneolgy that connects to the royal house of David, usually leaving out the matriachial, and only focusing on the patriarchial, so that what is given as the father of Joseph actually refers to a Forefather.

An interesting theory, but it needs a little more than assertion to make it viable, in my book. Can you provide any textual proof for this claim? If so, I would post your response with the list of discrepancies.

I have been twice in my life been declared "clinicly dead" and revived and have been close enough to the Truth that I KNOW that this "life" as we know it, is definetly NOT all there is.

As for the demonstration of what is the truth. Did you expect a Burning Bush, a leisurly stroll on the water,or a "Burning in the bosom" It does not not happen that way, It does not come as a HUGE AWAKENING but as a Gentle Acceptence, it will just dawn on you one day and you will find that you cannot reject it.

From my point of view, truth is not something that comes to us in a blinding flash of revelation. Instead, facts must be sought out. I believe that the only sure path to truth is to look carefully at the evidence, and follow it wherever it might lead.

Received: 5/20/98

Over the last year I have heard rumors of a comprehensive study of the American Indians using DNA samples of the various tribes to determine their origins. Have you any information on these studies? It seems they would refute beyond doubt the claims of the BofM.

I had heard that there was a study of Mitochondrial DNA performed recently. I don't have any details at this point. All I can find is the original "Mitochondrial Eve" study by Rebecca Cann. If anyone knows of a more recent study, please e-mail me.

Unfortunately, I don't think the results will change the minds of the true believers. Belief is notoriously impervious to logic. We have known for many decades now that the American Indians were present on this continent as far back as 20,000 years ago. This is way, way too early to be Nephites, or even Jaredites. However, LDS apologists have simply responded by claiming that the Nephites were only a very small segment of the indigenous population, and did not contribute to their overall genetic makeup. There is, of course, no evidence from the Book of Mormon that this is so, and the statement is specifically contradicted by Joseph Smith and various other early church leaders.

Received: 5/18/98

What can you say about the Mormons, and do you believe in their Prophet Joseph Smith??

I would have thought the answer to that question was obvious ;-)

No, I don't believe their "prophet" Joseph Smith. I believe that he was a deceiver, a charlatan who used gullible people for his own ends. He was no more a prophet than I am.

With regard to Mormons, I feel the same way about them as I do of all people - they have their good points and their bad, the same mixture one would find in any set of persons.

Received: 5/14/98

Greetings! I'm a Christian (hereafter spelled as Xtian, not to be confused with EXtian).

I cruised your site and read your questions recently when I when I searched the net regarding a book I've been reading called Gospel Fictions by Randel Helm. Reasonable answers exist for many of your questions, although I lack the time and wisdom to expound on every one of them. (I can't explain certain anomolous observations of quasars and pulsars, either, but I still accept the special and general theories of relativity!) Of course, reading your material leads me to doubt whether you are open to answers as opposed to simply being fond of hurling denunciations. Now, I could be wrong (a phrase I doubt that I'll hear coming from your direction) when I think that you've simply made too great an emotional investment in disbelief to maintain an open mind. At least you must have a trace of curiosity left.

The only principle that I hold to with regard to the search for truth, is to follow the evidence wherever it may lead. At this point, it leads away from Christianity (and religion in general), to naturalism and rationalism. If there is sufficient evidence to lead in a different direction, I will follow it to its logical conclusion.

I always find it quite humorous that freethinkers are accused of being "close-minded" by believers. In fact, quite the opposite is true. It was my open-mindedness that led me away from Christianity, while I find that many believers are unable or unwilling to consider contrary evidence.

Also, I have provided a forum for responses to my lists of Bible problems. If you do indeed have "reasonable answers" to my questions, feel free to send them along and I will happily post them.

A couple of your questions have to do with Bible teachings on the afterlife. I happen to have written a book on that subject which I feel resolves at least a couple of these points and which I would be happy to send you either as an email file or as a hard copy at no charge if you provide me with a mailing address. The book, Resurrection and Life Beyond Death: A Biblical Study, is fairly brief, but surveys passages from the Bible, Philo, Josephus, the Talmud, the Qumran texts, the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and the ante-Nicene church fathers. I'll even throw in a copy of my other book, which contains my own personal story. You may disagree with my conclusions, but I doubt that you'll find the material dull or a waste of your time.

