Here the critics have found fertile ground in which to dig and play because they can pursue numerous avenues of attack. Without listing these various attempts, perhaps their most potent argument is that there is little archeological evidence to support the story of the people, places, events and circumstances that are spoken of in the Book of Mormon.
When Joseph Smith first published this book of scripture in 1830 there was no serious archeological work being done in either North, Central, or South America. Because of this the critics say that Joseph Smith felt comfortable writing a totally fictitious book and passing it off as fact since there was nothing at that time to refute what he wrote. However, since then there has been an explosion of archeological study done in these areas of the world and the critics claim there is no hard evidence uncovered to support the story told in the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, they say that the latest technology in DNA research seems to prove that the original inhabitants of Central and North America have no Jewish blood in them.
By way of comparison the critics claim there is an over abundance of archeological evidence to support and prove the events told in the Bible. Therefore, they contend that if the Book of Mormon was truly the word of God, then we should be able to find plenty of archeological evidence to support its story just as we can for the Bible. However, if that is the standard to be used in determining whether a book of scripture came from God or not, then the critics are standing on quicksand because that same standard also condemns the Bible as easily as it does the Book of Mormon
There are three people mentioned of in the Bible who form the foundation of the Christian faith and they are Adam, Moses, and Jesus. If the biblical story of any one of these three people is shown to be false then the entire Christian faith collapses.
According to the Bible, the first human God created was Adam, a little more than 6,000 years ago. Furthermore, according to the Bible, it wasn't until Adam transgressed God's command in the garden of Eden that sin and death came into the world. Today there are those who trumpet recent findings in DNA research to show that it doesn't seem to support the theory that the North and/or Central American Indians are descendants of Middle Eastern Israelites as the Book of Mormon claims. Instead, what today's evidence seems to suggest is that the original inhabitants of the American continent came from Asiatic descent, mostly from Siberia and Mongolia, where they crossed the frozen Bearing Straits into Alaska and then migrated south from there approximately 12,000 years ago. Furthermore, the most current DNA research estimates that the human gene can be traced back nearly 5.3 million years ago when man's bloodline split from that of the chimpanzee.
If we are to use the science of DNA as we currently understand it as evidence of the truthfulness of our religious beliefs then we would have to conclude that there was no such man as Adam who was created out of the dust of the earth just six thousand years ago. And if there is no such person as Adam then there was no such incident where he violated a command from God not to eat a particular forbidden fruit. Yet it was this act of disobedience which Christians claim introduced both sin and death into the world.
Furthermore, it is a scientific fact that death, both in plant life as well as in animal life, has been occurring on earth for millions of years. Coal is a product of nature that comes as a result of trees having died and decayed over centuries of time. Science estimates that the coal found in the earth today was produced about 300 million years ago. If we are to base our religious beliefs on the prevailing wisdom of science then we would have to conclude that the sin of Adam in the garden of Eden was not responsible for the occurrence of death in the world as the Bible claims (Romans 5:12). And if sin didn't enter the world through the act of one man's disobedience then the whole point of Christ's death on the cross to save us from the consequences of sin is rendered meaningless.
In addition to that, the Bible states that Adam and many of the people who lived for the first two millennia didn't die until they were close to a thousand years old. According to the Bible, Adam lived to be 930 years old (Genesis 5:5). Noah died at the age of 950, nearly two thousands years after Adam had been created. And even after the flood, according to the Bible, the lifespan of man was well over a hundred years. Abraham lived to be 175 years old (Genesis 25:7), his son Isaac lived to be 180 years old (Genesis 35:28), and his grandson Jacob died when he was 147 years old (Genesis 47:28). While Adam was born a mere 6,000 years ago, there is no evidence of any kind to indicate that any man in ancient time, let alone whole civilizations, lived long lives. In fact, the fossil record seems to indicate that the normal lifespan of ancient man was somewhere between 40-50 years of age. Yet, despite all of the evidence of science which runs counter to what Christians believe, they still maintain that the Bible accurately reflects the history of mankind.
To counter the findings of the scientific community, what nearly all Christian apologists seek to do is cast doubt on the methods and conclusions of science and then put forth their own "plausible" theories of how they think things might have happened as a means of explaining away what science has discovered. However, these apologists offer little or no scientific evidence to support many of their speculative theories.
Yet at the same time these same people will denounce the Book of Mormon as being false precisely because it is not supported by the same scientific evidence that they themselves seek to distance themselves from. And as though that wasn't bad enough, they then refuse to accept any plausible explanations that Mormons might give to account for the discrepancy between our faith and science while expecting others to accept their plausible theories as valid explanations.
