Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Was Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part I – “From the East”

Let’s say you are writing down something for someone who will come after you as to how to find a certain place, and you write, “It is exactly thirty miles from the east to the west fork in the road.” What would that mean to them?
“Now, don’t make this any more difficult that it is—just go thirty miles from the east to the fork in the road” 

    Let’s say you were having this in a live discussion as the two of you were out in the wilds of a huge wilderness of rolling hills far from any landmarks. It might go something like this:

You: “It is exactly thirty miles from the east to the west fork in the road.” 
Person: “Where in the East?” 
You: “What do you mean? You just start in the East.” 
Person: “At what point in the East do I start?” 
You: “That doesn’t matter.” 
Person: “Of course it matters, if I am going to go thirty miles from there, I need to know exactly where to start.” 
You: “Well, then, just pick a spot.” 
Person: “I will never find the fork in the road doing that. I have to know where you are measuring from!” 
    The problem is quite evident. “In the east” is ambiguous and provides no starting point. When Mormon abridged the Large Plates of the Nephite record, he did so knowing it was for a future people to read. It seems quite strange he would have told them something and provided an ambiguous starting point as so many theorists claim.
Using the descriptions found in the scriptural record, the above image represents the area between the Land of Desolation (Land Northward) and the Land of Bountiful (Land Southward), with a boundary line between them across the “small neck of land.” Now we do not know if that (red-dotted) line was in the center of this stretch of land (as shown) or toward the north or south within that stretch of land, however, it was a dividing line or boundary between these two lands 

As Mormon stated it: “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32). It seems quite obvious that the purpose of this measurement is to provide his future readers with an understanding of how wide this narrow neck of land was. Thus he writes that it could be crossed by a Nephite in a day and a half—from the “east to the west sea.” Can you measure in your mind how far you could walk in a day and a half during a normal “journey”? You could come pretty close.
    The problem in understanding is that we have no starting point in the east. So, if the theorists are correct, Mormon is telling us that from some unknown point in the east, it is only a day and a half journey for a Nephite on the line or boundary of Bountiful to the West Sea.
Mormon is answering his own question about the width of the narrow neck of land, but telling us that a Nephite could cross the small neck in a-day-and-a-half 

Now, really, would Mormon pick an unknown or unlisted place in the east from which a future reader was to estimate the distance to the West Sea—that is, to know how wide was the narrow neck of land?
    Of this, the Mesoamericanist James L. Allen writes, in his criticism of John L. Sorenson: “Sorenson makes another error when he misreads ‘on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea’ as ‘on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east [sea] to the west sea.’ Or, in his words, as noted previously, ‘From the east to the west sea’ seems to me probably the equivalent of ‘from the east sea to the west sea.’ The outcome of this error is that Sorenson thinks the narrow neck of land extends from the east sea to the west sea.’ That is not what Alma 22:32 says. The wording is merely “from the east to the west sea.”
    So what Allen, and many other theorists try to tell us, is that while Mormon is giving us an understanding of the width of the narrow neck of land, he is not giving us a starting point by which to evaluate this measurement—thus, rendering his measurement meaningless.
    Now, really, does that make sense?
    Does anyone really think Mormon would have done that?
    Yet, Allen goes on to insist: “The Book of Mormon does not say “from the east sea to the west sea” but merely says “on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea.” He goes on to then say, “This aspect of Alma 22:32 deals with a defensive line “from the east to the west sea” rather than with the distance across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec from the east sea to the west sea. Again, Mormon says nothing about the distance across the narrow neck of land. Further, nowhere else in the Book of Mormon can readers find anything about the distance across the narrow neck of land. Mormon does say something about the length of the defensive lines on two different occasions—a day and a half’s journey in Alma 22:32 and a day’s journey in Helaman 4:7.”
    First of all, as we have discussed on many occasions, this statement in Alma 22:32 has nothing to do with a defensive military line and is not stated in a defensive context at all, but in the sense of an overall topographical dialogue. Mormon is describing this area between the Land Northward and the Land Southward “on the line Bountiful,” that is, on the line between Bountiful and the Land Desolation, with the narrow neck all that kept the Land of Zarahemla (including the Land of Bountiful) and the Land of Nephi from being surrounded by water (Alma 22:32). Thus, this is a boundary line, and Mormon is discussing its width because it is a radically narrow area compared to the rest of the two land masses. 
    The defensive, or military viewpoint is stated in vs 33, in which Mormon writes in summation: “and thus the Nephites in their wisdom, with their guards and their armies, had hemmed in the Lamanites on the south, that thereby they should have no more possession on the north, that they might not overrun the land northward.” He then goes on to add, as his final remark on the topography of the two lands (Lamanite lands and Nephite lands), “Therefore the Lamanites could have no more possessions only in the land of Nephi, and the wilderness round about. Now this was wisdom in the Nephites -- as the Lamanites were an enemy to them, they would not suffer their afflictions on every hand, and also that they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires” (Alma 22:34). 
Before and After: Left: Before the geographical changes due to the Crucifixion, with two seas shown; Right: After the Crucifixion when the “there was a great and terrible destruction in the land” and one sea shown after the Andes Mountains rose in the three hours as “there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” 

