About John A. Tvedtnes

John A. Tvedtnes earned degrees in anthropology, Middle East area studies, linguistics, and Hebrew, and studied Egyptian and Semitic languages at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He taught at the University of Utah, the BYU Salt Lake and Jerusalem centers before joining the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, which became BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. John has lectured at several other universities and has presented dozens of symposium papers in Israel and the USA. Though most of his ten books and 300+ articles address LDS subjects, his writings have been published by four universities and several professional societies. John retired in 2007 as senior resident scholar for BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship.

The Hilt Thereof Was of Pure Gold

Finding Laban drunk in the streets of Jerusalem, Nephi “beheld his sword, and [he] I drew it forth from the sheath thereof; and the hilt thereof was of pure gold, and the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine, and . . . the blade thereof was of the most precious steel” (1 Nephi 4:9).1 This description is so precise that one is tempted to look for similar weapons from the ancient world in which Laban lived. Comparisons have been made with a long dagger found in the tomb of the fourteenth-century BC Egyptian king Tutankhamun, with its iron blade and hilt of gold, uncovered in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter (see Fig. A).2 This comparison is valid insofar as the workmanship is concerned, for Laban’s sword had a steel blade and a gold hilt. But the Egyptian weapon would not have been long enough for Nephi to strike off Laban’s head (1 Nephi 4:18).3 Continue reading

  1. The golden hilt of Laban’s sword has led a number of people to suggest that this was a special sword, a symbol of office. 

  2. Note also the discovery of a Canaanite dagger with a silver-plated handle (Fig. B). 

  3. See the discussion in William J. Adams, Jr., “Nephi’s Jerusalem and Laban’s Sword,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2/2 (1993), 194-95, reprinted in Pressing Forward With the Book of Mormon, eds. John W. Welch and Melvin J. Thorne (Provo: FARMS, 1999), 11-13. 

When Was Christ Born?

Abstract: Many people still believe that Jesus Christ was born on 25 December, either in 1 bc or ad 1. The December date is certainly incorrect and the year is unlikely.

Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets. Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given. (3 Nephi 1:13–14)

Continue reading

Biblical and Non-Biblical Quotes in the Sermons and Epistles of Paul

Abstract: In 2010, BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute published an article in which I demonstrated that the charge of plagiarism, frequently leveled against Joseph Smith by critics, is untrue.1 I noted, among other things, that the authors of books of the Bible sometimes quoted their predecessors. One of those authors was the apostle Paul, who drew upon a wide range of earlier texts in his epistles. This article discusses and demonstrates his sources. Continue reading

  1. John A. Tvedtnes, “Was Joseph Smith Guilty of Plagiarism?” FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 261–75. 

Variants in the Stories of the First Vision of Joseph Smith and the Apostle Paul

Abstract: Some critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have noted that the different accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision, though written by the prophet himself, vary in some details. They see this as evidence that the event did not take place and was merely invented to establish divine authority for his work. They fail to realize that the versions of Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, in which the risen Christ appeared to him, also differ from one another. Indeed, they vary more than Joseph Smith’s accounts of his experience. This article examines those variants. Continue reading