Archives for June 2015
[Cross-posted from Forn Spǫll Fira.]
Recent, under-informed assertions about the Book of Mormon and archaeology prompt this discussion.
Let’s ask a simple question:
What archaeological evidence do we have that the Council of Nicaea ever took place?
Unlike Zarahemla, or the Mitanni capital of Washshukanni, Nicaea is a site whose location is known. It has been excavated. We know what is there.
Archaeologically, Nicaea (modern Iznik) is most famous for its ceramic tiles, but they date from the Ottoman period. On the other end of the time spectrum, some neolithic pottery has been found at Iznik (Machteld J. Mellink, “Archaeology in Anatolia,” American Journal of Archaeology 89/4 (1985): 549).
The theater is 1st century, a typical Hadrianic style building that would have seated about 15,000 people. (Marie-Henriette Gates, “Archaeology in Turkey,” American Journal of Archaeology 98/2 (1994): 276.)
The city wall is also first century with numerous renovations in later times.
The church at Nicaea is 6th century (William Tabbernee, “Asia Minor and Cyprus,” in Early Christianity in Contexts, ed. William Tabbernee [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2014], 307.) The Koimeisis Church dates to the early eighth century (SEG XLI 1099) or late seventh century (SEG XLIV 1007).
So all of the Christian structures date at least two centuries after the Council of Nicaea. This is problematic.
The epigraphic corpus for Nicaea is extensive: Sencer Sahin, Katalog der antiken Inschriften des Museums von Iznik (Nikaia), 4 vols. (Bonn: Rudolf Habelt Verlag, 1979-87). With four volumes of inscriptions plus numerous additions in the SEG (Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum), it is clear that Nicaea has more inscriptions than most Mesoamerican sites.
As far as epigraphic evidence we have:
1st century BC
- a first century BC epitaph (SEG XXIX 1289).
1st century AD
- an inscription of Nero (AD 54-68) regarding street repair (I Iznik I 13 = CIG 3743)
- two first century AD dedications on the city gate to the Flavians (AD 70-79) (SEG XXVIII 1028-29).
- a building dedication to the Flavians (AD 78) (SEG LI 1709)
- a statue of Domitian (AD 81-96) (SEG LVII 1275)
- three first century inscriptions for Roman officals (SEG XXVIII 1025-27).
- four first century epitaphs (SEG XXVIII 1032-33; XXX 1429; XLVII 1679)
2nd century AD
- an aquaduct inscription of Hadrian (AD 117-138) (I Iznik I 1)
- an architrave inscription of Hadrian (AD 117-138) (I. Iznik. I 30a = SEG XXIX 1282).
- an altar dedicated to Hadrian (AD 117-138) (I Iznik I 32 = SEG XXIX 1283).
- a dedicatory inscription from the reign of Hadrian (I Iznik I 56 = SEG XXXVII 1071 = SEG XLVI 1604)
- three second century altars (SEG XXXIV 1263; SEG XLIII 897)
- thirty-one second century epitaphs (SEG XXIX 1290-91; SEG XXX 1430; SEG XXXIV 1264-65; SEG XLIX 1789; SEG LI 1710-11; SEG LV 1346, 1348-56, 1358; SEG LVI 1392-93; SEG LVII 1278, 1281-88; SEG LVIII 1447).
3rd century AD
- an honorary inscription from the reign of Elagabalus (AD 218-222) (I Iznik I 60 = SEG XXIX 1281).
- a milestone of Julius Verus Maximinus (AD 235-38) (I Iznik 21 = CIL III 12226 = 13650)
- two inscriptions of Claudius Gothicus (AD 268-70) regarding the rebuilding of the city wall (I Iznik I 11-12 = CIG 3747-48)
- four third century dedications to Zeus (SEG LV 1337-39; SEG LVII 1276)
- twelve third century epitaphs (SEG XXIX 1293; XXXIII 1080; SEG LI 1712-13; SEG LV 1344, 1357, 1359-63; SEG LVI 1394-95).
- a fragmentary third century epitaph (SEG XXIX 1292).
