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Religious Evidence: From Flying Spaghetti Monsters to Mormons and Miracles

Justin, your comments in my Introduction to External Evidence were so insightful I thought conversation should continue around them with a post.  You summarized my intent by surmising

I guess your main aim was to convince us that the Bible’s content is not ‘mythical’ in the sense that it was not entirely made up, and I agree with that (except in the case of the creation story)…

And that indeed was my aim.  I was not trying to prove or state that the Biblical account is true, proven or inspired, but that it sits on a tight historical framework.  So why do I think that to be significant?  Permit me to draw upon my university experience to illustrate.

When I started out in Forest Engineering I took courses like statics, dynamics, physics and mathematics.  They were rather tough courses for us first year students so the failure rate was high.  “Why are they loading us down with so many hard assignments and killer tests?” we would complain to each other.  The word spread that in fact the professors intentionally structured things this way to ‘weed out’ students.  And in fact that is what happened.  We ended that year with about half the number of students that started.  Those of us who remained were still not ready to graduate and get our engineering rings – other difficulties lay ahead and not all would make it – but now the professors would continue our education with smaller, more focused classes.

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

This illustrates my first reason for looking at external evidence – it ‘weeds out’ many spurious candidates.  And you will find that there are many contestants in this ‘class’.  There are enough to make us wonder if we can make any sense of it.

For example, if you google ‘flying spaghetti monster’ you will find that the FSM (to use the acronym) is touted by some as a deity.  Now they do so in parody and satire (they are pastafarians of the church of the FSM!).  By their satire they are asking a very pointed question: “Why should anyone take a biblical account more seriously than how you take the FSM deity (which you dismiss)?  If you dismiss the FSM out-of-hand why not dismiss the Bible out-of-hand?”  Applying external evidence is my ‘first cut’ by which I rationally weed out pretenders from contenders.  Why do I dismiss the FSM?  There is not one shred of evidence that the FSM has interacted through history in any way.  This is not the case for the Bible.  FSMers, however, in their mockery, have never informed themselves enough of the Bible to see the difference.  Their scorn for the Bible has kept them in ignorance of its historical evidence.

Similarly, I have friends who claim that Jesus never existed.  External evidence shouts that this is nonsense.  Historical writers outside the Bible, living in the first century (ex. Josephus) , affirm Jesus’ existence.  I know others who worship pagan deities such as Thor.  External evidence allows me to ask, “Has this god/figure ever intersected with humanity in a historical way?”  External evidence allows me to dismiss Thor and accept Jesus at a purely historical level.  External Evidence is a great way to make a ‘first cut’.

The Mormon Claim

External evidence is also useful in assessing the claims of those who have added or interpret the Bible in an unusual way.  Mormons are a good example of that.  When I was a university student, Mormon missionaries met with me over multiple weeks to explain their message.  I learned that their founding prophet, Joseph Smith, had discovered scriptures in the early 19th century buried in the ground in New York State that told the history of a clash of civilizations in North America.  These civilizations stemmed from a small Jewish community that left Jerusalem around the time of its first fall (586 BC) and emigrated to North America.  This discovery by Smith was written in a book made from golden plates in a language of ‘Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics’.

External evidence allowed me to ask and assess some basic questions.  Why would Jewish people write in ‘Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics’ when in all their other (numerous) writings they used Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek?  In fact, there is not one shred of one historical document in existence anywhere in the world today written in ‘Reformed Egyptian Hieroglyphics’ (the gold-plated original that Smith discovered was ‘lost’ just after he translated it into English), so there is no external evidence, within a sea of data from that era, that even such a language ever existed, let alone that this gold-plated document existed.  All other writings from that era were written on scrolls made from animal skins or papyrus plants.  Why would these Jews start using gold plates?  No other gold plate documents from any culture in that era exist.  There is no archeological evidence of any civilization in North America having a Jewish distinctive (and remember that Jewish people have been dispersed throughout the world for millennia and have always maintained their Jewish distinctive customs and scriptures).  The lack of external evidence starts to scream against these claims.

Jews have existed in various countries around the world, living distinctive from the native population for thousands of years.  Whether religious or not they have always maintained the ritual of circumcision.  Mormons claim that the indigenous natives of North & South America are the descendants of these first Jews who came from Jerusalem in 586 BC.  Yet not one Native American tribe or civilization maintains in their culture any circumcision ritual.  Jews in India, Tunisia, Jamaica, Turkey, Morocco, Spain etc. have maintained the circumcision ritual.  Yet all the ‘Jewish’ Native American forgot it?  That makes no sense.  The Native Americans were not Jewish, and the whole Mormon story falls apart for this lack of external corroborating evidence.

