Skip to content

A Prophet’s Foibles

August 28, 2009

The Bible contains numerous examples of men of God who have fallen into sin.  From Samson’s and Solomon’s womanizing to the murder committed by Moses to the deceit of Jacob—there have been many examples of God’s use of sinful men.  One argument that might follow from these statements would be that Joseph Smith was a modern day prophet who also had shortcomings but God was still able to speak through him.  I think it is necessary to look at examples of his life to see if the pattern of his foibles was in any way similar to those seen in the Scripture.

Consider the case of Zina Huntington Jacobs, Joseph Smith’s third (or perhaps fifth, depending upon the source) plural wife.  Like some Old Testament figures before him, Joseph Smith was an admitted polygamist.  But that in and of itself bears less impact on whether or not he was a prophet than what his own response was to that situation.  When Zina first met Smith she was just 15-years-old.  Her family converted to Mormonism early on and became very close with the Smiths.  When Zina’s mother died in 1839 she was invited to stay with the Smith’s along with her sisters.

During Zina’s tenure in the Smith household she began to be courted by Henry Bailey Jacobs.  At the same time Joseph Smith began to speak with Zina about the principle of plural marriage and proposed the idea of her being his wife.  Zina rejected that offer and instead chose to marry Henry.  When the couple came to Joseph Smith to ask his permission to marry them, he declined and also refused to attend the wedding.

Joseph continued to pursue Zina even after her marriage to Henry and indicated to her that he had received revelation that she should be his “celestial wife.”  When she finally agreed to do so she was six months pregnant with her first child.  She married Smith on October 27th and theirs became the first Mormon polyandrous relationship.  [Depending upon the date of her marriage, it is possible that Louisa Beaman was the first to enter into a polyandrous union with Smith.]  Instead of divorcing Henry and marrying Joseph she remained married to both men at the same time while residing with Henry.  Smith would go on to eventually acquire a total of eleven such polyandrous marriages.

Joseph Smith was not the first and certainly won’t be the last man to fall for a married woman.  The Old Testament describes King David’s lust over Bathsheba whom he observed bathing out doors on evening.  David immediately acted upon his feelings and sent for her—entering into adultery with a married woman.  After finding out that Bathsheba was pregnant, he attempted to make things right by having her husband Uriah killed off in battle.  He then married her and initially no indication is made of his sorrow over his sin, repentance, or even conviction that he might have been wrong.  Chapter 11 of 2 Samuel ends with this commentary,

“And the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”

Joseph dealt considerably more diplomatically with his rival than King David.  Instead of sending Jacobs off to battle he sent him on a mission.  And then when he returned he was sent on another.  But, unlike the situation with Zina and Joseph Smith, God sent David a prophet to condemn his indiscretions.

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.  The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.  And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.

And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

My favorite part of the story is picturing David’s horror-struck expression when Nathan points to him and says, “Thou art the man” (II Sam 12:1-7).

In grief David acknowledges his sin, pouring out a psalm of repentance to God.

[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.] Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. (Psa 51:1)

The entire psalm is a picture of true remorse and anguish over his sin and his pleas for God’s forgiveness.

Compare the response of Joseph Smith.  Instead of stopping the practice of plural marriage to already married women he goes to repeatedly marry one after another.  In reaction to his own activity he also pens Scripture, but his own was in the form of revelation, not a psalm of repentance.  The date of writing for D&C 132 is recorded as July 12, 1843.  Conveniently, however, the comments at the start of the chapter note that,

“Although the revelation was recorded in 1843, it is evident from the historical records that the doctrines and principles involved in this revelation had been known by the Prophet since 1831.”

By the date of this Scripture Joseph Smith had already married at least 30 women.  If we are to believe the remarks made at the start of the chapter we can believe that all of these marriages were God-ordained.  If not and the revelation was written as a response to the plural marriage, the picture becomes far more sinister.  No grief stricken poetry here.  Instead a lengthy charge is given to his first and perhaps most devoted wife.

And let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me; and those who are not pure, and have said they were pure, shall be destroyed, saith the Lord God.

For I am the Lord thy God, and ye shall obey my voice; and I give unto my servant Joseph that he shall be made ruler over many things; for he hath been faithful over a few things, and from henceforth I will strengthen him.

And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law.

But if she will not abide this commandment, then shall my servant Joseph do all things for her, even as he hath said; and I will bless him and multiply him and give unto him an hundredfold in this world, of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the eternal worlds (vv. 52-55).

The next verse acknowledges that Joseph Smith had indeed “trespassed” but does not give the nature of those trespasses.  Apparently they were of such a nature that until Emma forgave them of Joseph she would not be forgiven herself.

And again, verily I say, let mine handmaid forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses; and then shall she be forgiven her trespasses, wherein she has trespassed against me; and I, the Lord thy God, will bless her, and multiply her, and make her heart to rejoice (v. 56).

Was one of the trespasses the sin of taking a pregnant married woman to wife?  If so, why do we find no repentance on the part of Joseph Smith?  The LDS definition of repentance calls for not only a change of mind and heart but also a turning away from sin.  What a conundrum to place Emma in!  She is charged to forgive her husband’s trespasses but to accept the polygamous wives!  What then is the trespass that she is to forgive?  Where is the evidence that he ever repented to God and Emma for this?

Zina and Henry Jacobs’ marriage descended to a sorrowful end.  Although she continued to reside with Henry, he was sent away on four different missions in the two and a half years she was in the polyandrous union.  The purpose of her sealing to Joseph Smith meant that all the children that Henry fathered with her would be Joseph’s posterity in eternity.  It is hard to imagine how Henry might have felt when he stood to witness this eternal sealing after the death of Smith.  And then he watched as his wife, again six months pregnant with his second son, was then married to the new prophet, Brigham Young.  A short time after her second polyandrous union Zina’s husband was sent on a mission to England.  Henry did marry again but never did obtain a legal divorce or separation.  In this uncomfortably complicated relationship, Zina moved in with Young and bore him a daughter.

Is it possible that the Zina Jacobs fiasco is one of the “trespasses” that God commanded Emma to forgive?  If so, the LDS church recognizes no hint of impropriety in regard to her married life.  The Church repository of online data regarding Zina Jacobs provides a vastly different picture.  Not only is her marriage to Joseph Smith not even acknowledged, but Henry is painted as a wife abandoner.  In a 1989 bio on “Heroes and Heroines: Zina Diantha Huntington Young—Angel of Mercy” in Friends magazine the situation is described this way,

After Henry deserted Zina and the two little boys, Zebulon and Chariton, she married Brigham Young and crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley with his family. A few years later a daughter, Zina Presendia Young, was born.

In another article, this time by a great-granddaughter, no explanation is given of the dissolution of Henry and Zina’s marriage.

Zina was first married to Henry Bailey Jacobs, and gave birth to two sons. Later, she married Brigham Young and gave birth to his daughter, Zina Presendia.

For being such a scoundrel and a clearly unworthy husband Henry was apparently quite the missionary!  Either the church leadership was sending an unqualified missionary or Henry was indeed a suitable husband for his lawful wife.  FAIR provides a fairer picture of Henry and his grief over their lost union.

Extant letters indicate that even though Henry married other women after Zina, his heart remained fixated on her, remembering the happy times in preference to the hard times he later had. In this regard, Henry is no different than many today who, after their marriage dissolves, realize what they lost and pine away with desire for what once was.

Is it possible that Joseph was confused and never did receive revelation to marry Zina?  Or did he act out of his own lust and desires?  Or is it possible that this was entirely sanctioned by God?  If it is true that Joseph did not receive this revelation, then is it also possible that D&C 132 is incorrect?  How assuredly can we trust the revelations of this prophet?

References

Compton, Todd (1997). In sacred loneliness: The plural wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.

Firmage, Mary B. (1984, Mar). Great-Grandmother Zina: A more personal portrait. Ensign, Retrieved Aug 27, 2009, from http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=e22b05481ae6b010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

Peterson, J (1989, Feb). Heroes and heroines: Zina Diantha Huntington Young— Angel of Mercy. Friend, Retrieved Aug 27, 2009, from http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=ba0bca99be2ab010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____&vgnextoid=21bc9fbee98db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

Smith, George D. (2008). Nauvoo polygamy: “…But we called it celestial marriage”. Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books.

Wyatt, Allen L Zina and her men: An examination of the changing marital state of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young . Retrieved August 27, 2009, from FAIR Web site: http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/2006_Zina_and_Her_Men.html

Zina Huntington Jacobs. Retrieved August 27, 2009, from Remembering the Wives of Joseph Smith Web site: http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/05-ZinaHuntingtonJacobs.htm

Advertisements
85 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2009 1:36 pm

    Hi Stephanie,
    Interesting post.

    I’m still trying to make sense of the point of it though.

    You begin in the opening paragraph saying.

    One argument that might follow from these statements would be that Joseph Smith was a modern day prophet who also had shortcomings but God was still able to speak through him.

    And then you say

    I think it is necessary to look at examples of his life to see if the pattern of his foibles was in any way similar to those seen in the Scripture.

    I’m guessing your assumption, is that one can only have the same foibles listed in the Bible in order to still be a prophet? Because from the argument as written, you don’t do a very good job of countering the first point by the second.

    When you write,

    After finding out that Bathsheba was pregnant, he attempted to make things right by having her husband Uriah killed off in battle.

    I hope you were being facetious here.

    OK. Since you’re using the Bible as a proof-text comparison here, you say God sent a prophet to David. You compare David to Joseph Smith here, but you cite no prophet coming to condemn JS. Here your argument starts to look pretty weak because you condemn JS for not repenting the same way David did when a prophet came to David but you haven’t listed any evidence that a prophet came and condemned JS. In fact, you’ve already assumed JS was in the wrong, and I’m not necessarily willing to concede that assumption. So if you’re trying to convince people to abandone their faith in Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’m letting you know where your logic is flawed.

    In fact, you assume that Joseph is wrong, and willfully in the wrong. But you don’t prove it.

    Instead of stopping the practice of plural marriage to already married women he goes to repeatedly marry one after another. In reaction to his own activity he also pens Scripture, but his own was in the form of revelation, not a psalm of repentance. The date of writing for D&C 132 is recorded as July 12, 1843. Conveniently, however, the comments at the start of the chapter note that,

    The problem with your preceding paragraph is that it undergoes the logical fallacy known as proof-texting. There is context behind the “date of writing”. You assume that because it wasn’t recorded until July 12, 1843 it was “invented” then. But this is merely a bad assumption. Much of the historical writing talks about how it had been revealed previously, and was finally recorded at the insistence of Emma. You can ASSUME it was invented when it was recorded, or we can ASSUME it was received previous to it having been recorded. We have numerous testators who say it was received previous to its recording, you have anti-Mormon bias. Either way, you’ve presented NO EVIDENCE that it was merely written as an excuse as you have asserted. Not convincing anyone here.

    Was one of the trespasses the sin of taking a pregnant married woman to wife? If so, why do we find no repentance on the part of Joseph Smith?

    Obviously we don’t know because the text doesn’t elaborate. What you’ve done in the preceeding paragraph is known as the logical fallacy of an argument from silence. The text doesn’t say what the problem was, but you have no problem ASSUMING you knew what was meant. You then condemn JS for not acting appropriately in repentance for the sin you assume God meant. “We find no repentance.” Um, well, that’s kind of a given, if we don’t know what the problem was, how could we know of his repentance for it. Seriously. Arguments from silence are a dumb idea.

    Where is the evidence that he ever repented to God and Emma for this?

    If you can show me a biblical verse, Stephanie, that gives you the authority to judge someone elses repentance or their sufficiency of repentance, I’ll address this. Otherwise, I’ll just assume you’re being a judgemental “so-called Christian” and ignore it until you provide evidence of YOUR repentance.

    Is it possible that Joseph was confused and never did receive revelation to marry Zina?

    Yes it is possible. Is it also possible that JS did receive a revelation. Yes it is possible.

    Or did he act out of his own lust and desires?

    Yes it is possible. Is it possible he didn’t act out of his own lust and desires. Yes, it is possible. Have you shown an evidence JS acted out of his own lust, no. Have you implied it, yes. Is an implication evidence? No

    Or is it possible that this was entirely sanctioned by God?

    It is certainly possible. I mean, if a loving God can command Joshua to kill every man woman and child in a city, I guess he could command a prophet to marry someone else. I certainly don’t understand it, and glad it’s not my place to judge this, but I will say “it’s possible.”

  2. August 29, 2009 3:16 pm

    Unlike the prophet David, no prophet was sent to JS to call him to repentance. Perhaps the reason for this is because JS was not a prophet in the first place.

    Hebrews 1:1-2 makes it pretty clear that prophets are a thing of the past for God now talks to us through His Son.

    “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

    Since JS was a FALSE prophet and prophets are no longer upon the earth, God would not send a prophet to call him to repentance. Instead, He would call him to repentance through Christ. But, as the evidence clearly demonstrates, JS went to his grave without listening to this call and instead chose to continue in his sin of desiring and taking other men’s wives.

    Darrell

  3. Stephanie permalink
    August 29, 2009 4:22 pm

    PC,

    This post was not intended to be an argument that proves anything! I’m sorry that you believe that it is riddled with logical fallacies. Perhaps you missed the point–which was just that I was comparing one aspect of history with another. The best way to counter this would be to prove that its not true or that it doesn’t bear any impact upon the testimony and reliability of Joseph Smith. I personally believe that Joseph Smith’s life is immensely important as it relates to his “revelation.”

    The main reason I wanted to discuss this topic is that abuse of power is a trademark of a cult. I have heard LDS argue that there was no sexuality involved in these marriages but there is no evidence for that. Witnesses at the time indicate that there was! This is why some assume that Joseph Smith actually married Fanny Alger because he was allegedly sleeping with her. Brigham Young followed in the pattern of Joseph Smith’s polygamy and bore 55 children with his 55 wives. I think we can safely assume that these marriages were not simply “sealings” but were typical unions. Therefore, when a prophet tells a pregnant woman that he has been commanded to take her as his wife I think we should at least pause and reflect on whether or not this is God ordained. Joseph claimed that an angel with a sword drawn had commanded him to marry her. I realize that she is responsible for her own life and her own marriage, but pressure from authority to conform to this kind of practice is religious abuse. Actually, reassignment of spouses is extremely common in FLDS communities. You would likely label them as a cult. What about the early LDS? What if you were married to a woman who was 6 months pregnant with your baby and a “prophet” told you that he was commanded to marry your wife? Remember, Joseph Smith did this to eleven different couples.