- a milestone of Diocletian and Maximian (AD 286-293) (I Iznik I 22)
4th century AD
- a fourth century epitaph (SEG XXIX 1294).
- a fourth century Jewish inscription quoting Psalm 135:25 (I Iznik II 615 = SEG XLVIII 1499)
- an undated dedication to Ti. Claudius Aelianos Sabinos (I Iznik I 35 = SEG XXIX 1284).
- six undated dedications to Zeus (SEG XXX 1428; SEG XL 1144-46; SEG XLVII 1678; SEG LX 1338)
- an undated dedication to Zeus, Hera, and Athena (SEG XXVIII 1030)
- an undated altar dedicated to Apollo (SEG LV 1340)
- an undated altar dedicated to Hermes and Apollo (SEG LV 1341)
- an undated honorary inscription (SEG XLVII 1677)
- an undated altar dedicated to Tadenos and Okkonenos (SEG LX 1339)
- three undated altar inscriptions (I Iznik I 43 = SEG XXIX 1288; SEG LI 1709 bis; SEG LX 1340).
- three undated fragmentary dedications (I Iznik I 36, 42, 66 = SEG XXIX 1285-87; SEG XXXVI 1153).
- two undated fragmentary inscriptions (SEG XXIX 1343-44).
- fifty-nine undated epitaphs (SEG XXVIII 1034; SEG XXIX 1295-1318, 1320-24, 1326-31, 1333-38; XXX 1431-34; XXXIII 1081-82; SEG XLVII 1680-81; SEG LX 1341-49)
- four undated Christian inscriptions (SEG XXIX 1339-42)
- four undated Christian epitaphs (SEG XXIX 1319, 1325, 1331-32)
- an undated testamentary regulation (SEG XLIX 1790)
There is no epigraphic evidence that Constantine paid the least attention to Nicaea. Furthermore, looking at the epigraphic evidence, we would conclude that fourth century inhabitants of Nicaea had converted from the worship of Zeus to Judaism, not Christianity. There is not a single inscription of Constantine’s from the site.
There appears to be no archaeological evidence that Constantine was ever in Nicaea, nor that there was a Christian council held there in the fourth century, and, of course, no archaeological evidence for the content of the Nicaean Creed. Should millions of creedal Christians therefore abandon their faith? They cannot point to a single piece of archaeological or epigraphic evidence that the Council of Nicaea ever took place. No reputable archaeologist has ever produced any. I can find no record of any reputable archaeological journals that have published any archaeological evidence that the Council ever took place or that support the creed that it supposedly produced.
Anyone who has actually worked trying to integrate archaeological with historical data can spot the problems with this sort of analysis easily. Some people, however, want to apply a double standard applying different standards to the Book of Mormon than they do to other historical events.
Note: The parenthetical citations reflect the enumeration found in the Kindle eBook version of this volume
Mormonism has never been merely a set of philosophical tenets, alienated from the material world. It is a religion of the here, the now, a religion that collapses the space between man and the cosmos, between the other-worldly and the earthly, and above all, between human beings. “This is my work and my glory,” the Christ of Mormonism declares, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” The stated purpose of Mormon project is more practical than ideological. Its success, the God of Mormonism declared, depends not on the propagation of tenets but upon the salvation of souls.
In First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple, Samuel M. Brown offers up a doctrinal exegesis of Joseph Smith’s fourth article of faith as stated in his 1842 letter to John Wentworth. Primary children the world over can recite the article by memory: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by Immersion for the Remission of Sins; and fourth, Laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.” Primarily intended as a devotional text, the book could find a comfortable home in a church service, or a family home evening. [Read more…] about Book Review: “First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple”
“Doubt Your Doubts” by Chad Conrad is an eye-opening read that will help readers strengthen their faith, confront controversial topics and find relevant answers to everyday life. The book addresses hot-button questions, such as “Why don’t women hold the priesthood?” and “How should we deal with homosexuality?” Readers’ toughest gospel questions can become testimony-builders with this timely and informative book.
To purchase a copy of Doubt Your Doubts, buy it at a discount through the FairMormon Bookstore.
Laurie White is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California.She often writes as Tudie Rose. She writes a weekly column for LDS Blogs at http://ldsblogs.com/.
