By Keith Brown
In the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), in Alma 7:10 is recorded the prophet Alma’s prophecy that Jesus Christ would be born of Mary at the land of Jerusalem. The words that are recorded are these:
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.
First, it should be noted that Jerusalem in this passage is referred to as a land, not a city. A geographical map will show that the city of Bethlehem, the place where the Bible teaches that Christ was born, is a tiny subburb of Jerusalem, located just 5 miles south of the heart of the city. Therefore, Bethlehem is a part of the land of Jerusalem, making the Book of Mormon record correct.
This is comparable to a person telling his friend that he is from Annapolis Maryland when in fact he may live in one of many surrounding areas of Annapolis. To use Annapolis as his reference point, even though he does not actually live in the City Annapolis, is no more incorrect than for a traveler of old to say that he was from Jerusalem, even though he may have actually lived in the city of Bethlehem.
Referring to the birthplace of Christ as the land of Jerusalem makes sense if that passage were written by an ancient New World prophet. The use of the term “land” in this passage and other passages in the Book of Mormon is consistent with usage in the Dead Sea scrolls, and lends way to evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had been the author of this passage of scripture versus being the translator of it, would he not have written that Christ was born in the city of Bethlehem? After all, he was familiar with much of the Bible, and every school child was familiar with the story of Christ being born in Bethlehem.
Second, the critics’ case against the Book of Mormon proves futile because they fail to realize that if they insist on refuting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon based on the passage recorded in Alma 7:10, they must at the same time reject the Bible because it says that Amaziah “was buried at Jerusalem with his father in the city of David” (2 Kings 14:20), and the city of David is Bethlehem (see Luke 2:4; 1 Samuel 20:6).
Stephen R. Gibson, author of One Minute Answers to Anti-Mormon Questions, pg. 19-20, stated:
Bethlehem is only five miles south of the much larger city of Jerusalem. Thus, a citizen of Bethlehem could have accurately described himself as a person who lived “at Jerusalem.” Rather than Alma’s comment being evidence of Joseph Smith’s fraud, it is in reality a confirmation of his inspiration.
Today, the further we are away from our home or any specific town, the more likely we are to “lump it” with the closest large metropolitan area. If we are visiting New York we might tell people we are from Salt Lake City rather than Bluffdale, Utah. If we are in Europe we might tell someone that we are from Utah, or possibly we might say we are from the United States. When we say that, we aren’t in error; we are just not being as specific as we could be.
A final thought: if Joseph Smith or later Church leaders felt this to be an error, why didn’t they “correct” it and make it one of the many “wholesale” changes the detractors are always accusing the Church leaders of making in the Book of Mormon? Latter-day Saints find no contradiction with Christ being born “at Jerusalem,” the land of the forefathers of Alma and his people.
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