long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Another Mesoamerican fail

Those who advocate a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon have long sought evidence of the Book of Mormon in that region, to no avail. This failure has been dramatically played out over the last few weeks in a series of exchanges between Dr. Hamblin and Dr. Jenkins on Hamblin's blog on Patheos, as I've mentioned before.

Given the task Hamblin has taken on--to show evidence of the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica--he'd doing a good job. But it's a hopeless task.

After avoiding Jenkins' request for a single piece of evidence, Hamblin finally provided one. First, though, he posed this question: "If we had a Mesoamerican inscription which mentioned a Book of Mormon king, with a date and historical context that matched the date and context for the Book of Mormon, would that be “objective evidence” in favor of the historicity of the Book of Mormon?"

Jenkins agreed that "if you found such a thing, according to those specifications, then certainly, that would be truly convincing, and would definitely qualify as objective evidence." 

So Hamblin offered the connection between U Kix Kan (the founder of the Palenque dynasty whose name was found on the Temple of the Cross Inscription from the 7th Century AD) and Akish from the Book of Ether. He went through the usual list of correpondences such as Sorenson put in Mormon's Codex.

To his credit, Hamblin adds this note: "My friend Mark Wright, a professional Maya scholar and linguist, just informed me that recent phonetic interpretations of the glyph traditionally rendered as “kix/kish” below are now thought to read “kokan.”  If the new interpretation is correct, then this argument is rendered moot."

IOW, the sole piece of evidence Hamblin offered is moot. Meaning, not really evidence.

Predictably, Jenkins enjoyed all of this. He had written a detailed response to the U Kix Kan theory even before Hamblin's argument had been rendered moot. He writes this:

"If you take all the miscellaneous names in Maya inscriptions, and all the characters in the Book of Mormon, it would be astounding if there were not multiple “sound alike” matches. Especially when you supply the wiggle room offered by the changes of pronunciation over a mere 1,500 years.
Moreover, as both lists are overwhelmingly concerned with the same general class of society (kings, aristocrats, high priests), then of course the alleged sound-alike person is going to be fulfilling one of those elite offices. Nor does this sound-alike come equipped with any corroborative additional detail, eg “King of City X” or “the one who won the great battle of Y.” Nor is there “Akish son of Kimnor,” which would be very suggestive, or “Akish and his friend Lord Omer.” In other words, there is precisely none of the Book of Mormon context that you implied in your question."

Jenkins makes a good point, but while "sound alike" matches may not be unequivocal evidence, they are still evidence. Of course, Hamblin's example is not even a sound-alike match at this point.

Hamblin then writes a piece on Homophony and Proper Names that is summarized here: "Admittedly many of these suggestions are speculative.  But the fact that BOM names contain plausible Maya components–some of which actually make sense out of otherwise apparently random sounds–means the BOM broadly fits the very limited and ambiugous [sic] Maya name data we have for the early Classic period."

I don't have a problem with what Hamblin is trying to do here, but he kind of has the burden of proof reversed. He writes as if he's trying to raise a reasonable doubt about Jenkin's argument, as if Jenkins has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no evidence of the Book of Mormon. 

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