It is interesting, as a side note, that Mormon, who is writing 400 years later, chooses to make the point in his insertion that preserving the Land Northward for a “country whither they might flee” is born home when we realize that in Mormon’s time, this Land Northward, became the Nephites last refuge, or country, to which they could flee from the invading Lamanites. The Nephites of an earlier time were well aware of its importance and Mormon, in his time, has come to rely on that judgment for their homeland under the new treaty. 
    However, Allen is still pressing his erroneous point, as he adds, “Those defensive lines must be outside the narrow neck of land but also must be in the vicinity of the south side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (narrow neck of land) and must relate directly with the Pacific Ocean (west sea).” Here Allen makes four specific assumptions without any supportive rationale:
1. Defensive lines must be outside the narrow neck of land;
2. Defensive lines must be in the vicinity of the south side of the narrow neck;
3. The narrow neck is the isthmus of Tehuantepec; and
4. The Defensive lines must be directly related to the Pacific Ocean.
    The problem is, as shown, when a theorist decides he knows where the Land of Promise is and it does not match the written descriptions of Mormon and others, he ends up seeing his creation or model and evaluating it instead of the scriptural references to the Land of Promise.
    Allen goes on to say that he and his son, Blake, have personally explored an area near the south side of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec that may have implications for the location of the defensive lines of Alma 22:32 and Helaman 4:7. Again, the problem is, with minds made up, they combine two descriptions of lines when they refer to two different things. First, as mentioned above, the line in Alma 22:32 has to do with the division between the Land Northward and the Land South and the narrow neck of land in between, describing the configuration and giving us a rough idea of its width—that is, it is a boundary—this is somewhat comparable to the boundary between Provo and Salt Lake being the Point of the Mountain (though today that is slowly disappearing). It is not a line, but a theoretical boundary or division between two places.
    In addition, the statement in Helaman 4:7 is a military line of defense, which states: “And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east; it being a day's journey for a Nephite, on the line which they had fortified and stationed their armies to defend their north country” (emphasis added).
This military line, or stone wall, is located in the northern part of Peru, following the River Santa from the coast to the mountains—the region is very mountainous and the wall is located on the hillsides of the valley, with the Santa River marking the end of the Santa Valley. The Shippee-Johnson expedition that originally photographed the wall from both the air and ground, estimated that the wall in its original form had been 12-15 feet thick and 12-15 feet high, but in some places as high as 20 feet which still stands today. The wall was described as made out of broken rocks and adobe cement and writes that is was very smooth in the places where the surface was still intact. They also stated that “Clearly the wall with its double line of forts was erected as a defensive barrier” and later analysis places the construction between 900 and 200 B.C. 

