Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Missing Ingrediant

After doing some searching on the internet I came across an article from The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) that detailed the missing ingrediant from my comparison post. The citation is here:

Recent Trends in Book of Mormon Apologetics: A Critical Assessment of Methodological Diversity and Academic Viability
Benjamin N. Judkins
FARMS Review: Volume - 16, Issue - 1, Pages: 75-97
Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 2004

The most important quote places my research concerning comparisons in ancient warfare in a broader context. At the end of the quote I will explain how my research attempts to avoids the pitfalls that he mentions.

The ethnographic school, founded and championed by Hugh Nibley...seeks to situate the Book of Mormon as an ancient document through a slow and steady process of building up literally thousands of parallels with the ancient world. It is more in the traditional Latter-day Saint vein of seeking to open a space for rational belief rather than attempting to "prove" a proposition...it has probably made the most substantial contributions of all. Especially helpful are recent efforts to use the work of Margaret Barker and others to situate the Book of Mormon in the emerging vision of what life in the ancient Near East must actually have been like. Efforts to show the Book of Mormon's compatibility with this world (knowledge of which was totally unavailable to Joseph Smith and his contemporaries) serve both to reinforce the historicity of the work and to provide a powerful new lens for examining its essential message. The recent work of Daniel C. Peterson, John Gee, John A. Tvedtnes, and others all offer striking new ways of reading the text—even some of its most Christian, nineteenth-century-sounding sections.

The ethnographic school itself is not free from methodological issues. One must specify what cultural parallels are expected in a given place and what sorts of parallels would be significant before conducting any investigation. At a minimum, an ongoing dialogue between theory and empirical investigation must occur. If it does not, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to defend a set of correlations against the charge of spuriousness. In fact, it is the lack of such theoretical considerations that has led to the not totally unjustified charge of parallelomania, particularly with regard to Nibley's work.

As I have done in such posts as "Military Cause for the Social Problems in the Book of Helaman" and "The Bad Emperor", I have tried to analyze a separate text or historical incident, such as the Agrarian Crisis or the Bad Emperor trope used by Chinese historians before I have shown its similarities in the Book of Mormon. As seen in my posts, I detail the salient features of the given point, and detail the same points within the Book of Mormon. I also take special pains to point out the differences in the given theories and tend to draw modest conclusions. These are all attempts to maintain a sober study of the Book of Mormon that does not seek a single 'silver bullet', or shoe horn comparisons, but seeks to find many loose parallels that help our study of the Book of Mormon and our knowledge of its historicity.

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