When it comes to comparing the Bible with the Book of Mormon – Christian Apologist make claims that are misleading and not in accord with truth or fact. David Padfields makes erroneous claims when it comes to his brief comparison of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. These claims are regurgitated perpetuation of very weak arguments that have deceived many Latter-day Saints and other Christians. This brief post will examine two of the five comparative points to determine whether they are accurate and true – or false and misleading.
First Comparison: Was Christ born in Bethlehem or Jerusalem?
The most common comparison between the Bible and Book of Mormon that Christians may bring up in conversation is that The Bible teaches Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Padfield cites Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1. While the Book of Mormon supposedly claims Christ was born in Jerusalem. Padfield cites Alma 7:10. Here is where proper understanding of scripture context matters – and one many Christian apologists like Padfield violate when attempting to lay claim that the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible.
Let us first look at the three passages of scripture presented and see how they are reflecting in their respective contexts.
Micah 5:2 is quoted as:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
And Matthew 2:1 is quoted as:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
The Gospel of Matthew records Christ’s birth in Bethlehem. Yet, it also records that the Wise men came to Jerusalem seeking the Christ child. This is evident in the latter part of Matthew 2:1. In the Gospel of Luke, we find this:
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
What is interesting to note here is that the Gospel of Matthew and Luke are the only two accounts recording Christ’s birth. In the Gospel of Luke we find that Joseph came from Galilee, out of the City of Nazareth. This is something to bear in mind when we go to the Book of Mormon account of Christ’s birth.
When we look at a map of what the area may have looked like in the First Century, the Gospel of Luke says that Joseph went up from Galilee and not down from Galilee. We don’t question this as there is a difference in how we say something today compared to what Luke was referring to during his lifetime. Also, take note of the close proximity of Bethlehem to Jerusalem. Another factor in considering the context is that the Gospel of Luke also says that Joseph went into Judea unto the city of Bethlehem.
Therefore, what we understand from the text:
- Christ will be born in Judah and in Bethlehem
- Wise men came to Jerusalem seeking Christ
- Joseph left Nazareth and the land of Galilee
- Christ was born in Judea in the city of Bethlehem
Now, let us consider Alma 7:10:
And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.
Notice that this passage does not say the City of Jerusalem. It says at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.
We see that based on our understanding of Luke’s Gospel account, Galilee is considered a land area where Joseph Dwelt. Yet, it also specified that Joseph came up out of the city of Nazareth. Both statements are correct. For instance, if Matthew had shared the same thought process of Luke and said that Joseph took Mary and brought her from Galilee to Bethlehem and Luke recorded that Joseph came out of the City of Nazareth. Both accounts will still be accurate. One stating the general area while the other focusing on the actual city. This is also evidenced by the fact that Matthew records the wise men coming to Jerusalem seeking Christ and not directly to Bethlehem.
There are two extra-biblical sources that references the same language. In an Armana letter that was discovered in 1887, it records several instances of referring to the land of Jerusalem. There is also a fragmented from the dead sea scrolls attributed to the Prophet Jeremiah where it records land of Jerusalem.
So, the attempt to state that the Book of Mormon contradicts the Bible when comparing the birth of Christ is heavily misleading and without appropriate context and understanding. Therefore, Padfields assumption is false and faulty. Both the Book of Mormon and the Bible share the same testimony – Christ was born in Bethlehem in the Land of Jerusalem.
SEcond comparison: Was there three days or three hours of darkness at Christ’s crucifixion?
Another common Christian tactic is to compare the crucifixion account of the Bible with that of the Book of Mormon’s crucifixion account. Namely, the comparison of whether or not there was three days of darkness or three hours of darkness. What most Christians fail to understand (and the reason this is heavily misleading) is because of the difference between what happened at Christ’s crucifixion in Jerusalem compared the that which was experienced in the Ancient America/MesoAmerica geographical area.
Padfield cites Helaman 14:20, 27 and then cites Luke 23:44. Let us first look at Luke 23:4446:
And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
There are a couple of things here. Luke records that it was about the sixth hour and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Next, he records that the sun was darkened. This is important to keep in mind.
In Helaman 14:20 and 27 (I will quote 20-27) we read the prophesy given regarding the crucifixion of Christ:
But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead.
Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up;
Yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath. And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great. And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate. And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many. And behold, thus hath the angel spoken unto me; for he said unto me that there should be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours. And he said unto me that while the thunder and the lightning lasted, and the tempest, that these things should be, and that darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days.
