Insights: An Ancient Window
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
FARMS Is Honored by Invitation from President Hinckley and BYU Board of Trustees
The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) has received an invitation from President Gordon B. Hinckley and the BYU Board of Trustees to have FARMS become part of Brigham Young University. In extending the invitation to FARMS, President Hinckley said: "While I have never been intimately involved with FARMS, I have observed it from time to time. It began modestly many years ago and represents the efforts of sincere and dedicated scholars. It has grown to provide strong support and defense of the Church on a professional basis. This has had important salutary effects both in addressing the Church's critics and in bolstering members who might be wavering. Today FARMS has risen to a high stature and has won credibility and recognition for its work both inside and outside the LDS community. I wish to express my strong congratulations and appreciation for those who started this effort and who have shepherded it to this point. I see a bright future for this effort now through the University."
FARMS and BYU have had a long-standing relationship. For the past eighteen years, FARMS has operated as an independent educational foundation; it began in California, and after founding President John W. Welch joined the faculty of the BYU Law School, FARMS began a fruitful relationship with BYU. For part of that time, BYU gave FARMS space on campus. Most of the scholars who have participated in FARMS projects or have served on the FARMS board of trustees have been BYU faculty. Indeed, more than 100 BYU faculty members have participated in FARMS projects in recent years. FARMS has provided many BYU scholars with financial and staff support for scholarly work on LDS scripture topics, including opportunities for scholarly publication and peer review. And FARMS and BYU have cooperated on a number of projects, most recently working together on the Masada and Dead Sea Scrolls exhibits at the BYU Museum of Art.
In the summer of 1995, FARMS and BYU acted to make their relationship more formal by signing a protocol that expanded the range of opportunities for formal cooperation on scholarly projects. That agreement extended to FARMS an invitation to use a full range of campus facilities and it formally recognized FARMS publications as suitable outlets for faculty scholarship.
The new invitation offers to take the relationship a step further, making FARMS a full-fledged part of the BYU family. This relationship offers many advantages to FARMS, according to FARMS president Noel B. Reynolds. "One of the chief advantages for FARMS, of course, is financial. While FARMS will continue to be dependent on sales, subscriptions, and private donations to fund its research and other projects, it will now enjoy the advantage of significant BYU budgetary support as well."
Another advantage is institutional. FARMS will have access to all the nonfinancial resources of the University. And it will be easier for BYU faculty from a wide range of disciplines to partialpate in FARMS projects. The agreement will not place FARMS within any existing department or college of the University. Instead, the FARMS board and president will continue to direct FARMS and will report directly to the BYU vice president for research.
In addition, the invitation should strenthen the standing of FARMS in the world of faithful LDS scholarship. Readers and supporters should be reassured that the Foundation's programs have been endorsed by the University.
This new arrangement will produce many benefits for BYU as well. Chief among them, according to BYU's President Merrill J. Bateman, will be increased scholarly prestige for the University as BYU faculty operate not only under the FARMS banner but also under the University's umbrella. "I was an early supporter of FARMS, serving for a time in the early 1980s on the FARMS advisory board," says President Bateman. "As president of BYU, I am anxious for the University to produce the best scholarship. Bringing FARMS into the University will give both entities more visibility. I am excited about the work that we will be able to do together."
Placing FARMS within the BYU system of services and operations will give BYU faculty easier access to FARMS projects and publications and will thus provide added impetus for scripture research. It will also make it easier to combine University and FARMS resources and people in further joint projects between FARMS and other parts of the BYU community.
"We have thought long and hard about this move," says Reynolds. "Our organizational independence has served us well in our formative years, and we are very confident that FARMS will continue in the future to deliver the same dynamic, innovative, and superb scholarship as it has in the past. Two things in particular have made the prospect of joining forces with BYU more and more attractive: the growing complexity of our relationship with the University, as we have involved more and more BYU faculty and staff in our projects and programs, and the expanding opportunities for Book of Mormon research, with a corresponding growth in our need for resources."
Under the new arrangement, it is projected that FARMS will continue as a nonprofit corporation with its own governing board. It will continue to foster research on the Book of Mormon and other scripture and will continue its publications, including its journals and newsletter.
