Question: Why does "Nahom" constitute archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?

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Question: Why does "Nahom" constitute archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon?

Written Hebrew does not employ vowels, therefore, Book of Mormon "Nahom" is NHM in Hebrew

The Book of Mormon name "Nahom" becomes NHM when written in Hebrew. This is a significant correlation in name and location.

Three altar inscriptions have been discovered containing the name "NHM" as a tribal name and dating from the seventh to sixth centuries BC

Three altar inscriptions have been discovered containing the name "NHM" as a tribal name and dating from the seventh to sixth centuries BC. This is roughly the time period when Lehi’s family was traveling though the same area.

S. Kent Brown: [1]

In one instance, however, Nephi does preserve a local name, that of Nahom, the burial place of Ishmael, his father-in-law. Nephi writes in the passive, "the place which was called Nahom," clearly indicating that local people had already named the place. That this area lay in southern Arabia has been certified by recent Journal publications that have featured three inscribed limestone altars discovered by a German archaeological team in the ruined temple of Bar'an in Marib, Yemen.[2] Here a person finds the tribal name NHM noted on all three altars, which were donated by a certain "Bicathar, son of Sawâd, son of Nawcân, the Nihmite." (In Semitic languages, one deals with consonants rather than vowels, in this case NHM.)

Such discoveries demonstrate as firmly as possible by archaeological means the existence of the tribal name NHM in that part of Arabia in the seventh and sixth centuries BC, the general dates assigned to the carving of the altars by the excavators.[3] In the view of one recent commentator, the discovery of the altars amounts to "the first actual archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon."[4]

Nhm altar 1.jpg

These altars are located in the area where the spice route makes an eastward turn to cross the Arabian desert

The spice route proceed southward from Jerusalem and then turns toward the east at the place where the NHM inscriptions were found. Lehi's group proceeded southward and then made an "eastward" change in direction after leaving the "place which was called Nahom."

1 Nephi 17:1:

And it came to pass that we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth.

S. Kent Brown:

The case for Nahom, or NHM, in this area is made even more tight by recent study. It has become clearly apparent from Nephi's note—"we did travel nearly eastward" from Nahom (1 Nephi 17:1)—that he and his party not only had stayed in the NHM tribal area, burying Ishmael there, but also were following or shadowing the incense trail, a trading road that by then offered an infrastructure of wells and fodder to travelers and their animals. From the general region of the NHM tribe, all roads turned east. How so? Across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, east of this tribal region and east of Marib, lay the city of Shabwah, now in ruins. By ancient Arabian law, it was to this city that all incense harvested in the highlands of southern Arabia was carried for inventorying, weighing, and taxing. In addition, traders made gifts of incense to the temples at Shabwah.[5] After this process, traders loaded the incense and other goods onto camels and shipped them toward the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas, traveling at first westward and then, after reaching the edges of the region of the NHM tribe, turning northward (these directions are exactly opposite from those that Nephi and his party followed). Even the daunting shortcuts across the Ramlat Sabcatayn desert, which left travelers without water for 150 miles, ran generally east-west. What is important for our purposes is the fact that the "eastward" turn of Nephi's narrative does not show up in any known ancient source, including Pliny the Elder's famous description of the incense-growing lands of Arabia. In a word, no one knew of this eastward turn in the incense trail except persons who had traveled it or who lived in that territory. This kind of detail in the Book of Mormon narrative, combined with the reference to Nahom, is information that was unavailable in Joseph Smith's day and thus stands as compelling evidence of the antiquity of the text.[6]

Hiltonarabia1-captioned.jpg

The name NHM is associated with a burial site and mourning

Nephi indicated that their group had reached a "place which was called Nahom," indicating that the site was already named. Ismael was buried there, and his daughters mourned him there.

1 Nephi 16:34-35:

And it came to pass that Ishmael died, and was buried in the place which was called Nahom. And it came to pass that the daughters of Ishmael did mourn exceedingly, because of the loss of their father...

Critical responses to NHM

Critics of the Church attempt to dismiss this correlation as simply "the willingness of LDS scholars to look anywhere in their despair to find a shred of validation for their erroneous beliefs." [7] However, given the high correlation of the data, it seems that the critics are the ones that have difficulty explaining the data.


Notes

  1. S. Kent Brown, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12:1 (2003)
  2. See S. Kent Brown, "'The Place Which Was Called Nahom': New Light from Ancient Yemen," JBMS 8/1 (1999): 66-68; and Warren P. Aston, "Newly Found Altars from Nahom," JBMS 10/2 (2001): 56-61.
  3. See Burkhard Vogt, "Les temples de Ma'rib," in Y émen: au pays de la reine de Saba (Paris: Flammarion, 1997), 144; see also the preliminary report by Burkhard Vogt et al., "Arsh Bilqis"—Der Temple des Almaqah von Bar'an in Marib (Sana'a, Yemen, 2000).
  4. Terryl L. Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture That Launched a New World Religion (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002), 120.
  5. Brown: "On these ancient laws, see Nigel Groom, Frankincense and Myrrh: A Study of the Arabian Incense Trade (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1981), 169–70, 181, 183–84. Concerning the taxation of incense and the gifts to the temples, see Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 12.32 ( §63)."
  6. S. Kent Brown, "Nahom and the 'Eastward' Turn," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 12:1 (2003)
  7. MormonThink.com page "Book of Mormon Problems".