    P.S.

    I hope you were being facetious here.

    Of course I was! 🙂

  4. psychochemiker permalink
    August 29, 2009 8:25 pm

    This post was not intended to be an argument that proves anything!

    OK. Just making sure.

    I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand the polyandrous marriages. It is obvious that most of BY’s polygamous spouses bore him children. But, one doesn’t prove the other. I’ll be the first to admit, it’d be much easier if the Church hadn’t ever done anything against the grain, it would have been easier if they hadn’t been abolitionists in Missouri and if BY had continued giving Black people the priesthood after the 1850’s, and no one had ever practiced polygamy. It’d be easier to point to the organization, and say, “See it’s perfect, always understandable.”

    I guess God chose to do it differently.

  5. September 1, 2009 1:03 am

    Hmm.. polyandry.. and interesting topic to discuss….

    Thanks for the interesting post, Stephanie.

    I look forward to hearing from the LDS on this one. I never ever as an LDS could explain to non LDS the grounds for polyandry. I would be interested to read on how they can explain polyandry in light of the command by God in Exodus 20 to NOT covet. Polyandry appears to me as “coveting” .

    I also never was able to understand the grounds for polyandry if a woman was already sealed to a “worthy” LDS priesthood holder. Why would she need to be married to another LDS man? It makes no sense.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  6. September 2, 2009 11:40 pm

    Thanks psychochemiker for your comments. You saved me from taking the time to write the exact same thing. 🙂

  7. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 1:36 am

    I believe that if you want to hear a deafening silence just bring up the topic of polyandry and/or polygamy to a Mormon. You won’t get an argument, debate, counter attack. All you’ll get is a tight-lipped, big-eyed stare. Occasionally I hear, “Thats not relevant for today.” One of the reasons I think that Mormons don’t like to discuss polygamy is because they don’t like to think about polygamy. And, obviously, something that you don’t actively think about is not something you want to talk about. Its like trying to engage Britney Spears in foreign affairs. She’s just going to clam up and not talk because she doesn’t think about much outside of Hollywood (sorry, total judgment call on poor Britney. Maybe she’ll run for California governor and prove us all wrong).

    If I were LDS the issue of polygamy would keep me up all night.

  8. September 3, 2009 1:43 am

    “if you want to hear a deafening silence…”

    Why would you want that? I happen to enjoy sincere conversations about faith–not playing “gotcha” games to satisfy my pride.

    Do you want to know why it doesn’t keep me up at night? Simple. It’s not the essence of my faith.

  9. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 1:51 am

    Hi Clean Cut,

    Why would I want to hear deafening silence? As a female, I will admit that I have been accused of talking too much, not too little! 🙂 I love discussion. I was merely making an observation that I have rarely, rarely ever seen an LDS person engage in the topic of polygamy. They just don’t like to go there.

    No gotcha games here! It is LDS history and my own personal family history. I love talking about it and have read many books on the history of polygamy. I was simply noting that the only people who I can discuss the topic with is ex-LDS or non-LDS. Its a shame that mainline LDS can’t even discuss their own past. Its a crime that the past is distorted and whitewashed by the church hierarchy.

    Stephanie

  10. September 3, 2009 1:58 am

    So which do you think it is, that LDS “can’t even discuss their own past” or that they would rather discuss things they find more meaningful? (ie: the essence of our faith)

  11. September 3, 2009 2:05 am

    Stephanie,

    Have you ever been LDS?

    I would like to ask Clean Cut or other LDS readers here, “why” Polyandry is not discussed in Church History courses, etc.

    I have met a number of Mormons who had no idea that this practice of being sealed to a presently married woman actually occurred.

    Interested to hear from LDS readers “why” this may be the case?

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  12. September 3, 2009 2:10 am

    PS: Since I personally love history and my faith, I’m generally more interested in these things than the average person in my ward. When someone truly shows a genuine desire to learn about how I see things, you’ll find me being very open and honest and even candidly sharing my views. There’s really not much I’d shy away from discussing. However, I’ve learned that when I start discussing these things and the people around me aren’t in the mood to discuss them, I’m usually perceived as insensitive and/or a jerk.

    Time and place matter. Personality of the person matters too.

    And Mormons really do have a lot more relevant things to be talking about. Even something as sensational as polygamy can get old.

  13. September 3, 2009 2:21 am

    Gloria, I think it boils down to the fact that not a lot of people take “Church History” courses. There is some very basic church history offered once every four years in Sunday School classes, but those tend to focus on issues that we can incorporate into our lives today. The purpose of Sunday School isn’t seen as to inform everyone about every aspect of the past, but rather as precious time to build faith in Jesus Christ. Again, it’s all about relevancy.

    Stephanie, if you truly want to get LDS Christians to open up about discussing their faith, I recommend you drop rhetoric such as “the past is distorted and whitewashed by the church hierarchy”. Sounds rather like an attack, and it will most likely put people on the defensive rather than persuade them to open up to you. Not the best recipe for “respectful conversations about the Mormon faith.”

  14. September 3, 2009 2:24 am

    Clean Cut,

    How do you view, polyandry?

    How do you make sense of it?

    I ask because I never could when I was LDS. It just made no sense for Joseph for example, to take another man’s wife, especially if that man was already a faithful mormon ( as in the case cited above of Zina Hunington Jacobs) .

    Just wondering how a LDS makes sense of something like that.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  15. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 2:27 am

    Clean Cut

    So which do you think it is, that LDS “can’t even discuss their own past” or that they would rather discuss things they find more meaningful? (ie: the essence of our faith)

    Its hard to say. For one thing, I’m sure the answer varies from person to person. There are the mainline LDS who don’t know anything about J.S.’s polygamy. So, discussion of that topic is scary to them because they don’t know about that history at all. Then there are others who know some things but don’t like to discuss it because it makes them feel stereotyped (eg, FLDS YFZ compound, Warren Jeffs, etc).

    I highly doubt that it is because people like to discuss things that are “more meaningful.” At the time, polygamy was extremely meaningful and it will be again in the future. It is an everlasting covenant–not simply an archaic relic from the 1800s. I notice that LDS love certain aspects of history, especially genealogy, history of the wagon trains on their trek to Utah, the story of Joseph receiving the plates, etc. Are these any more meaningful to the faith? I actually know someone who does the Mormon reenactments of the wagon trains in the summer. Is that particularly more relevant to the faith than polygamy which is actual a doctrine–not just ancient history?

    Gloria

    Have you ever been LDS?

    No. But my ancestors converted to Mormonism in the mid 1800s and did practice the principle of plural marriage. My Great-Grandpa, in reflecting on one of the negative aspects of that form of marriage, was known to comment that, “A kitchen is only big enough for one woman.” 🙂

  16. psychochemiker permalink
    September 3, 2009 2:45 am

    Clean Cut,
    As I’ve said in the past, Gloria is one of the classiest apostates I’ve met on the internet.
    FTR, she really doesn’t know how to take that.

  17. September 3, 2009 3:04 am

    Stephanie,

    Your great grandpa’s comment about a kitchen being big enough for just one woman made me laugh! 🙂
    I am a serious cook, and believe me that is a true statement!

    Kind regards,

    Gloria

    ps. psychochemiker: not sure what “classy apostate” means in your dictionary, should I take that as a compliment?

  18. September 3, 2009 3:08 am

    Sounds like a compliment to me! I also think you are very classy, Gloria! Not an apostate for sure, but definitely classy. 🙂

  19. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 3:11 am

    No PC,

    You have it all wrong. Gloria doesn’t hold a candle to these classy apostates.

    Stephanie

  20. September 3, 2009 3:49 am

    oh my goodness, stephanie! I hadn’t seen that one before.

    And thanks for the compliment Jessica ~ the same back to you. 🙂

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  21. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 4:00 am

    Gloria,

    That picture made the rounds of the internet after General Conference (I think this year).

    For the record, I think you are very classy!

    Stephanie

  22. September 3, 2009 8:13 am

    Stephanie ~ I’ll bite. Why would polygamy keep you up all night if you were LDS?

    Two observations:

    (1) It’s not a surprise to me that evangelicals like to talk about polygamy and polyandry. The implementation and practice of early LDS polygamy was a mess, it’s an intractable principle in our modern-day society (and wasn’t really tractable back then), and it lingers in LDS theology today in the form of post-mortem/post-divorce polygynous temple sealings. Finding things in LDS polygamy that make the average Latter-day Saint uncomfortable is like playing DOOM on God mode. It’s a great way to shake up the faith of current Latter-day Saints, it’s a great way to deter people from joining the LDS church, it’s win-win for us.

    (2) It’s also not a surprise to me that Mormons don’t like to talk about polygamy. There’s the reasons listed above, but there’s also the fact that evangelicals want to discuss this subject a lot. Even if a Mormon feels like he has a good apologetic for the matter, he might resist a discussion of it simply because he’s sick of talking about it. I personally feel that the situation is analogous to when skeptics ask me about God’s orders to execute the Midianites in Numbers 31. Yes, there are very good apologetics for that passage, but they’re complicated, drawn-out, and often the person bringing it up has zero interest in actually getting an answer to her objections and just wants to rant about infanticide and sexual slavery. Likewise, I think a lot of the people who want to discuss polygamy (not necessarily the evangelicals on this thread) just want to rant about child brides and horny patriarchs. So Mormons get tired of it and they walk away from the conversation.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t valid problems with Mormon polygamy that warrant discussion, and likewise some of the criticisms evangelicals level against it are seriously lacking in perspective. I’m just explaining why I think the discussion seldom goes anywhere, even when you catch knowledgeable Latter-day Saints.

  23. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 2:29 pm

    Jack

    Likewise, I think a lot of the people who want to discuss polygamy (not necessarily the evangelicals on this thread) just want to rant about child brides and horny patriarchs. So Mormons get tired of it and they walk away from the conversation.

    This is possible, but not an entirely plausible rational for the reaction that I see most LDS take on this position. Just speaking from personal experience, I have seen LDS debate at length over the exact same topic. The recent conversation between Seth and Darrell on Biblical errancy is a great example. Surely they are both tired of the topic but yet the converstation continues.

    To me the issue is not necessarily “horny patriarchs and child brides.” History is open to interpretation and every person has the right to make their own assumptions about how the past is relevant for today. And it is this reason alone that causes me to feel a lot of anger at the LDS church for their flagrant revisionist history. Let each new convert and devoted member make their own decision about polygamy’s relevance today. But do not withhold that information and do not actively seek to manipulate that history. If Joseph Smith is a prophet of God his life should be able to be investigated, stuck under a microscope, held up for all to see.

    Stephanie

  24. September 3, 2009 3:43 pm

    Feeling “a lot of anger at the LDS church” is probably not a good thing. Anger robs anyone of peace, period.

    I’ve sensed anger directed at me at times for simply acknowledging that I’m a believing Mormon. I once read of a baptist minister who punched an LDS missionary in the face for simply asking if he could share the Book of Mormon with him. At times when I feel anger stirring up in myself, I’ve try to step back, be patient, and seek for more understanding before passing judgement. I know that anger is not one of the “fruits of the Spirit”.

  25. September 3, 2009 4:21 pm

    “I know that anger is not one of the “fruits of the Spirit”.”

    Perhaps not… but is “righteous anger” a good thing? Christ got angry and God is oftentimes described as burning with wrath and anger at sin. So I am not so sure that anger towards some of the actions of the LDS Church is not justified. Please note I would never condone punching a LDS missionary is the face. That is just plain out stupid. But I can see righteous anger at some of the LDS Church’s actions as justified.

    Darrell

  26. September 3, 2009 5:38 pm

    Darrell, I would agree that Christ demonstrated that “righteous anger” can be justified. However, too often that is used as an excuse for very unchristian behavior.

    Look, I might not believe that the Catholic Church is “true”, but I’m not going out and writing blog posts about how corrupt the pope (or past popes) are/were or asking Catholics about how they can sleep at night while knowing about the past practice of indulgences, etc. in order to convince them that “I love Catholics” and I really only bring these things up because I care about them. I’m not that angry.

  27. September 3, 2009 5:48 pm

    CC,

    I can understand where you are coming from as you don’t truly see any real eternal consequences for one not being Mormon – except, maybe, that is for those such as myself who have left the church.

    However, the view from our side is quite different. We believe there is an eternal battle going on with people’s salvation at stake. From that perspective it would not be truly un-loving of us not to speak out about what we see as half-truths and outright deception on the part of the LDS Church. For they are gambling with people’s souls.

    Again, punching an LDS Missionary in the face… un-called for, un-Christian and plain out stupid.

    Darrell

  28. September 3, 2009 5:49 pm

    “would not be truly un-loving”

    Of course I meant “would BE truly un-loving”

    Sorry!!

    Darrell

  29. September 3, 2009 5:50 pm

    ” Darrell , I would agree that Christ demonstrated that “righteous” anger can be justified. However, too often that is used as excuse for very unchristian behavior”…….

    Clean Cut,
    I would agree with you on your above statement.
    I find it awful that some pastor would punch a Mormon elder in the face simply because he offered him a book of Mormon. That is awful.
    I really would rather focus on the “fruit” of the Spirit, and pray that God will display that thru what I do and say ( and type too!) vs. justifying my sin and crying out ‘righteous anger’!

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  30. September 3, 2009 6:15 pm

    Well great. I’m glad we can agree on that.

    Now, Darrell, let’s talk about this:

    “We believe there is an eternal battle going on with people’s salvation at stake. From that perspective it would not be truly un-loving of us not to speak out about what we see as half-truths and outright deception on the part of the LDS Church. For they are gambling with people’s souls.”

    I think there are at least three issues we can discuss here:

    1. Apparently we each feel concern for others’ salvation, but we disagree on the right approach to missionary work/evangelism.

    2. Half-truths and deception are in the eye of the beholder. Here we go again with subjectiveness and absolute truth, depending on the perspective.

    3. Not sure who “they” is, but nobody’s gambling with my soul. No Church authorities hold my salvation in their hands. Last time I checked, it was Christ who does the saving and the Church leaders’ job is help lead people to Him.

