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Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, First Nephi Hardcover – December 18, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary of the Book of Mormon, takes a detailed, nearly verse-by-verse look at the Book of Mormon. It marshals the best of modern scholarship and new insights into a consistent picture of the Book of Mormon as a historical document created in and reflecting a particular place, time, and culture. It takes a faithful but scholarly approach to the text, reading it through the insights of linguistics, anthropology, and ethnohistory. The commentary approaches the text from a variety of perspectives: how it was created, how it relates to history and culture, and what religious insights it provides. It does not back away from the potentially controversial aspects of the text, providing answers to most but noting where other questions may remain unanswered. For the cultural and historical background, the commentary accepts the best modern scholarship, which focuses on a particular region of Mesoamerica as the most plausible location for the Book of Mormon setting. For the first time, that location--its peoples, cultures and historical trends--are used as the historical backdrop for reading the text. The historical background is not presented as proof, but rather as the explanatory context. While reading the text against a cultural background, the commentary does not forget Mormon's purpose in writing. It discusses the doctrinal and theological aspects of the text and highlights the way in which Mormon created it to meet his goal of "convincing . . . the Jew and gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God."

About the Author

Brant Gardner received a MA in anthropology from the State University of New York, Albany, emphasizing Mesoamerican ethnohistory. He currently works for a privately held software firm. He has published articles on Nahuatl kinship terminology, the Aztec Legend of the Suns, and collaborated on a chapter discussing the linguistic identification of the people called Coxoh in colonial documents. His research into the Mesoamerican setting of the Book of Mormon has led to publications in the FARMS Review of Books and the online Meridian magazine. He has made several presentations to the annual Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research conference and has also presented at the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum and the Sunstone Symposium.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 469 pages
  • Publisher: Greg Kofford Books Inc; Vol.1 edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1589580419
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589580411
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,675,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Brant Gardner is the most comprehensive commentary on the Book of Mormon to date. True, there are many commentaries available from such authors as Sidney Sperry, George Reynolds and Janne Sjödahl, Hugh Nibley, Daniel Ludlow, David Ridges, Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert Millett, Ed Pinegar, Monte S. Nyman and others. In addition, articles and publications on the Book of Mormon are legion, perhaps the most extensive being the work published by the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies. What justified another commentary?

Gardner has taken the best aspects of nearly all previous commentary attempts into account, incorporating an impressive amount of former studies with his own insights as a scholar of early Mesoamerica and believer in the Book of Mormon. He sees Book of Mormon commentaries as falling in two "rough" categories of approach:

Those that concentrate on the devotional aspects of religion (and which tend to be ahistorical) and those that attempt to deal with the text in its historical context. Most LDS commentaries have been necessarily heavy on the devotional and light on the historical because there is no official geography of the Book of Mormon. I wanted to brave the wilds and use the best current description of where the Book of Mormon took place to see if that cultural background and time could increase our understanding of the events in the text.

He is quick to point out at the outset of volume one that he accepts the Book of Mormon "as a translation of an ancient text" and that he intended "to inquire into the process of Joseph Smith's translation or how the text fits into the ancient Old and New Worlds.
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Format: Hardcover
I first ran into Gardner's work on the Book of Mormon (BofM) on his website that was called the "Multi-Dimensional Commentary of the Book of Mormon". This was the beginning of the work that has turned into this wonderful 6 volume commentary. I spent last year going through all 6 volumes for my BofM study. It was time well spent. I was able to look at the BofM in ways that I never have before.

The format of the book is very interesting and useful. He goes through the BofM verse by verse and has commentary after each verse or group of verses. He groups the commentary into various sub-topics or dimensions. Some verses have only one type of commentary, but others have several. Typical examples are as follows:

He usually begins with the "devotional" type of commentary as is typical of most BofM commentaries that have been published. He has some very good insights and I personally benefited greatly from these. These sections are usually unlabeled.

Culture: These sections take the verse and compare it with current scholarship's ancient Mesoamerican or circa 600 BC Israeli cultural understanding. One of Garder's purposes of this book is to show that the BofM could very well fit into the cultural milieu of Mesoamerica.

Reference: Here he usually compares BofM verses with Bible verses, and discusses the similarities and differences. I'm impressed with how he has done such a thorough job of finding so many cross-references that I hadn't seen before.

Literature: Here he discusses themes in literature that the given verse corresponds to.

Internal Reference: In this section he usually discusses other parts of the BofM that discuss the same things.
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Format: Hardcover
I have been following Brant Gardner's writings on Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon for a few years now, and have always learned something new from his essays published on his Website, by FAIR (an organisation we are both members of), and FARMS. This is, by far, the best commentary on the Book of Mormon I have thus far encountered, and represents almost a decade of writing and researching by Brant, who is one of a few Latter-day Saints who has the expertise to discuss Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon. Unlike many amateurs who search for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica, Brant searches for Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon (there really is a methodological difference--one that is revealing as it is insightful).

While I do take exception with a few things here and there (for instance, I accept John Sorenson's take on the naming conventions of material culture and flora and fauna in the Book of Mormon representing loan-shifting on the behalf of the Nephite scribes and not by Joseph Smith as a translation level), Brant offers many insights into this volume of scripture, discussing historicity, literary structure, and many other pertinent elements.

For those who are interested in Book of Mormon studies, regardless of whether one accepts the text as historical (as I do) or not, this is a must-have in any Mormon library.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found the insights gleaned from historical research fascinating. As the first book in the series, it includes chapters on the context of the whole Book of Mormon. I thought this alone was worth the price.

Brant Gardner includes the entire text of the BofM by printing a short excerpt, then giving an explanation about it. He gives information on many areas such as: Translation of the BofM, Comparison with the KJV, History/Culture of ancient Americans, Symbolism, Geography, and Apologetics.

This book is not primarily a doctrinal commentary, though it includes insights that are relevant to doctrine.

Second Witness is a wonderful book that gathers together much information that has been learned by scholars of ancient scripture.
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