She blogs as Laurie White about spiritual things (Thoroughly Mormon) at http://thoroughlymormon.wordpress.com/ She has written articles for Meridian Magazine and Familius. She comes on today to talk about an article she wrote for the Mormon Women Stand blog entitled, “Inside the Mind of An Inactive Member.”
(Cross-posted from Ether’s Cave with permission.)
There are generally two approaches to Book of Mormon names. One of them searches for plausible etymologies for Book of Mormon names; the other looks at whether the name is actually attested. If it is attested it does not matter much whether or not we can figure out an etymology for the name (that is, whether we can determine what the name originally meant). Both of these approaches are useful and have their merits.
The Book of Mormon name Gidgiddoni can now be added to the list of names that are attested.
Gidgiddoni, it will be remembered, was “great commander of all the armies of the Nephites” (3 Nephi 3:18) during the reign of Lachoneus. He is first mentioned during events of “the sixteenth year from the coming of Christ” (3 Nephi 3:1), and is last mentioned ten years later (3 Nephi 6:6).
The name Gidgiddoni, with its reduplication and doubled consonant, is unusual for a Hebrew name. We now know that it is not. It is a well attested name in Neo-Assyrian records. It comes from the same Assyrian empire that is discussed so extensively in the works of Isaiah. The name is mentioned many times in Assyrian records, covering a number of individuals. It is spelled a number of ways:
- Gíd-gi-da-nu (SAA 1: 152:6)
- Gíd-gi-da-a-n[i] (SAA 1: 152 r 9)
- [Gíd-g]i-da-a-[ni] (SAA 1: 152 r 6)
- [Gí]d-gi-da-a-[ni] (SAA 1: 39 :4)
- Gíd-gi-da-a-nu (SAA 6: 31 r 23)
- Gíd-gíd-da-nu (SAA 11: 123 ii 13)
- Gíd-gíd-da-[nu] (SAA 12: 51 r 12)
The variety of cuneiform spellings demonstrates the following points about the Assyrian name.
- The second d is doubled. (see Gíd-gíd-da-nu).
- The a is long. (see Gíd-gi-da-a-nu). This is important because Assyrian (Akkadian) long a goes to an o in Hebrew. Cuneiform does not have an osound and uses a variety of strategies to reproduce it.
- The form of the name borrowed into Hebrew is the oblique case. Hebrew does not have case endings but does have names ending in -i.
The form of the name borrowed into Hebrew must have been taken from the oblique case, which may have been the form of the name they heard most often. Hebrew often changes foreign names when it adopts them (think Marduk-apil-iddina becoming Merodach-Baladan).
The following individuals bearing the name are known from Neo-Assyrian records:
- An individual working in Dur-Sharrukin during the reign of Sargon II.
- A man from Kalhu listed in as a member of the chariotry during the reign of Sargon II.
- A tailor to the governor of Kalhu during the reign of Sargon II.
- A temple carpenter from Assur during the reign of Esarhaddon.
- A man from Assur during the reign of Assurbanipal.
- A man mentioned during the reign of Assur-etel-ilani.
(The Prosopography of the Neo-Assyrian Empire [Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1999], 1.2:422-23.)
The simplest explanation is that an Assyrian individual with the name Gidgiddanu was mentioned in the brass plates. This was then the source of the name for this particular military leader several centuries later.
Interestingly, the Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project was not able to determine an etymology or meaning for this name.
Thus the number of attested non-biblical names in the Book of Mormon has just increased by one.
In this episode brother Ash explores the work done by Dr. John Clark and Dr. John Sorenson concerning how the Great Lakes model for the Book of Mormon geography creates a number of inconsistencies and dilemmas that go beyond geographical issues.
The full text of this article can be found at Deseret News online.
Brother Ash is author of the book Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony in the Face of Criticism and Doubt, as well as the book, of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Both books are available for purchase online through the FairMormon Bookstore. Tell your friends about the Mormon Fair-Cast. Share a link on your Facebook page and help increase the popularity of the Mormon Fair-Cast by subscribing to this podcast in iTunes, and by rating it and writing a review.
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