The FARMS board is encouraged by the praise and support received from the BYU Board of Trustees and the BYU administration and has voted to accept this invitation to begin negotiating the terms of a more permanent relationship.
New Book and Video Help Make Exhibits "Portable"
A full-color, heavily illustrated 48-page booklet and an excellent video have just been released by FARMS to let you take the recent Masada and Dead Sea Scrolls exhibits home with you, as it were. If you attended the exhibit and would like some materials to help you remember or better understand what you saw, or if you were unable to attend the exhibits but would like to see and read about what they included, these materials may be just what you are looking for.
Ancient Scrolls from the Dead Sea: Photographs and Commentary on a Unique Collection of Scrolls provides photographs of each of the nine original Dead Sea Scrolls on exhibit and commentary on each from an LDS perspective. It does the same for the three replicas of scrolls and seven photographs of scrolls that were included in the exhibits. And it gives an illustrated history of the Dead Sea Scrolls and of the coming of the nine scrolls to BYU.
You can also take a video tour of the exhibits and of the original sites by viewing Masada and the Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibits. This forty-minute, professionally made educational video contains beautiful footage from within the museum and from Israel, plus commentary that will teach you new things about Masada and about Qumran and the scrolls.
Also available through FARMS are three items related to the exhibits produced by BYU Studies: a full-color catalog of the Masada exhibit, a pocket guide to the Masada exhibit, and a special issue of BYU Studies on Masada and the World of the New Testament. See the order form enclosed in this mailing for ordering information for all five of these products.
The Sobering Lesson of the Grolier Codex
The story of the authenticating of the Grolier Codex twenty-five years ago still teaches some valuable lessons about the dangers of jumping to conclusions and the problems of name-calling, even though the scholars involved no longer hold to their original positions. As discussed recently by John L. Sorenson, the discovery of ancient manuscripts is a touchy issue that, for some people, can be unsettling.1
In 1971 what seemed to be an ancient Mesoamerican codex was discovered in southern Mexico. It was claimed to stem from "unauthorized archaeology" (most archaeologists would call it looting). Mesoamerican scholars judged it a fake without giving it much, if any, scrutiny. Michael D. Coe was a principal protagonist in arguing for the authenticity of the document, eventually labeled the "Grolier Codex."2 The famed Mayanist Sir J. E. S. Thompson played the role of key antagonist.3
In 1992 Coe said of Thompson that he had "ignor[ed] the main argument while concentrating on some detail where he thought the chances of a quick kill were best."4 Thompson had also criticized Yuri Knorosov, the Soviet linguist to whom much of the credit eventually has gone for launching the successful decipherment of the Maya hieroglyphics. Thompson considered the Knorosov position completely mistaken and labeled the Russian's work "a Marxist hoax."
The Grolier Codex is now generally acknowledged to be authentic, based on the characteristics of the document itself rather than on its unorthodox discovery. Fully vindicated, Coe believes that had the Grolier Codex had a less-prejudiced origin, "it would [have been] accepted by even the most rock-ribbed scholar as the genuine article."5
Those who judged the Grolier Codex a hoax made at least five mistakes, also commonly made by people critical of the Book of Mormon:
(1) They allowed the unconventional origins of the codex to prejudice the case. Just as Thompson was dogmatically dubious from the outset, many have peremptorily ruled the Book of Mormon out of scientific court.
(2) Moreover, the antagonists ruled out the Grolier Codex without giving it a close examination. Similarly, as Thomas O'Dea once reported, "the Book of Mormon has not been universally considered as one of those books that must be read in order to have an opinion on it."6
(3) Those who misjudged the Grolier Codex were served poorly by their closedmindedness. They responded by reflex on the basis of opinions they had long since fixed in intellectual concrete of their own mix.
