Apples, Oranges and Nephites by Philip Jenkins.
Neil Rappleye is a Book of Mormon apologist. He recently did a piece about me at his blog, under the title The Goose and the Gander, and he is fully entitled to take issue with me on anything and everything. I don’t intend to respond to every criticism or comment he makes, but I am responding to this one because it raises interesting issues about methodology, and the relationship between authentic history and pseudo-history. Although I am addressing this to him personally, the same arguments apply to most of the apologist claims, particularly as they concern the Old Testament.
I have had a couple of exchanges with Neal Rappleye in the past. Then as now, he strikes me as smart and literate. I am no less struck by the puzzling disconnect between the articulate nature of what he writes, and the startling lack of sophistication of his arguments. By far his weakest spot concerns his use of far-fetched and wildly unconvincing analogies, which instantly destroy the credibility of his arguments – more on that shortly. This may all reflect the fact that Book of Mormon apologists really never engage with mainstream scholars. Virtually no mainstream academic takes his cause seriously enough to be worth arguing with, so an apologist never has an opportunity to test his/her arguments in that setting.
To over-simplify, Neal suggests that there really is remarkably little credible, concrete evidence for many aspects of the Old Testament story, so we have no better or worse grounds to accept the literal truth of that narrative than we do the Book of Mormon. There are two main rhetorical points at issue here.