Book of Mormon/Plants/Olives

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Olives in the Book of Mormon

Summary: Olives are claimed to present an anachronism for the Book of Mormon. This article examines that claim.

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Question: Are olives anachronistic to the Book of Mormon?

The Criticism

Critics of the Book of Mormon claim that olives are anachronistic to it as a means of weakening the possibility of the Book of Mormon’s historicity and suggesting naturalistic origins for the Book. This article examines the claim.

Olives need only be mentioned in connection to the Old World

Olives are only mentioned in a few locations in the Book of Mormon. Those are:

  • 1 Nephi 10: 12, 14 – Lehi compares the house of Israel to an olive tree while still in the Old World.
  • 1 Nephi 15: 7, 12, 16 – Nephi affirms the word of his father comparing Israel to an olive tree and scattered Israel as a branch of it that will be grafted in. Olives aren't anachronistic to the ancient world.[1]
  • Jacob 5: 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, 14, 17, 34, 46 – Jacob quotes from an Old World prophet named Zenos in the allegory of the Tame and Wild Olive Tree. Since this is a prophet from the Old World, it doesn’t make olives anachronistic. If there were olives in the New World, then we may not know about them today since plants like it will likely never be found. If this is just Jacob importing imagery from the Old World, then there’s again no problem.
  • Jacob 6:1 – Jacob summarizes his words about olive trees.

Conclusion

Whether olives existed in the New World or not, they do not present any anachronism for the Book of Mormon and thus have no bearing on the question of its historicity. Ironically, the descriptions of olive horticulture provide evidence for the Book of Mormon’s historical authenticity.

Notes

  1. See here for more information.