  31. September 3, 2009 6:16 pm

    Clean Cut,

    I would still be interested in hearing your thoughts & views on polyandry.
    I respect your courteous demeanor on the Internet, so I figured you were a “safe” person to ask, without being attacked in the process. 🙂

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  32. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 6:51 pm

    Feeling “a lot of anger at the LDS church” is probably not a good thing. Anger robs anyone of peace, period.

    I guess I see a difference between having uncontrolled rage and being righteously indignant. My feelings fall in the latter category. 🙂

    I find this issue extremely important because if the church is deceitful in even this one area it cannot be the “true church.” Nothing is more suspicious than a vast cover-up. If there is nothing to hide why not offer “faith-promoting” history on all of Joseph Smith’s marriages? Why do people have to go to non-official sources to get an accurate history? If the church is true it will be honest.

    And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

  33. September 3, 2009 7:01 pm

    Gloria, it would take a lot more time than I have to really explore my views about it here. I’m also not convinced that this is the most appropriate or safe place in which to pour “open up”.

    But suffice it to say, there are multiple ways to interpret the evidence. I’m a historian, and I love to sift through historical evidence and to try to piece the story together, but I think even the best historians agree that we’re greatly lacking pieces of this puzzle. So in a very real sense, we still “see through a glass darkly” even with all that we have. So I’m flabbergasted that some come down on this as if they have the definitive answer, case closed.

    I once watched an hour long presentation by Susan Tanner in which she addressed the some of these “disturbing” facts. I found myself recongizing that her facts were actually right, but I was greatly disappointed in her conclusions. (Such as that “Joseph Smith was a sexual predator”). I guess I feel equally disappointed about Stephanie’s misunderstanding that there has been some vast “cover-up”. The closest example I can think of that evangelicals can relate to is Bart Erhman’s research/book “Misquoting Jesus”. Most evangelicals I talk with express that fact that his facts are right, but not his conclusions.

  34. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 7:16 pm

    I guess I feel equally disappointed about Stephanie’s misunderstanding that there has been some vast “cover-up”. The closest example I can think of that evangelicals can relate to is Bart Erhman’s research/book “Misquoting Jesus”. Most evangelicals I talk with express that fact that his facts are right, but not his conclusions.

    Clean Cut

    I’m not trying to personally attack you and I’m sorry that you feel that way. I think that one needs to tread very lightly in making judgment calls. I think it is somewhat hasty to assume that Joseph Smith is a “sexual predator” simply because he took teenage brides. We don’t conclusively know whether or not he actually did have sex with any of these women. There is evidence to support that he likely did with some, but that still doesn’t instantly make him a sexual predator. There are a thousand ways to view history. Was he misguided and misinterpreted what he thought God was telling him? Was he power hungry? Was he motivated by pride? By lust? Was it a special dispensation of time that God ordained this practice? Each person must examine the facts for themselves and come to their own honest opinion. However, its a shame that you can’t get any of those facts from the LDS church. I won’t call it a cover up since that makes you feel disappointed. 🙂 Perhaps you can tell me what to call it.

    BTW, there is a FAIR lecture on the topic of Zina Huntington and you can see the entire lecture on youtube. I thought he did a great job explaining the history, although he came to a different conclusion about the facts than I did. But, at least he told us the facts and that is a lot more than you get from the LDS church. Kudos to Allen Wyatt for that.

    Stephanie

  35. September 3, 2009 8:13 pm

    “I’m not trying to personally attack you and I’m sorry that you feel that way.”

    I never took it as a personal attack, Stephanie. I’m just disappointed that you would think that that kind of approach is the right approach and somehow effective.

    “I think that one needs to tread very lightly in making judgment calls.”

    Amen. I think this also applies to your judgement call about the Church authorities.

    “There are a thousand ways to view history.”

    So true. I’m looking forward to getting all the pieces of this puzzle put together someday. However, we don’t have the complete puzzle. We’re still somewhat puzzled by it.

    I think both of us appreciate candor. I also think the Church, as an institution, is gradually entering an era of greater openness and candor. But you have to keep things in perspective. There are extremes that need to be avoided: Many people don’t care about this history at all. Others are completely and utterly obsessed by it.

  36. September 3, 2009 8:37 pm

    Hi, Clean Cut.

    I hear you. When you do feel you can “open up” about the polyandry issue I would love to hear your thoughts. You are one of the level headed LDS guys out there on the net, and I appreciate your insights. It’s just something I have as of yet, been able to sit down with a LDS and talk about with out them getting really up in arms about it. I just think it probably makes Mormons feel deeply uncomfortable, because they can’t explain it, and it is obviously condemned bucolically.

    If you do feel like you are at the point where you can talk about it. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  37. Stephanie permalink
    September 3, 2009 9:46 pm

    Clean Cut

    I agree with Gloria. I think you are very level headed and I appreciate your ability to have a conversation without being snarky! Thats hard to do, especially on a difficult topic.

    I also think the Church, as an institution, is gradually entering an era of greater openness and candor.

    This is possible. Are you suggesting that the church is going to begin revealing the history of Joseph Smith’s marriages to the public? I’m all for this and think that transparency is essential. I do hope that you are correct. I think that the best forum for this would be to have separate biographies of each wife on the official Joseph Smith website.

    Do you think that if the church becomes more open about the history of polygamy that they might also reverse the current doctrine? If each president is the prophet, seer and revelator don’t they have the authority to remove this section from the D&C?

  38. September 4, 2009 2:50 am

    Clean Cut,

    I will join in with Stephanie and Gloria here. I find you pleasant to talk with and very level headed as well! 🙂

    To your points:

    “Apparently we each feel concern for others’ salvation, but we disagree on the right approach to missionary work/evangelism.”

    I agree with you. I believe a function of our differences may have something to do with our beliefs on the afterlife and the consequences there for what we follow in the life. I agree with the LDS approach of finding common ground. This is nothing more that than a sales approach – I am in sales and we use it all the time. However, I also believe in making sure that differences in beliefs are noted as well… because I believe these differences HAVE CONSEQUENCES IN THE AFTERLIFE.

    “Half-truths and deception are in the eye of the beholder. Here we go again with subjectiveness and absolute truth, depending on the perspective.”

    I know we talked about this already but I will just highlight it again because I don’t believe we are on the same page. All truth is absolute and anything different from the truth is false. Therefore, lies are absolute as well. A half-truth is a lie (this an LDS Church teaching and I would be happy to link to the talk if you would like… I had it saved on my old computer but lost it when I last switched computers). While I can agree with you that a person might have a wrong PERCEPTION of something being a truth or a lie, whether that something is a truth or not is absolute. Therefore, half-truths and deceptions are not in the eye of the beholder. They are absolute. So the real question is whose perception is wrong – yours or mine. I would be happy to discuss the details of why I believe the LDS Church has practiced deception and told half-truths in the past if you would like.

    “Not sure who “they” is, but nobody’s gambling with my soul. No Church authorities hold my salvation in their hands. Last time I checked, it was Christ who does the saving and the Church leaders’ job is help lead people to Him.”

    Once again, this really boils down to “Does one believe there are eternal consequences for following false beliefs?” You and I are not on the same page here as I believe the teachings of Mormonism are false and there are real, eternal consequences for following them. In addition, as discussed in point 2 above, I believe the LDS Church practices deceit and uses half-truths (which are really lies) in many of its missionary tactics and with the information it shares with its members. As a result, I believe they are most certainly playing with people’s souls.

    I will be out of town for the Labor Day Weekend so I won’t be back on to respond until next week.

    Have a great Labor Day! God Bless!!

    Darrell

  39. September 4, 2009 7:35 am

    Gloria and Stephanie, you guys asked what LDS think about polyandry.

    I’ll go on record as saying it’s a damn–er, darn–good idea. I mean, seriously, why stick with one husband when you can have two? C’mon ladies, one for Monday-Wednesday-Friday, another for Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday…and they can switch off Sundays. What a fantabulous arrangement!

    In all seriousness, I think it’s a disturbing aspect of our history (moreso than polygamy, as there’s a Biblical precedent for that–not s’much for polyandry). And I’m not sure how you avoid the question: “Was he wrong about that? And if he was wrong about that, what else was he wrong about?”

    And, okay, there are lots of ways to answer the question–like no, he wasn’t wrong; yes, he was wrong but it doesn’t matter; yes, he was wrong but it DOES matter–and certainly any number of variations in between. But any intellectually/spiritually honest person needs to at least ASK. ‘Cuz let’s not lie. Polyandry? It’s weird.

    On another note, Jessica, I miss you and hope you’re well! Sorry I haven’t been around these parts much lately. Been REALLY busy with work which is always a good thing, but, well…sometimes not s’much. 😉

  40. September 4, 2009 2:26 pm

    Katie L,

    You said:

    “In all seriousness, I think it’s [polyandry] a disturbing aspect of our history (moreso than polygamy, as there’s a Biblical precedent for that–not s’much for polyandry).”

    I don’t understand how having a “Biblical precedent,” however, necessarily makes something more appropriate or less disturbing, as the Bible is full of morally repugnant and socially disturbing actions and stories. For instance, there is biblical precedent for ethnic cleansing and infanticide, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing in my judgment. Consider Numbers 31 which recounts a battle between Israel and the Midianites, wherein the Israelites destroyed the Midianites but kept alive all the women and children and brought them back (as property, of course–spoils of war) before the priest Eleazer and Moses. Verses 13-18 (NRSV) read:

    “Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. Moses said to them, ‘Have you allowed all the women to live? These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves.

    War crimes (by any reasonable modern standard), infanticide, and future slave wives (evaluated only by their sexual experience!) given as booty [pun intended]. Doesn’t sound any less disturbing to me just because it is written in the Bible. And such stories could be multiplied over and over again. 1 Samuel 15.1-3 (NRSV) reads:

    “Samuel said to Saul, ‘The Lord sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” ’

    And the list goes on. God (supposedly) orders entire peoples and nations to be destroyed based on religious beliefs and practices, indiscriminate of age, gender, or status. If Joseph Smith had ordered the extermination of all his opponents and the seizure of their properties and land for such religiously motivated reasons, would it honestly be less disturbing to you?

    TYD

  41. September 4, 2009 2:59 pm

    Thanks for the “vote of confidence”. I appreciate the “level headed” description. 🙂

    One thing I’d like to bring up as I’ve re-read over some of the comments is this idea of Joseph Smith “taking” another man’s wife. That’s really not an accurate description of how polyandry functioned at that time. (It actually sounds more reflective of the FLDS and Warren Jeffs).

    Remember that those women continued to stay married to their own husband and live under their own roof. Joseph didn’t “take” them or steal them away, as if to say to the husband: “she’s mine now, tough”. That’s simply not an accurate depiction, so the semantics matter. Richard Bushman deals with this quite well in “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling”. I don’t have the book with me but as I searched for one of the quotes I came across this website that at first glance seems very promising and well done: http://en.fairmormon.org/Polygamy_book/Polyandry

    The idea that I recall is that Joseph’s idea of plural marriage was closely tied to the idea of sealing the “human family into a bonded whole”. Richard Bushman writes: “Joseph did not marry women to form a warm, human companionship, but to create a network of related wives, children, and kinsmen that would endure into the eternities.”

    Anyway, if you’re interested in more, you might want to check out that site. I’m not an expert, but it seems pretty well researched.

    Another thought to keep in mind is that even if one believes God commanded Joseph to restore plural marriage, it doesn’t logically follow that every thing about how Joseph implemented it was done perfectly. We can’t assume it’s such a clear-cut “either/or” option. I don’t believe God micro-manages the affairs of mankind, Joseph Smith included. Thus, life (as well as history) can get messy. But I appreciate Richard Bushman’s interpretation much more than Susan Tanner’s. To see something sinister in all of this is to see an anomaly when weighed against everything else Joseph did and stood for during his lifetime.

  42. September 4, 2009 3:29 pm

    “I would be happy to discuss the details of why I believe the LDS Church has practiced deception and told half-truths in the past if you would like.”

    Yes, it might be good to discuss this. However, I propose we hold off until after Labor day. My family and I will also be going out of town this afternoon and won’t be back until then.

  43. September 4, 2009 4:50 pm

    There actually is a case of polyandry in the Bible:

    1 Samuel 18:27b: Saul gave [David] his daughter Michal as a wife.

    1 Samuel 25:44: Saul had given his daughter Michal, David’s wife, to Palti son of Laish, who was from Gallim.

    2 Samuel 3:14-16: Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbaal, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, to whom I became engaged at the price of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” Ishbaal sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her, weeping as he walked behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

    (All citations are from the NRSV)

    The narration (not the characters in the text) describes Michal as David’s wife and Paltiel as Michal’s husband in different places. Michal was married to David and Paltiel at the same time.

  44. September 4, 2009 5:03 pm

    It’s in the Bible, all better! 😛

    Just playin’

  45. September 4, 2009 5:24 pm

    Darrell and Stephanie, you might find this post interesting: http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2009/09/g-l-smiths-experiences-while.html

    Greg Smith is the one who did that research on the site I linked to. You might find his comments here enlightening in view of your concerns over “hiding the truth” or “lying” as he places some of his research into the historical context.

  46. September 4, 2009 5:35 pm

    Jack & all ~
    Thanks for pointing that out about Michal and Saul.
    Poor michal, I wonder if she had any “say” in the matter. Probably not.
    In any case, I am relieved to know that God has never commanded to go ahead and have sexual relations with another man’s wife, People will do what they do, but God is pretty darn clear on what His standards are. Thank goodness.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  47. September 4, 2009 5:41 pm

    Clean Cut,
    I did check out briefly the link you sent….
    I still can not understand why a woman like Zina Hunington, whose husband was a faithful Mormon would need to be “sealed” to Joseph Smith? I mean it doesn’t make sense. I can see how a woman who does not have a mormon husband would want to be sealed, but why would a woman who loves her husband and has children with him and lives with him, would wish to be sealed to another man? This makes absolutely no sense.

    I personally am thankful that we are neither given nor received in marriage and in the life after this, but are truly sons & daughters of God!

    What a relief,

    Gloria

  48. September 4, 2009 6:59 pm

    Gloria ~ [Tangent alert!] The entire account of Michal is one of those stories in the Bible that just gets my blood boiling. David treats Michal like crap. The narration never says it’s okay, but David is never rebuked for it, either.