It depends on whether you have taken the obvious step and shown that your sources are reliable. It is all very well to quote from the Bible, Philo, Jospehus etc, but unless you can demonstrate that these sources are worthy of special consideration, the whole thing is a very pointless exercise. I might just as well quote sections from "Peter Rabbit" to show that animals are intelligent, but I doubt that many will be willing to listen to my arguments.

A little about myself: I grew up in an extremely rigid sect, which eventually expelled me for revealing certain compromising information which church leaders were anxious to keep a lid on. As a result of that event, all of my friends and half my family shunned me. My wife of eleven years accused me of ruining our life and left me for another man. It was a difficult experience, but it led me to reexamine the beliefs I'd grown up with.

Which sect was that, if you don't mind me asking...

I respect the sincerety of Xtians of various persuasions. But to assume that the teachings of evangelicals accurately represent the Bible because they say they do is a bit like assuming the old Soviet Union was democratic because it claimed to be. The Bible does not lead us to believe that a high profile institution in our time would reflect fully and faithfully reflect the teachings of Jesus and the apostles--quite the opposite, in fact. I am unable at the time to meet with more than a handful of believers, except for once a year, nor am I associated formally with any church. Simply the fact that I believe the doctrine of the trinity to be unbiblical sets me apart from 95% of churches.

This is simply one more reason to reject the Bible and Christianity. If the Bible is indeed supposed to be God's ultimate guide to life, why is it so vague and ambiguous that it has spawned countless sects and factions, all fully convinced that they and they alone have the truth? It seems to me that if the message was indeed as important as Christians like to proclaim, then God could at least have found a way to state it in unambiguous language.

I believe that God sets the bar high for strong jumpers. Someone with a keen mind cannot expect to come to a knowledge of God without the kind of struggle which taxes emotional and intellectual resources to the limit.

Take the book I mentioned before, Gospel Fictions. Randel Helm is a good researcher and an interesting writer, but a hard analysis reveals his material to be, ironically, just what he accuses each of the gospels of being, namely, a cleverly written but tendentious tract oblivious to its own logical inconsistencies.

I have read Helms' book, and I thought it was quite good, especially the manner in which he demonstrates that the Gospel writers used the Old Testament as the source for many of the Jesus myths. What logical inconsistencies are present in the book?

Critical evidences of the inspiration of the Bible as opposed to other religious literature do exist, but they are a bit hard to find in popular religious literature. On the other hand, one will always find bad arguments being used to support even true propositions.

Again, you need to present evidence if you expect to get a hearing. What "evidences of inspiration" exist for the Bible? I daresay that I know the Bible as well as, if not better than the average Christian, and I am aware of no such evidence. On the contrary, its human origin is displayed for all to see, as I have pointed out countless times on these pages. If you know of such evidence, feel free to present it, and we can discuss the issue. Making assertions with no backing is a sign of a weak argument.

You mentioned that you no longer have to maintain faith and that you "like it" that way, if I remember correctly. We are all in danger of believing what we find pleasant instead of believing what is true, wouldn't you agree? It would serve your case better if you found your own agnosticism to be unpleasant but unavoidable. In any case, I hope you'll take me up on my offer and examine my Resurrection book; you're welcome to make criticisms of it afterward if you like.

There are both positive and negative aspects to my philosophy of life. On the positive side, I like the freedom that it brings. The freedom to inquire after truth with no restraints, the freedom to define my own morality, outside the strictures of nonsensical lists of laws.

On the negative side, adjusting to the possibility that life has no intrinsic meaning, and that death is the ultimate end of all living is difficult. However, as I said, I will follow the evidence wherever it leads, no matter how unpalatable. At this point, the evidence does indicate that we are fleeting sparks of intelligence, and that death destroys both the body and the mind forever.

With regard to your book, as I said I will be happy to read it, provided that you are first able to demonstrate the reliability of your sources. If not, there is very little point to considering your argument, wouldn't you agree?

Received: 5/13/98

You "learned the truth, before it was too late" Too late for what ??

Where are you now??

