Monday, December 12, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Glass Windows – Part II

As discussed in the last post, critics of the Book of Mormon, and the so-called LDS Apologists’ views of the Book of Mormon often miss the mark by a great distance. In the last post, the word “compass” was covered. The next item critics challenge is “windows.”

These critics write that “Transparent window panes are a more recent invention. The earliest known production of glass dates to 3500 BC. in Egypt and Mesopotamia, though the specimens are non-transparent beads. The earliest known production of transparent glass panes is much more recent - dating to the 11th century AD in Germany which is many hundreds of years after the conclusion of the Book of Mormon record.”

This disingenuous approach at demeaning the scriptural record has to do with the Brother of Jared who approached the Lord about not having light in the barges, the Lord told him: “ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces” (Ether 2:23). There is no mention of glass, or of glass shattering, but of some type of wood frame the Jaredites knew about and used in their houses in Mesopotamia, and would have been consistent with a surface vessel—like the wood window of Noah’s Ark only a couple of hundred years before the Jaredites—being dashed under the weight of the sea.

Obviously, when critics talk about glass before it was invented, they are inserting something into the discussion that has no support in the scriptural record. The word “glass” or “transparent glass” is not mentioned in the record in connection with windows. The only mention of glass in all Ether’s record is in describing the stones the Brother of Jaredite molted out of a rock, in which it is written: “and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass” (Ether 3:1). Whether this was Ether’s words or a description Moroni placed into the record in 420 A.D., is not known.

Glass bowl blown in Mesopotamia and Glass Bead of Syria in 3100 BC--neither are clear glass or transparent glass

However, the idea that glass was not known to the Jaredites is also in error, for glass was first invented by the Sumerian Civilization in Mesopotamia, where the Jaredites lived, around 3000 B.C. (some claim as early as 3500 B.C.) They prepared a mixture mixing silica and sand in very hot forms. After cooling, what remained was glass. They also added various other chemicals to impart color to the glass (actually, the sand particles had to be separated first—if sand was just melted it would produce a dark, non-transparent glass; once the clear crystals in the sand were separated, they were melted and either blown or molded into the desired shape). Glass was also known to the Phoenicians and the Egyptians as early as 2500 B.C., but in the case of the Egyptians, their use of glass was in producing beads—whether they made glass in any other form, like the Sumarians, is not known.

In addition, glassblowing was being performed during the 1st century B.C. by the glassmakers of Syria—glass blowing is a process of transparency, though it was often slightly tinted to yellow or greenish color originating from the iron oxide impurities in its earliest stages. So when these critics write “The earliest known production of transparent glass panes is much more recent, dating to the 11th century AD in Germany which is many hundreds of years after the conclusion of the Book of Mormon record,” they are mistaken. It was clear glass that was invented—that is, glass without bubbles and streaks that, in poor workmanship, extended into the 19th century in the American Old West. So, in this case, the critics are wrong on both counts. On the other hand, truly clear glass as we know it today, called cristallo, which is totally clear (like rock crystal), without iron oxide impurities, an effect that was achieved by adding small amounts of manganese oxide . The invention of cristallo is attributed to Angelo Barovier around 1450, however, the Baroviers of Venice were glassmakers as early as 1324.

The point is, however, that there is no mention in the scriptural record that the Jaredites were considering, or that the Lord was remarking about, clear or transparent glass, or glass of any type, for windows in the barges. The Brother of Jared was asking about light (Ether 2:22)—not windows;--for he was “fearful that they should “cross the great water in darkness.” The Lord then asked him, like a patient but teaching parent, “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?”

Wood windows, actually openings that were closed off with wood shutters, date back to the beginning of house construction and would have been the type of window on Noah's Ark

The Lord then described the two sources known to the Brother of Jared that would eliminate darkness—windows to let in light, and fire. Neither of which would have been practical in a vessel that would be submerged at times in the ocean (Ether 2:23). The Lord, ever the instructor, finished by saying: “And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” (Ether 2:25).

To claim that the Lord was talking about, or that the Brother of Jared was thinking about, glass window panes is both foolhardy and disingenuous—as are nearly all arguments raised by these critics.

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Cimeter Swords – Part III,” to see more of this issue and the simple answers to critics’ uneducated complaints about the scriptural record)

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