THE BOOK OF ALMA CHAPTER 7:10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers

, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. The verse, Alma 7:10, has been repeatedly pointed out as an error on the part of Joseph Smith in which it is believed he misidentified the place where Jesus was born. One of these is the Anti-Mormon Ministry, "Mormonism Research Ministry" that says: "In the early 1990s we wrote two articles and an unpublished manuscript about the mistake that we believe Joseph Smith made in the Book of Mormon regarding the origin of Jesus' birth." We received immediate feedback from the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), an organization based at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, telling us that our research was flawed. Several criticisms were published by the group, including a paper by Daniel Peterson, William Hamblin, and Matthew Roper in 1995 entitled "On Alma 7:10 and the Birthplace of Jesus Christ." It is obvious that this is a very sensitive issue with these Mormons. According to them, Alma was referring to the surrounding area of Jerusalem and not the city itself. They insist that Alma was a real person, so to credit him with saying that Christ would someday be born in

Jerusalem and not in Bethlehem would be a serious faux pas. To say otherwise casts doubt upon the historicity of Mormonism's sacred Book of Mormon. [...] Professional Anti-Mormon Bill McKeever also believes Joseph Smith made a 'slip of the pen' in, "The Land of Jerusalem" and the Dead Sea Scrolls In an article entitled Mounting Evidence for the Book of Mormon, Dr. Daniel Peterson from BYU states, "Alma 7:10 predicts that Jesus 'shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.' Is this a mistake? Everyone knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem. But it is now plain from modern evidence that Bethlehem could be, and indeed was, regarded anciently as a town in the 'land of Jerusalem.' A recently released text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example – a text claiming origin in Jeremiah's days (and therefore Lehi's) – says that the Jews of that period were "taken captive from the land of Jerusalem…Joseph Smith could not have learned this from the Bible, though, for no such language appears in it" (Ensign, January, 2000, p. 22). Bill McKeever continues, Does modern evidence vindicate Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon as Dr. Peterson claims? Do the Dead Sea Scrolls lend credibility to Joseph Smith's claim of prophet? Though Dr. Peterson makes mention of the pseudo-Jeremias scroll in footnote 40, he does not quote the fragment at length. When the fragment is examined in more detail we find that it does not

mention Bethlehem or speaks of Jesus' birth. We also find that the phrase "land of Jerusalem" used in this scroll is probably not a reference at all to the surrounding region of Jerusalem, but a reference to the actual city.[...] If Mormons choose to point to Pseudo-Jeremiah as proof that the land of Jerusalem is a common ancient expression, they should also concede that this is a reference to the city and not a reference to a land region that would somehow include the town of Bethlehem. Without getting ourselves hot under the collar it is obvious that neither of these two ministries have thought this through very well. Had they done so they would have recognised that the quote Peterson supplies from Deutero-Jeremiah employs a phrase that was common when speaking of Jerusalem and its environs at the time the scroll was written. That would make it a common phrase that was understood and used to designate the Geographical Area around Jerusalem, and was not restricted to the City of Jerusalem alone. McKeever's complaint that this document does not speak of the birth of Jesus is a smokescreen, for the point is only that the term, 'the land of Jerusalem' was in use before the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith. Therefore, if it can be shown that the term for the region round and about the actual city of Jerusalem itself was commonly referred to as 'the land of Jerusalem,' then Alma 7:10 and Joseph Smith are

vindicated and Anti-Mormons must find a different tree on which to sharpen their claws. What is known that supports Alma's use of the term 'land of Jerusalem' to identify an area greater than the city of Jerusalem alone? Daniel Peterson writes: The so-called "Amarna letters" (fourteenth century BC) likewise use the phrase. [1] Indeed, the Amarna letters also allude to "a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi by name," which W. F. Albright regarded as "an almost certain reference to the town of Bethlehem." [2] This is interesting evidence, which goes some distance in establishing the plausibility of Alma's prophecy, since it gives us a glimpse of an ancient administrative arrangement in the vicinity of Jerusalem. It shows, from an ancient perspective, that it was possible to conceptualize the regions surrounding a major city, including its dependent villages, as "the land of" that city. And it demonstrates, furthermore, that Bethlehem itself was, at least at one point, anciently regarded as a part of Jerusalem's land, exactly as it is in the Book of Mormon. However, at least one vocal critic of the Book of Mormon contends that the Amarna letters are far too old to be relevant to Lehi's Jerusalem in the early sixth century. "It would," he declares, "be like using a letter from King George III to prove the United States could still be rightly called the colonies." [3]