You say "too late"--It is still not too late to embrace the Truth.

No, it's not too late - if only we knew what the Truth was. I'm willing to bet that you can tell me what you think is the truth, but you are not able to demonstrate that it is indeed the Truth.

Received: 5/13/98

I am an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I was interested in your last comment of your story, "before it was too late". Obviously I have written you to possibly stir some thoughts in your mind about the reality of the Gospel plan. I don't know if you studied out what you have written about LDS beliefs, or whether you believe what you have been taught by others. I do not believe that God is an unjust God, as you so apply pointed out He would be if all that did not accept Him in this life would be condemned. But rather that this life is one small but important step in His plan to help His children find their "nitch" or where they would be most happy. For those who go through this mortal existence without the opportunity to partake of the ordinances of the Gospel, He has not left them out, but has a wonderful plan. I hope that you are still pondering somewhat about this subject and I would consider it a privilege to share more with you, if not here, then please remember me when we meet on the other side of the veil.

There are several problems with your approach. First off, it has not yet been established that there is such a thing as life beyond physical death. You seem to be relying on spurious "revelation" for your information. When you come down to it, neither Joseph Smith, the early Christian writers, nor the ancient Hebrew prophets knew what lay beyond death. They were all humans, just like you and me, and though they claimed to receive revelation and guidance from the Divine, this cannot be established.

Received: 5/7/98

Thanks very much for your site on Ibn Warraq. On a day when a Catholic Bishop killed himself in Pakistan to protest the pending execution of a Christian for "blaspheming" by speaking favorably of Salman Rushdie, your question needs to be raised forcefully in America by freethinkers, Christians, and Buddhists, etc. I live in an Islamic country, and I wish every pseudo-expert (Lewis, Esposito)on Islam had to do the same for a while.

I agree. There seems to be a lot of eggshell-treading by most commentators when it comes to Islam. While politicians and the like gleefully point out the human rights abuses by Communist and Socialist regimes, they seem to be far less vocal about equal or greater abuses practised in Muslim countries.

There seems to be a definite reluctance to assign blame where it is due.

By the way, when I went to a Catholic college in the 1950's, our courses thoroughly covered the evolution of the Bible and its text. That is not a problem for modern Christians. We do not claim what Moslems do, that the book fell out of the sky. Many evangelicals, of course, sppear to think otherwise, as in the joke, "if the King James Bible was good enough for Saint Paul, it's good enough for me!"

Correct. Modern Christianity has a far more liberal attitude to the Bible than the fundamentalist set that I grew up with. Unfortunately, there is a small but annoying faction of Christianity who are unable to grasp the concept of mythology. They see it as their god-given duty to educate us wretched heathens, and will abuse the legal system to do so if necessary. I would rather not have my children growing up in an educational system that it forced to give equal credence to the very latest in scientific thinking as well as millennia old myths. There is already a paucity of knowledge of things scientific among the general population. Fundamentalism can only exacerbate the situation.

I write a biweekly column in a small newspaper in the U.S. on the problems Islam poses for the world.

Received: 5/6/98

I don't know how I came accross your web page, but after reading your story. I have become interested in your beliefs. Before I ask my question, let me tell you a bit about myself. My name is Roger Koehler. I was born the same year as you were but in November. I have also chosen Electrical Engineering as my profession. I have never been to South Africa, but it was interesting to me that we had at least those two things in common. I also have three children. I have been taught since childhood to believe the Bible "as far as it is translated correctly". That phrase may give you a clue to my additional beliefs. Maybe I'll tell you more about that later. What I am interested in knowing is what you meant by the last sentence on your "My Story" page. I hope you find time to respond to my quesion. In the meantime, I'll stay a while and visit at your site.

I guess you mean the statement about "finding the truth before it was too late"? I simply meant that I was glad to find that Christianity was false before I wasted my entire life on a false belief. I am still interested in Christianity, but only from a psychological point of view. I think it is interesting to find out how people think, and why. It tells us a lot about our own human nature, and why we do the things we do.