    It pisses me off that Christian circles tend to remember Michal for the incident where she gets mad at David for dancing. If I’d gone through everything she went through, I would have yelled at David, too.

    Anyways, I was doing my daily reading in 2 Samuel back in May and I realized for the first time that Michal was a polyandrist, and few things excite me more than polyandry, so I noted it down. If God cared about Michal having two husbands, the Bible never says it.

  49. September 4, 2009 7:18 pm

    Jack ~
    I enjoyed reading thru your “tangent”. 🙂
    I think michal went thru heck and back.
    Let’s face it, women were not treated very well in those times. The other day I was reading thru 1 Samuel, chapter 1 and the awful relationship between hannah and her “sister wife” and how awful she was treated. I pointed out to my kids how these relationships seldom work. There is only room in the kitchen for *one* woman as stephanie’s grandfather put it. 🙂
    Thank GOD, we have more choices today! I tell my 5 girls that often. How wonderful it is for a women to be alive in this time period , where a woman has choices. Although , I would like to see some radical changes for women in other parts of the world.

    gloria

  50. September 4, 2009 11:22 pm

    See? Three cheers for polyandry!

    Hip-hip HOORAY! Hip-hip HOORAY! Hip-hip HOORAY!

  51. September 4, 2009 11:30 pm

    P.S. Gloria, what is polyandry all about, if not OPTIONS? Yeah? You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? 😉

  52. September 4, 2009 11:47 pm

    “I personally am thankful that we are neither given nor received in marriage and in the life after this, but are truly sons & daughters of God!”

    Proof-texts aside, it is not a mutually exclusive option to be married and to be children of God. Unless Adam and Eve were living in sin, of course, from the get-go. 🙂

  53. Stephanie permalink
    September 5, 2009 12:51 am

    The Yellow Dart,

    I perceive a major flaw in your argument. 🙂 First of all, from my observation you appear to be an atheist or agnostic masquerading as a Latter-day Saint. You do neither camp any favors by using the arguments of the former to tear down the detractors of the latter. It would be helpful if you would stick to one position or the other. Further, pretending like all LDS hold faith and Scripture with such skepticism is simply erroneous. The vast majority of LDS that I have contact with are sincere, dedicated people who would challenge your position strongly. I don’t have a problem with you calling faith into question. However, if at least you admitted your agnosticism and/or atheism it would be greatly appreciated! Right now I feel like you are trying to use skepticism of the Bible and God to support Mormonism. And, for me, that just doesn’t hold water. Perhaps others feel that these are good arguments for the validity of Mormonism but I, for one, do not.

    If there is a God and He is at all like the God of the Bible, I don’t think He would very much like the description of Him that you have presented in your argument. If the Bible is credible in any way, He is presented not only as a God of love, but also one of justice. Are you passing judgment on the judgment of God? If not for His mercy in sending His Son we would all be condemned! Who gives you the right to decide what fair justice is?

    You have shown double-mindedness in your arguments. First you suggest that the entire history of the Scripture isn’t to be trusted, “But more to the point of my original comment: the archeological record does not support a large scale invasion of the land of Canaan.” And then you go on to condemn God that it did happen in this forum.

    The Bible speaks of the double minded man being “unstable in all his ways” (Jas 1:8). The Scripture soundly condemns unbelief, comparing it to being highminded (Rom. 11:20), having an evil heart (Heb 3:12), and being unable to enter into salvific rest (Heb 3:19; 4:6; 4:11). The apostle John lists unbelievers along with the “abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars.” The verse goes on to pronounce the judgment on these sins. “[They] shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev 21:8).

    I’ll discuss any topic with you if I know where you are coming from. Can you please help me to understand where you are coming from? 🙂 Are you a skeptic, agnostic, believer or unbeliever? But your duplicity makes it very difficult to have a linear debate.

    Stephanie

  54. NChristine permalink
    September 5, 2009 1:24 am

    Hi TYD,

    I don’t understand how having a “Biblical precedent,” however, necessarily makes something more appropriate or less disturbing, as the Bible is full of morally repugnant and socially disturbing actions and stories. For instance, there is biblical precedent for ethnic cleansing and infanticide, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing in my judgment.

    God exercised judgment on wicked nations in other instances in which surely infants and other “innocents” were killed—for example, the flood of Noah or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus spoke of both of these events as real, historical incidents. Should anyone wish to dispute them, they must contradict Him. Judgment of guilty persons often affects others.

    And indeed these Canaanite nations were guilty of vile sins—e.g., archaeological and historical evidence pointing to the practice of child sacrifice. God had told Abraham long before that “the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full” – that is, He was displaying his longsuffering toward the peoples of the Levant during Abraham’s time. But God does not suffer sin interminably. Other than Rahab and her family, or perhaps unnamed others, the Canaanites did not repent. And God’s judgment of them should serve as a warning to us.

    I am comforted, when reading such accounts of judgment, by something else Jesus said: “Of such [children] is the kingdom of heaven.” While infants and children may undergo earthly judgments along with their guilty parents, I feel assured from Scripture that their eternal destiny is not in jeopardy. It is adults who are in grave peril, who risk not only earthly judgment but eternal hell, as well. To relegate the concept of hell to the world of myth, one must again directly contradict Jesus, who spoke of that place (with strong warnings) more than He did of heaven.

    It is unwise to place God on the judgment stand—whether mocking the morality of His commands or questioning the validity of His Word. In the midst of scholarship, humility is called for, since we as sinful humans haven’t the faintest chance of passing judgment on a thrice-holy God. He is Judge.

  55. September 5, 2009 1:47 am

    I was reading in Psalms this morning during my devotions and pondering the man after God’s own heart and how he viewed God’s judgments:

    “For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right…he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed…And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee…The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands…the wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God…Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail; let the heathen be judged in thy sight. Put them in fear, O Lord; that the nations may know themselves to be but men” (Psalm 9:4-20).

    I find for myself that if I am ever questioning God’s judgments, this arises from the depravity of my own heart which tends to exalt man and make light of sin. But in the light of God’s blinding holiness that made Isaiah cry “Woe is me!” I can catch the passion in David’s heart that made him take delight in God’s righteous judgments.

  56. NChristine permalink
    September 5, 2009 1:50 am

    P.S. More to the point of the post, just as it is God who judged the Canaanites and showed mercy to believing Rahab, it is God who most explicitly forbade church leaders to have more than one wife (I Tim. 3:2, 12). In both cases, God is the One who says what is what. 🙂

    NChristine

  57. September 5, 2009 5:00 pm

    Stephanie,

    I will reply at greater length tomorrow when I have more time to write and to flesh out my responses to your comments. For the time being, however, I would appreciate it if you would engage my comments without leveling inane accusations at my person. You implicate me as a liar when you suggest that I am being duplicitous. You have the audacity to direct me to admit to agnosticism and/or atheism! If you really want me to be candid, I frankly find your approach to intelligent (interfaith) discussion feeble and inadequate. Perhaps next time you should first ask questions regarding what you thinkare inconsistencies in my views before making sweeping judgments and absurd accusations.

    TYD

  58. Stephanie permalink
    September 5, 2009 5:34 pm

    TYD,

    I wasn’t attempting to call you a liar. And I’m sorry I gave that impression! I believe that people can be double minded without realizing it and I was merely trying to ascertain where you were coming from. You have made statements that, at least to me, appear contradictory.

    Stephanie

  59. September 5, 2009 8:43 pm

    Stephanie,

    If you honestly didn’t mean to implicate me as a liar when you said, “But your duplicity makes it very difficult to have a linear debate,” then you need to consult a dictionary concerning the basic meanings of the word “duplicity.” Here is a help:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/duplicity

    Moreover, I still resent you trying to force me to admit to agnosticism/atheism when I am certainly neither. Just because you don’t agree with or understand my positions doesn’t give you the right to demand that I make any such confession.

    TYD

  60. Stephanie permalink
    September 6, 2009 2:06 am

    TYD,

    I hope you are enjoying your labor day weekend!

    I think the reason I am a bit taken aback by your comments is that I’m used to talking with Mormons who use a more traditional perspective. In fact, I have never, except in the blogosphere, ever encountered LDS with such a critical view of the Bible. LDS that I know claim that they use the Bible as a part of their Scripture and don’t call into question the validity or historicity of the text. Therefore, when you make comments that deride the historical sections of Scripture I just simply assume that you are different from the run-of-the mill LDS that I know. In fact, the only people that I know who make disparaging remarks towards the Bible are agnostic or atheists. I’m trying to wrap my mind around what you believe and it is very difficult for me. This is what it appears to me that you are saying.

    The Bible is not necessarily reliable. Joseph Smith is not necessarily reliable. Therefore, the LDS church is the “true” church.

    To me, this is what is duplicitous. It is the melding together of unbelief in the Bible and belief in a church that uses the Bible and calling that faith. I don’t think you are intentionally double minded and I never meant to imply that you were lying or being deliberately deceitful. I just think that this viewpoint is irrational. The most logical religious outcome that I can foresee in someone who doesn’t believe in the validity of the Bible and/or the Book of Mormon is unbelief. That is just logical.

    How can a person have true faith if it is based upon a lie?

  61. psychochemiker permalink
    September 6, 2009 5:10 am

    Hi Stephanie.

    It isn’t about a lie. It’s far more nuanced than that. TYD, who studies the Hebrew OT at some non-BYU university, knows that there is context behind the text. Part of OT studies today is to learn about the cultures and people’s around when the OT was written, to help us better understand it.

    It’s the same as if one were to find some music written as a memorial to those who died in 9/11. If one finds the music in 2000 years, it’ll be much less clear than if they had a history book describing what happened. Then the emotions become clearer.

    Part of the problem is that you’re assuming our viewpoint is just automatically wrong because it’s unfamiliar. (BTW, TYD’s viewpoints aren’t always mine). But often we’re looking at the same facts from a different angle. I’m comfortable with you thinking my perception isn’t the best expression of the truth, but please don’t say I’m not looking at the truth. One doesn’t have to believe in the Evangelical concepts of infallibility, inerrant, completeness, in order to be a Christian. You may think they do in order to be correct, but correct =! Christian.

  62. September 7, 2009 1:56 am

    Stephanie,

    I will address each of your comments in order, and the respond to a few related comments by others.

    You said:

    First of all, from my observation you appear to be an atheist or agnostic masquerading as a Latter-day Saint.

    I am not an agnostic or an atheist, so your observation is definitely wrong. I would appreciate it if you would stop suggesting that I am an atheist or an agnostic on account of the fact that you disagree with and/or misunderstand my position(s).

    Further, pretending like all LDS hold faith and Scripture with such skepticism is simply erroneous.

    I have not pretended to represent all LDS Christians in my comments. You make an argument against a claim I never made. I will discuss my approach to the Bible and other sources below.

    I feel like you are trying to use skepticism of the Bible and God to support Mormonism. And, for me, that just doesn’t hold water. Perhaps others feel that these are good arguments for the validity of Mormonism but I, for one, do not.

    My intention is to determine what is true. Whether or not it supports your understanding of what Mormonism is or what Mormonism teaches, or whether or not it supports what many or most LDS Christians think Mormonism is or teaches is not my concern. Whether or not it supports your understanding of what the Bible is or what the Bible teaches, or whether or not it supports what many or most LDS Christians think the Bible is or teaches is not my concern either. Rather, I agree with Joseph Smith when he said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may,” and when he stated, “Truth is Mormonism.” I am after the truth, let the chips fall where they may.

    Are you passing judgment on the judgment of God? …Who gives you the right to decide what fair justice is?

    Perhaps you simply do not know what the words “fair” and/or “justice” actually mean, because there is nothing “fair” and/or “just” in infanticide in any circumstance that I can imagine. Perhaps you need to use another word or words instead to describe what you mean by “fair justice” when referring to such ethically appalling stories in the Bible, because the penalties imposed are neither “fair” nor “just” using Abraham’s discussion of justice in Genesis 18.23-25 (NRSV):

    “Then Abraham came near [to YHWH] and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’” (emphasis mine)

    But more to the point, I analyze and interpret a text or source first; I do not believe a story or claim just because it happens to be written in the Bible or because Joseph Smith said it, or because a really famous scientist or historian said so, for that matter. You assume I have passed judgment on God because of your a priori belief that because something is stated in the Bible it must therefore be true or factual. However, I find this approach methodologically backwards. Rather, as I will discuss below, I believe that internal contradictions (both historical and ethical) within the Bible concerning these stories and the overwhelming consistency of the archeological evidence demonstrate that no such ethnic cleansing under divine mandate as described in the Hebrew Bible ever took place.

    You have shown double-mindedness in your arguments. First you suggest that the entire history of the Scripture isn’t to be trusted…And then you go on to condemn God that it did happen in this forum [sic].

    First, I never suggested that the “entire history of the Scripture” is not to be trusted—that is only your interpretation of my statements based on the fact that I have called into question the historicity of some of the Bible. As the comment you referenced to above notes, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus (which should have been your first clue that I was not an atheist or an agnostic too by the way!), which is clearly part of the New Testament programme. Your problem appears to be that of a false dichotomy, namely that either something (in this case the Bible) is all entirely factual and accurate in every way, or it cannot really be trusted at all. However, that is a simple logical fallacy.

    Second, I never condemned God for such acts because I do not believe God ever ordered infanticide or the ethnic cleansing of all Canaanites as is described in the stories recorded in the Hebrew Bible concerning the Israelites conquering of the land of Canaan. Again you assume that what the Bible says about God is always necessarily true, a presupposition that I do not share. My point in the earlier comment was to demonstrate to Katie L that simply because something is approved of in the Bible and therefore has “Biblical precedent” does not logically necessitate that it is somehow less socially, ethically, or morally repugnant and/or therefore automatically true. I used this line of argumentation because I assume(d) that Katie L was probably inclined to believe in the historicity of the biblical stories concerning the Israelite’s massacre(s) of little children and women–not because I believe in the historicity of such stories. Therefore, I was not being “double-[minded]” in my argumentation at all.

    [Y]our duplicity makes it very difficult to have a linear debate.

