Defending the Faith: But where are the golden plates? | Deseret News
Some argue that since we lack the original plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, it should be read as a 19th-century English-language text rather than as an ancient one.
But scholars routinely test the claims to historicity of translated documents for which no early original-language manuscripts exist and then, if satisfied of their authenticity, regularly use them as valuable scholarly resources for understanding the ancient world. I offer a few illustrations:
“Slavonic Enoch” (2 Enoch) is probably the classic example. Coptic fragments of this work, commonly dated to the first century, have been found only recently. Although generally regarded as having been written in Greek, or perhaps even originally in Hebrew or Aramaic, the entire book survives only in Old Church Slavonic, in manuscripts dating from the 14th to 18th centuries.
Similarly, 1 Enoch — “Ethiopic Enoch” or simply “the Book of Enoch” — was probably written somewhere between 300 B.C. and the time of Jesus Christ, in Aramaic or Hebrew or some combination of the two. Fragments survive in Aramaic, Greek and Latin, but the entire text is preserved today only in the Geʿez language of Ethiopia, via manuscripts from the 15th to 18th centuries.
The pseudepigraphic “Apocalypse of Abraham” was likely composed in Hebrew, in roughly A.D. 70-150. It exists today, however, only in medieval Slavonic — perhaps translated directly from the original or, alternatively, from a Greek translation of the Hebrew. Some suggest that the Book of Mormon, Book of Abraham and Book of Moses cannot legitimately be read as ancient documents because we have them only in purported 19th-century translations. But the Apocalypse of Abraham is crucial to understanding the earliest roots of Jewish mysticism; nobody argues that it’s only valid evidence for the Slavic Middle Ages.
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