Hamblin: "there are no references to Nephite steel after 400 B.C."

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Hamblin: "there are no references to Nephite steel after 400 B.C."

William Hamblin: [1]

Steel is mentioned only five times in the Book of Mormon, once in the Book of Ether (7.9), and four times in the Nephite records (1 Ne 4.9, 1 Ne 16.18, 2 Ne 5.15 and Jar 1.8). Of these, two refer to Near Eastern weapons of the early sixth century B.C. 1 Ne 4.9 states that the blade of Laban’s sword was “of most precious steel.” Nephi’s Near Eastern bow was “made of fine steel” (1 Ne 16.18). The next two references are to steel among generic metal lists. The first is to the time of Nephi, around 580 B.C.:

“work in all manner of wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores” (2 Ne 5:15)

The second is from Jarom 1:8, around 400 B.C.:

“workmanship of wood, in buildings, and in machinery, and also in iron and copper, and brass and steel, making all manner of tools of every kind to till the ground, and weapons of war–yea, the sharp pointed arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin, and all preparations for war”

Notice that these two texts are what is called a “literary topos,” meaning a stylized literary description which repeats the same ideas, events, or items in a standardized way in the same order and form.

Nephi: “wood, and of iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel” Jarom: “wood, …iron and copper, and brass and steel” The use of literary topoi is a fairly common ancient literary device found extensively in the Book of Mormon (and, incidentally, an evidence for the antiquity of the text). Scholars are often skeptical about the actuality behind a literary topos; it is often unclear if it is merely a literary device or is intended to describe specific unique circumstances.

Note, also, that although Jarom mentions a number of “weapons of war,” this list notably leaves off swords. Rather, it includes “arrow, and the quiver, and the dart, and the javelin.” If iron/steel swords were extensively used by Book of Mormon armies, why are they notably absent from this list of weapons, the only weapon-list that specifically mentions steel?

Significantly, there are no references to Nephite steel after 400 B.C.

Notes

  1. William Hamblin, "Steel in the Book of Mormon," FairMormon Papers