(4) When the opponents took time to examine the Grolier Codex, they chose to pick on little details that seemed easier targets than the main characteristics of that complex document. One is reminded of the pedantry of Alexander Campbell who took endless delight in pointing out minor infelicities of grammar in the first edition of the Book of Mormon.7
(5) Finally, if all else fails, a critic may turn to name-calling. The lesson is especially poignant here, because even a fine scholar as responsible as Coe himself once regrettably spoke of the Book of Mormon using derogatory labels.8 This is just as unwise and irrelevant in judging the Book of Mormon as was Thompson's use of the "Marxist" brush to smear Knorosov's scholarship. Using such epithets allows one to avoid the drudgery of doing the serious investigation that ought to precede a judgment about the authenticity of any potentially ancient text.
The truth will some day come out as to the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Until then, derogatory remarks and sloppy research do no one any good.
Based on research by John L. Sorenson and John W. Welch.
Other FARMS Contributions to Scroll Scholarship
During the past few years, FARMS has supported a number of efforts that together amount to a significant contribution to Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship. The centerpiece of FARMS's contribution is publication of the scroll database on CD. In addition, FARMS has created the largest known collection of digitized images of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Working under an agreement with the ABMC, FARMS has scanned the entire collection of approximately 5,600 scroll photographs owned by the ABMC. Working with negatives, FARMS created two sets of digitized images. The first set, scanned at high resolution, is for archival purposes and is owned and maintained by the ABMC. The second set, scanned at a lower resolution, is jointly owned by the ABMC and FARMS. A selection of these images is included in the FARMS Database.
FARMS has also scanned (from negatives) the entire collection of original scroll photographs taken by John C. Trever in the late 1940s. These photographs are owned by the Claremont School of Theology and maintained by the ABMC. FARMS has limited distribution rights for these images.
In addition to creating these collections of digitized images, FARMS has sponsored two international conferences on the Dead Sea Scrolls. The first was held on 30 April 1995 at BYU's Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies. Presentations were made by a number of scholars who are members of the international team working on the scrolls, including Frank M. Cross, Florentino Garcia Martinez, Emanuel Tov, Eugene C. Ulrich, and Torleif Elgvin. Papers were also delivered by four scholars from BYU, all of whom are also members of the international team: Donald W. Parry and three members of the ancient scripture faculty, Dana M. Pike, David Rolph Seely, and Andrew Skinner. Scott R. Woodward, BYU professor of microbiology; and his colleagues from Hebrew University reported on efforts to subject scroll parchment material to DNA analysis. Woodward's efforts are supported by a number of organizations, including FARMS. At this conference Parry and Booras demonstrated, for the first time, the FARMS Database. The proceedings of the conference were subsequently published in a book titled Current Research and Technological Developments on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
On 15-17 July 1996, FARMS and BYU jointly sponsored a second international conference, the 1996 International Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls, held at BYU. Nearly fifty scholars from all over the world experts on the Dead Sea Scrolls (many are members of the international team), biblical studies, and related subjects—were joined by another hundred or so local participants to listen to the presentation of forty-five papers. Topics ranged from detailed studies of the scrolls (e.g., "The Apocryphal Psalms at Qumran" and "Priestly and Levitical Gifts in the Temple Scroll") to broader subjects (e.g., "The Impact of the Scrolls on Biblical Studies") and topics dealing with innovations in other fields of study aiming to advance scholarship on the scrolls and related studies (e.g., "Microwave Remote Sensing Applications in Archaeology;" "Imaging Clarified," and "DNA Fingerprinting of Parchment Fragments"). The conference also included presentation of the FARMS Database. Conference proceedings will be published by E. J. Brill in a book titled The Provo International Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were studied from the vantage point of LDS scripture and teachings by a number of scholars at a conference jointly sponsored by FARMS and Religious Education at BYU. The event was held on the BYU campus on 23 March 1996. Presentations covered an array of topics, with titles such as "The Book of Mormon and the Dead Sea Scrolls," "Is the Plan of Salvation Attested in the Dead Sea Scrolls?" and "Praise, Prayer, and Worship at Qumran." Professor Garcia Martinez gave the keynote address at the conference. Although he was not speaking from an LDS perspective, his paper, "Messianic Hopes in the Qumran Writings," dealt with a topic of central importance to the theme of the conference. The proceedings of this event have been published in the book LDS Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Several scholars representing FARMS attended the 1997 International Congress on the Dead Sea Scrolls, held in Jerusalem on 20-25 July 1997. The congress celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of the scrolls. The interim release version of the FARMS Database was demonstrated several times during the conference. Parry, Booras, and Wilson participated in the conference. Parry and Wilson also presented separate papers reporting on their own scroll research. Reynolds also attended this conference.
