Thursday, December 15, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords

Continuing with the idea that the Book of Mormon contains Anachonisms according to the critics, we come to their concern over the use of “metal swords.” According to their criticism: “The Book of Mormon makes numerous references to swords and their use in battle. When the remnants of the Jaredites' final battle were discovered, the Book of Mormon narrative states that "the blades thereof were cankered with rust."

Apologists counter that most references to swords do not speak of the material they were made of, and that they may refer to a number of weapons such as the Macuahuitl a "sword" made of obsidian of blades that was used by the Aztecs. It was very sharp and could decapitate a man or horse. However obsidian (volcanic glass), cannot rust.”

Nephi tells us that he had a steel bow (1 Nephi 16:18), and that Laban’s sword was made of “the most precious steel” (1 Nephi 4:9), and that he taught his people to work in iron, copper, brass and steel (2 Nephi 5:15). When he was ready to begin the ship the Lord instructed him to build, he asked where to go “to find ore, that I might make tools” (1 Nephi 17:10), and that he made “tools of the ore” which he “did molten out of rock” (1 Nephi 117:16). He also made a bellows to heat the fire (1 Nephi 17:11). All of this suggests that Nephi knew how to dig for ore, smelt it, and mold tools and other items from it. He also used Laban’s steel sword as a template and made many swords (2 Nephi 5:14). Jarom, the grandson of Jacob, tells us that the Nephites had “fine workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery,” and that they worked “iron, copper, brass and steel, and made all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground and weapons of war” (Jarom 1:8).

Thus it can be said that the Nephites knew, understood, and worked iron, and from it made steel. Even the Jaredites before them knew steel (Ether 7:9). Now critics claim this has to be incorrect, and apologists claim that it must have been something else. However, Joseph Smith knew the different between iron and steel and translated both words on more than one occasion with the spirit acknowledging that they were the correct words. So let’s take a look at what is involved in the use of iron and steel.

First of all, iron is one of the most common elements on earth and is also one of the oldest metals and was first fashioned into useful and ornamental objects at least 3,500 years ago. It, of course, is not a product, but like most metals, it is found in the Earth’s crust in the form of an ore, and is combined with other elements such as oxygen or sulfur. The iron is then refined, that is, it is extracted from ore by removing oxygen and combining the ore with a preferred chemical partner such as carbon—a process known as smelting, which was first applied to metals with lower melting points, such as tin, which melts at about 250º, and copper which melts at about 1100º. These temperatures could be reached with ancient methods that have been used since the Bronze Age, about 3000 B.C.

At this point the iron ore is heated and carbon (coal) added, which binds to the oxygen and eventually creates carbon dioxide gas which is expelled, leaving behind the iron. When some of the oxygen and carbon are left, pig iron is the result; pure or nearly pure iron (which is almost never found in nature except in meteorites) is called “wrought iron,” which is strong, but heavy, hard to melt or mold, and can grow brittle, heavily rusting—thus, the iron is blended with a small amount of other metals to make steel, which is easier to mold into useful items, is a little lighter, and is more resistant to rust.

Steel is produced by taking ‘pig iron” (iron with higher carbon content) by reducing the carbon content and adding other elements, such as manganese and nickel. It is believed that the Egyptians were the first to work with small amounts of iron, some five or six thousand years ago. Evidence of what is believed to be the first example of iron mining and smelting points to the ancient Hittite culture in what is now Turkey around 1500 B.C. Because iron was a far superior material for the manufacture of weapons and tools than any other known metal, its production was a closely guarded secret. However, the basic technique was simple, and the use of iron gradually spread. The Hittities, of course, were just to the west of Mesopotamia and the Jaredites, and just to the north of Canaan and the later Israelites.

Thus, there is no reason to believe that neither the Jaredites nor Nephites would not have know how to smelt ore, extract iron, and blend with other elements to form steel, for such had been done close to the time the Jaredites left Mesopotamia and about a thousand years before Lehi left Jerusalem. But the ability to make steel by achieving the temperatures needed, was first established in 3000 B.C., 800 years before the Jaredites left, and 1500 years before Lehi left.

Then, too, the “cankered with rust” would also be applicable to the time frame of both the Jaredites and the Nephites.

(See the next post, “So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Metal Swords – Part II,” for the ancient working of metals in the Western Hemisphere)

1 comment:

  1. Hello friends,

    Nice post! This beautiful sword has a great handle with 6 snake heads and skull at the top. Also 2 snake heads on the hilt separate from the others. The display plaque is white in color. Thanks......

    Survival Knives