Monday, March 24, 2014

Why I Believe: Evidence Ten: You Find The Name "Alma" In The Strangest Places

101 Reasons Why I Believe Joseph Smith Was A Prophet

Evidence Ten: 
You Find The Name “Alma” In The Strangest Places© 

During one of our trips to Israel leading a group of Seminary and Institute teachers and their wives, we visited the famous Shrine of the Book, a part of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other artifacts are housed. Prior to the trip I learned something interesting about a display in the entrance to the Shrine of the Book.  I found it and discussed it briefly with the guide.  He confirmed that the Hebrew said what I had been told it said, so I called the group around us and said something like this, “Brothers and Sisters, this display contains something I think you will find especially interesting.  In 132 A.D. the Jews revolted against the Romans for about the third time. They were led by a man named Simon bar Kokhba.  Sometime around 1960, after the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, the Israelis and Jordanians undertook a survey of the caves in the Wilderness of Judea. One they found had been occupied by Bar-Kokhba during that war. A number of documents were found there and this is one of them.  It is a deed or a land document, which in itself is not particularly interesting to most of us. But the name of one of the people mentioned here, you will find exciting.  I’m going to ask our guide Moolie to read a line or two.”

Moolie read to us, and all of a sudden we came to attention when we heard the phrase “Alma the son of yehudah.”  Alma?  Alma a man’s name?  Wow!  Most people in the United States and elsewhere in the western world think of Alma as a female name or connect it with their school, their Alma Mater which in Latin means “fostering mother.” For this reason, the use of the name Alma for a man in the Book of Mormon, even a great man, has sometimes been ridiculed by critics of Joseph Smith.

Well here it is in a Jewish document from no later than 135 A.D., and not discovered until the middle of the 20th century. Therefore, Joseph Smith could have known nothing of it. The documents were discovered and later translated by archaeologist Yigael Yadin.  He tells an interesting story about speaking at a meeting in the spring of 1960 to tell people about the discovery. Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion attended. During the course of his remarks, Yadin said, “Your Excellency, I am honoured to be able to tell you that we have discovered fifteen dispatches written or dictated by the last President of ancient Israel 1800 years ago.”  His audience was dumbstruck and they broke out into cries of joy and astonishment. My audience was also pretty excited.  The plowboy prophet Joseph Smith had done it again.

Here is what the document says according to Yadin’s book:
On the twenty-eighth of Marheshvan, the third year of Shimon bar Kosiba, President of Israel; at En-gedi.  Of their own free will, on this day, do Eleazar son of Eleazar son of Hitta and Eliezer son of Shmuuel, both of En-Gedi, and Tehina son of Shimeon and Alma son of Yehudah, both of Luhith in the coastal district of ‘Agaltain, now residents of En-Gedi, wish to divide up amongst themselves the places that they have leased from Yehonathan son of Mhnym the administrator of Shimeon ben Kosiba, President of Israel, at En-Gedi.
After precise specification of the plots, the document which consists of 26 lines with an average of eight words per line, 200 words in all, states which lands have been allocated to the first two lessees.  It then proceeds to enumerate newly divided terms of payment.
All is done and agreed on condition that the above four people will pay the dues of the lease of these places which they leased from Yehonathan son of Mhnym, as follows: Eleazar son of Eleazar Hitta and Eliezer son of Shmuel both will pay half of the money less sixteen dinars, which are four Sela’im only; while Tehina son of Shimeon and Alma son of Yehudah will pay half of the above money plus sixteen dinars, which are four Sela’im.*
Thirteen decades after the Book of Mormon came off the press a document surfaced from a dry cave in the forbidding Judean Wilderness with a single word, that when translated from the Hebrew showed the world that what Joseph Smith had written and which many people thought was a howler, was in fact absolutely genuine.

I love the Prophet, he always gets it right.  Thank God for him.

Lets think together again, soon.

* Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba: The Rediscovery of the Legendary Hero of the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome. Jerusalem: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971, p. 176.  Page 177 has a photograph of seven lines of this document.  At the time the original was in the 2nd window on the left as you entered the cave/tunnel to the museum.  I have not been there for many years so I do not know if it is still there or if the display about the document is still in the entry way.

1 comment:

  1. Even if Alma was not used in the ancient world as a masculine name I'd still believe the Book of Mormon but this is a fun little bit of information.