Allen goes on to emphasize an ambiguous eastern point when he states: “Since the initial publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, many of its readers have routinely wanted a Nephite to cross from ocean to ocean in a day and a half. This verse does not say that. It does not say from the east sea to the west sea. It says “from the east to the west sea.” It simply states that the east orientation is the dividing line between Bountiful and Desolation.”
    So if that is true, what is the “east orientation”? Does he mean a canyon, a mountain, a river, a military post, or what? If he is not going to tell us what that eastern point is, then why bring it up, since it is not helpful or even of any value to know it is in the east.
    In addition, the verse in Helaman does not say anything about an eastern point at all. It gives no indication of the east in anyway, though it is describing the narrow neck of land which is mentioned earlier in Mormon’s insertion.
    Lastly, on this, Allen states: “The west orientation is the west sea, which we believe is the Pacific Ocean by the Gulf of Tehuantepec. According to our model, the day-and-a-half marker begins near the archaeological site of Tonala (candidate for the city of Melek) on the east and ends at the ocean fishing village of Paredon on the west.
    Once again, having his own model in mind, he then goes on to tell us what the scriptural record states and means, adding, “The distance is twelve miles, which is consistent with Maya travel distance of eight miles a day—or twelve miles in a day and a half.”
    If travel of a Nephi was only 8 miles in a day, that indeed would be something of interest for by all other accounts, such a low distance is never stated elsewhere except in Allen’s mind, unless the topography is very difficult. It took Balboa three weeks to cross the Isthmus of Panama—a distance of about 30 miles. But it took Alma 21 days to get from the Waters of Mormon to Zarahemla—at eight miles a day making that distance only 168 miles apart, which is a considerably short distance to separate these two warring societies.
(See the next post, “Is Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part II, for more information on James L. Allen’s critique of John L. Sorenson, both Mesoamericanists, of the latter’s claims about his location for the Land of Promise in Mesoamerica)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Why Did the People of Zarahemla Rejoice?

Somewhere close to the beginning of the second century B.C., Abinadom, the next to the last of the Jacob lineage prophets and record keepers, recorded that he had lived through many wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites, and that he was a warrior, using his sword to kill Lamanites in defense of his people, the Nephites.
    According to Hugh Nibley, the name Abinadom is a typical Canaanite appellation (Abinetchem) meaning “my father is friendly, gentle, loving,” with “Netem” meaning “sweet or agreeable,” in Egyptian; and overall means “my father is benevolent or sweet.”
    On the other hand, other linguists point out that the name could be translated as Hebrew “nwd” meaning “to wander, show grief,” rendering the name “my father of grieving or wandering,” which matches Jacob’s closing remark when he stated “Our lives passed away like as it were unto us a dream we being a lonesome and a solemn people, wanderers, cast out from Jerusalem, born in tribulation, in a wilderness, and hated of our brethren” (Jacob 7:26).
It is interesting that Abinadom’s son, Amaleki, writes almost solely of Mosiah departing into the wilderness and their wandering until they found the people of Zarahemla (Omni 1:12). He began Mosiah’s trek with: “And it came to pass that he did according as the Lord had commanded him. And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13), and later introduced the people they had discovered with: “the people of Zarahemla came out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:15-16).
    While Abinadom may not have been a spiritual man, he was aware of the revelations of the Lord to his people, but evidently knew of none that had been given in his lifetime or that of his father, Chemish, who recorded almost nothing on the small plates. Obviously, these disastrous wars with the Lamanites of which Abinadom briefly mentions, were one of the causes that led to the removal of the righteous portion of the Nephites from the land of Nephi to that of Zarahemla.
Joseph giving 116 pages to Martin Harris, who later lost them

Unfortunately, we do not have the first writings of Mosiah. It is claimed that the first two chapters of Mosiah I were among the 116 pages lost by Martin Harris. It is also interesting to note that Mormon, upon finding the small plates after abridging the large plates down to the king of Benjamin, included the small plates with the large plates. He briefly wrote a transition statement between the two, now appearing as the Words of Mormon 1:12-18).
    In any event, when Mosiah was told by the Lord to flee the city of Nephi somewhere around or just after 200 B.C., the wars with the Lamanites that Omni (Omni 1:3), and Abinadom (Omni 1;10) mentioned and the subsequent fall from righteousness of the Nephites, no doubt led to “the more wicked part of the Nephites [being] destroyed” (Omni 1:5). Two generations later, we see these wars are still raging as Abinadom briefly mentions, finally leading to the Lord telling Mosiah to “flee out of the land of Nephi, and as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord should also depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).
    Now in the wilderness, “They were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness, until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13). Obviously, this was no accidental encounter, but one the Lord had planned and led Mosiah and the more righteous Nephites to this meeting with the people of Zarahemla, i.e., the descendants of Mulek, youngest son of Zedekiah, and those from Jerusalem who spirited Mulek out of the city and into the desert during the Babylonian siege of the city.
    At this point, we learn that the people of Zarahemla, who had come out from Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon, and who were nearly twice the number (Mosiah 25:2) as Mosiah and the Nephites, rejoiced greatly as did their leader, Zarahemla, when they learned who Mosiah and his people were and that they brought with them the ancient records of their ancestors (Omni 1:14).
Mulekites rejoice over the arrival of Mosiah and the records he brought