Krishna and External Evidence

The significance of the external evidence supporting the Gospel may perhaps be better appreciated by comparing it with a non-Western scripture.  The central figure in Hinduism is Krishna who is the incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu.  The pivotal event in his incarnate life was when he was a charioteer in the Kurukshetra War, and he gave wise advice and indispensable aid to one of the armies in this war.  So historically, when did this pivotal war for the central figure in Hinduism happen?  Wiki sums it up well:

The Kurukshetra War is believed to date variously from 6000 BCE to 500 BCE, based on the astronomical and literary information from Mahābhārata…. The historicity of the Kurukshetra War is unclear… The reconstruction of the history of Vedic India is based on text-internal details.

There is no external evidence at all to help us find this most important event of the Hindu scriptures in history, and thus there is about a 5000 year range in (basically) guessing when this may have happened.  In comparison with this, the external evidence from both extra-biblical writers and archeological artefacts concerning the Gospel, as we saw in Session 4, is stunning.

Substantiating miracles in the Biblical record?

But perhaps you have already done your ‘weeding’ and have your ‘short-list’ and you are perhaps feeling stuck because external evidence does not help you further at this point.  In particular you are asking whether the biblical account is a “distortion of the truth, rather than ‘mythical’”, and whether (or not) the Gospel writers fabricated details around a historically verifiable kernel of truth.  I think you wonder about this because the Bible contains accounts of miracles.  As you ask:

The main issue at hand, I think, is the apparent impossibility of Jesus’ miracles and resurrection…can that really be addressed in this way?

It is at this point that the Bible itself introduces a specific and impossible-to-fake test to determine whether there is a supernatural or miraculous Mind behind it or not.  The test is to make precise long-range predictions about the future and see if they were fulfilled or not.  The reasoning is that though some humans may be clever or charismatic enough to draw a following (eg. Joseph Smith founder of Mormons) no human knows the future.  If there is a God, only He does.  So verifiable prophetic predictions inked out in black and white for all to evaluate provides an objective test to determine if there is a Miracle-working God or not.

Whether you approach the Bible and God with scorn as the Flying Spaghetti Monster people do, or whether you come from a biblical offshoot sect like Mormons do, or from another ancient religion with a different scripture, or just wonder if there is anyway to know, it certainly is worthwhile to be informed of the prophetic credentials of the Bible so that you can make an informed opinion.  My article here will introduce you to the basics.

22 thoughts on “Religious Evidence: From Flying Spaghetti Monsters to Mormons and Miracles”

  1. hi this is ethan barry can you tell me about the church about jospesh smith and jesus please and a church if there one in limerick my number is 0874688713

  2. The book of Mormon is true. I know it I feel I even know it the spiritual way. If you read it with HONESTY and OPEN MIND you will also understand and get your own testimony.

  3. i testify to you about the BOOK OF MORMON it is true and the church of JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER DAY SAINTS IT IS TRUE

  4. Like Jehova winesses Evangelical churches- just American trash. In the Mormon bible iit mentions 39 books in the Old Testament, what happened to the other 7 Books? I think Joseph Smith was a fantasy man. Christ founded only one Church which has maintained His teaching for nearly 2,000 tears. Alll man made religions by such as Luther, Calvin, Knox and a big fat glutton called Henry VIII and Momammed are false religions full of heresies. Read and digest the warnings by St Paul in his Epistle Galations- 1/1 to 10 those who teach alternatives to what he taught will be considered as cursed. Christ founded the Universal Church whiich Barnabas called The Holy Catholic Church. Christ said the gates of hell {more powerful than these man founded religions) will not prevail against it.

    1. you are 100% right. If you look at scripture, you will find that Paul warned when writing to the Corinthians and to the Galatians that they had another Jesus, another Gospel and another Father God. This is exactly what has happened in the LDS church. What a mess!

  5. I think mormon is not a good religion. where i have grown i have heard that they offer human sacrifices every month to their god and the person to be sacrificed is donated by a church member. And let me ask…who are you to question the Holy Bible anyway? Why disapprove the story of creation as postulated in Genesis 1 and 2? Were you there when it was authored and inspired by God? I think you should know the truth and the truth will set you free.