Received: 5/4/98

You need to update your list of anachronisms. Many things that you list as erroneous have been vindicated by science. I was researching ancient baptism when I stumbled onto your page. You said that baptism was not known before the new testament. Through infoseek I found dozens of pages about the practice of baptism among the ancients, including the Israelites right next to your claim that it proved the Book of Mormon was false. You should be careful or you will lose credibility. The Book of Mormon is justified in including a pre-Christian baptism. If you would like I could research that list for you and see what else should be removed.

Actually, I f you read closely, you will note that the issue is not with pre-Christian baptism, but with pre-Exilic baptism. I think I stated that the Essenes did practice baptism for repentance in the centuries just prior to the coming of Christianity (some have speculated that John the Baptist may have been an Essene). In addition, the Jews did baptize gentile converts before admitting them to the synagogue, although this was a sign of acceptance into the Jewish community, not a baptism for repentance. (By the way, the information that I presented in the Annotated Book of Mormon under the topic of baptism comes from the Encyclopedia Judaica).

The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, presents baptism as a concept that was well known to the Jews before Lehi left Jerusalem, about 600 BC. (Even earlier of you count the reference to baptism in I Nephi 20:1). Also, baptism is generally described in the Book of Mormon using New Testament parlance. (Try to count how many times the Book of Mormon uses the phrase "repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ", as in Acts 2:38).

If you could find a reference to widespread baptism for repentance prior to the Exile, that would be a different story altogether, and would definitely call for an update to the list of anachronisms.

Received: 5/6/98 (in response to above)

Thanks for your reply. I was looking into baptisms, I'll have to do more research. I am LDS and we believe that that baptism is an essential ordinance and has been done among the righteous since the beginning. It is not reflected well in the Book of Mormom but the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price shows that Adam and all the prophets were baptized.

Yes - I am familiar with those claims. However, as I pointed out, such evidence is lacking. At this point, I know of no practice of baptism amongst the pre-exilic Jews.

I am curious as to the reason behind your webpage. What is it you wish to accomplish? Are you familiar with the beliefs of our church? Also on your homepage you listed problems "with Christianity" and "with mormonism". I do not flinch at the nickname mormon but I do call myself a christian. Do you see that mormons aren't christians?

I'm not sure what you re saying here. Are you saying that Mormons are not Christians?

From my point of view, it matters very little whether the LDS want to be classed as Christians or not. The purpose of my Webpage is to show that both Mormonism and Christianity (and, in fact, all religion in general) are deeply flawed. I have no quarrel with religion per se, but I feel that it becomes dangerous when people mistake their own subjective feelings for objective truth. This mistake has given us Crusades, Jihads and Witch-hunts galore.

While Mormonism certainly has not yet reached the level of atrocity of Christianity (and probably never will), it is not without it's own share of problems. True LDS adherents are required to believe that some or all of the Indigenous Americans are related to the Jews, and that there existed on this continent at one time a Jewish-Christian nation long before the time of Christ. This means that among themselves, Mormons tend to be unaware of the true history of America, and contribute to the general ignorance about science and history that afflicts America.

I only had a moment to read some of your postings but they appeared to be a lot of research. Are a professor of religions or something?

No - I am in fact a lowly database consultant. But, I was a Christian for close on twenty years, and am very familiar with the subject.

Received: 5/3/98

It is evident to those of scholarly bent that Ethan Smith's view of the Hebrews has not made any contribution to the Book of Mormon. Your methodology is flawed. Your approach too superficial. Mark Twain is reported as having mutterd "Not original. Not original," throughout a public lecture. The poor lecturer was embarrassed by his mutterings to the point where he challenged him to prove his point. "I have," said Twain, "a book at home containing every word you have said." "What book is that?" demanded the orator. "The dictionary!" Twain riposted.

When you say "those of a scholarly bent", you are referring, no doubt, to Mormon scholars, who are required by their faith to reject any and all such evidence. You will note that I stated that there is not sufficient information to conclusively prove that Joseph Smith plagiarized the "View of the Hebrews". There is, however, more than sufficient information to show that the concept that underlies both volumes, namely that the Indigenous Americans are descended from the Jews, was a notion that much excited the popular imagination of Joseph Smith's time.

Not only do the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews rely on such an identification, but so do the various volumes of Josiah Priest, James Adair and a host of other writers contemporaneous with Joseph Smith.