This overstates the case, but his demand that we look at the Bible and other contemporary evidence is certainly not without merit. [4] Peterson's Notes
1.
See Walter Harrelson, "Shechem in Extra- Biblical References," The Biblical Archaeologist 20 (1957): 4, 6—7.2. See James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), 1:274; also Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, eds., The Macmillan Bible Atlas, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1977), map 39. Hugh Nibley drew our attention to the Amarna letters years ago. See Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 100—102. Nibley's references are to the Amarna letters, tablets 287.25 = "the land of the city of Jerusalem ([a-]mur mat u-ru-sa-lim an-n[i-] ta)"; 46, 61, 63 = "lands [matat] of Jerusalem"; 290:15—16, which discuss "a city of the land of Jerusalem, whose name is bit- ninib." Samuel A. B. Mercer, The Tell el-Amarna Tablets (Toronto: Macmillan, 1939), 722 n. L16, speculated that it might be possible to read this as "Bethlehem." Transliteration and translation can be found on pp. 710—11, 722 of Mercer's book. The preferred translation is now William L. Moran, The Amarna Letters (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1992)3. Bill McKeever, "Problems," Mormonism Researched (Winter 1992): 4. (A longer, unpublished article on the same subject, bearing the same title, was produced by McKeever in 1992, in conjunction with one Eric Johnson. When referred to, this unpublished version will be distinguished from the published article by Johnson's name and by the designation "Long Text.") McKeever's claim that Nibley left out "very pertinent information" concerning the origin and date of the Amarna letters (p. 3) is, by the way, manifestly false. Nibley accurately describes the nature of the Amarna letters on p. 469 n. 16 of An Approach to the Book of Mormon, referencing material in his original discussion on p. 101: "The Amarna Letters are the actual documents of the official correspondence between the Egyptian Government and the rulers of the various principalities of Palestine and Syria about 1400 BC, at the very time the Hebrews were entering Palestine. They were found on day tablets at El-Amarna on the middle Mile in 1887." In this passage, Nibley refers to everything McKeever claims he "left out," including: the date, "1400 BC"; that they were by "Palestinian chieftain[s]"; that they were "not of Hebrew ancestry"; and that they were written to "the Pharaoh of Egypt" (see McKeever, "Problems," 3). Perhaps McKeever should not have "invite[d] [his] readers to check [his] sources for context accuracy" (p. 3). Certainly he has not accurately presented the context of Nibley's argument. 4. His own examination of the biblical evidence, however, is largely without merit. First of all, in order to show that the term "land of Jerusalem" was not current in biblical times, he must examine every text and every utterance from that period. But most texts and virtually all human utterances vanish without a trace, even from the modern period. He must prove a negative, but since almost none of the relevant ancient evidence survives, he can never reach certainty. Moreover, when he tries to establish a "biblical" usage-pattern for the phrase "at Jerusalem," his statistically problematic five samples extend from the original Hebrew text of 1 Kings 12:27 to the original Greek text of John 10:22, as if there were some "scriptural" style of preposition use that transcends difference not only of languages but of language families and that necessarily remains unchanged over the course of many centuries. See McKeever and Johnson, "Problems in 'the Land of' Jerusalem" (Long Text), 3. On pp. 4—6, McKeever and Johnson show remarkable ability to read their assumptions into the evidence of the Book of Mormon, taking a number of texts as supporting their position which actually do nothing of the kind.

When reading through the Tell-el-Amarna letters I chanced to read the very phrase disputed by Bill McKeever and other uninformed Anti-Mormons. It was a reference I had not seen used in discussions of this subject but one that puts Alma's usage of the term and its meaning beyond dispute of any intellect that functions normally, regardless of its stand on the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon and its common use in the ancient world of the Old Testament.

Reading Edward Jones' "Discoveries and Documents," one-time Principal of the Congregational College, Manchester, England, and published by the Hepworth Press of London, 1974, under the imprimatur of The Methodist Publishing House, Wimbledon, I was delighted to find a letter from Prince Abdu-Heba of Jerusalem importuning the King of Egypt for military aid against the 'Apiru people. It reads: "To the king, my lord, say: Thus 'Abdu-Heba, thy servant. At the two feet of the king, my lord, seven times and seven times I fall. Behold the deed which Milkilu and Shurwardata did to the land of the king, my lord! They rushed troops of Gezer, troops of Gath, and troops of Keilah; they took the land of Rubutu; the land of the king went over to the 'Apiru people. But now EVEN A TOWN OF THE LAND OF JERUSALEM, BIT LAHMI BY NAME, A TOWN BELONGING TO THE KING HAS GONE OVER TO THE SIDE OF THE PEOPLE OF KEILAH. Let my king hearken to 'Abdu-Heb, thy servant, and let him send archers to recover the royal land for the king! But if there are no archers, the land of the king will pass over to the 'Apiru people [EA No. 290, ANET, p. 489]. [Emphasis added so that Anti-Mormons are left without excuse!] The sentence that arrested my attention is "But now even a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit Lahmi by name, has gone over to the side of Keilah." "Hugh Nibley showed in 1957 that one of the Amarna letters, written in the 13th century BC and discovered in 1887, recounted the capture of "a city of the land of Jerusalem, Bet-Ninib" (CWHN 6:101 [Note from J.L.: CWHN = The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Volume 6 is An Approach to the Book of Mormon]).