    As I mentioned in my previous comment(s), I believe you need to look up the meaning of the word “duplicity” and its cognates. In the first place, using such loaded, judgmental language is offensive (perhaps you should review the comment policy for this blog as well); but when you do not know the basic meaning of the word it is additionally frustrating because it leads to both negative feelings and unnecessary discussion.

    LDS that I know claim that they use the Bible as a part of their Scripture and don’t call into question the validity or historicity of the text.

    Then I suppose I will never, ever hear from you the argument that LDS Christians don’t believe in the Bible appropriately because of the fact that the 8th Article of Faith states that the Bible is the word of God “as far as it is translated correctly,” right?

    I just simply assume that you are different from the run-of-the mill LDS that I know.

    Yes, I probably am. Everyone is different to some extent, of course, but as for me I have studied the Bible for a number of years in a university setting, which is obviously not typical of your average LDS Christian–or evangelical Christian for that matter. I can read Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, Egyptian, Latin, and several other languages and dialects which is also rather atypical. Moreover, I am fairly familiar with current biblical scholarship and Levantine archeology which is quite atypical as well.

    I would just recommend that you heavily limit your assumptions of what you think that I think about any number of issues.

    In fact, the only people that I know who make disparaging remarks towards the Bible are agnostic or atheists.

    I will simply ignore the loaded word “disparaging” here and note that you probably haven’t heard such opinions, conclusions, arguments, and evidence because you haven’t went outside your “box,” so-to-speak. In terms of biblical scholarship, I really have said nothing that you wouldn’t also hear scholars from Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Orthodox Jews, Catholics and a number of other religious and non-religious backgrounds say. I would seriously recommend that you go and take some courses in the Bible at an academically well-recognized university or seminary, if for no other reason than to learn about a world you haven’t apparently even heard of. If this isn’t an option, I could provide you with other (more convenient) resources.

    I’m trying to wrap my mind around what you believe and it is very difficult for me.

    Well, then just ask questions before making sweeping judgments and broad accusations.

    Nchristine said:

    God exercised judgment on wicked nations in other instances in which surely infants and other “innocents” were killed—for example, the flood of Noah or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus spoke of both of these events as real, historical incidents.

    Frankly, I do not believe that the flood story recorded in Genesis ever occurred. I believe it is clear that a world-wide flood is contradicted by the geological evidence and by the laws of physics. Moreover, the story of Noah and the flood is clearly literarily descended from the Mesopotamian flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh, so it is hardly original to the Bible and certainly historically suspect. Additionally, see my reference to Abraham and the Sodom and Gomorrah story just above (I do not know if infants were present in this story of destruction, but since children were not uncommonly treated as merely property in the ancient Near East and in the Bible, I would be unsurprised if children are not even considered relevant in regards to those who might be potentially reckoned as “righteous” in Genesis 18). I would also note that just because Jesus (or God) references a story does not mandate, in my theological judgment, that it is necessarily historical. For instance, D&C 121.10 utilizes the story of Job and his sufferings to elucidate the context of Joseph Smith’s sufferings in Liberty Jail, but, as an LDS Christian, I do not consider the book of Job historical just because D&C 121.10 refers to Job. (The Garden of Eden is also frequently referred to but I certainly don’t believe it to be a historical place that archeologists are going to locate.) Perhaps Jesus simply knows/knew more than he let on at times and chose to speak according to the expectations and cultural limitations of his audience(s) in order to demonstrate his point(s).

    And indeed these Canaanite nations were guilty of vile sins—e.g., archaeological and historical evidence pointing to the practice of child sacrifice…God does not suffer sin interminably. Other than Rahab and her family, or perhaps unnamed others, the Canaanites did not repent. And God’s judgment of them should serve as a warning to us.

    Are you really suggesting that the rare and limited practice of child sacrifice among some of the Canaanites as revealed in the epigraphic and archeological sources makes the infanticide stories of the Hebrew Bible somehow ethically acceptable? What did the children in these stories do to deserve this fate exactly? Were they performing their own sacrifices or something?! Seriously, talk about vicarious punishment and the notion of children being disciplined for the sins of their parents (recall Ezekiel 18.20, which reads “The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own.”)! If anything, the limited practice of child sacrifice by some Canaanites seems quite preferable to the entire slaughter of these children (and their mothers, I might add) at the hands of the supposedly “holy” and “righteous” male Israelites (a very good missiological approach too, huh?). At least then they wouldn’t have all been murdered or sacrificed. Can this really be described as “just” or “fair” for these children in any normal sense of these words? If these stories weren’t written in the Bible, would you really stomach them even for a minute? I believe that this is evidence enough that your approach to the Bible is entirely different from your approach to analyzing Mormonism (and probably most, if not all, other texts and traditions). It seems clear that the Evangelical commenters at this blog wish for LDS Christians to critically analyze their own faith tradition while at the same time entirely failing to hold their own tradition up to the same standards and methods of analysis. This is truly what I would label a double-standard Stephanie!

    It is unwise to place God on the judgment stand—whether mocking the morality of His commands or questioning the validity of His Word.

    Well, I guess it is a good thing I didn’t place God on the “judgment stand,” but instead analyzed the sources before coming to my conclusions. However, as I mentioned above, I do not just assume a priori that because something is written in the Bible means that it is true. I believe that such an approach is methodologically backwards and comes from unanalyzed assumptions, presuppositions, and prejudgments.

    Now here I will briefly discuss those relevant pieces of evidence that I believe warrant the conclusions concerning the historicity of the biblical stories that I mentioned previously. (For the following summary, see William Dever’s book Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? and Marc Brettler’s volume How to Read the Jewish Bible.)

    The Exodus

    First, the Bible claims that the Israelites numbered at least 600,000 men (Numbers 1.44-47); Exodus 12.37 suggests that Israel was able to muster a fighting force of perhaps 600,000 men as well, suggesting an overall population of around 2.5-3 millions persons (including women, children, etc.). (This huge number is more than the entire estimated population of Canaan in ancient times as based on archeological excavations and surveys, and certainly more than Israel alone; recent analysis suggests that the Israelite population west of the Jordan in the hill country during the 12th-11th centuries B.C.E. was no greater in size than perhaps 150,000!) Although the itinerary in Numbers 33 lists many sites along Israel’s journey, the fact of the matter is that very, very few have been confidently identified with actual known sites, and those that have been identified pose serious problems for the biblical account. For instance, Israeli excavations have demonstrated that “Migdol,” most likely to be identified with the site of a fortress on the Sinai coast near Lake Bardawil, was an Egyptian fortress in the east Delta and was only ever occupied during the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E. Another more familiar site for biblical readers is that of “Kadesh-Barnea,” where the Israelites sojourned for some 38 years (see Numbers 13, 14 and 20), and which has been identified with Tell el-Qudeirat near ‘Ain Qudeis in the northeast Sinai on the border with Canaan (it still preserves the ancient Hebrew name in Arabic). Israeli archeologists excavated there in the 1950’s and in the late 1970s and early 1980s and discovered that there was only a small fort with layers dating between the 10th-7th centuries B.C.E.—and nothing there dates to the 13th or 12th centuries B.C.E. (let alone to the 15th or 14th centuries!). There appears to be no occupation earlier, and certainly no evidence of millions of residents at any time in its history. Even though Egypt’s weather is typically an archeologists friend as compared to wetter climes that do not preserve remains very well, there is simply little to no archeological evidence of any Exodus route.

    Transjordan

    Numbers 20-36 describes Israel’s march through and conquest of Transjordan on their journey into the land of Canaan. First is biblical “Hormah” (Numbers 14) in the Negev Desert where the Israelites, after disregarding the directions of Moses, were turned back by the Canaanites in the hill country when first attempting to enter the land of Canaan from the south. This place reference is often identified by scholars with Tel Masos south of Beersheba, which was excavated in the 1970’s by German and Israeli archaeologists. They discovered there a small 13th-12th century B.C.E. Israelite village. However, it is not certain if this site is indeed Hormah; some scholars instead identify Tel Masos with Ba’alat Beer (Josh. 19.8), and other possibilities have been suggested as well. The significant point, however, is that there is no Late Bronze Age Canaanite occupation there, or anywhere else in the northern Negev for that matter. There was simply no resident population of Canaanites living in the area which could have driven the Israelites back. The Israelites then move around through Edom in southern Transjordan in Numbers 20. Occupation of Edom, according to the archeological evidence, didn’t really begin in earnest until the 7th century B.C.E. (and even then it is quite limited), the population before then being home to largely nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples, and there being only a very few Late Bronze Age sites on the northern plateau of Edom, and virtually none in the south. Thus the reference to a king of Edom appears quite anachronistic since Edom doesn’t appear to have achieved any real statehood until the 7th century B.C.E.

    Then the story skips back to Arad in the Negev in numbers 21. This place is clearly to be identified with Tell ‘Urad, east of Beersheba, excavated by famed Israeli archeologist Yohanan Aharoni in the early-mid 1960s. Again there is no Late Bronze Age occupation, and the site was not even founded until it was settled in the 10th century B.C.E. on top of an Early Bronze Age ruin c. 2600 B.C.E., and the settlement during the 10th century B.C.E. was quite small. There is simply no way that the Israelites destroyed Arad and all the cities in that area because no such Late Bronze Age Canaanite settlements existed in the vicinity.
    We then go back to Israel’s journey through Transjordan; however, no site has been identified with certainty for the biblical place names of Oboth and Iyeabarim in Moab. Iyeabarim has been tentatively identified with Kh. El-Medeiyineh, but the city that has been discovered there doesn’t appear to have been there before the 8th century B.C.E. Numbers 21 also recounts the destruction of Heshbon, the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, and it is clearly to be identified with Tell Hesban south of Amman. This site was analyzed from 1968-1976 but revealed that the town was founded in the Iron II period. Very little 12th-11th B.C.E. century pottery remained, and no architecture; moreover, there was no 13th century B.C.E. remains either, let alone a destruction layer. Another site of relevance is biblical Dibon, Mesha’s capital where the famous Mesha stela was recovered, located south of Hesban in southern Moab, and clearly to be identified with the city now known in Arabic as Dhiban. This site, excavated by Southern Baptists in the 1950s, discovered plentiful ruins from the 9th century, but very little from earlier periods, and none from the Late Bronze Age. Then Israelite excursion into Midian (which I referred to in my comment to Katie L originally), located in the northwest Arabian peninsula, is also problematic, because, according to archeological surveys conducted there since the 1960s, just as in the Negev, there is no extensive settlement of the area until the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E.

    Canaan

    Since we have discussed Jericho already (and I actually have more to say about the issue, though I will delay my response for another time), I will move on to the next city that the Bible claims the Israelites conquered when entering the land of Canaan: the city of ‘Ai, located about 10 miles north of Jerusalem. Excavated first in the 1930s and then again by a Southern Baptist Seminary professor in the 1960s and 1970s, ‘Ai had a massive fortified Early Bronze Age city that was destroyed c. 2200 B.C.E. After minimal reoccupation thereafter, ‘Ai remained abandoned from 1500 B.C.E. until the early 12th century B.C.E.; no inhabitants were there during the supposed time of Joshua’s and the Israelites’ conquest. Next Gibeon, a site also with certain identification with Arabic el-Jib, and a site not claimed by the biblical authors to have been destroyed (this is the story where the Israelites allow the Gibeonites to live—another indication perhaps that all the Canaanites weren’t really exterminated after all), doesn’t appear to have been occupied either in the late 13th and early 12th centuries B.C.E. Iron age remains were found, but nothing earlier than the 8th century. Moreover biblical Debir, identified by most archeologists with Kh. Rabud, has revealed no destruction during the 13th-12th centuries B.C.E. Additionally, more recent excavation and analysis of the destruction of Lachish by Israeli archeologists in the 1970s and 1980s, originally dated by renowned scholar and archeologist W. F. Albright to c. 1225 B.C.E., suggests that the destruction took place around perhaps 1170 B.C.E. given the discovery of the cartouche of Rameses III (1198-1166 B.C.E.). Biblical Ta’anach is to be found at Tell Ti’innik, and although Joshua 12.21 suggests that the king of this city was defeated, Judges 1.27 includes Ta’anach as one of the cities not taken. Excavated most recently in the 1960s by German archeologists, the site has little Late Bronze II remains, and the city was destroyed c. 1150 B.C.E, and then largely deserted until the 10th century B.C.E. Megiddo also is listed in Joshua 12.21 as taken by the Israelites, although Judges 1.21 suggests otherwise. No Israelite destruction of this city took place in the late 13th or early 12th centuries (there is a destruction layer in the mid to late 12th century, and the population that resettled the area in the 11th century B.C.E. appears to still have been Canaanite). Excavation of Biblical Tirzah, identified with Tell el-Far’ah and excavated by renowned French Dominican archeologist Pere de Vaux, suggests Late Bronze Age Canaanite occupation extended from the 13th to the 12th or 11th century B.C.E., with no evidence of destruction at the end. According to current French archeological excavations, Biblical Jarmuth, mentioned in Joshua 12 (c.f. Joshua 10.5), reveals no sign of destruction during the 13th-12th centuries B.C.E, although Canaanite occupation is certain. Finally, Makkedah, mentioned in Joshua 10.28 and 12.16, is often identified with Kh. El-Qom, west of Hebron, but it is clear that occupation here began no earlier than the 10th-9th centuries B.C.E., with no trace of Late Bronze Age Canaanite remains.

    Conclusions

    The above discussion isn’t to say that no site reveals destruction layers during the proper time period. However, there is often difficulty in determining who in fact caused the destruction of a given city. Sometimes, for instance, it seems quite clear that it is related to Egyptian campaigns into Palestine (e.g. Lachish), at other times it can be most likely attributed to other invading groups (e.g., the so-called “Sea Peoples,” such as the Philistines), at other times still it can plausibly be suggested that Israelites were the conquerors (e.g., Hazor); but at other times frankly there is serious doubt as to who caused a given cities destruction. Moreover, a number of places mentioned in the biblical texts simply cannot be identified, and others, such as Jerusalem, cannot be excavated due to modern overlay. However, the point is that relatively few sites that can be identified with certainty (perhaps only two or three actually out of more than 40 or so) suggest that the stories of conquest and massive slaughter as recounted in the book of Joshua actually took place—and many appear to strongly contradict those claims at a number of levels.

