The verse, Alma 7:10, has been repeatedly pointed out as an error on the part of Joseph Smith in which it is believed he misidentified the place where Jesus was born. One of these is an hostile Anti-Mormon organisation that calls itself the "Mormonism Research Ministry" that says:
In the early 1990s we wrote two articles and an unpublished manuscript about the mistake that we believe Joseph Smith made in the Book of Mormon regarding the origin of Jesus' birth. We received immediate feedback from the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS), an organization based at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, telling us that our research was flawed. Several criticisms were published by the group, including a paper by Daniel Peterson, William Hamblin, and Matthew Roper in 1995 entitled "On Alma 7:10 and the Birthplace of Jesus Christ."
It is obvious that this is a very sensitive issue with these Mormons. According to them, Alma was referring to the surrounding area of Jerusalem and not the city itself. They insist that Alma was a real person, so to credit him with saying that Christ would someday be born in Jerusalem and not in Bethlehem would be a serious faux pas. To say otherwise casts doubt upon the historicity of Mormonism's sacred Book of Mormon. [...]
Says Doctor Peterson: "Anti-Mormon Bill McKeever also believes Joseph Smith made a 'slip of the pen' in, "The Land of Jerusalem" and the Dead Sea Scrolls."
McKeever writes: In an article entitled Mounting Evidence for the Book of Mormon, Dr. Daniel Peterson from BYU states,
"Alma 7:10 predicts that Jesus 'shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.' Is this a mistake? Everyone knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not in Jerusalem.
But it is now plain from modern evidence that Bethlehem could be, and indeed was, regarded anciently as a town in the 'land of Jerusalem.' A recently released text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example – a text claiming origin in Jeremiah's days (and therefore Lehi's) – says that the Jews of that period were "taken captive from the land of Jerusalem…Joseph Smith could not have learned this from the Bible, though, for no such language appears in it" (Ensign, January, 2000, p. 22).
Bill McKeever continues:
Does modern evidence vindicate Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon as Dr. Peterson claims? Do the Dead Sea Scrolls lend credibility to Joseph Smith's claim of prophet? [Sic] Though Dr. Peterson makes mention of the pseudo-Jeremias scroll in footnote 40, he does not quote the fragment at length. When the fragment is examined in more detail we find that it does not mention Bethlehem or speak of Jesus' birth.
We also find that the phrase "land of Jerusalem" used in this scroll is probably [Probably?] not a reference at all to the surrounding region of Jerusalem, but a reference to the actual city.
If Mormons choose to point to Pseudo-Jeremiah as proof that the land of Jerusalem is a common ancient expression, they should also concede that this is a reference to the city and not a reference to a land region that would somehow include the town of Bethlehem. [Unless *- see below]
Without getting hot under the collar it is obvious that neither the so-called Mormon Research Ministry or Bill McKeever have thought through their responses very well. Sloppy scholarship will turn out much the same kind of flawed results every time.
Had MRM/McKeever done their homework without taking their usual jaundiced views, they would have realised that the quote Peterson supplies from Deutero-Jeremiah employs a phrase that was common when speaking of Jerusalem and its environs at the time the scroll was written. That means it was a common phrase, an idiom, that was widely used and understood to refer to the Geographical Area that extended around and beyond the city of Jerusalem and it was not restricted to describe the City of Jerusalem alone, but the area, or 'land,' around and abutting it.
McKeever's complaint that this document does not speak of the birth of Jesus is a smokescreen, for the point to be made is whether the term, 'the land of Jerusalem' was in use before the Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith, or whether it was not.
If it can be shown that the term for the region round and about the actual city of Jerusalem itself was 'the land of Jerusalem,' then Alma 7:10 and Joseph Smith are vindicated, and Anti-Mormons must abandon their nonsensical jibes and ill-informed attacks about the term being used by the ancient prophet Alma. .
So, we must ask the honest question, "What is known that supports Alma's use of the term 'land of Jerusalem' to identify an area of land that exceeds the boundaries of the city of Jerusalem?
Daniel Peterson writes:
The so-called "Amarna letters" (fourteenth century B.C.) likewise use the phrase. 
Indeed, the Amarna letters also allude to "a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi by name," which W. F. Albright regarded as "an almost certain reference to the town of Bethlehem." 