The most central person to Christianity is the man Jesus of Nazareth. The Bible claims that He is literally the Son of God and that His earthly mother, Mary, conceived Him without the help of any earthly man. Christians also believe that Jesus went about performing mighty miracles, such as healing multitudes of people, walking on water, controlling the forces of nature, and raising the dead.
However, there are only a few sketchy references from a couple of non-biblical sources to indicated that there really was such a man named Jesus who lived during the time the Bible says. According to the Bible, Jesus performed so many miracles that "his fame went through all Syria… and there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decopolis, and from Jerusalem, and from beyond Jordan" (Matthew 4:24,25).
Decapolis is an area of ten Greek/Roman cities that extended from Syria to the north down to the Dead Sea in the south. According to the Bible Jesus was widely famous, not only to the Jews but also to the Greeks and Romans of that region. Furthermore, His fame would have spread by word of mouth to other Greek and Roman cities outside of the Palestine area as people traveled throughout the Roman Empire. Therefore, because of such widespread fame, we would expect to find considerable recorded documentation made by many different people in many different cities and cultures testifying of Jesus and his wondrous miracles. Yet, to date, there is no archeological evidence that can attest to even one of them.
Given the fact that He once fed 5,000 people with only five fishes and two loaves of bread, we would expect to find some evidence that someone, somewhere made mention of this astonishing miracle. When His friend Lazarus died, Jesus deliberately waited three days before visiting his tomb. By then there could be no doubt in anyone's mind that Lazarus was indeed dead. So, when Jesus brought Lazarus forth from the grave, that must have been one of the most unbelievable events to ever happen. Word of such a miracle would certainly have spread far and wide and yet to date there has not been found one reference from any source outside the Bible, however slight, to verify that this miracle actually occurred.
The greatest miracle of all was when Jesus Himself rose from the grave, not as a mortal man but an immortal Being. And the Bible further tells us that many others came out of their graves after His resurrection and went into the capital city of Jerusalem and showed themselves unto many (Matthew 27:53). Yet, as utterly amazing as this event must have been, there is no mention of it anywhere, except in the Bible!
It was the miracles that Jesus performed that gives evidence to His claim of being the Son of God, but if we cannot verify that those miracles actually took place then the very foundation upon which Christians base their faith in Christ is in doubt.
The defenders of the Bible point to the fact that we have the testimonies of four witnesses to corroborate that these miracles truly did happen. Those four witnesses are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, when Mormons produce the testimony of eleven witnesses to verify that the Book of Mormon is from God, these same defenders of the Bible dismiss these testimonies by saying they were all friends of Joseph Smith and therefore we can't trust their word. Yet these same people maintain that the testimonies about Jesus as recorded in the Bible by His closest friends are beyond question.
While Jesus is the most central figure in the New Testament, the single most important person of the Old Testament is Moses. It was he who gave us the Ten Commandments which has become the basis of law for civilizations all over the world. In addition to these ten, Moses also gave the Israelites many other laws that governed nearly every aspect of their life, which many Jews even today still adhere to. It was Moses who gave us the concept of a temple with its priestly organization meant to perform ordinances for the purpose of removing personal sin. Even in Christian doctrine it is taught that the Law of Moses was meant to bring people to Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24). In fact, most of the doctrines of Christianity are founded on the principles contained in the Law of Moses.
Most biblical commentators and scholars credit Moses for introducing the idea of a belief in one supreme God rather than in a multitude of gods as the other nations did. It was Moses who gave us the name of God (Exodus 3:14). According to the Bible he received this knowledge directly from God Himself on a mountain in the Sinai peninsula.
If we cannot establish that Moses existed then it calls into question everything else associated with him, from the first five books of the Bible, to the Ten Commandments, to the system of divine priests, to the ordinances in the temple, and even to a belief in Jehovah as the supreme God. The basis upon which Christianity is built is that Jesus was either Jehovah Himself, come down from heaven to live among men in the flesh or that He is the Son of Jehovah.
While archeological research in Central America began fairly recently, archeologists have been digging in the Middle East for centuries. Furthermore, while the Book of Mormon gives us the names of cities it doesn't tell us where they are found. However, we do know where many of the lands and cities are spoken of in the Bible. Therefore, we have a far greater wealth of archeological information to draw from when studying the claims of the Bible than we do when studying the claims of the Book of Mormon.
According to the Bible, "it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD" (1 Kings 6:1).
Most biblical scholars agree that Solomon began building his temple in the year 967 BC. If we go back in time 480 years from then that puts the Israelite exodus from Egypt in the year 1447 BC. Since the Bible also tells us that Moses was 40 years old when he fled Egypt and came back forty years later to free his people (Acts 7:23-30), that makes Moses 80 years old when this exodus occurred. Therefore, if we go back in time 80 years from the exodus we are able to calculate that Moses was born around the year 1527 BC.