Unfortunately for the Book of Mormon, it is now known that the concept was in error. The Native Americans are not related to the Jews in any way, shape or form, but in fact predate the formation of the Jewish nation by millennia. The Church has attempted to save the day by positing that the Nephites, et al, were not the only inhabitants of the Americas, but it is too little, too late. Numerous statements by Joseph Smith himself indicate that such a position is not tenable.

In addition, your analogy is flawed. It is not simple words that make up the parallels between View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon, it is concepts and methodology.

Your approach is substantially the same. If you will be serious enough to apply computer word print methods, and to examine the background of bothe the View of the Hebrews and Book of Mormon, together with other internal evidences, rather than being content to 'phut-phut-phut' along on similarities of words and phrases - I mean, if you will get down to content, custome, culture, religious views etc., that lie deep within the text of both volumes, you will find what many scholars have found. namely, that there is no dependence of one on the other.

Again, many other scholars have found the opposite. As I stated, there is not sufficient evidence to form a conclusive opinion (unlike the case of the AV - see later), but the conclusion that Joseph Smith was influenced by the prevailing (incorrect) notions of his time is well supported by the evidence.

As to the AV being the foundation of the BOM, that also is an extremely superficial and minimalist view. The presence of parts of the OT in the BOM is explained sufficiently within the pages of the BOM to warrant any further comment here. If you consider, as you apparently do, that there is too much Christianity in the Book of Mormon, you must study the theologians of protestant and Catholic traditions that read the OT as a Christian document, much to the disgust of Jewish scholars.

Incorrect. The presence of the Isaiah text is explained within the pages of the BoM, but not the presence of the KJV text. This remains a serious problem for the Mormon apologist, one which has yet to be answered. I have written several articles on this subject, in which I showed that the KJV directly influenced the text of the BoM, and not simply the Isaiah passages. I suggest you rather attempt a refutation of this thesis, rather than appealing to an unsupported argument.

As for Catholic and Protestant scholars "christianizing" the Old Testament, I place very little store in such arguments. The Old Testament is a thoroughly Jewish document. It knows nothing of Jesus Christ, much less Christianity. The fact that the Book of Mormon attempts to further the myth is simply one more nail in the coffin.

If you were a student of mine and turned in such an essay for evaluation, it would receive no marks for either evidence, argument, logic, or construction. It is the sort of petty argumentation that can be heard among half-thinkers when their talk turns from sport and horses.

I, on the other hand, would have to give you a failing mark for putting forward an entirely unsupported argument. You have made claims, stated opinions, and appealed to various authorities, but nowhere do I detect even an attempt at a refutation. If you expect me to pay any attention to your argument, please put forward some evidence for your position.

If you decide ever to become a serious scholar of these matters, your time will be better spent, and your deliberations worthy of more serious consideration. You are entitled tro your opinion, but it is vagrant - having no visible means of support.

Received: 5/1/98

I am a Christian and just had a visit with some Mormons. I am always in search of the truth, so I listened to them. I also take after my father in the sense that if they are lost I should care about them and talk to them about what they believe, instead of them asking me what I believe. Anyway, thankyou for the information on your page, It's very interesting and proves to me that the book of Mormon is just a book written by someone, not by God. The only question I have lingering is why did this person write the book of Mormon? What was the accomplishment he wished to achieve?

People's motives are generally very hard to discern. Why did Jim Jones or David Koresh feel it necessary to die with large numbers of their followers, for example?

From my own personal point of view, an taking Joseph Smith's background into account, I think I can hazard a guess.

It seems to me that Joseph was simply out for recognition. He was a poor farmer, fairly low on the social scale. It is possible that Smith initially conceived the Book of Mormon as a plot to make money. (At one time, he sent "missionaries" to Canada to try and sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon, but met with no success.) When that failed, he realized that there was another, greater potential. He could use the book to gain a cadre of gullible followers, and so leverage his own position in society. To this end, he succeeded admirably. Despite the pain and suffering that he encountered as a result of his grandiose claims, he was always surrounded by a group of willing followers, content to let him have his way as he saw fit. In short, he possessed the one thing that nearly all people crave - power.

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