    There are several other interrelated pieces of information that I think ought to be mentioned before I conclude. As the archeological record attests, and as scholars agree, the major break in material culture and settlement patterns in ancient Canaan took place at the end of the Bronze Age c. 1250-1150 B.C.E. This is the best time in which to locate a supposed conquest of Canaan by Israelites. The old date for the Exodus, based on a imprecise and contradictory biblical data, suggests a date c. 1400 B.C.E. for the invasion (1446 B.C.E. for the Exodus), and this certainly is inaccurate if the biblical record is to be reconciled with the archeological data in any meaningful way. Few, if any, serious scholars suggest this date as the date for the conquest anymore.

    As Orthodox Jewish scholar Marc Brettler summarizes the issues and problems:
    “Someone conquered some of the cities that the Bible claims Joshua conquered; [but] it is difficult to discern who conquered them (we know that the Sea People, including the Philistines, were also settling the area at this time and taking over population centers); One reason that the conquerors’ identity is obscure is because Israelite artifacts are practically the same as those of other local groups living at this time; [and] of the cities that according to Joshua were conquered in the period, archeological evidence for many of these sites show no signs of conquest; this period meanwhile shows a remarkable upsurge of new settlement in the central hill or highland area of the country…What would the archaeological record look like if the Book of Joshua were factual? We would expect to find a complete destruction of the major Canaanite cities datable to the same time period. In addition, we would expect to find Canaanite material culture (pottery jugs, housing styles) replaced by totally new styles, most likely with Egyptian motifs or styles, reflecting the origins of the conquering people. However, such evidence eludes us even after a large number of excavations and surveys (mini-excavations). What have archeologists found instead? Some evidence of destruction, but significantly more evidence for new settlement patterns at perviously uninhabited sites in the highlands. This suggests to many that the main claim in Joshua—a complete and total conquest by Israel—is false; rather many Israelites originated as Canaanites. Archeologists in general now doubt that the people Israel arose predominately outside the land of Israel.”

    Thus I believe archeology, internal contradictions within the Bible (cf. Judges 1 with the Book of Joshua), and a basic sense of Christian morality seriously calls into question the narratives I mentioned in my previous comments. There is more that I could say, but I think that this should suffice for now.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  63. Stephanie permalink
    September 7, 2009 10:20 pm

    TYD,

    Thank you for your well-thought-out post and clarification of your viewpoint. I appreciate your candor.

    I would like to address some of your statements and show why I think that your viewpoint is inconsistent. Or perhaps I am wrong and you are, in fact, quite consistent in your approach to both the Biblical text and the LDS scriptures.

    Whether or not it supports your understanding of what the Bible is or what the Bible teaches, or whether or not it supports what many or most LDS Christians think the Bible is or teaches is not my concern either. Rather, I agree with Joseph Smith when he said, “One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may,” and when he stated, “Truth is Mormonism.” I am after the truth, let the chips fall where they may.

    What is this truth in Mormonism? Or perhaps you have a very liberal view of what it means to be Mormon? I suppose I need more clarification because I am pondering how one can come to view the Biblical text from the critical position and accept the BoM and other LDS scripture. Do you accept the BoM as an ancient manuscript? Do you believe that it is the history of the people of the Americas? Do you believe it is the most correct book on earth? I can understand that if you take the secular academic view of the LDS scriptures, your position is quite consistent and I apologize for mischaracterizing you as being “double minded.” However, what does that leave you then? What aspect of Mormonism do you have if you accept the LDS scriptures as nothing more than a creative work of fiction? How can Joseph Smith be credible if he wrote something that was false and he asserted that it was history?

    Perhaps you simply do not know what the words “fair” and/or “justice” actually mean, because there is nothing “fair” and/or “just” in infanticide in any circumstance that I can imagine. Perhaps you need to use another word or words instead to describe what you mean by “fair justice” when referring to such ethically appalling stories in the Bible, because the penalties imposed are neither “fair” nor “just” using Abraham’s discussion of justice in Genesis 18.23-25.

    The Jews honor the Passover yearly. In this Biblical story God slew the firstborn of every household that did not have the blood on their doorposts. This was not ethnic genocide for God promised to pass over any house that had the blood on the doorposts—Hebrew or Egyptian. Do you chalk this story up to fable? There is nothing pleasant about the story except in how it relates to Christ—the final Passover Lamb. Evangelicals take the Romans passages on sin to be quite literal. We do believe that we are lost in our trespasses and sins and are deserving of death (Rom. 6:23). Thus, the Passover Lamb has great significance for believers. We are not being saved from going to a lesser degree of heaven, but from eternal separation from God.

    But more to the point, I analyze and interpret a text or source first; I do not believe a story or claim just because it happens to be written in the Bible or because Joseph Smith said it, or because a really famous scientist or historian said so, for that matter. You assume I have passed judgment on God because of your a priori belief that because something is stated in the Bible it must therefore be true or factual. However, I find this approach methodologically backwards.

    It is impossible to come to the Biblical text with a “blank slate.” You may suggest that I have a framework with which I interpret, and I’m sure that is true. It is also true of you. We all have deep-seated beliefs that color our perspectives not just on the Bible, but on every aspect of life. Consider the holocaust. This event occurred less than 100 years ago and, in fact, survivors exist today. Yet, there are large segments of society that do not believe that it is possible for 6 million Jews to have been murdered. American anti-Semites are not the only ones who have popularized the position; even Iranean president Ahmadinejad is a holocaust denier. Despite the evidence of concentration camps, gas chambers, eye-witness accounts, survivors, and Nazi records many still dispute the evidence. Facts are nothing without a person to interpret them through their own worldview. Deep-seated anti-Semitism makes holocaust denial appealing. In the same way, our beliefs or unbelief influence our interpretation of the text. I would also suggest that what seems immoral or unjust to you may not be unjust to God.

    As the comment you referenced to above notes, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus (which should have been your first clue that I was not an atheist or an agnostic too by the way!), which is clearly part of the New Testament programme.

    One would think, though, that the resurrection of Jesus would be some attestation of his divinity. Or, at the very least, a divine stamp of approval on His life and work. Thus, I find it incredible that you would dismiss Jesus’ reference to Noah, saying,

    I would also note that just because Jesus (or God) references a story does not mandate, in my theological judgment, that it is necessarily historical.

    Here is what Jesus actually said regarding Noah, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27). There is a parallel passage in Matt. 24:37-38. How could Jesus, who you say was raised from the dead, have gotten the history so wrong? You mention that perhaps Jesus was simply speaking to the Jews using their cultural expectations and grids. Yet, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their traditions. Further, if you are correct that God would never allow infants, women and children to be killed as a result of His judgment, this would be the time for Jesus to correct them. Why would He further add to the lie by affirming that, indeed, God allowed judgment to fall on them all?

    Then I suppose I will never, ever hear from you the argument that LDS Christians don’t believe in the Bible appropriately because of the fact that the 8th Article of Faith states that the Bible is the word of God “as far as it is translated correctly,” right?

    The problem is that you are not suggesting that the Bible is incorrectly translated. You are saying that, to a large degree, the events of the Old Testament (specifically the Book of Joshua) are factually untrue. That is a far different ball-of-wax than incorrect translation. Joseph Smith himself attested to the truthfulness of the Bible “insofar as it is translated correctly.” So, if you are a believing LDS Christian, than you are going against your church as well as your founding prophet. If he was this wrong in his assessment of the Scripture consider how wrong he may have been in his translation of various other “ancient documents.”

    In terms of biblical scholarship, I really have said nothing that you wouldn’t also hear scholars from Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Orthodox Jews, Catholics and a number of other religious and non-religious backgrounds say.

    Actually, this is not completely true. Reading your response to NChristine I think I can safely assume that you take the critical view of a number of Old Testament passages. And, while it is true that you can find skeptics in any circle, I would certainly not agree that the majority view of Evangelical Christians is at all similar to the view you have proposed. And, I can say with certainty that the mainline LDS church would not agree.

    I would seriously recommend that you go and take some courses in the Bible at an academically well-recognized university or seminary, if for no other reason than to learn about a world you haven’t apparently even heard of. If this isn’t an option, I could provide you with other (more convenient) resources.

    Thank you for the recommendations. 🙂

    I know that it made you really angry that I called you double minded, but I don’t see any other way of viewing your statements in light of your other statements in which you call yourself an “LDS Christian.” The same academic lens through which you view the Bible must be used on the LDS scriptures. Even if you don’t believe in all of the historical details of the Scripture, at least the Bible can be shown to be an ancient document. The earliest copy of the Book of Mormon was written in the 1800s. The only reason that we can even discuss whether or not the Book of Joshua could be a reliable account is that we actually can find cities in the correct locale. The same cannot be said of the Book of Mormon.

    Stephanie

  64. September 8, 2009 11:35 am

    Stephanie,

    I don’t have time to respond in full. I want to clarify for you, however, that I do not mind when people think that my arguments or positions are inconsistent. However, I do get upset when someone fails to actually engage my arguments and instead resorts to criticizing my person, in this case by calling me duplicitous and suggesting that I am really a closet atheist or agnostic.

    TYD

  65. September 8, 2009 3:11 pm

    YD,

    I think you may have simply taken Stephanie’s use of the word duplicity wrong. There is a definition for it which fits perfectly in her comment to you…

    2. The quality or state of being twofold or double.

    It doesn’t necessarily always mean “deliberately being fraudulent or deceptive.” The state of being two fold or double fits right into what she was saying.

    Have a great day.

    Darrell

  66. NChristine permalink
    September 8, 2009 4:25 pm

    Hi TYD,

    Thanks for taking the time to write at length. I would a thousand times rather someone presented their evidences for their views rather than stating generalizations…but it takes time to do so. It also takes time to respond, and I cannot respond today to every one of the items you brought up. I would like to add some thoughts on some of the sites you/Dever/others have noted, and perhaps get back to you on others later should I have time in the near future. I am not an expert in these matters, but I do tend to be a natural skeptic (probably we all are to some degree?) and so have studied numerous aspects of my faith as it relates to reality in the world. I have not yet found incontrovertible evidence that can dissuade me from believing the Bible to be reliable (though several times I thought I had before researching a matter fully and finding I was wrong). Indeed, there have been many facts that have contrarily served as positive evidence for its trustworthiness.

    As you know, there are only three cities in Canaan listed in the text of Joshua as actually destroyed. (Of many cities, it is said that the inhabitants but not the structures were destroyed, while in others, only the kings/armies were destroyed at another location.) Ai, Jericho, and Hazor, however, are all said to have been destroyed by fire.

    First, Jericho seems oft cited as an example of contradiction of the Bible, but the facts don’t seem to support this conclusion. Both Kenyon and Garstang found evidence of collapsed walls (fallen over the retaining wall in such a way as to make a ramp so the invaders could have gone “straight up,” as described in Joshua). They also found evidence of massive conflagration following the collapse of the walls. Further, storehouses of grain were found—also burned—which would signify that this occurred at harvest time, that a long siege was not involved, and that the grain (though valuable in that culture) was not taken by the invaders as plunder. All these details are attested to by the text of Joshua, and most of these facts could not have been known by some 7th-century author inventing a story to explain a ruin. Of course, the date of this great destruction is the issue. Garstang dated it to ca. 1400 (the traditional date of the Conquest), but Kenyon in the 50’s re-dated it to ca. 1550. In the recent documentary on Jericho by Living Hope Ministries (I think mentioned by Jessica; I have also seen it) describes the reasoning behind Kenyon’s dating: she based this on the absence of imported Cypriot ware, which was prevalent in the period around 1400. However, biblical archaeologist Bryant Wood, whose dissertation centered on Late Bronze Canaanite pottery, thoroughly analyzed both Kenyon’s and Garstang’s work and concluded that while the imported pottery might be missing, the local pottery dated to ca. 1400 at this destruction layer. Further, imitation Cypriot pottery was present (obviously dating to the same time period as the “real thing”). In the documentary, a colleague of Kenyon’s (who of course leans toward her dating) said he had an “open mind” on the date of the fall of Jericho, and thought “the pottery was the strongest part of his [Wood’s] argument.” It should be noted that the radiocarbon dates of grain in the destruction layer, which matched Kenyon’s date of ca. 1550, are not fool-proof evidence. Apparently the same dating discrepancy between pottery and radiometric dating exists regarding archaeology at Thera, and is much discussed in the archaeological literature. This whole matter seems a far cry from a good case for proving the biblical account erroneous!

    Regarding Ai, the site currently identified as the biblical Ai shows no evidence of destruction during the Late Bronze Age, so would seem to contradict the biblical account. However, there seems to be a major problem. You referred to the site as “massive” during the Early Bronze Age. The other day I was perusing a section of The Archaeology of Ancient Israel contributed by archaeologist Amihai Mazar, and he also referred to the site at et-Tell as “a large and important town of the Early Bronze Age” and talked about the ruins of the “huge town” (p. 283). But Ai is repeatedly described as small in the text of Joshua, and indeed is the only city to be described in terms of a neighboring town in the city list of Joshua 12: “the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel.” How can we be sure the right site has been identified, when such a major contradiction remains? Had later Israelites truly concocted a story based on the presence of a huge nearby ruin, they would not have described the city in such diminutive terms!

    Archaeologist Bryant Wood is currently directing an excavation of Kh. el-Maqatir and claims that numerous geographical factors present a good case for its being the biblical Ai. (The text of Joshua is quite detailed in its description of Ai.) You can read his arguments here. If this is the correct site, it apparently does contain “abundant evidence” of destruction by fire in the Late Bronze Age – and it is a small, not a “massive,” ruins.

    As for the last of the actually-destroyed cities of Canaan – Hazor – the massive destruction in the 13th century (including smashing of images – a possible mark of Israelite involvement?) is sometimes cited as “proof” of a late-date Exodus/Conquest, but the dates don’t quite match! However, Hazor was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, including prior in the Late Bronze period (closer to the traditional date of the Conquest). It just so happens (as Bryant Wood points out) that the massive, later destruction occurred right around the time that biblical chronology puts the defeat of “Jabin king of Hazor” by Deborah and Barak. (Kitchen notes that the two Jabins should no more be viewed as conflated than the two Niqmads, Ammishtamrus, Mursils, Ramesses, etc., etc. of the 14th/13th centuries.) I believe excavation is currently underway in Hazor (you would know better than I), and perhaps more data will be forthcoming. Certainly the city’s status as “the head of the kingdoms” in the Late Bronze period is attested by archaeology.

