Biblical Anachronisms: Genesis
Searching for Consistency in Biblical/Book of Mormon Standards
Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Is this a serious problem?
During my excursions to ministries that are critical of the LDS faith, one thing that I often see highlighted as proof that the Book of Mormon is horribly inaccurate is that there are many anachronisms throughout them. In fact, I remember one critic of the LDS Church say that the anachronisms alone were enough to prove that the Book of Mormon is a fraud and that, as such, Joseph Smith couldn’t be a prophet.
Generally speaking, I brush these kinds of accusations off. What were long considered anachronisms before we have since found proof actually did exist on the ancient American continent long before anyone would have considered that to be possible. As a matter of fact, my favorite one is the criticism of elephants. It is claimed that over and over that there is no way that elephants could ever existed in America during the time period the Book of Mormon would have taken place. Or could they?
Regardless, one thing I note is that critics of the LDS Church often won’t apply the very same standards to their own faith and religion that they apply to the LDS Church. They will hold the LDS Church up to standards that they wouldn’t dare reach for themselves and then state that because we do not meet these standards we are not worth joining.
My response to this is often to point out that what the LDS Church is criticized for exists within the critic’s church as well, often in the same way. I do this in hopes of forcing them to a standard of consistency.
The Anachronisms: Genesis
Discussions over the Book of Mormon anachronisms seem rather silly once we begin to consider that the Bible has some as well. Here’s a list I found in Genesis (with the help of the NABRE translation):
Genesis 4:26 tells us that people were invoking the Lord by name since the time of Seth. This, however, is in direct contradiction to Exodus 6:2-4 where God says that He hadn’t made His name known to anyone until Moses, not even Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob.
This possible anachronism brings up some questions. The first question is: did Moses not know he received the true name of God as described in Exodus 6? Remember, Moses is the one who would have written the Pentateuch at Sinai, so the very person who received the true name of the Lord for the first time also wrote in the book of Genesis that the name had actually been invoked for some time now.
Now, if Moses was in fact correct in that no one received the true name of the LORD before him, then we have to wonder: who has changed the Pentateuch in such a way as to prove that people from the time of Seth had known the name? There has been tons of research regarding multiple authors throughout the Pentateuch. While this type of revelation does not particularly frustrate Latter-day Saints, who have known for ages that the Bible we have was altered and changed here and there, this can present a pretty big problem from those who wish to see the Bible as unaltered, perfect, and without error at all.
If the anachronisms had stopped with Moses and the true name of the Lord then things wouldn’t be so difficult to understand. But there are more:
Genesis 12:16 (and many other places in Genesis) mentions camels. Domesticated camels likely did not come into the ancient Near East until the end of the second millennium B.C. (with the possibility of them being used in a domesticated fashion in Somalia during the third millennium B.C.). The Pentateuch alleged to have been written towards the middle of the second millennium and, as of yet, there is no concrete or convincing evidence that camels made it into Egypt before Abraham. Though the writing in the second millennium isn’t the issue, the real event with Abraham would have taken place before Moses ever wrote it down, and definitely hundreds of years before. This makes this kind of statement anachronistic.
Genesis 21:32 uses the word “Philistines.” Now, while these people did indeed exist during this time, no other non-Biblical text uses the descriptive word of “Philistine” before 1200 B.C., roughly 200 years before this would have been written. Though the lack of evidence does not prove that the word “Philistine” hadn’t ever been used, had it been common enough to be inserted into this record then it should be appearing in other texts. As of yet, no such thing has been discovered, thus leading me to believe that this kind of statement is anachronistic.
Genesis 31:20 makes a similar error; Laban is described as Aramean, which would have meant he spoke Aramaic. No extra-Biblical text makes reference to the term “Aramean” for a least a few hundred years after this was supposedly written. The term was likely included to emphasize the growing tension between Jacob and Laban and let us know that their descendants would be two different races of people. Note: Some texts list Laban as Syrian including the KJV. The two terms are actually synonymous. The Hebrew is ‘Arammiy so regardless of whether he is Aramean or Syrian, he still would have been purported to have spoken Aramaic)
Obviously this statement was written after the time of Saul, Israel’s first kind. According to 1 Samuel 14:47, Saul waged war against the Edomites; according to 2 Samuel 8:2, 13-14 and 1 Kings 11:14-17, David made Edom a vassal state and nearly wiped out the royal line. These events reflect the words of the Lord to Rebekah at the birth of the boys, ‘the older shall serve the younger’ (Genesis 25:23).
Now, I’ll admit: I haven’t often confronted others with these anachronisms just yet. My first attempt at doing so in a public way was on CARM’s Facebook page. Some people took a swing at the anachronisms, but most just wanted to avoid the topic and discuss other things. To date, no one has commented in such a way as to discuss these anachronisms to my satisfaction.
The most common refutation I hear is: what if the Bible is giving us information on something that the rest of world hasn’t discovered yet?
To that I say: okay! That sounds good. I can accept that, but then why can’t people accept the same reasoning with the Book of Mormon?
Unlike people who reject the Book of Mormon because of alleged anachronisms, I still hold strong to the Bible as an amazing record of God’s words. I don’t believe that people having changed these things over the years makes it any less God’s word, instead it just means there’s more of man’s opinion in there that we have to sift through and get rid of.
However, I think everyone should be considering the following: if we have proof that some parts of the Bible were changed and are inconsistent, what else might be changed that we don’t know about yet?