FARMS has supported publication of several books on the Dead Sea Scrolls; some have been published by FARMS, and some by other publishers with the assistance of the FARMS editorial staff. Several scholars associated with FARMS are among the editors of and contributors to these publications:
• Parry, Donald W., and Stephen D. Ricks, eds. Current Research and Technological Developments on the Dead Sea Scrolls. E. J. Brill, 1996.
• Martinez, Florentino Garcia, and Donald W. Parry, eds. A Bibliography of the Finds in the Desert of Judah, 1970-95. E. J. Brill, 1996.
• Parry, Donald W., and Dana M. Pike, eds. LDS Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls. FARMS, 1997.
• Bradford, M. Gerald, ed. Ancient Scrolls from the Dead Sea: Photographs and Commentary on a Unique Collection of Scrolls. FARMS, 1997.
• Parry, Donald W., and Eugene C. Ulrich, eds. The Provo International Conference on the Dead Sea Scrolls: New Texts, Reformulated Issues, and Technological Innovations. E. J. Brill, forthcoming.
Furthermore, FARMS has supported the preparation of the concordance of four of the published volumes in Discoveries in the Judean Desert. FARMS has also been instrumental in helping the Dead Sea Scrolls Foundation secure financial support from private sources in Utah to aid in the publication of at least three volumes in the series.
Early in the production of the FARMS Database, FARMS worked closely with Stephen Pfann, director of the Center for the Study of Early Christianity in Jerusalem, in the preparation of transcripts for possible use in the database. In connection with this effort, FARMS also supported Pfann in his preparation of a comprehensive concordance of the Dead Sea Scrolls that will be published once all the volumes in the DJD series have appeared.
From March through September 1997, FARMS sponsored an exhibit titled "Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls," which featured several original Dead Sea Scrolls from Jordan, along with artifacts from the ancient community of Qumran and scroll replicas. This exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art was in conjunction with another major exhibit on loan to the university from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the IAA: "The Story of Masada: Discoveries from the Excavation." The Masada exhibit, also supported by FARMS, included a number of original scrolls discovered at this ancient site. Detailed descriptions and photographs of all the scrolls on display in these two exhibits are contained in Ancient Scrolls from the Dead Sea: Photographs and Commentary on a Unique Collection of Scrolls, now available from FARMS (see the enclosed flyer).
Nibley Fans Can Enjoy Two New FARMS Products
FARMS recently videotaped Hugh Nibley giving a fireside about the temple. It is classic Nibley, combining his self-effacing humor and his startling insights. If you've never had the chance to experience a Nibley fireside (and they are very rare these days) or if you want to experience one again, you will enjoy this video.
FARMS has also repackaged the written transcripts of 26 lectures that Nibley gave to an Honors Pearl of Great Price class to include just the lectures, eliminating the syllabus, notes, and index of words so that the lectures themselves can be made available more affordably.
You may obtain your own copies of these items using the enclosed order form.
FARMS Will Publish More Books
This year marks the first time that FARMS has published its own books intended for the general LDS market. The first two were Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins and LDS Perspectives on the Dead Sea Scrolls. With this issue of the newsletter we release a third: Ancient Scrolls from the Dead Sea: Photographs and Commentary on a Unique Collection of Scrolls. Before 1997 is over we expect to release three more books (described on page 8).
From its earliest days, FARMS has been involved in some form of publishing. The first efforts included this newsletter and a series of reprints, intended to make available materials related to the Book of Mormon that had originally been published in journals or books relatively inaccessible to interested LDS students of the scriptures.
Soon FARMS began circulating unpublished papers on Book of Mormon topics, helping scholars speak to each other and to interested students as they refined their work. In 1984 the Foundation began circulating FARMS Updates on recent research (now incorporated in this newsletter). And in 1984 FARMS printed its first book, the Book of Mormon Critical Text: A Tool for Scholarly Reference, consisting of three photocopied volumes in paper covers with plastic spines.
In 1985, FARMS began copublishing with Deseret Book books of original research on the Book of Mormon, starting with John L. Sorenson's Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, soon followed by the start of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. That copublishing relationship has been very beneficial, making it possible to print Book of Mormon scholarship during a time when FARMS lacked the resources to be an independent publisher.
Gradually FARMS began doing more publishing on its own, outside its relationship with Deseret Book. In 1989 the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon was launched, followed in 1992 by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, both periodicals published twice a year by FARMS. In 1990 Research Press was organized as a publishing arm of the Foundation to publish scholarly materials intended for both LDS and non-LDS scholars. Some books were also published by FARMS as study aids, as sets of transcripts, as reprints of books originally published by others but since out of print, and as preliminary editions not yet mature enough for formal publication. And a few technical books were copublished with other scholarly publishers, such as A Biblical Law Bibliography and A Bibliography on Temples of the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean World (both now out of print). This program has grown in 1997 to include the publication of six books intended for the general LDS audience.
What about the future? The Foundation continues to value its copublishing relationship with Deseret Book and intends to continue publishing with them the books that fit that relationship best, such as the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Not having to fit into another organization's set of priorities, however, brings certain benefits, such as greater control over editorial decisions, schedules, marketing, and publicity. In many cases, such benefits make publishing its own books attractive to FARMS.
The Foundation does not intend to become a general book publisher. It will continue to focus both its research and publishing programs on its mission to support the study of ancient scripture, especially the Book of Mormon. Publishing more of its own books than in the past is merely one more mechanism to provide inexpensive, faithful, reliable scholarship on the scriptures.
Noel B. Reynolds
FARMS Provides Speakers for Several Recent Firesides and Conferences
Six stakes in the Denver area jointly sponsored a two-day conference in September and asked FARMS to provide speakers on the Book of Mormon. Daniel C. Peterson spoke on "Evidences for the Authenticity of the Book of Mormon," Ann Madsen discussed "Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," Truman G. Madsen talked about "The Spiritual Significance of the Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon," and John W. Welch addressed "King Benjamin's Speech as Sacred Literature." Approximately 500 people in two locations attended.
On the morning between the two sessions, Peterson and Welch were asked to speak to approximately 50 missionaries from the Denver North Mission, discussing recent research supporting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and answering questions.
Other recent firesides at which scholars associated with FARMS have been asked to speak have been held in Fullerton, California; several along the Wasatch Front in Utah; St. Johns, Arizona; Page, Arizona; Houston, Texas; Durham, North Carolina; New Haven, Connecticut; Austria; and Switzerland.
If you are interested in hosting a fireside with speakers from FARMS, contact the FARMS office. As a matter of policy; FARMS does not assist with firesides unless the invitation has been approved by local Church authorities.
The Debate over Biblical Archaeology
There are two major camps among archaeologists studying biblical lands. The so-called "minimalists" tend to accept only a bare minimum of information from the Bible as historical fact, while the "maximalists," believe that much of it (although not all) is real history. The latter point to archaeological evidence such as the recently discovered eighth-century B.C. inscription mentioning "the house of David." The minimalists dismiss this and a number of other finds inscribed with biblical names as forgeries planted for archaeologists to discover.1
The argument is akin to the debate about the historicity of the Book of Mormon. A few months ago, for example, Louis C. Midgley, professor emeritus of political science at BYU, had a discussion with a renowned anti-Mormon writer. When she insisted that there was no "evidence" for the Book of Mormon, Midgley asked what she would accept as evidence. She replied that "an inscription" would be nice. He queried further: "What if archaeologists found an inscription in southern Mexico that had the name Nephi on it? Would that be evidence?" "Well," she countered, "it would be a point for discussion." It seems that for some critics of the Book of Mormon, no amount of evidence would be sufficient. When confronted by textual evidence for the Nephite observance of the Israelite feast of tabernacles, for example, they typically don't discuss the facts, but dismiss the whole idea as preposterous because they've already decided the Book of Mormon is not an ancient text.