    As for other Canaanite cities, you cited several “contradictions” that don’t seem to be such. You listed Taanach, Megiddo, Jarmuth, and Tirzah as points of contradiction between Joshua and Judges, or between Joshua and archaeology. However, the text does not state that these cities were destroyed by Joshua. Indeed, they are listed right along with other cities, such as those of Achshaph, whose kings were defeated in battles of confederation with other kings, and away from their home cities (see Joshua 10), but whose cities (and even inhabitants) were not destroyed. I referred to Dever’s table titled “Cities in Joshua 12:9-4,” and he does the exact same thing: regarding Jerusalem, he lists “No destruction at the end of LBII,” as though that is relevant to the text of Joshua. The text never claims destruction of Jerusalem at all – indeed, it says the tribe of Judah could not drive out the Jebusite inhabitants!

    Regarding other sites, let me cite additional evidences from Kenneth Kitchen’s On the Reliability of the Old Testament.

    –The text of Joshua is similar to other 2nd millennium military annals from the Near East – slightly formulaic but free to add or change in places. It is not similar to some ancient “historical fiction” genre, seeing that such a genre did not exist at all in the ancient Near East.

    –No total occupation is described in the text of Joshua. Some inhabitants are explicitly said to have escaped to other towns, some are said to be unable to be driven out, etc. Obviously later in Joshua the presence of Canaanites throughout the land is explicitly mentioned.

    –The Israelite strategy, like the Egyptian mode of conquest, is not easily discernible in an archaeological excavation. Theirs (the Israelites’) was essentially to kill the Canaanite leaders and their manpower. The cities themselves were not destroyed, nor all the inhabitants wiped out.

    –Even in instances of historically well-known conquests (Norman Conquest, Muslim invasion of Syrai-Palestine, Anglo-Saxon settling of England, Levantine campaigns of Egyptians, Hittites, Assyrians, etc.), often the “expected” archaeological indicators are not present.

    –Of 24 Canaanite cities specified in Joshua, fully 20 show evidence of occupation in the Late Bronze Age. Of the other 4, Kitchen cites “factors that account for the deficiencies” in information – e.g., 95% undug at Gibeon (but yielding 8 LB tombs, which could portend later discoveries in the other 95%), very limited excavation at Makkedah due to a modern village overlying much of that site, etc. (As he favors an early date for the Conquest, Kitchen specifies LB II, though it appears from a cursory reading that in general his cited evidences show occupation throughout the LB period.)

    –As for Sinai, I need to study more in this area and don’t have enough time right now. However, Kitchen notes the folly of expecting physical evidence of the journey, due to factors such as the mud of the Delta area, the likelihood that travelers would not have been hauling tons of pottery on such a long trip (much less the 40 years’ extension). He notes that travelers on other long journeys earlier were explicitly described as using skins for water (Gen. 21:14) rather than preservable items such as pottery.

    –As for the Transjordan, again Kitchen cites recent discoveries of a series of Late Bronze (II?) settlements – some walled – throughout the Transjordan region. If previously nothing was found, and more recently evidence has begun to be found, should we not suspend judgment on this area?

    ———-

    Then there is the issue of lack of a noticeable new population in the Late Bronze Age in Canaan. As for population numbers, I am aware of this issue and would like to look into it further. Whatever the case, it seems a complex topic (difficulty in determining precise population estimates, etymology of the Hebrew word translated “thousand,” the fact that the Israelites are described as “returning to the camp at Gilgal” rather than at first settling the cities they conquered, etc.) and I will need to research it more to determine what seems valid. However, regarding the notion of a lack of foreign population evidence, it seems to me that again the details of the text should be re-examined. Did the Israelites truly have a material culture greatly different from the local Canaanites? After all, the Pentateuch claims that Abraham and his clan lived in Canaan for 215 years prior to Jacob’s migration to Egypt. There is evidence for at least some intermarriage between the patriarchal clan and the Canaanites (e.g., Simeon, Judah’s sons). When Jacob arrived in Egypt, his goods are described as obtained “in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 46:6). And the book of Joshua claims that the Israelites took the “spoil” of most of the cities (not Jericho, Hazor, etc.) for themselves (11:14)—again adding to the Canaanite goods used by the Israelites. Given such biblical claims, should we really expect evidence of a starkly different population entering the land?

    Finally, you seem to object to the historicity of Joshua/Judges partly on ethical grounds (you seemed to say as much) – but this does not seem to maintain the position of being “after the truth, let the chips fall where they may.” If you do accept the LDS worldview, then you have certain pertinent assumptions by which you judge what is ethical. For example, the usual LDS worldview (as well as that of many non-LDS) precludes the idea of eternal, severe negative consequences for sin. (Some LDS have even questioned whether Hitler will be in heaven.) In Mormon thought, there is no real “hell,” and very few people seem to end up in “outer darkness.” Thus, your view regarding what is ethical is shaped by these assumptions (should you indeed hold to them). But what if there really is a hell, as the Bible (particularly Jesus) repeatedly asserts? What if God chose death for infants rather than letting them grow to accountability and suffer eternal judgment? I do not understand all that God does, nor do I claim to understand divine reasons for this matter, but it has occurred to me that if His word is true in all respects (both historically and theologically), then any infants killed in the Conquest were spared from an almost undoubted eternal destiny of torment. You may object to this, but you do so based upon your own worldview, and you have asserted that this should not color your quest for truth. I agree.

  67. September 9, 2009 3:25 am

    YD, would you know the names of any of the guys you mentioned for the Southern Baptist archaeological exploration?

    I am curious.

  68. September 9, 2009 10:57 am

    Todd,

    Joseph Callaway excavated ‘Ai between 1965 and 1972.

    TYD

  69. DOTK permalink
    September 14, 2009 9:22 pm

    Stephanie, I just wanted to say welcome. What an excellent article.

    DOTK

  70. September 15, 2009 5:33 pm

    TYD: Very interesting summary of Canaanite settlement. What do you know about linguistics that might shed some light on Joshua’s “invasion”? I would expect Hebrew to remain relatively unchanged upon settling in Canaan if indeed the Canaanites were obliterated, but it would show heavy Canaanite influence if many/most of the Israelites were in fact originally Canaanite.

    One of the best places to look for such influence is in place names which show greater surviveability in the “native” tongue than other words.

  71. NChristine permalink
    September 15, 2009 6:57 pm

    Hi Brian,

    Interesting comment. I wonder if you have considered the following passages in Joshua that explicitly state that the Canaanites were not “obliterated,” including these:

    9:3-6, 25-27
    15:63
    16:10
    17:12-13
    17:16-18
    18:2-6
    19:47 (This post-Conquest development is attested by the archaeology at Laish/Dan.)
    Chapter 23 (Note the twice-repeated “these that remain among you” and the future tense of “He shall expel them from before you” — this all after Joshua’s conquest.)

    Also, consider the extensive contact between the patriarchal clan and the Canaanites (including intermarriage) described in Genesis. If the OT is reliable, then we would expect that the Hebrews would have had significant Canaanite influence even before their migration to Egypt. If the OT is accurate, then careful readers would also expect limited obliteration of that Canaanite influence by the Egyptian contact (46:34, 43:32).

  72. September 15, 2009 8:07 pm

    If I were to state the answer simply Brian J, ancient Hebrew is just a dialect of “Canaanite.”

  73. September 16, 2009 11:29 pm

    thanks for the responses.

  74. NChristine permalink
    September 17, 2009 5:39 am

    Hi TYD,

    I wanted to return to a few more of the alleged discrepancies you cited. I know you are familiar with this topic but wonder if there are some things you have not considered or might re-consider. A number of those “discrepancies” don’t seem to jive with all the facts. Let me start with a few things you did not mention, for any theory of Israelite origins in Canaan must take into account the following:

    • Evidence of nomadic, pastoral “Asiatics” living in the mid-nineteenth century BC in the Egyptian city known to the Bible as Ramesses (and known to archaeology as Qantir/Tell el-Daba). In this Asiatic settlement area, Manfred Bietak found pottery made in southern Palestine (as determined by neutron activation analysis), and J. S. Holladay found a four-room house of the same type and size as those often associated with Israelite settlement in Canaan (Wood, 2003). This city (which acquired the name Pi-Ramesse later) is featured multiple times in the Exodus narratives, and the date of this “Asiatic” settlement before the Hyksos period matches the time Israelites would have first settled in Egypt according to the traditional date of the Exodus. Of further interest is a tomb of an “Asiatic” dignitary which, unlike the others in the village cemetery, had been entered and the bones removed (Wood, 2003) – strikingly reminiscent of the Hebrew dignitary Joseph, whose bones are said to have been later removed to Canaan (Ex. 13:19).

    • Canaanite-style pottery found at the other slave-built “store city” of Exodus 1, later named Pithom. Archaeologist JS Holladay considered the pottery to have belonged to pastoralists who “were recruited by the Asiatics [referring to the Hyksos] for building their new settlement” (Holladay, 1997).

    • The conflagration evidence, at the appropriate dates, in the four cities listed as burned: Jericho, Khirbet el-Maqatir (Ai?), Hazor, and Laish:

    1. An “earthquake” (so-named by Kenyon) collapsed the mud brick walls of Jericho downward over the retaining wall, creating a ramp-like embankment. This happened prior to the fire that burned large quantities of stored grain, and after this there was abandonment – exactly as recorded in the biblical account, and unknowable to a 7th century writer of “historical/religious fiction.”

    2. Khirbet el-Maqatir, not et-Tell, evidences itself as biblical Ai, and it was destroyed by fire at the end of the LB Age. The site was pointed out as Ai by some local villagers to both Edward Robinson and Ernest Sellin in the 19th century. Edwards, however, thought he had already found Ai (though miscalculating the distance from Jerusalem to “Bethel”), so he commented that there was nothing at Khirbet el-Maqatir but a Greek church – despite the fact that 200 meters further from where he was, ruins remained above ground (Wood, 2003). The current excavator of Khirbet el-Maqatir has found a small fortress with 15th-century pottery, along with evidence of destruction by fire: ash and burned stones, pottery, and bedrock. In addition, the site fits multiple geographic descriptors of Ai: relation to other sites, valleys and hills on correct sides, etc. (Wood, 2003).

    3. Evidence from the 2001 excavation shows that Hazor was destroyed in the 15th century BC by a conflagration “similar to the one that brought an end to the later phase” (Hebrew University, 2004; see Excavation Reports, 2001, Area M). In addition, it was also destroyed in the 13th century, the time of Deborah and Barak, who are said to have conquered the later Hazor.

    4. Laish/Dan is biblically recorded as having been destroyed some time after the conquest, when the tribe of Dan captured Laish “and burnt the city with fire” (Judges 18:27, also recounted in Joshua 19:47). The report of the excavation of Laish/Dan (Biran, 1994) reveals the following: (1) a conflagration layer around the first half of the 12th century BC, (2) a significantly different population (pastoral and semi-nomadic) inhabiting the city thereafter, and (3) evidence that the population was not indigenous to the Laish area (some of their pottery was not locally made but originated in places throughout the country). The excavators concluded that “Given the biblical evidence, the obvious candidate is the tribe of Dan” (Biran, 1994).

    The chronology of these events matches the biblical accounts (Jericho, Hazor, and Khirbet el-Maqatir in the 15th/14th centuries; Hazor and Laish in the 13th/12th).

    • Jerusalem’s and Hazor’s prominence both in the biblical account (Joshua 10:1-4, 11:10) and in the 14th century Amarna letters (Edwards, 1975).

    • Similarities between the condition of Palestine in the Amarna letters (14th century) and that described in Joshua – for example, local demoralization, conquest of cities (i.e., turmoil), confederacies against invading raiders such as the ‘apiru, and landless, nomadic peoples (‘apiru, shasu).

    • An Amarna letter that complains of the king of Achsaph only pretending to provide military assistance to the writer (Edwards, 1975). Interestingly, the text of Joshua states that just previous to this a king of Achsaph actually did provide military assistance to another king – and lost his life for it!

    • The indisputable presence of Israel in Canaan (apparently militarily, apparently with some prominence) by ca. 1200 (Merneptah Stele).

    • The continuance of Canaanite culture into the Iron Age I at Megiddo and Beth Shean, which are listed as unconquered (Mazar, 1992).

    • The Iron Age I matching settlement patterns in two separated regions precisely where the two halves of the tribe of Manasseh are recorded as having settled (Mazar, 1992).

    • The fact that the text does not glowingly report a fairy tale of success: it reports defeat even at a small town (Ai) and in numerous passages specifies the lack of total victory, much less occupation.

    • The existence, in most instances, of archaeological and/or historical evidence that the cities or places discussed in the text were inhabited during the time of the conquest. (In the changing and assumption-laden world of archaeology, a present lack of evidence in a few places does not constitute negative evidence!)

    • The fact that the “conquest model” rejected by most mainstream scholars is Albright’s “late-date” (13th century Exodus) model (Rasmussen, 2003), which was formulated on a series of now-disproved assumptions. The early-date model is not under consideration, as you yourself indirectly admitted, and as your/Dever’s multiple references to problems at the “12th and 13th centuries” show.

    Let me address a few more of the specific issues you raised:

    Arad and the Negev

    Your/Dever’s statement that there was no LB Canaanite population in the northern Negev does not take into account Tel Halif (ancient name not established) at the juncture of the Negev and Judean hills, which gives evidence not only of LB Canaanite habitation but destruction at 1400 BC (Jacobs, 2001). Interestingly, Numbers 21 depicts the Israelites as moving on rather than settling after their destruction of a place they renamed “Hormah” (the destruction being in response to Canaanite aggression and prisoner-taking of Israelites). From what I can gather, the architecture at Tel Halif after the 1400 destruction is the same as that just prior to it (Jacobs, 2001), which would seem consistent with a re-settling after the destroyers had moved on.

    During the Early Bronze Age the city at Tel Halif had “inherited from Arad the status of gateway city between the northern Negev and southern foothills” (Peregrine, 2002). Perhaps Arad’s name, as well as its role, had been redistributed – i.e., transferred to a broader kingdom? Kenneth Kitchen notes other examples of this phenomenon, such as Assyria’s name being taken from the city of Asshur, though later in its history other cities, such as Nineveh, became the capital (2003). I do not know whether Tel Halif is Zephath/Hormah, but it is evidence that there certainly was a city in the region that was both inhabited and destroyed during the precise period in question.