This is interesting evidence, which goes some distance in establishing the plausibility of Alma's prophecy, since it gives us a glimpse of an ancient administrative arrangement in the vicinity of Jerusalem. It shows, from an ancient perspective, that it was possible to conceptualize the regions surrounding a major city, including its dependent villages, as "the land of" that city." And it demonstrates, furthermore, that Bethlehem itself was, at least at one point, anciently regarded as a part of Jerusalem's land, exactly as it is in the Book of Mormon.
However, at least one vocal critic of the Book of Mormon contends that the Amarna letters are far too old to be relevant to Lehi's Jerusalem in the early sixth century. "It would," he declares, "be like using a letter from King George III to prove the United States could still be rightly called the colonies." 
[Ronnie Bray observes: Mr McKeever fails to notice that his statement actually comes from nowhere and leads nowhere and does not fit the case in any sense at all. Such a letter would show that George III Rex believed that America was the colonies in the face of an ancient type of McKeever insisting that America had never been called 'The Colonies,' and that only India had been called The Colonies and that, therefore, the letter meant and could only ever mean India. It is the facile argument of a man who is desperate to be right against cogent and compelling evidence that he is wrong!]
This overstates the case, but his demand that we look at the Bible and other contemporary evidence is certainly not without merit. 
1. See Walter Harrelson, "Shechem in Extra- Biblical References," The Biblical Archaeologist 20 (1957): 4, 6—7.
2. See James B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), 1:274; also Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, eds., The Macmillan Bible Atlas, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1977), map 39. Hugh Nibley drew our attention to the Amarna letters years ago. See Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 100—102. Nibley's references are to the Amarna letters, tablets 287.25 = "the land of the city of Jerusalem ([a-]mur mat u-ru-sa-lim an-n[i-] ta)"; 46, 61, 63 = "lands [matat] of Jerusalem"; 290:15—16, which discuss "a city of the land of Jerusalem, whose name is bit- ninib." Samuel A. B. Mercer, The Tell el-Amarna Tablets (Toronto: Macmillan, 1939), 722 n. L16, speculated that it might be possible to read this as "Bethlehem." Transliteration and translation can be found on pp. 710—11, 722 of Mercer's book. The preferred translation is now William L. Moran, The Amarna Letters (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1992)
3. Bill McKeever, "Problems," Mormonism Researched (Winter 1992):
4. (A longer, unpublished article on the same subject, bearing the same title, was produced by McKeever in 1992, in conjunction with someone by the name of Eric Johnson. When referred to, this unpublished version will be distinguished from the published article by Johnson's name and by the designation "Long Text.")
McKeever's claim that Nibley left out "very pertinent information" concerning the origin and date of the Amarna letters (p. 3) is, by the way, manifestly false. Nibley accurately describes the nature of the Amarna letters on p. 469 n. 16 of "An Approach to the Book of Mormon," referencing material in his original discussion on p. 101:
"The Amarna Letters are the actual documents of the official correspondence between the Egyptian Government and the rulers of the various principalities of Palestine and Syria about 1400 B.C., at the very time the Hebrews were entering Palestine. They were found on day tablets at El-Amarna on the middle Mile in 1887."
In this passage, Nibley refers to everything McKeever claims he "left out," including: the date, "1400 B.C."; that they were by "Palestinian chieftain[s]"; that they were "not of Hebrew ancestry"; and that they were written to "the Pharaoh of Egypt" (see McKeever, "Problems," 3).
Perhaps McKeever should not have "invite[d] [his] readers to check [his] sources for context accuracy" (p. 3). What is certain is that Bill McKeever has not accurately presented the context of Nibley's argument. How telling about McKeever's methodology when he goes after Mormons.
4. [McKeever's] own examination of the biblical evidence, however, is largely without merit. First of all, in order to show that the term "land of Jerusalem" was not current in biblical times, he must examine every text and every utterance from that period. But most texts and virtually all human utterances vanish without a trace, even from the modern period.
He must prove a negative, but since almost none of the relevant ancient evidence survives, he can never reach certainty. Moreover, when he tries to establish a "biblical" usage-pattern for the phrase "at Jerusalem," his statistically problematic five samples extend from the original Hebrew text of 1 Kings 12:27 to the original Greek text of John 10:22, as if there were some "scriptural" style of preposition use that transcends difference not only of languages but of language families and that necessarily remains unchanged over the course of many centuries. See McKeever and Johnson, "Problems in 'the Land of' Jerusalem" (Long Text), 3.
