Friday, December 30, 2011

So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Barley and Wheat

Continuing with the so-called anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, critics write:

Wheat was domesticated in the Old World and was introduced on the American continent by Europeans. Barley is mentioned three times in the Book of Mormon narrative dating to the 1st and 2nd century B.C. Wheat is mentioned once in the Book of Mormon narrative dating to the same time period. The introduction of domesticated modern barley and wheat to the New World was made by Europeans after 1492, many centuries after the time in which the Book of Mormon is set.”

It is always interesting how adamant critics are about what they do not know. First of all, barley was a grain known to both the Jaredites and the Nephites. Consider the fact that barley and wheat were both grown in Mesopotamia prior to the time the Jaredites left that area. In addition, the wild ancestor of domesticated barley, Hordeum vulgare subsp. spontaneum, is abundant in grasslands and woodlands throughout the Fertile Crescent and is abundant in disturbed habitats, roadsides and orchards. Outside of this region the wild barley is less common and is usually found in disturbed habitats. Barley has been found in ancient Syria and around the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. According to Deuteronomy 8:8, barley is one of the “Seven Species” of crops that characterize the fertility of the Promised Land of Canaan, and barley has a prominent role in the Israelite sacrifices described in the Pentateuch (Numbers 5:15). Thus, we know that domesticated barley was available to Lehi before he left Jerusalem.

In addition, wild barley, which has a brittle spike, and upon maturity, the spikelets separate, facilitating seed dispersal. Domesticated barley has non-shattering spikes, making it much easier to harvest the mature ears. The non-shattering condition is caused by a mutation in one of two tightly-linked genes known as Bt1 and Bt2; many cultivars (a cultivated variety of a plant that has been deliberately selected for specific desirable characteristics) possess both mutations. The non-shattering condition is recessive so varieties of barley that exhibit this condition are homozygous for the mutant allele.

A recent discovery in Arizona by Arizona State University and Eastern New Mexico University, on a site pre-dating Christ finds barley grains entombed with other artifacts, perhaps as early as 300 B.C. Unfortunately, New World archaeology has always maintained that barley was not available in the New World.

There are two reasons for this: 1) Barley was not found in the New World at the time of European contact. Archaeologists thought that if it had been in the New World previously it certainly would not have disappeared before European contact. Since New World archaeologists "knew" that barley did not exist they did not look for it. This would help account for why it has not been discovered until now; 2) Barley undoubtedly had not been cultivated and grown in the Land of Promise of the Western Hemisphere since the close of the 4th century A.D.

It is always amazing how critics of the Book of Mormon seem to righteously indignant and amusingly positive about situations they know nothing about in the scriptural record. Clearly, the grains of wheat and barley were grown by the Nephites. Whether they were brought with the Lehi colony and planted, or by the Jaredites that, over time, became uncultivated and wild, later domesticated by the Nephites, is not known. However, the knowledge and ability to sow and harvest plants that had previous been gathered in the wild was known in Mesopotamia and Canaan before Jaredite times.

However, the fact that the Nephites were annihilated around 385 A.D., and had been at constant war for 50 years before that, might suggest, even to the most critical, that grain ceased to be grown by the Nephites before 400 A.D. In the eleven hundred years before the Spaniards arrived, there was no wheat or barley grown—even in that time, any wild variety would have ceased to survive.

(See the next post, So-Called Book of Mormon Anachronisms: Barley and Wheat – Part II,” for how the LDS apologists cloud the issue when they try to find some other answer than the scriptural record)

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