The Tell-el-Amarna Letters were written during the period 14171362. Their main content is diplomatic correspondence between Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV in their relationships with the kings of the city-states of Western Asia, including Syria and Palestine, especially in the last 20 years of this period. If there was ever any doubt that 'the land of Jerusalem' was a term used to include the village of Bethlehem, there can be no such doubt any longer. The Reverend Doctor Jones entertained none when he wrote: "We should note too that we have in these letters the first nonbiblical reference to Jerusalem, and in this particular letter we have as well, in the word Bit-Lahmi, the first recorded reference to Bethlehem." While this intelligence will obviously prove a bitter disappointment to the brigade of finger pointing Anti-Mormons, it comes from an unimpeachable source and overcomes McKeever's petty objection that the Nibley offering made no mention of Bethlehem. In doing so, McKeever neatly sidesteps the ancient usage of the term 'Land of Jerusalem’ to identify the region round about Jerusalem as an ancient and authentic usage, as held in the Book of Mormon. Alma 7:10 stands, its vindication complete and beyond further attack. Now on to Living Hope’s cynical and imbalanced treatment of this passage. From the transcript:

“Or consider this section wherein Kramer begins to attack the Book of Mormon for falsely predicting that Jesus would be born at Jerusalem not Bethlehem: Gifford: [turning to scripture] Ohhh... this is... bad scripture [nervous laugh, grimacing]. Kramer: The Book of Mormon [gesturing at Gifford's Book of Mormon] is saying that Jesus is born in Jerusalem [note Kramer’s LIE DIRECT!], Micah in the Bible [gesturing at his own Bible] is saying that the Messiah is born in Bethlehem. Can they both be right? Gifford: [shakes head slightly] No. Kramer: Is this for sure a mistake because Mormon scholars say "well, Bethlehem is close to Jerusalem, so they can be the same", but the historical geographers - in fact, I interviewed a historical geographer, and I didn't tell him what the issue was. I just, just started trying to convince him that Bethlehem and Jerusalem are so close to each other that they could be considered the same thing. And he... treated me like I didn't know what I was talking about, and corrected me. Kramer: So... historically, have you been to Bethlehem? Which one do you think is right historically? Gifford: Historically its Bethlehem. [shakes head, sighs] This causes me great angst, I'm... I'd like to say that Alma is a human [chuckle, shakes head] that he makes mistakes, but Deuteronomy says that you... in that context that you cannot make mistakes, so I, I, it's hard... for me to uh, declare that [sighs] , that Alma... [shakes head] Well he obviously made a mistake.

“This is about as much as Gifford is permitted throughout the video. I get the impression that in many instances he was perhaps only hearing about the issue for the first time, and thus he was unable to provide any substantive response. He is a typical, run-ofthe-mill Latter-day Saint who simply hasn't had reason to be confronted with the classic anti-Mormon canards. Though these have been around for decades, if not centuries, Kramer doesn't provide a fair representation of the LDS scholarly literature on the points he believes are "home runs", and so Gifford and his audience remain unaware of them. Kramer, on the other hand, is a career anti-Mormon who literally makes a living off of producing and selling anti-Mormon paraphernalia.” [End of transcript – back to me] Now, if Kramer were to present his argument before a judge of any court in the civilised world, he would be accused and found in contempt of court for misrepresenting a witness statement. This is known as ‘perverting the course of justice,’ and is a serious offence punishable by large fines and imprisonment. “Where does he do that?”, cries an anguished Anti-Mormon. He does that when he states that Alma 7:10 states that Jesus would be born ‘in Jerusalem,’ when the text before your eyes states that Jesus would be born ‘at Jerusalem!’ Clearly, the wily Kramer is taking a chance that no one will notice the difference! Kramer’s argument then follows on, supported by his deliberate misstatement of what the Book of Mormon actually says and, therefore, he lies.

Is his ability to attack Mormonism dependent on his ability to furnish lies and misinformation to be able to do that? If so, then he is weak minded, has no fundamental grasp of the principle of honesty, integrity, and also has a pathological tendency to ignore the commandment, “Thou [Kramer!], shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour!” “And, who is my neighbour?” Perspicacious readers infused with Biblical understanding will refer to how Jesus answered that questions, and will recognise also that Jesus did not terminate the commandment ‘Thou shalt not tell lies,’ even if the Devil drives you to do so, Mr Kramer and friends. And thou, go and do not likewise. The Tel-el-Armana letters prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bethlehem was contemporaneously referred to as “a town of the ‘land of Jerusalem,’” and the Book of Mormon is correct, and Joseph Smith did not make a mistake, and neither did Alma. Kramer makes the mistake deliberately and with malice aforethought in order to gain his thirty pieces of silver, and so do all those that repeat his lies. Pelagius