It is almost surprising that those of Zarahemla, not withstanding their superior numbers over those of the Nephites, appointed Mosiah to be their king (Omni 1:19).
    This begs the question, “why did the people of Zarahemla rejoice over this encounter?” and also “why did they agree to be subject to Mosiah and the Nephites?”
    To understand this, we need to know something about the people and the times involved. First of all, the people of Israel during the last millennium B.C. lived under the Davidic Covenant, one in which the Lord promised King David that his dynasty would last forever—that he would always have a descendant on the throne (2 Samuel 7:11-17; Psalms 89:10-37). Now while the Davidic Covenant is hardly mentioned in literature of the last two centuries or more, and gets little attention in the Book of Mormon, throughout the history of Israel, a Davidic king had always been on the throne in Judah.
    How odd it is for Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram, coming out of Jerusalem at the time, knowledgeable of God’s dealing with the chosen House of Israel, having nothing to say on this subject. That is like us stating our history of the twentieth century and ignoring man’s landing on the moon, or the world-wide wars that lasted half a century.
    Yet, there is mention of the Law of Moses, the Mosaic Covenant, and the Abrahamic Covenant in the Book of Mormon; but almost nothing regarding king David and he Lord’s covenant with him. Not even when we learn that the people of Zarahemla were from Jerusalem and Mulek was the son of king Zedekiah.
    Still, many of the inhabitants of Judah in that period believed the Davidic Covenant, like that of Abraham, was unconditional and inviolable.  When God had told David, “Thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16), it meant that he would never abandon David’s heirs or David’s capital city Jerusalem, period.
Laman and Lemuel would not accept Nephi’s words that the great city of Jerusalem would be destroyed 
In fact, when Laman and Lemuel were told by Lehi and Nephi that the city of Jerusalem was to be destroyed, they stated emphatically that they did not believe that the great city of Jerusalem could be destroyed (1 Nephi 2:13). It was ingrained within them that this Davidic Covenant was forever. They knew and understood Isaiah’s statement: “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake (Isaiah 37:35), and they knew the following verse that crystallized that point in their minds, “the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand, and when they [Israelites] arose early in the morning, behold, they [Assyrians] were all dead corpses” (Isaiah 37:36, inserts added).
    This is the cornerstone of the biblical view of kingship (found in 2 Samuel 7), which asserts the legitimacy of the House of David as the only divinely sanctioned royal dynasty in Israel and Jerusalem. However, Lehi knew otherwise and as history has shown, Zedekiah was the last Davidic king to sit on the throne of Judah. The fact that this covenant was conditional seems clear from the wordage in Psalms: “If thy children will keep my covenant and my testimony that I shall teach them their children shall also sit upon thy throne for evermore” (Psalms 132:12).
    Now, the Mulekites brought no records with them when they left Jerusalem in their haste to flee the Babylonians. They had evidently also lost knowledge of God and his dealings, at least in the sense of denying His involvement in their lives (Omni 1:17), but they knew that Mulek, their first leader, had been a son of King Zedekiah. They most likely understood the Davidic Covenant that promised the kingship to the lineage of David and that Zedekiah had been of that line. If not before, then certainly after reviewing the brass plates that Mosiah had brought with him. Obviously, they would have quickly understood that this lineage was among them who were rightful heirs of the divinely-appointed royal line of David. They may even have known of Zedekiah’s capture and the killing of all the other royal sons (2 Kings 25:6-7).
    It seems obvious that this would have been received as exciting and worthwhile news by the Mulekites in Zarahemla. More than a hundred years later, Helaman makes this quite clear when he stated: “Will you dispute that Jerusalem was destroyed? Will ye say that the sons of Zedekiah were not slain, all except it were Mulek?  Yea, and do ye not behold that the seed of Zedekiah are with us, and they were driven out of the land of Jerusalem?” (Helaman 8:21), and Mormon certainly knew of it (Mosiah 25:2; Helaman 6:10).
    It is interesting to note that theorists, who write about this without much understanding claim in effect that “it is very rare in history when a small number of outsiders manage to peacefully gain control of a much larger, better established group.” They go on to debate that “Mosiah must have been able to offer something truly remarkable to Mulekite civilization.” The answer to this seems quite obvious upon reading the scriptural record and understanding who the Mulektes were, which leads to an understanding that the people of Zarahemla were delighted that Mosiah arrived, and delighted to know that they were of the House of Israel, and more importantly, some who could trace their line back to Mulek, were of the ruling lineage of king David. To people who had previously no more than a slight inkling of who they were, this information would have been much to rejoice over, plus having the scriptural and historical record now to further acquaint themselves with their past and history, one can obviously see why the people of Zarahemla rejoiced at the arrival of Mosiah.
    We can also see that the people of Zarahemla were well acquainted with the law of the Jews in that they recognized that the land belonged to the Nephites and that Mosiah was the Nephite leader, thus they agreed for him to be their king, and they joined with the Nephites in order to come under the legal provision of inheriting the land. This was a very important part of the Nephite laws, as stated by Limhi: “I am Limhi, the son of Noah, who was the son of Zeniff, who came up out of the land of Zarahemla to inherit this land, which was the land of their fathers, who was made a king by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 7:9).
    The people of Zarahemla seem to have well understood this, for when they learned that the kingdom had been conferred upon none but those who were descendants of Nephi, they took upon themselves the name of Nephi, that they might be called the children of Nephi and be numbered among those who were called Nephites (Mosiah 25:13-14).
    There appears to be much reason for the people of Zarahemla to have rejoiced with quite some exuberance when understanding the significance of Mosiah’s arrival with the more righteous Nephites.
    Thus, the Mulekites rejoiced at the arrival of Mosiah and the Nephites, and in learning who they were.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Did Mormon Know Elipsis Writring?