    1. HI Laban. I do not believe in Mormon doctrine. But there is no way there is a ‘human sacrifice’ every month. In that case there would be a rash of ongoing human disappearances in Utah. There are rituals that are performed in their Temples but they do not involve human sacrifices.

    2. The article was super boring and made zero sense but oh my goodness this comment made my day that people can be ignorant enough to believe that mormons actually offer human sacrifices! Come on, does anyone have common sense anymore?

      1. Captain John Hutch

        And these biased and uneducated opinions on our creator the FSM? I think that the author of this article is being hypocritical since they seem to never have read Loose Canon (a.k.a The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster).

  6. Spending 400 years in Egypt can do a lot to any man including his way of writing. I wander as to what kind of writing Moses used.

  7. I never new that there are Jews in Ethiopia in Africa, and they look like Ethiopians. What are your view concerning Ethiopic Bible?

  8. the best way my brother would be that you log on to you can learn more about Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ, and the church. Im from Africa and i tell you my brother that the book of Mormon is true.

  9. Comparing the BOM with the Holy Bible is, as Dr. J. Vernon McGee said nearly 40 years ago, a basically useless process because their are no similarities at all, but only differences making a contrasting of the two very necessary. Dr. Walter Martin said the same in is book “Kingdom of the Cults,” and predicated his own contrast of the Smithian heresy upon the contradiction of the Apostle Paul and the Christ’s Gospel of Grace in 2 Nephi 25:23, as opposed to Ephesians 2:8-9. It is interesting that most educated Mormons don’t even realize that this contradiction exists. Then, as Dr. Michael Coe, the 20th Century authority on Mesoamerican Mayan archaeology and anthropology, has said about BOM archaeology, “There is no Book of Mormon archaeology because it is totally fiction.” Yet, the Holy Bible is a repository of archaeological and historical fact. Archaeological evidences are being discovered every day in the Holy Land to substantiate the Old and New Testaments. Yet, as Thomas S. Ferguson said about his attempt to archaeologically document and prove the BOM true, “I was hoping to find at least one Nephite coin in eight years of digging in Mesoamerica.” Ferguson begged money from Mormon Prophet David O. McKay to start the New World Archaeological Foundation, which still has an office at BYU alongside FARMS apologists. Ferguson went to Mesoamerica a Mormon believer and came back without any faith in the BOM or the Book of Abraham.

    B.H. Roberts did a study of the BOM in the early 1920s, at the behest of the Mormon church, to determine is it was feasible to believe that Joseph smith, Jr. and his crony and 3rd cousin Oliver Cowdery plagiarized the BOM from Rev. Ethan Smith’s book, “A View of the Hebrews.” Roberts concluded his study in 1925 with his book “Studies of the Book of Mormon,” in which he stated that it was more than feasible that “A View of the Hebrews” constituted a firm foundation for the writing of the BOM.” The Mormon hierarchy didn’t like what Roberts wrote, so they refused to publish his findings. Roberts’ “Studies of the Book of Mormon” was finally published by the University of Utah in 1984. Roberts’ findings of the numerous historical/anthropological anachronisms in the BOM, such as horses, elephants, and chariots (when the Mayans and Aztecs did know about the wheel) were incriminating elements for declaring the BOM fiction. There is no geography of the BOM. In fact, FARMS apologist John Sorenson proposed that the Hill Cumorah in New York was not the site of the last battle between the Nephites and Lamonites. It is interesting, though, that with all the digging the Mormons have claimed to have done in Mesoamerica, they refuse to excavate the New York Hill Cumorah, where Joseph Smith, Jr. said that the prophet Moroni buried the golden plates that Smith dug-up. According to smith, there are millions of dead bodies underneath that hill with millions of swords and Nephite/Lamanite artifacts. To this day, there hasn’t been one Nephite/Lamanite artifact unearthed in Mexico, Central, and South America.

    Hence, there are no similarities between the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. Why? The BOM is 19th Century fiction!

  10. Jay Walterson Boahndao

    I have come to know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, that it truly bear witness of the Savior Jesus Christ and was writing by prophets and translated by the prophet Joseph Smith, that it contains the fullness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God in this dispensation of the fullness of time, that The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah. I know you can come to know this as you sincerely read the Book of Mormon, ponder, and pray to God, the Eternal Father and by the power of the Holy Ghost you will bear record of this. I testify of these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Aman

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