What many Christian apologists, as we see Padfield do here, is neglect the full context of the passage of Helaman 14:20-27. There was much more to occur than three days of darkness. Notice in the text that there is going to be the following:
- The Sun will not give its light upon this land
- Darkness will cover this land for three days – from the death to Christ’s resurrection
- Upon Christ’s death – this land will experience thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours
- The earth shall shake and tremble
- Rocks will be broken up
- Will be found in seams, cracks, and broken into fragments upon the face of the whole earth
- Great tempests shall appear
- Mountains will be laid low, like unto a valley
- Valleys shall become like mountains with great heights
- Highways and Cities will become desolate
These things did not occur at Christ’s crucifixion in Israel. Except the Sun being darkened for the space of about three hours. They did feel the earth tremble and shake. However, nothing of this magnitude having occurred right?
What Padfield forgot to reference is what happened to Christ’s appearance to the Ancient inhabitants of the Americas/MesoAmerica. This is contained in 3 Nephi Chapters 8-11 (read the full account here). In these chapters is the most destructive force of nature to be recorded. It is a fulfillment of Samuel the Lamanites prophecy back in Helaman 4:20-27.
What type of destructive force causes thunderings and lightnings, tempests, renting rocks into fragments, destroying cities and highways, and causing the Sun to darken for three days – or even for three hours – where there is great earthquakes?
Mount St. Helens erupted at 8:32 AM May 13, 1980. This type of eruption lasted 9 hours. Ash fell over a large area and as far as the Great Plains of the US. Prior to the Eruption, there was a 5.0 Earthquake. According to US Geological Survey, depending on the type of eruption, ash fall, and other factors – darkness can cover an area for a few minutes to 1-3 days:
Ashfall can cause partial or complete darkness by blocking sunlight. Depending on several factors, including the size and duration of an eruption, strength and direction of the wind, and distance from the volcano, an area may experience dark conditions for as little as a few minutes or as long as 1-3 days.
Take for instance the account recorded by Pliny the Younger regarding the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. There is a summary over at the History Channel’s website regarding the destructive power of Mount Vesuvius in 70 AD. Compare the account of Pliny the Younger with that of Helaman 14:20-27 and 3 Nephi 8-11.
According to Pliny the Younger’s account, the eruption lasted 18 hours. Pompeii was buried under 14 to 17 feet of ash and pumice, and the nearby seacoast was drastically changed. Herculaneum was buried under more than 60 feet of mud and volcanic material. Some residents of Pompeii later returned to dig out their destroyed homes and salvage their valuables, but many treasures were left and then forgotten.
Probably the most notable and earlier catastrophic eruption in US History (outside of the eruption of Mount St. Helens) is that of the Navarupta-Katmai Eruption in 1912. This eruption was in Alaska:
June 6, 1912 was a day that shaped the modern history of the Katmai region. After several days of strong earthquakes, an inconspicuous glacially carved valley became the scene of intense violence. For 60 hours, a vent later named Novarupta spewed 4 mi3 (17 km3) of ash that fell from the sky and 2.6 mi3 (11 km3) of pyroclastic flows and surges that buried valleys, rivers, and glaciers under as much as 700 feet of ash. Powerful explosions were heard as far away as Juneau, Alaska, and the ash cloud sweeping south plunged Kodiak Island into three days of darkness. This was the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century and one of the five largest in recorded history.
Taking into account the recorded history of major volcanic eruptions (the Navarupta-Katmai Eruption being of the five most devastating and largest of eruptions in recorded human history) – we are able to see that such a catastrophic event causes three days of darkness. What is interesting to note here is that the latter eruption referenced lasted a total of 60 hours.
However, I’d be remiss if I don’t mention one of the more prominent and most devastating eruptions in recorded history. That is the Krakatoa Eruption. A small volcanic island in Indonesia and about 100 miles west of Jakarta was one of the most catastrophic eruptions in recorded human history. This occurred in 1883 where more than 36,000 people lost their lives. The most powerful eruption was heard over 2800 miles . Its ash cloud had a global effect for several years.
What Luke records very well may be the catastrophic volcanic eruption on the new world that, while caused the land of the Americas/MesoAmerica darkness for three days, only caused three hours of darkness around Christ’s crucifixion in Jerusalem.
Again, facts and truth prevail and show that there is not a contradiction between the Book of Mormon and the Bible.
In the next post I will address the last three points as one post as they appear to mention similar themes. From there, I will then focus on additional points of criticism regarding the supposed cardinal doctrines of the LDS Faith that are not mentioned in the Book of Mormon. After that, I will address Padfields final claim regarding the Book of Mormon and archaeology.