The brass plates of Laban in Jerusalem prior to the invasion of Babylon
The Book of Mormon claims that a record was kept on brass plates prior to the invasion and captivity of Babylon.
Evidence has been found revealing that important messages were engraved into metal objects at the time just prior to the captivity of Babylon. This article addresses the following points:
Records engraved on brass or other metal plates in Jerusalem near the invasion of Babylon
Evidence has been found revealing that important messages were engraved into metal objects at the time just prior to the captivity of Babylon.
Earliest related archeological discovery date: 1979
Engravings on metal prior to Babylon captivity
Records on metal plates are becoming a fairly common archeological find. Finding records on plates in a specific area during a specific time frame is a little more challenging.
The brass plates as claimed in the Book of Mormon
According to the Book of Mormon, Nephi was sent back to Jerusalem after his family had travelled for three days. The purpose was to recover a record that was held by a man named Laban. These records were claimed to be written on plates of brass.
The related claim can be found in 1 Nephi 3:3:
"For behold, Laban hath the record of the Jews and also a genealogy of my forefathers, and they are engraven upon plates of brass."
In the first edition of the Book of Mormon this sentence is found near the bottom of page 9.
There were two important things that were contained on this specific set of plates that made them important. First, it contained genealogy of some of Lehi's forefathers. While Nephi could have obtained any record which recorded the laws of the Jews, the other records would not have contained a record of his family. The second thing that it contained was the scriptural account up until Zedekiah's reign. We also know that it contained the law and history of the Jews, though it is not made clear if this was contained as part of the scriptures or if it was separate. Other than this, we don't know much else about the record. These plates are only one of many other records that make an appearance in the Book of Mormon, and often people attribute qualities of other records to the plates of brass incorrectly.
Evolving criticism of the brass and gold plates
When the Book of Mormon was published, critics mocked Joseph Smith because of this claim. They said that there were no records kept on metal, either in Jerusalem 600 years before Christ, or 400 years afterwards, when the Book of Mormon claims to be compiled on golden plates and buried.
In 1947, the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, and with them was a scroll made of copper, which was engraved with additional archive locations. At this time the criticism evolved due to the wide coverage of the find. For the majority, the new criticism was that this was a metal scroll and not a metal plate, and that it was dated at a later time than 600 BC as made by the claim.
It's not that nobody had found ancient metal plates before this; it was that the Dead Sea Scrolls were so widely published by the media that they became a well known name. Once the critics realized that there was engraved metal, the criticism could no longer continue in its current form.
There have been other discoveries before and after which have confirmed that records have been recorded on metal. The earliest archeological discovery of these artifacts that I am currently aware of was in 1860. However the difficulty in the claim that we are reviewing is not in finding metal records, but finding a metal record in Jerusalem at about 600 BC.
What happened to all the metal in Jerusalem?
It turns out that finding ancient metals is actually a rather difficult task in Jerusalem. The problem is not in that the materials didn't exist, but the problem is that the materials were made of metal, and therefore valuable. As armies invaded ancient Jerusalem, they would strip any metal object that they could find, and send it back to their parent country, or melt the item down and forge it into something better suited for their army. You can see this in the Old Testament in 2 Kings 25:13.
Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged and attacked numerous times, and has exchanged hands several times. The fist destruction occurred just after the time period that we are examining in this claim. The majority of the metals that have been recovered have been preserved because they were hidden from the invading armies or they were insignificant at the time and then sealed up in one way or another to be discovered later.
The silver scrolls of Jerusalem
In 1979 and 1980, the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University, with help of other organizations, began to excavate a series of burial caves that were hewn in the seventh century BC. Here, under one of the burial benches in the cave, was discovered a set of rolled silver scrolls. According to the published report, they were found with amulets and pottery pieces that allow them to be dated to the capture of Jerusalem at 587 BC.
The actual inscription on the piece appears to be of a prayer. While it is incomplete and corroded, YHWH (which is the name of Jehovah in the Hebrew Bible) is easily visible in the scroll.
Engravings in Israel before 600 BC
There is also additional evidence of metal engraving being done even earlier than this in Israel. In 1999, three bronze arrowheads were brought to light that had been previously discovered. These arrowheads date to 1000 BC and have the name of their owner inscribed onto them. 
|References according to the 1st edition Book of Mormon||Show|