Even though these dates are understood to be approximate, we should be able to find some evidence in history confirming that not only did a man named Moses exist in that time period but that the events surrounding his life as recorded in the Bible actually took place.
Perhaps the oldest research of archeology is the study of Egypt and those who specialize in this study are known as Egyptologists. These are not people who merely have a passing interest in this subject but have devoted their life to studying every aspect of the ancient Egyptian culture and empires. And there is a wealth of information they have uncovered.
According to Egyptologists, the first empire began around 3000 BC when a man named Menes was able to unite the many small tribal farmers of both upper and lower Egypt under his leadership and established a dynasty. His reign lasted 62 years and he died from being mauled by a hippopotamus while out hunting. Under his reign they built a system of canals that allowed water from the Nile river to flow inland, which not only helped irrigate the land, thereby increasing their farming capabilities, but it also served as a water highway to transport goods. It was because of this system that Egypt became a wealthy nation through its trade industry.
In the year 2667 a pharaoh named Djoser came to power and became the first to construct buildings out of stone. Before then all buildings had been made out of mud. Under his leadership, which lasted until 2648 BC, he was the first to build a pyramid type of structure that was made by stacking a series of layers one on top of each other to form what is known as a "step pyramid." The person who oversaw this work and designed the pyramid was a man named Imhotep and his power in the kingdom could be equated to that of a modern-day Prime Minister.
We know that this structure took 20 years to build and that to enlist workers they recruited men by offering them clothing and food, including beer, as well as giving them housing and tax breaks. They were organized into units of twenty men each, known as divisions, and that there were five hundred divisions all together, making a total 10,000 men who worked on this first pyramid. They lived in barracks of 55 men each and were given one day off from work each week. In addition to them, Djoser enlisted the help of thousands of women to provide the food and clothing that the workers needed.
But the building of this pyramid was not the only thing Djoser is noted for. He also developed the technique of stone quarrying and established a mining industry in the Sinai peninsula where they mined turquoise and copper. It was from the sale of these minerals that the government was able to greatly increase the revenue into its treasury. We also know that Djoser was reported to have been a very wise and pious ruler and was extremely popular and loved by his people, so much so that they considered him to be a god.
The reason why this information is important for us to know is because it shows the depth of detail concerning all aspects of ancient Egyptian life going back nearly 5,000 years. This information comes from tomb writings, inscriptions on walls and stele, as well as thousands of documents that recorded both civil and governmental transactions, including contracts made by individuals. Since the Israelite exodus occurred only 3,450 years ago, we should expect to find even more detailed information about this period of time than something that happed more than fifteen hundred years earlier.
In the year 1447 BC when Moses led his people out of Egypt, the Pharaoh at that time was either Thutmose III (1503-1450) or Amenhotep II (1453-1419). The reason for this confusion is because the death of Thutmose III occurred somewhere around 1450 BC. If this date is only a close approximation then it is possible that Amenhotep II had succeed to the throne as Pharaoh by the time the Israelites left Egypt. If not, then it would have been Thumose III whom Moses dealt with.
Many people think that Ramesses II was the Pharaoh at thet time of the Israelite exodus because of the mention of this name in the Bible (Genesis 47:11), but most biblical scholars dispute this common assumption. First of all, his reign didn't begin until around 1290 BC which doesn't fit with the dating of the exodus given in the Bible. Also, this name appears in the Bible when Jacob and his family moved to Egypt approximately 500 years before the exodus ever occured. Furthermore, what we know about his reign doesn't fit with the account of Moses given by Josephus or with the biblical account of the Pharaoh who lived during the time of the exodus.
However, the reign of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II doesn't fair any better in squaring with the story of the exodus as found in the Bible. According to the Bible, before the pharaoh allowed the Israelites to leave his land the Lord sent ten plagues upon Egypt. The first was to turn all the water in the land into blood, including their streams, rivers, ponds and even water found in wooden or stone vessels. Even when they dug for water they could not find any that hadn't become polluted with blood (Exodus 7:19-24). This condition lasted for seven days. That means throughout the entire land of Egypt no one (except the Israelites) had any water to drink for a full week. That's a very long time for someone to go without water. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to conclude that many people died from this curse.
The Lord also sent a very grievous pestilence upon all the Egyptian "cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep…. and all the cattle of Egypt died" (Exodus 9:3,6). Later the Lord sent down hail upon "every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die… And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field." (Exodus 9:19,24). During just these two plagues alone not only did most of the Egyptian cattle and other animals die but so did a large number of people, as well as their crops and trees were destroyed.