    Further, the text of Joshua itself actually would not lead one to believe that the region around Arad was brimming with sedentary, urbanized people. Note that in Judges 1:17 the family of Moses’ father-in-law are said to have moved to the wilderness “south of Arad” and lived “among the people.” Since Moses’ in-laws were pastoral, nomadic or semi-nomadic desert-dwellers (Ex. 3:1), the text itself implies sparse and mostly non-urbanized habitation in the Negev during the period in question – which matches the archaeology you described.

    Dibon: The Egyptian evidence

    You referred to Dibon in Moab and its lack of Late Bronze evidence (at least at present). However, archaeological evidence or no, a topographical list by Ramesses II shows that their indeed was such a place as Dibon, in Moab, no later than 1270 BC. Kitchen calls the reading Dibon in the original Egyptian text “beyond doubt” and “clinched by the immediate context of Moab with Butartu” (Kitchen, 2003). William Dever (2006) appears to acknowledge the multiple Egyptian attestations (15th-13th centuries BC) to Dibon and other places, but seems to pass it off by labeling these places as broad “regions” rather than towns or settlements. However, the Ramesses II list calls each place “a dmi, or settlement” (Kitchen, 2003). Further, it is drawn by the Egyptians as a fort, on which fact archaeologist Michael Hasel comments, “Whenever a site written and pictured in this way has been identified it was a proper settlement” (1998). Indeed, Dibon is listed as a place captured by Ramesses, which confirms its identity as a town/fort/settlement. Neither the Bible nor the Egyptian references specify the level of political development of the site, but the point is there was such a place – some type of actual settlement that could be conquered – in the Late Bronze Age. Whether archaeological evidence has yet been uncovered, the historical evidence seems clear that the reference to a Late Bronze, Moabite Dibon is no biblical mistake.

    Edom: No anachronism

    You also referenced the “king of Edom” as an anachronism. But this again doesn’t match the historical data. In the first place, the 14th century Amarna letters use the word “king” multiple times to refer to local princes in the Levant (Edwards, 1975), so using the term “king” in Joshua fits with this contemporary custom perfectly. As for Edom itself, Edomite kings prior to the 9th century BC are mentioned in Assyrian texts and local seals. To dispute the OT here, one must also dispute other ancient sources. Further, the “anachronism” idea is only as good as the theory that urbanized, sendentary people groups are the only ones who can have rulers. But the fact that “kings” could exist among nomadic peoples is attested to by such facts as the Assyrian king list, which starts with 17 early-second-millennium “kings who lived in tents,” or the existence of non-urban, nonsedentary rulers of Babylonia during the same general period (Kitchen, 2003). This objection raised by Dever and others seems to be a Western conception superimposed upon the ancient Near East. Certainly the Egyptian sources confirm that Edom was indeed inhabited in the LB Age.

    As archaeologist Amihai Mazar says, archaeologists “tend to determine precise dates of destruction…on relatively flimsy evidence. In the discussion of the Israelite conquest it would therefore be best to treat the archaeological evidence with circumspection and to avoid basing far-reaching conclusions on it” (1992). Or as your friend John C put it once (I paraphrase), “One pot out of place, and everything is off.” I would encourage a reconsideration of the evidence, including a re-examination of the biblical text itself to see what it does say and what it does not say.

    On a personal note, I believe one of the most important sections of the Exodus-to-Judges text is the story of Rahab. In a story that tells a lot about the character of God and how people can belong to Him, this woman turned from being a pagan headed for judgment to (presumably) an ancestor of my Savior (Matthew 1:5). She was a woman saved by faith, according to the author of Hebrews, and because of the One who humbled Himself to become a part-Canaanite Jewish human, so am I.

    (Forgive the almost-APA format; I haven’t quite recovered from graduate school a few years back — which was not in this field!) 🙂

    References

    Bietak, M. (1986). Avaris and Piramesse: Archaeological exploration in the eastern Nile delta, London: British Academy. As cited by B. Wood. (2003).

    Biran, A., Ed. (1994). Biblical Dan. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

    Dever, W. (2006). Who were the early Israelites and where did they come from? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

    Edwards, I. E. S. (1975). The Cambridge ancient history, Vol. 2, Part 2. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

    Hasel, M. (1998). Domination and resistance: Egyptian military activity in the southern Levant. Leiden: Brill.

    Hebrew University. (2004). Hazor excavation reports 2001: Area M. Retrieved 15 September from http://micro5.mscc.huji.ac.il/~hatsor/hazor.html

    Holladay, J. S. (1997). The eastern Nile delta during the Hyksos and Pre-Hyksos periods: Toward a systemic/socioeconomic understanding.” In E. Oren (Ed.), The Hyksos: New Historical and Archaeological Perspectives. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania. As cited by B. Wood. (2003).

    Jacobs, P. (2001). Ancient world, digital world: Excavation at Halif [Electronic version]. Adriadne, 27, n.p. Retrieved 13 September from http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue27/jacobs/

    Peregrine, P.N., and Ember, M. (2002). Encyclopedia of Prehistory, Vol. 8: South and Southwest Asia. NY: Springer.

    Rasmussen, C. (2003). Conquest, infiltration, revolt, or resettlement? What really happened during the Exodus-Judges period? In D. M. Howard and M. A. Grisanti (Ed.), Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts. Grand Rapids: Kregel.

    Wood, B. (2003). From Ramesses to Shiloh: Archaeological discoveries bearing on the Exodus-Judges period. In D. M. Howard and M. A. Grisanti (Ed.), Giving the Sense: Understanding and Using Old Testament Historical Texts. Grand Rapids: Kregel.

  75. September 17, 2009 11:23 am

    BrianJ and NChristine,

    I probably won’t have time to write a reply/explanation at length until sometime in October. Sorry! But I will try not to forget. 🙂

    TYD

  76. September 22, 2009 3:13 am

    I think polygamy is only an issue because BOTH Mormons and a lot of their Christian critics are basically still dealing with our societal baggage of Victorian sexual repression (assuming Joseph’s marriages were sexual – which is a contested point).

    One thing I’ve found is that sex is powerful – it has a lot of potential to hurt people. But it is also uplifting – a symbolic and sacramental act wherein husband and wife come closer to the sort of unified love that God himself possesses.

    But both Mormons and Christians still can’t help feeling the whole things is somehow dirty.

    Which makes marital relations the perfect tool for humiliating a Mormon about their history.

    Most marriages are marred by sexual and emotional problems. Most of our intimate lives would probably look disgusting when thrown open to public comment and speculation. Each and every one of the people here most likely has little mannerisms and personality quirks in their intimate lives that would no-doubt completely humiliate them on “reality” TV.

    But since Joseph is supposed to be a “prophet” and not a human being, he is not allowed to have such quirks and they quickly become a handy club for embarrassing people.

    My own view is that plural relations were a commandment. But how Joseph enacted them was a matter of trial-and-error. And like any man with a marriage, he messed up.

    What God was doing here, in my view, is challenging the conventional walls that we have thrown up around our own intimate lives. None of his commandments about respecting others, treating others well, etc were suspended. But it was an accepted part of the package deal that such a radical reinstitution of a practice long dead to Joseph’s culture would be inevitably messy and complicated.

    Joseph was basically seeking for Zion. It was his life-mission and obsession and everything he did focused on that end.

    It was a ritualized and formalized symbol of the love that was the ground of God’s own purpose and being (as I have mentioned before, Joseph’s theology does not start – like traditional Christianity – with the proposition of God being all-powerful, but rather with God being love). God’s own unity with Son and Spirit was based on love. Our own quest to reunite with our Heavenly Father would likewise be based on love. Sealings were the symbolic and ritual manifestation of this ideal.

    We learn that Zion was a place where people were of “one heart and one mind.” Joseph sought to formalize this ideal through the use of covenant bonds. Polygamy is, I think, best viewed as an extension of the love that makes exaltation possible. If he’d lived longer, I imagine Joseph would have taken his revisioning of the conventional American notion of marriage even further than he did. Sealings would have been extended further than they were.

    But he died, and Brigham Young and later prophets set Joseph’s radical notions of sealings and reigned them in under the existing patriarchal structure.

    Having made his point, God did not require this stretching of his people’s notions any more and the earthly practice was ended. But this period stands as a constant reminder to the LDS people that God’s ways are not our ways, and we should not read him by the light of our own selfish insecurities.

  77. September 22, 2009 9:32 pm

    Seth,

    I understand your perspective. Nevertheless, I personally believe you are taking something which the average person simply knows is sick and trying to paint it in the best light. In addition, when you say our problem with it is simply societal baggage of Victorian sexual repression you are making the EXACT same argument that child molesters make.

    “Most of our intimate lives would probably look disgusting when thrown open to public comment and speculation.”

    Fortunately, most of our sex lives don’t involve 14 year old girls or other men’s wives. Our problems with JS have nothing to do with him having minor marital problems… it was the fact that he used the supposed “mantel of God” to coerce others into relationships that are wrong. He used his power over others for his own pleasure.

    “But both Mormons and Christians still can’t help feeling the whole things is somehow dirty.”

    Yes, most Mormons and Christians will all agree that coercing 14 year old girls and other men’s wives into marriage is dirty. It has nothing to do with societal baggage… just like how the average individual believes that an adult man having sexual relations with a minor is wrong is not sexual regression. Yet, this is the same argument that those in favor of such actions use. They claim that society is simply sexually repressed and if we would let go of our inhibitions we would agree with them. The problem is we ALL know that a 30+ year old man using the promise of eternal salvation to coerce 14 year old girls and other men’s wives (while their husbands were sent on missions none the less) is simply wrong on all fronts.

    Darrell

  78. September 22, 2009 9:44 pm

    I don’t think that’s an accurate picture of what happened Darrell.

    But I’m not interested in rehashing it with you. You know my arguments here, and you’ve chosen to deliberately ignore them.

    One point though –

    I should point out that just because an unsavory person makes a certain argument, it does not invalidate that argument in all instances.

    Your argument is largely an appeal to emotionalism and gut reaction – which makes the argument particularly susceptible to being colored by personal prejudice.

  79. September 22, 2009 11:24 pm

    “Your argument is largely an appeal to emotionalism and gut reaction – which makes the argument particularly susceptible to being colored by personal prejudice.”

    Not at all… my argument is that the traditional view of marriage (one man and one woman) and the traditional view that children are off limits sexually are the correct biblical and moral views – both of which JS called into question. I believe your argument that the traditional view is simply the product of Victorian sexual repression is invalid. I am not appealing to emotion. Rather, I am appealing to society’s traditional biblically based view.

    “I should point out that just because an unsavory person makes a certain argument, it does not invalidate that argument in all instances.”

    Perhaps not. However, this does demonstrate the crazy lengths that your argument can be taken too. If society’s view is nothing more than the product of sexual regression, then who is to say that sex with children is bad? Besides, you are using the agrument to support deviant sexual behavior (at least according to society’s traditional biblical based viewpoint) just as child molesters and homosexuals are. The exact same argument is being used by several different movements in an effort to normalize deviant sexual behavior while calling into question the validity of a biblical based moral principle that has been at the heart of Christianity for 2000 years. Doesn’t that say something? Who do you think is behind this argument? Could it possibly be coming from the same spiritual source? I think the liklihood is very high.

    Darrell

  80. September 22, 2009 11:43 pm

    I don’t see any particular evidence that Joseph was engaged in any particularly deviant behavior other than having more than one wife. I don’t think the pedophile angle has been established at all, and the facts surrounding his marriage to Zina are murky at best.

    Believe what you want Darrell.

  81. September 23, 2009 12:39 am

    “I don’t see any particular evidence that Joseph was engaged in any particularly deviant behavior other than having more than one wife.”

    I’m glad to see that we agree that this is a deviant behavior.

    Add to this coercing 14 year olds and other men’s wives with the promise of eternal salvation and matters get even worse.

    What is even more sordid about the whole thing is that JS’s lust for women prevented him from following his own “revelations”. He couldn’t keep himself away from other men’s wives despite God telling him to stick to virgins. BTW, don’t go pulling out the Mormon apologetic argument that “virgin” in Hebrew really doesn’t mean “virgin”… that argument is weak.

    Anyway, I know you don’t want to discuss this so I will leave it alone. I just get going on this issue because I find the whole thing disgusting and in complete violation of what God has told us. This is definately not my number one problem with JS, but it is in my top 10 list of reasons why JS could not have been a prophet – using the mantel of God for his own sordid pleasure.

    Have a good night.

    Darrell

  82. Stephanie permalink
    September 23, 2009 12:55 am

    I don’t think the pedophile angle has been established at all, and the facts surrounding his marriage to Zina are murky at best.

    Actually this is not true. Zina’s marriages have been well documented by both LDS and secular scholars. You can check out this 2006 FAIR conference lecture on “Zina and her Men.”

    I don’t know which aspects of her marriages you would label “murky at best.” It is well accepted that she was married to Joseph Smith at the same time that she was married to her first husband. She was pregnant at the time. I don’t know how you can dispute those facts. FAIR certainly doesn’t attempt to do so!!

    Stephanie

  83. September 23, 2009 12:59 am

    Deviant in the sense of being a deviation from the norm.

    In the same sense that women wearing pants was a deviation from the norm in the 1930s.

  84. September 23, 2009 7:32 pm

    Most of our intimate lives would probably look disgusting when thrown open to public comment and speculation.

    Not mine. Mine would look hot.

    So would Katie’s.

    But on a more serious note, Seth, you said:

    But he died, and Brigham Young and later prophets set Joseph’s radical notions of sealings and reigned them in under the existing patriarchal structure.

    Isn’t it church doctrine that subsequent LDS prophets have access to the same guidance and inspiration from God that Joseph Smith had?

    What was stopping Brigham Young from picking up where Joseph Smith left off? Why was Joseph Smith’s survival necessary for polygamy to be implemented correctly?

  85. September 23, 2009 9:49 pm

    Not mine. Mine would look hot.

    So would Katie’s.

    Thank you for that, Jack. I actually laughed out loud.

    Only because it’s totally true.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: