Thursday, July 3, 2014

More Comments from Readers – Part IV

We continue to have comments, questions and criticisms being sent in from readers of our blog. Here are a few more with our responses. 
   Comment #1: “I’m guilty—and I admit it—of promoting several Mormon myths while I was a missionary for the Church in the 1950s. One particular myth I “taught” dealt with warfare artifacts, especially arrowheads, which presumably had been found around the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. During each fourth discussion, the Book of Mormon lesson, I routinely said something like the following: “Proof that tremendous ancient battles took place around the Hill Ramah/Cumorah comes from the arrowheads that have been found around the hill where the last great battles of the Jaredites and Nephites-Lamanites took place. Archaeologists and others have picked up bushel basket after bushel basket of arrowheads around the hill. Yet, in reality, those experienced in artifacts who have gone to Cumorah to try and find something have found nothing, and even people living around the area claim there has never been found anything like that there” Brice D.
    Response: Perhaps you are unaware that a man who would outright lie to promote one view is always suspect when promoting another. However, that aside, there is no question that there are a lot of Mormon myths (urban legends) that people promote from time to time and the rest of us, especially when we are young, buy into them because we like the idea of it and think it helps promote what we believe in. The trouble is two-fold here. The hill Cumorah in upstate New York is not the Hill Cumorah in the scriptural record. It does not match the description in any way, and except for those people who promote a Book of Mormon Land of Promise site in upstate New York, few who know anything about Mormon’s description of the hill do not consider it to be the one mentioned in the record. Consequently, anything associated with that hill prior to Joseph Smith’s time is not going to be accurate regarding the Book of Mormon.
The hill Cumorah in New York. It is a drumlin, (from droimnin, meaning “little ridge”), an elongated hill in the shape of an inverted half-buried egg formed by glacial ice on underlying till or ground moraine of glacial sediment. Hardly what Mormon describes that he could see in Mormon 6:11-15). Left: Note the small hill, and (right) low height)
    The second point is simply that when we choose to think, believe, or teach a certain way we can blame no one but ourselves. The Church has never laid any claim to the hill in upstate New York being anything but where Moroni showed Joseph Smith the records were buried. My only consolation for these legends and myths is that the more we know about the scriptural record, the better we understand Mormon’s descriptions of the land he knew so well, traveled over and defended, and the more we understand the factors surrounding the location of the Land of Promise, the less chance there is for anyone, no matter who, to lead us astray with their ideas—from DNA, to soil samples, to so-called archaeological findings.
    Comment #2: “What exactly is the Apocrypha and why do we not include it in our standard works like the Catholic Church does in their Bible?” Keegan T.
    Response: Some parts of the Latin Vulgate (or the Douay-Rheims Version, which is the English translation of the Latin Vulgate) that are not accepted by many Christian denominations as well as the LDS Church, is called the Apocrypha. They are referred to by this name because apocrypha, means “statement or claims that are of dubious authenticity” and comes from medieval Latin apocryphus, “secret”, or “non-canonical”, and from the Greek apocryphos, “obscure” and apocryptein, “to hide away.” The etymology of the word relates to ‘things hidden away,’ which implies secret or esoteric (obscure, mysterious) literature.
    The pre-Christian-era Jewish translation into Greek of holy scriptures known as the Septuagint, included these disputed writings. When the Jewish sacred books (canon) was finalized around 100–200 A.D., considerations of Greek language and beginnings of Christian acceptance of the Septuagint weighed against some of the texts, and some were not accepted by the Jews as part of the Hebrew Bible canon.
    Over several centuries of consideration, the books of the Septuagint were finally accepted into the Christian Old Testament, by A.D. 405 in the west, and by the end of the fifth century in the east.
The Christian canon thus established was retained for over 1,000 years, even after the 11th-century schism that separated the Christian church into the branches known as the Roman Universal (Catholic) and Eastern Established and Approved (Orthodox) churches. Not until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century were those canons challenged, which was at the time the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches reaffirmed (restated or approved) them.
    The reformers rejected the parts of the canon that were not part of the Hebrew Bible and established a revised Protestant canon—which means what is thought of as the Old Testament Protestant canon is actually the final Hebrew canon. The differences can be found obviously by comparing the contents of the "Protestant" and Catholic Bibles, and they represent the narrowest Christian application of the term Apocrypha. Over the years, different protestant denominations have viewed the Apocrypha differently, some claiming they are not just obscure, with spurious or false content, but actually having hidden or suspect motives.
    You might be interested to know that before the fifth century, the Christian writings that were then under discussion for inclusion in the canon but had not yet been accepted were classified in a group known as the ancient antilegomenae, i.e., a class of disputed books that were spoken against in early Christianity—Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Book of Revelation (John), and books of James and Jude. Martin Luther, considered two levels of books as canon—the Homolgoumena (undisputed books) and the Antilegomena (disputed books)—and while they are all accepted, the latter did not hold the same status, and when he published his New Testament in 1522, he placed these disputed books apart at the end, and penned in the preface of the first (Hebrews), “Up to this point we have had to do with the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation."
    Erasmus, in his 1516 Greek New Testament, also called into questions these four books in Annotationes, and Roman Catholic Cardinal Cajetan (Luther’s opponent in Augsburg), doubted their canonicity. As an example, Luther wrote: “Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle.” In fact 2 Peter was doubted more than any other in ancient times.
Of course, it should be noted, that Luther’s main reason for rejecting James (left) is, as he stated, “In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac, though in Romans 4, St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from his works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.”
    In any event, the the Antilegomena were candidates for the New Testament and included several books which were eventually accepted, and none can be considered Apocryphal now, since all Christendom accepts them as canonical.
    However, in some Protestant Bibles, the apocryphal books are placed between the New and Old Testaments. In the Roman Catholic Bibles they are interspersed with the rest of the text. Though, Jerome, in 450 AD, rejected the Apocrypha when he was translating the Bible into Latin, because no Hebrew version of these texts could be found, even though they were present in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint), the Roman Catholic Council of Trent declared in 1546 that the Apocrypha were indeed divine—most of them became part of Catholic Bible.
    When the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the Bible in 1833 he received a revelation from the Lord (D&C Section 91), in which he was told—
    Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha–There are many things contained therein that are true, and it is mostly translated correctly; There are many things contained therein that are not true, which are interpolations by the hands of men. Verily, I say unto you, that it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated (D&C 93:1-3).

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