Real People and Real Places: The Biblical Archaeological Approach
By Chip Thompson
When it comes to archaeology, there is a major difference between the support for the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Plenty of evidence shows that the Bible describes real people and real places, so most biblical events require very little faith. However, there is little to no support for anything described in the Book of Mormon.
In 2008 I toured Israel for the first time and fell in love with the archaeology of the Bible. Since that time, I have been training to become the religious guide for the Tri-Grace Ministries Israel Tours under my teacher and mentor Joel Kramer. What I have learned in support of the trustworthiness of the Bible has revolutionized my witness with LDS people.
Contrasting the Archaeology of the Bible with the Archaeology of the Book of Mormon
Before we review how real people, real places, real events, and real manuscripts of the Bible can be used as a witnessing tool, we need to first understand what Mormons are taught about two of their volumes of scripture.
The Book of Mormon is the most important of the LDS Standard Works. It is said to be the “keystone” of the Mormon faith and “the most correct of any book on earth.” Mormons place trust in the Book of Mormon as containing true history of the early Americas from about 600 BC to AD 400. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon claims to have been written by prophets of God; its fifteen books are believed by Mormons to be inspired scripture.
The King James Version of the Bible is also one of the LDS scriptures, but it is considered to be the least authoritative. First Nephi chapters 13 and 14 in the Book of Mormon describe a “great and abominable church” that would arise after the death of the Lord’s apostles. This church is said to be the “whore of all the earth” because she would change the Bible by removing “many parts which are plain and most precious” and “many covenants” of the Lord Jesus.
Mormons are told by their leaders that ungodly priests in the Dark Ages utterly corrupted the Bible, thereby casting doubt upon the trustworthiness of its translation. The 8th Article of Faith of the LDS Church says, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”
Isaiah 5:20 perfectly describes what Mormonism has done with the Bible and the Book of Mormon: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” LDS people have been deceived into doubting the book they should not doubt (the Bible) while being told to trust the book they should not accept as historical (the Book of Mormon).
An understanding of biblical archaeology can correct this upside-down thinking. When it comes to the Bible, archaeology provides evidence for why it can be trusted. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is faced with an alarming lack of archaeological evidences.
To illustrate the dilemma Mormonism faces regarding Book of Mormon evidences, go to www.TriGrace.org, click on “Resources” and watch the video tutorial titled “Book of Mormon Archaeology.” This video explains what happened when a biblical archaeologist, Dr. Bryant Wood, went to Brigham Young University to talk with a Mormon archaeologist, Dr. Kerry Muhlestein. Their candid conversation reveals the fact that no archaeology in the New World has been found that supports any person, place, or event mentioned in the Book of Mormon.
Let’s take a look at how archaeology can support the trustworthiness of the Bible…