Recently we received a comment from a reader about our past articles on elliptical and ellipsis writing in the Book of Mormon and that Mormon might have been using that abbreviated writing when he said “from the east to the west sea,” meaning “from the east sea to the west sea.” The reader thought that Mormon would not have known about ellipsis writing and did not use elliptical writing because they did not know what it was.
    It should be noted, that ellipsis writing has been around for a very long time—originally from the Ancient Greek: ἔλλειψις, élleipsis, meaning "omission" or "falling short." Today, it is formalized by using three, short dots ("…") in a sentence, i.e., “from the east…to the west sea.” However, the dots are not necessary, and apply generally to several omitted words, especially in a quote: “Lehi said the land was promised…(to him and his posterity) forever.” Often such elipses are used to indicate that a quotation has been condensed for space, brevity or relevance.
In Mormon’s case, and for anyone who has ever engraved words on metal, the idea of brevity is often very desirable. Repeating thoughts over and over again is unnecessary in lengthy writing, and the concept has been around for millennia. Such absence of a word or series of words typically indicates an intentional omission of a word, sentence, or whole section from a text without altering its original meaning.
    Mormon’s “from the east to the west sea,” is certainly understandable to anyone not trying to promote a pre-determined idea. Mormon was describing the land occupied by the Lamanites and that occupied by the Nephites and how they fit together. “from the east…” would have had a certain meaning to him, and since he was trying to convey that meaning to his future reader, he would not have left the “east” unnamed if it had been anything other than what he had been describing, i.e., the “east sea.”
    As an example, Nephi uses this ellipsis writing when he stated: “And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 1:12). As he read what? To understand this, the earlier comment need to be read: “And they came down and went forth upon the face of the earth; and the first came and stood before my father, and gave unto him a book, and bade him that he should read. And it came to pass that as he read, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 11:12, emphasis added). Obviously, when understanding the complete thought as Nephi wrote it, it makes sense that he did not repeat “the book” a second time. It was unnecessary.
    Therefore, the ellipsis is seen in Nephi leaving out the second “book,” i.e., “And it came to pass that as he read the book, he was filled with the Spirit of the Lord.”
    In another instance, Nephi clearly uses elliptical writing:
    “Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father then will I make an account of mine own life” (1 Nephi 1:17).
Non-elliptical writing would read: “Behold, I make an abridgment of the record of my father, upon plates which I have made with mine own hands; wherefore, after I have abridged the record of my father [on the plates] then will I make an account of mine own life [on the plates]”
    And again in: “And thou art like unto our father, led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart” (1 Nephi 17:20); instead of “And thou art like unto our father, who is led away by the foolish imaginations of his heart.”
    At the same time, we need to keep in mind, and it seems likely that that Mormon “abbreviated” his writing from time to time since he was engraving on metal, a very tedious and difficult job since a stylus does not have an eraser. And when a mistake was made, it took three or four additional words or engravings to compensate so it makes sense to the reader. As an example Mormon wrote in Alma 24:19: “and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace
    However, he had to correct what he wrote because it did not say what he had intended, so he added: “and thus we see that they buried their weapons of peace, or they buried the weapons of war, for peace
    This so-called “whoops,” oops, oops-a-daisy, oh-oh or slip of the stylus occurred when Mormon meant to say “war” instead of “peace,” i.e., he obviously meant to say “They buried their weapons of war,” but wrote instead “They buried their weapons of peace,” and had to correct it. In doing so, he used almost twice the amount of words, and probably required twice as much engraving on metal to add his correction.
