Refutation of a claim on CARM’s website.
Claim: Alma 7:10 contradicts the Bible in Matt. 2:1, therefore the Book of Mormon is false and Mormons are sneaky monkeys.
Alma 7:10 – “And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers…”
Matthew 2:1 – “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea…”
Explanation: This one’s pretty simple. There is “the city of Jerusalem” and “the land of Jerusalem” which encompasses many cities. For example, I was born in a hospital in Pasadena, CA although my parents lived in Arcadia at the time, and it’s all in Los Angeles county. So where do I tell people I was born? If someone is from outside California I’ll tell them I’m from Los Angeles. If they know a little about California I’ll tell them Pasadena, which sometimes they’re familiar with and sometimes they aren’t, although they’ll generally know Pasadena before Arcadia. If they’re from the Los Angeles area then they’ve generally heard of Arcadia so I’ll tell them Arcadia. Am I lying in any of the three answers? No, because I’m not trying to mislead anyone, I’m trying to give them an accurate description of where I was born and where I’m from. How far is it from Bethlehem to Jerusalem? 6 miles. For a people used to walking as a mean of transportation that wouldn’t be far at all.
Besides, everybody knows Christ was born in the city of Bethlehem. Do you really think Joseph Smith could be smart enough to write the entire Book of Mormon, which gets 100 things right for every thing the anti-Mormons say it gets wrong, and yet make such an obvious mistake? Or as BYU professor Daniel C. Peterson pointed out in more elegant terms:
To suggest that Joseph Smith knew the precise location of Jesus’ baptism by John (“in Bethabara, beyond Jordan” (1 Ne. 10:9) but hadn’t a clue about the famous town of Christ’s birth is so improbable as to be ludicrous. Do the skeptics seriously mean to suggest that the Book of Mormon’s Bible-drenched author (or authors) missed one of the most obvious facts about the most popular story in the Bible — something known to every child and Christmas caroler? Do they intend to say that a clever fraud who could write a book displaying so wide an array of subtly authentic Near Eastern and biblical cultural and literary traits as the Book of Mormon does was nonetheless so stupid as to claim, before a Bible-reading public, that Jesus was born in the city of Jerusalem? As one anti-Mormon author has pointed out, “Every schoolboy and schoolgirl knows Christ was born in Bethlehem.” [Langfield, 53.] Exactly! It is virtually certain, therefore, that Alma 7:10 was foreign to Joseph Smith’s preconceptions. “The land of Jerusalem” is not the sort of thing the Prophet would likely have invented, precisely for the same reason it bothers uninformed critics of the Book of Mormon.
As fairmormon.org states, “This is consistent with the usage of the ancient Middle East. El Amarna letter #287 reports that ‘a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi [Bethlehem] by name, a town belonging to the king, has gone over to the side of the people of Keilah.'”
But more importantly, think of it from the writer’s perspective. Alma was in the America’s, on the other side of the world from the Middle East. For 500 years his people had talked about the land they came from, and what was this land? The land of Jerusalem. For them, there was the land where they lived, in the America’s, and across the sea was “the land of Jerusalem” which for them, at a minimum, would likely have incorporated everything within the general area of modern-day Israel and then some.