But that was not the worse. In time "the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt, and… they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they did eat every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left: and there remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the field, through all the land of Egypt" (Exodus 10:14,15).
The cumulative effects of all these plagues was so bad that the Pharaoh's servants went to him saying, "How long will you let this man Moses be a curse to us? Don't you know yet that Egypt is destroyed?" (Exodus 10:7). With most of their cattle, oxen, horses, and other animals dead and with all of their crops and trees destroyed, Egypt would have indeed been an economically devastated country.
But there was another plague that was the most traumatic of all - the killing of the first-born son of each Egyptian family. If we say that an average Egyptian family had two children, with one of them being a son then this plague would have killed one-fourth of the entire Egyptian population. If we say that that the average family had four children, with at least one being a son then the plague would have killed one in every six people. The actual population count at that time isn't known with any certainty because it fluctuated widely and sometime wildly, depending on a number of factors. But, if there were a million Egyptians then around 170,000 of them would have died. That is a significantly high number of people.
But there was still one more plague that would devastate Egypt even more. When the Pharaoh finally relented to the demands of Moses, "the children of Israel journeyed from [the city of] Rameses to [the city of] Succoth, [and there were] about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside (in addition to the) children" (Exodus 12:37). If there were 600,000 Israelite men then, in all likelihood, there were that many women, which would bring their population number to over a million people. When we add in their children, the entire Israelite population could easily have been two and a half to three million people.
Most Egyptologists agree that the highest Egyptian population during that period of time would have been no more than one million people. When we factor in all the Egyptian people who had died in the previous plagues, the Israelite population would have outnumbered the Egyptians three to one or more. Laying aside the fact that these high Israelite population numbers don't match with the historical population size of Egypt in 1450 BC, the Bible tells us that they were all slaves. If that is true then there would have been three Hebrew slaves for every one Egyptian. Therefore, it would have been devastating to that country's social and economic structure for them to suddenly lose that many people they depended on to do their work. For all practical purposes, the exodus of the Israelites would have left Egypt without any work force.
Such a catastrophic series of events could not be easily missed by history. Even if the government didn't include these disasters in their official records, the effects of these plagues would be felt and easily observed for years afterwards. Yet, while the reigns of both Thutmose III and Amenhotep II covered a period of eighty-four years, there is nothing during all that time to indicate that Egypt faced any sort of serious calamity or that its economy suffered from a crippling tragedy.
As indicated before, Moses would have been born somewhere around the year 1527 BC. The pharaoh at that time would have been Thutmose I (1525-1518). According to the Bible, this Pharaoh issued an imperial edict "charg(ing) all his people, saying, Every son that is born [to a Hebrew] ye shall cast into the river, and every daughter ye shall save alive" (Exodus 1:22, emphasis added). While we might find infanticide repugnant and abhorrent today, such was not the case back then. Even Moses later ordered the killing of children (Numbers 31:17) as did his successor, Joshua (Joshua 6:21). The Bible also records that the Lord commanded King Saul to "slay both man and woman, infant and suckling" when attacking the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3).
The Israelites saw nothing wrong with doing this and likewise the Pharaoh would not have felt the least bit guilty about issuing such a decree. In fact, he no doubt felt it was the wisest thing to do. Therefore, this imperial decree to all of his people would have been proudly recorded in the official records, as the Bible similarly records such deeds by the Israelites. However, there is no record anywhere in all of Egyptian history that such an order was ever given by any Pharaoh nor is there a record of any such massacre having ever happened. And yet, it was this event that lead to Moses being put in an ark of bulrushes by his mother and found by the Phroah's daughter (Exodus 2:2-5). But if there was no order to kill the Israelite children then there would have been no need for Moses to be set adrift in the Nile river when he was just a baby. And if that didn't happen then Moses was never found by the Pharaoh's daughter and raised in the Pharaoh's palace as the Bible indicates.
But perhaps the most disturbing lack of evidence is that of the man Moses, himself. As detailed and accurate as the Egyptians were at keeping records, archeologists have not been able to find even one mention of someone by the name of Moses. Biblical apologists offer as an explanation that the name of Moses was erased from all the official court records. This was dramatized in the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille movie, "The Ten Commandments," however, nowhere in the Bible does it say this ever happened and there is no historical evidence to support such a claim.