On pp. 4—6, McKeever and Johnson show remarkable ability to read their own assumptions into the evidence of the Book of Mormon, taking a number of texts as supporting their position which actually do nothing of the kind.
Ronnie Bray writes:
FURTHER LIGHT AND KNOWLEDGE RECEIVED FROM ANCIENT SOURCE PROVIDES THE COGENT *'UNLESS' and knocks McKeever's theory
right out of the water -
Reading through the Tell-el-Amarna letters Ronnie Bray read the very phrase about Jerusalem that is hotly disputed by Bill McKeever and other uninformed Anti-Mormons.
It was a reference I had not seen used in discussions of this subject, but one that puts Alma's usage of the term and its meaning beyond dispute of any intellect that functions normally, regardless of its stand on the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon.
I was reading Edward Jones' "Discoveries and Documents." Doctor Jones was one-time Principal of the Congregational College, Manchester, England. His book was published by the Epworth Press of London, in 1974, under the imprimatur of The Methodist Publishing House, Wimbledon.
I can assure Bill McKeever that The Methodist Publishing House of London is neither owned or controlled by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just in case he is thinking otherwise!
As I read, I was surprised to discover that Jones quoted a letter from Prince Abdu-Heba of Jerusalem importuning the King of Egypt for military aid against the 'Apiru [Hebrew] people. It reads:
"To the king, my lord, say: Thus 'Abdu-Heba, thy servant.
At the two feet of the king, my lord, seven times and seven times I fall. Behold the deed which Milkilu and Shurwardata did to the land of the king, my lord!
They rushed troops of Gezer, troops of Gath, and troops of Keilah; they took the land of Rubutu; the land of the king went over to the 'Apiru people.
But now EVEN A TOWN OF THE LAND OF JERUSALEM, BIT LAHMI [Beit Lechem, or Bethlehem] BY NAME, A TOWN BELONGING TO THE KING HAS GONE OVER TO THE SIDE OF THE PEOPLE OF KEILAH. [Emphasis added: RB]
Let my king hearken to 'Abdu-Heb, thy servant,and let him send archers to recover the royal land for the king! But if there are no archers, the land of the king will pass over to the 'Apiru people [EA No. 290, ANET, p. 489].
The sentence that arrested my attention is:
"But now even a town of the land of Jerusalem, Bit Lahmi by name, has gone over to the side of Keilah."
"Hugh Nibley showed in 1957 that one of the Amarna letters, written in the 13th century B.C. and discovered in 1887, recounted the capture of "a city of the land of Jerusalem, Bet-Ninib" (CWHN 6:101 [Note from J.L.: CWHN = The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. Volume 6, " An Approach to the Book of Mormon").
The Tell-el-Amarna Letters were written during the period 1417-1362 BCE. Their main content is diplomatic correspondence between Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV in their relationships with the kings of the city-states of Western Asia, including Syria and Palestine, especially in the last 20 years of this period.
If there was ever any doubt that 'the land of Jerusalem' was a term used to include the village of Bethlehem, there can be no such doubt any longer. Indeed, the Reverend Doctor Edward Jones entertained none when he wrote:
"We should note too that we have in these letters the first non-biblical reference to Jerusalem, and in this particular letter we have as well, in the word Bit-Lahmi, the first recorded reference to Bethlehem."
While this intelligence will obviously prove a bitter disappointment to dark-minded Anti-Mormon Anti-Scholars, it comes from an unimpeachable source and overcomes McKeever's simpering objection that the Nibley offering made 'no mention of Bethlehem.'
In so doing, McKeever slips, slides, dodges, squirms, and sidesteps incontrovertible proof that the term 'Land of Jerusalem' was used anciently to identify the region round about the City of Jerusalem and is an ancient authentic usage, as found in the Book of Alma in the Book of Mormon.
If McKeever wants to save a morsel of his reputation as a minister of the gospel and an honest man, then he must, perforce, accept the evidence here presented.
The main question to be answered is, will Bill admit he has lost this argument in the face of irrefutable evidence that Joseph Smith's translation, "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," is in direct accord with ancient usage as proven by ancient documents from that area?
Whether McKeever has sufficient grace and Christian honesty in his armoury to do so, remains to be seen.
However, Joseph Smith's translation of Alma 7:10 stands firm and correct. Its vindication is complete and beyond despite.
Bill McKeever [& others] - your time is up!
"Ye shall know the truth!"
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