Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Gift from Biblical Reproductions: Alma the Son of Judah on a Bar Kochba Letter

There's an interesting business, Biblical Reproductions, selling authorized reproductions of artifacts and documents related to the Bible. One of the products is a reproduction of 5/6Hev 44 Bar Kokhba, a deed found in the Bar Kochba letters from ancient Israel dating to around 150 A.D. When published, this little document turned a long-standing weakness in the Book of Mormon into a strength. Critics had long mocked Joseph's foolishness in assigning a female name to an ancient Hebraic man, Alma. With this document, though, we read of "Alma son of Judah." What was once a "howler" suddenly became evidence in favor of the antiquity and plausibility of the Book of Mormon. 

Here's the description of this letter from BiblicalReproductions.com. I suspect the final paragraph may  have been written to attract LDS buyers, but what it says is nonetheless completely accurate and good to know.

Description

The Bar Kokhba Letter (5/6Hev 44 Bar Kokhba) was found amongst other manuscripts in the Cave of Letters in the Nahal Hever. This particular papyrus contains the details of the division of the land lot that was leased from Simeon Bar Kosiba (Bar Kokhba). This letter dates back to middle of the second century C.E. and was written in Mishnaic Hebrew.

Of their own free will, on this day, have Eleazar son of Eleazar son of Hitta and Eliezer son of Samuel, both of En-gedi, and Te?innah son of Simeon and Alma son of Judah both of ha-Luhith in the (coastal) district of Agaltain, now resident in En-gedi, wished to divide up among themselves the places that they have leased from Jonathan son of MHNYM the administrator of Simeon ben Kosiba, Prince of Israel, at En-gedi.

One of the men mentioned in this historical record is Alma son of Judah. This certainly provides the evidence that the name Alma was used as a male name and not exclusively as female, as it was earlier assumed. [emphasis added]

A hat tip to a video for Saints Unscripted, where the Biblical Reproductions website is flashed for a few seconds while discussing some of Joseph's many "lucky guesses" that were supported by later discoveries. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please show me where someone mocked the presumed gender of the name Alma in the Book of Mormon. It's easy to show refutation of an argument no one actually made, so I beg of you: show evidence of your claim, Jeff.

Anonymous said...

A quick search on Google pulled up some articles of authors critical of the name Alma being a man's name in the Book of Mormon:

https://thirdhour.org/blog/faith/scripture/book-of-mormon/alma-name/

Steve

Jeff Lindsay said...

Surely you recognize that Alma was widely known as a female name in the 19th century. It should then seem likely that critics would have made this argument. Some sources that clearly illustrate this are shown on the ThirdHour page at https://thirdhour.org/blog/faith/scripture/book-of-mormon/alma-name/. Those sources include the Utah Evangel and Water Martin. There should be more. I don't know what the earliest known attack based on that name is, but would like to know just out of curiosity.

One of the first attacks on the Book of Mormon that I recall seeing once the Internet emerged was the silliness or "plagiarism" of Alma, proposed as deriving from a modern woman's name. The claim that there were no rivers in Arabia making the River Laman a ridiculous blunder was another one of the first ones I recall seeing. Both now have hard evidence in their favor. I think that early online attack I saw was either from or quoting from the Tanners (perhaps their Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? that critiques the name Alma or the Utah Evangel), but I'm not sure. Guess I should take more pains to document current attacks so years later, if we have solid evidence turning another weakness into a strength, I'll have a faster response to the common anonymous comment about past attacks, "Who ever said that [issue X] was a problem? Prove it to us with sources!"

This particular argument is no longer popular given that it has been easily refuted for decades with non-LDS scholarship that turns what once seemed ridiculous into a Book of Mormon strength.

Anonymous said...


Alma is still used as a female name in the Spanish cultures of Mexico, Central and South America.
Alma is Spanish for "Soul".