But even if it did happen, such an act would not prevent archeologists from discovering the name of Moses. We know this because of what Thutmose III did with his step-mother, Hatshepsut. She was married to Thutmose II. When he died in 1479 BC Thutmose III, his son by another wife, was too young to become the Pharaoh so Hatshepsut took over the throne until he came of age. She ruled Egypt for fifteen years, from 1473-1458. In the seventh year of her reign, she declared herself to be the king of Egypt and had all intention of ruling for the rest of her life rather than letting her step-son, Thutmose III take the throne. She went so far as to dress herself like a man so that none of her womanly features were noticeable.
She also declared herself to be a god and had a shrine built to her name in the city of Thebes. The architect who designed and oversaw this work was a commoner by the name of Senomut, who, rumor had it, was Hatshepsut's lover. However, Thutmose III was not about to relinquish his right to power. In 1459 Senomut suddenly disappeared from sight and in 1458 Hatshepsut died under mysterious circumstances. When Thutmose III took the throne, he ordered all evidence of Hatshepsut to be removed from the official records. Yet, despite his order, Egyptologists still have been able to learn many intimate details about her reign.
Christians quote the words of Jesus that not one jot or tittle of his word would be lost (Matthew 5:18). If Moses was such a great prophet, surely God would have persevered his name for archeologists to find, despite man's best effort to erase it from history. What better way to remind the Egyptians of who the true God is than to preserve the story of how God wrought mighty miracles by the hand of His servant, Moses? And what better way for God to provide convincing proof of His word to the world than to have the name of the man He spoke with face to face on mount Sinai preserved in Egyptian history? However, his name is nowhere to be found.
But the problem goes even farther than that because there is no record in all of Egyptian history that there were people living in that country known as the Israelites or Hebrews. Many biblical apologists point to a group of people known as the Habiru who are mentioned in Egyptian records and make the claim that these were the Hebrews. However, there is no solid evidence to support that theory. Although there are some similarities between them and what we know of the Israelites, the historical record of the Habiru doesn't agree with the description of the Israelites given in the Bible.
According to the Bible, the reason why the children of Israel came to Egypt in the first place is because of a seven-year famine. A Hebrew slave by the name of Joseph had interpreted a dream of the Pharaoh saying there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. The Pharaoh stored up grain during the times of good harvest and when the famine became severe people, both near and far, came to Joseph to buy the Pharaoh's grain. In this way, Joseph was able buy up all the money, land, and goods in Egypt and substantially increased the wealth and power of the Pharaoh. (Genesis 47:13-25). And it was Joseph who first instituted the practice of taxing one-fifth of all Egyptians (verse 26). According to Bible chronology, this famine would have taken place somewhere around 1900 BC. However, there is no record in any period of Egypt's history that correlates to any part of this story.
But there is still yet one more problem that biblical scholars face. Egyptologists have been able to trace the history of this country in a continuous unbroken line of Pharaohs going back to the year 3000 BC. What makes this so significant is that according to biblical chronology, the flood of Noah's day occurred in 2000 BC. If that is true then all Egyptians would have perished in that flood. However, history records that the Egyptian Middle Kingdom period began around 2050 BC (fifty years before the flood) and that in 2010 BC a Pharaoh named Mentuhotep II came to power and ruled until 1998 BC. He was then succeeded by Mentuhotep III who ruled until 1991 BC. In the year 2000 BC, the year of the flood, the first obelisks were erected in the city of Helopolis, which today is called Cairo.
All these events took place just prior to, during, and immediately after the flood spoken of in the Bible but there is nothing in any of the Egyptian historical records to indicate that such a catastrophic deluge occurred. Therefore, the history of Egypt also seriously undermines the biblical credibility concerning the story of Noah.
Yet, despite all of this evidence to the contrary, traditional Christians still strongly maintain that the Bible, from beginning to end, is an accurate telling of history. However, these same Christians will condemn the Book of Mormon as being a fictitious story written by a false prophet named Joseph Smith precisely because the events spoken of in it so far don't seem to match the evidence found by archeologists in Central America.
If science is to be the standard by which we determine the validity of the word of God then science reveals the Bible to be a greater work of fiction than the Book of Mormon. However, while science has uncovered many things about our past, their work is not infallible and their findings are ever changing. At the same time, what Christians believe the Bible teaches has also changed over the centuries (see They Are All Corrupt ). If we were to base our beliefs on the findings of science our faith would be built on shifting sands and our beliefs would change with every new discovery.
The firm foundation upon which all Christians build their faith is that the word of God is true, even if science doesn't always provide evidence to support that faith. It is our belief that the reason why there is this discrepancy between science and religion is because we haven't gained enough information to understand how these two sources of knowledge are compatible with one another. While nearly all Christians accept this premise when it comes to the Bible, many of them are not willing to judge the Book of Mormon by the same standard.