Many members of the biblical maximalist camp think that the best evidence for the Bible is the text itself and that one should not argue from a lack of evidence. Latter-day Saint scholars tend to take the same approach with the Book of Mormon. Archaeological artifacts are not found on demand; their discovery is essentially due to chance. A classic example is the lion. The Bible mentions lions in the Holy Land in the time of Samson (Judges 14), David (1 Samuel 17), Jeroboam I (1 Kings 13), Ahab (1 Kings 20), and at the captivity of the ten tribes (2 Kings 17). Yet no lion remains were found in Israel until 1988, and the single specimen found at that time remains the only one to date.2 In other words, archaeologists had been excavating in Israel for more than a century and a quarter before they found the first evidence for lions.
Similarly, excavations in Mesoamerica have not yet turned up convincing evidence for horses mentioned in the Book of Mormon. But since archaeological work in that area has been going on for a much shorter period of time than in the Holy Land, with less than one percent of the Preclassic (Book of Mormon period) sites having seen excavation, this should not surprise anyone. In a recent discussion published in Biblical Archaeology Review, a representative of the biblical maximalist camp advocated a wait-and-see attitude on biblical archaeology.3 LDS scholars recommend a similar approach to Book of Mormon archaeology.
This brings us to the question of the aims of scriptural archaeology: information or proof. In the nineteenth century, some archaeologists made a concerted effort to find evidence for the Bible. They had some success, especially in the first decades of this century. But most of what they discovered neither directly supported the biblical story nor contradicted it. Then came discoveries at Jericho that disclosed that none of the walls dated to the time in which archaeologists had placed the conquest of Joshua.
Because of such discoveries, the term "biblical archaeology" has fallen out of favor. Most archaeologists no longer look for evidence to support the Bible, but are content to let the sherds fall where they may. Even the maximalists tend to reject the historicity of some parts of Bible, especially in the accounts of the patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, and the conquest of Canaan.
The debate between biblical minimalists and maximalists illustrates that faith in the scriptures—whether the Bible or the Book of Mormon—must rest upon something other than scholarly consensus and archaeological evidence. Many of us will remain fascinated by external evidences and may learn some interesting and important things about the world in which the scriptures were written, but it seems foolish to rely on such incomplete and changeable things as the basis for our faith. Ultimately, God will reveal what is true in such matters and we must trust him for our answers.
Thanks to John Tvedtnes of the FARMS staff for pointing out these connections. For further reading on the limitations of physical evidence, see Hugh W. Nibley, "Archaeology and Our Religion," in Old Testament and Related Studies (1986) and John W. Welch, "The Power of Evidence in the Nurturing of Faith," in Nurturing Faith through the Book of Mormon (1995).
1. For more information on this debate, see Hershel Shanks, "The Biblical Minimalists: Expunging Ancient Israel's Past," Bible Review 13/3 (1997): 32-9, 50-2; and "Face to Face: Biblical Minimalists Meet Their Challengers," Biblical Archaeology Review 23/4 (1997): 26-42, 66.
None at this time.
BYU Forum Address, Now on Video, Considers Authorship Issues
On 27 May 1997, Noel B. Reynolds, president of FARMS and professor of political science at BYU, presented an address at a BYU Forum Assembly. His topic: "The Authorship of the Book of Mormon." Reynolds brought students and faculty up to date on the state of knowledge on authorship issues related to the Book of Mormon, drawing on the research of many LDS scholars presented in two books he has compiled on the subject, the first in 1982 entitled Book of Mormon Authorship: New Light on Ancient Origins, and the second published this year under the title Book of Mormon Authorship Revisited: The Evidence for Ancient Origins (both available from FARMS).
Because his presentation was heavily illustrated with slides, a video copy of his address is particularly useful to interested students of the scriptures who did not attend but wish an informal update on these issues. Copies may be obtained using the order form accompanying this issue of INSIGHTS.