New Book Probes Ancient Near Eastern Backgrounds of Book of Mormon
The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book of Mormon Scholar, a new book by John A. Tvedtnes, associate director of research at FARMS, provides more than 45 insights into the text and teachings of the Book of Mormon. Published by Cornerstone, the book deals with linguistic, historical, cultural, and theological matters that underscore the accuracy and internal consistency of the Book of Mormon.
The result of more than 10 years of research and writing, the book presents a wealth of information drawn from the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern texts. For example, in a chapter on the Jaredite ocean voyage, Tvedtnes considers where the brother of Jared may have gotten the idea to light the enclosed barges with crystalline stones touched by the Lord.
Tvedtnes points to several early Jewish accounts of Noah’s ark in which God told Noah to suspend precious stones or pearls in-side of the ark. “The gems would glow during the night and dim during the day so Noah, shut up in the ark, could tell the time of day and how many days had passed,” Tvedtnes writes. Tvedtnes suggests interesting correlations between the Book of Mormon narrative and aspects of culture, beliefs, and history of Semitic people in the Middle East around the time of Lehi. For example, building on the work of Hugh Nibley, Tvedtnes considers Laban’s possible role in a con-spiracy to slay the prophets Jeremiah and Lehi. “There is, in fact, evidence from the Bible that there was such a secret combination in Jerusalem in Lehi’s time,” he writes. Part of the ensuing discussion sug-gests that the secret works of darkness among the Nephites may have originated in Jerusalem and then were carried to the New World by Laman and Lemuel or the sons of Ishmael.
Tvedtnes also examines the timing of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites, explores the backgrounds of untranslated words like ziff in the Book of Mormon, reviews discoveries since the time of Joseph Smith that support the ancient existence of a kind of “reformed Egyptian” script, and discusses many other little-known aspects of the Book of Mormon that further confirm its authenticity and inspired origin.