For those interested in Semitic studies: SEMBASE: a database project for the study of Semitic roots
CONTACT: eccel@gptouchstone.org




GP Touchstone Studies ~~ Other Studies by A. Chris Eccel, Ph.D.
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Announcing!

A Major Sourcebook to Investigate Book of Mormon Authenticity and Authorship

Mormon Genesis
Arthur Chris Eccel


2018
702 pages [xxiv, 678]
ISBN 978-0-692-11733-0.
Note: prices vary in bookshops. From Amazon.com, it is $28.00.

Mormon Genesis is the most comprehensive totally secular study of the creation and maintenance of the Mormon scriptural community.

The Mormons arguably constitute the first scriptural community since Islam. Like the Jewish Torah, Christian Gospels and Muslim Qur'an, the Mormon community of believers derives its identity, and even its Mormon sobriquet, from its foundational scripture, the Book of Mormon. This text posits a thousand-year history of Jews in pre-Columbian America, with a population in the millions and over forty cities by 200 BCE. In 2030, the LDS will celebrate the bicentennial of their church, being justifiably proud of the global status of their faith. The more astute of the celebrants will be aware that their brothers and sisters in the Americas and Eurasia almost never reach 2% of total population, this roughly being their percentage in the country of the birth of their faith.

The World is changing. Extensive high-tech archaeology has been done throughout the Americas. The Mayan writing system has been deciphered, yielding king lists, city names and religious inscriptions. The Egyptian hieroglyphs have been deciphered, enabling scholars to translate the Joseph Smith (so-called Abraham) papyri. DNA research has been done, not only for living descendants of pre-Columbian populations, but for an increasing number of ancient human remains. Important documents for the early history of the Mormon movement and its scriptures have been brought to light, and/or made more available. These developments represent serious challenges to the keystone scriptures, which make a number of unusual assertions that are amenable to objective testing. The level of official LDS concern can be gauged by the major assets allocated to institutions and researchers at Brigham Young University to defend the faith.

Mormon Genesis goes well beyond the issue of Book of Mormon authenticity. New techniques are developed to explore the issue of how the texts deemed sacred were written, and by whom. Then it moves on to the social and power dimensions of theology and ritual.

In the nineteenth century, a scholarly movement dubbed the school of higher criticism began systematic examination of the Old and New Testaments, and the Qur'an. More recently, capable scholars have undertaken similar research focusing on the LDS scriptures. With his BA in Classics (Greek and Latin) from the University of Utah, MA in Semitic languages from Harvard University, and PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago, jointly with its famous Oriental Institute, the author is well equipped to undertake his numerous studies reported in Mormon Genesis , well within the tradition of Biblical higher criticism. His academic career has included university teaching in the US, Egypt and Lebanon, as well as research-fellow positions at the American University in Cairo and the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). subsequently, 21 years of service as a US diplomat have enabled him to spend most of his adult life in the Middle East. With 45 tables, and other data sets, Mormon Genesis brings to the world of Mormon Studies considerable information never before published.

Check it out at Amazon.com. For the author's background, visit CV.



Gold Plates Touchstone
To test a hypothesis, one can find a feature or consequence that will be observed if it is true, and test to see if that feature is found or consequence holds. If A is a mammal, then it will have hair. Does it? If so, the hypothesis has not been disconfirmed. A will also suckle its young. Does it? At this point, the hypothesis has not only not been disconfirmed, but, in combination with the prior test, it can be said to be confirmed. Similarly, a cube must: a) be three dimensional, b) have six faces, c) have all lines where the faces join equal, and d) have the plain of each face at ninety degrees to the plain of each adjoining face. All of these can be tested.

When the gold plates were announced, and their translation, producing a new book of scripture, and a history of the peoples of the Americas from c. 590 BCE to 421 CE, there was considerable scepticism, and many sought ways to prove the claim to be false. Others sought to prove the claim true. Both sides relied on their faith and their prayers. Very few sought to determine if the claim had testable consequences, in the sense that "if A, then B". For a long time, much of the information, and technology, needed for such a test, did not exist. Furthermore, on both sides of this divide, the individuals who were most highly motivated to seek evidence and proof lacked the required skills.

The Book of Mormon presents more than just one or two claims (the gold plates truly existed, and the BOM is a divine translation of them). It includes Biblical inclusions, intersects with Biblical history, and establishes a history of pre-Columbian civilization, with extensive details regarding the economy (farming, animal husbandry, coinage) and techonologies of that civilization. All of this information provides the basis for tests.

My work has focused on a quest for tests of this nature: "If the claim is true, we should observe the following." If several tests can be done, are their results consistent with each other? Or do they contradict each other?

Selected Studies

Note: these are more fully elucidated and updated in Mormon Genesis

Archaeology: Quest for the Nephites

Archaeology: Nephite Isolation

Biblical Variant Readings in the Book of Mormon

The Issues of Nephite Language and Chronology

Lehi's Jerusalem: Bible vs Book of Mormon

Weighty Issue of a Gold Bible



The logo above is based on an Assyrian gold foil-like tablet (c. 1"X1.5") apparently placed in a temple calling the literate (priests, scribes?) to honor the king's name. The stone box is a modern artist's rendering, and the finger is grossly out of scale.