    In fact, whenever you see the phrase “or rather,” it is a good signal that Mormon is correcting what he wrote just before that because he made a mistake that couldn’t be erased from the engraving. Such as:
    “…and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light…” (Mosiah 8:17)
    “Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him” (Alma 30:9).
• “Now behold, the people who were in the land Bountiful, or rather Moroni, feared that they would hearken to the words of Morianton” (Alma 50:32)
• “but by Ammon and his brethren, or rather by the power and word of God, they had been converted unto the Lord” (Alma 53:10)
• “Behold, Ammoron, I have written unto you somewhat concerning this war which ye have waged against my people, or rather which thy brother hath waged against them, and which ye are still determined to carry on after his death” (Alma 54:5)
Others are: Mosiah 8:17; Alma 1:5, Alma 2:34, Alma 17:18, Alma 32:16, Alma 36:14, Alma 39:16—in fact, in all, 96 such passages have been identified as Mormon correcting engraved mistakes thru rewording his abridgement. The point is, engraving on metal is a difficult way of keeping records and no doubt short-cuts to the engraving were implemented where possible. Thus, Mormon, in his writing, may well have skipped a particular meaning because it had already been included or used previously, and he was just taking for granted that the reader would “connect the dots.” In fact, how we write and talk today is much the same.
    Mormon, in his writing, obviously did the same. As an example: “bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west” and also “which ran from the sea east even to the sea west” (both in Alma 22:27—the first intro into his insertion), then later used “from the east to the west sea” (Alma 22:32), which is toward the end of his insertion. Keeping in mind that Mormon’s insertion was not in verses, separated by such spaces, but in one writing (no paragraphs, sentences, etc.) It makes sense that he would have just “skipped” the word sea because it was simply not necessary to repeat it any more than it was in vs 27 “running from the east towards the west.”
    Today, the Modern Language Association has formalized the use of ellipsis writing to a high degree, indicating that an ellipsis must include spaces before and after each dot in all uses. If an ellipsis is meant to represent an omission, square brackets must surround the ellipsis to make it clear that there was no pause in the original quote: [ . . . ]. Currently, the MLA has removed the requirement of brackets in its style handbooks. However, some maintain that the use of brackets is still correct because it clears confusion (H. Ramsey Fowler, et al., The Little, Brown Handbook, Fourth Canadian Edition, Pearson Longman, Toronto, 2005, p440).
    In addition, the MLA now indicates that a three-dot, spaced ellipsis ( … ) should be used for removing material from within one sentence within a quote. When crossing sentences (when the omitted text contains a period, so that omitting the end of a sentence counts), a four-dot, spaced (except for before the first dot) ellipsis (. . . . ) should be used. When ellipsis points are used in the original text, ellipsis points that are not in the original text should be distinguished by enclosing them in square brackets (e.g. "text […] text").
    Mormon, of course, would not have been knowledgeable of any of this—the fact that he seems to have used ellipsis writing merely suggests that he understood that the foregoing mention of a subject matter was, at times, sufficient so its repetition was not necessary.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Were There Ancient Hebrew Burials in Peru – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding the burial methods of ancient Andean Peru using chullpas or Burial Towers that are still found scattered around the Altiplano of Peru and Bolivia as well as elsewhere, including central and northern Peru, Ecuador, and northern Chile.
Chullpas in Andean Peru were built in many styles over time, from merely stacked field stones to finished and cut stone towers of expert workmanship. Most today are in ruins from looters and those who took stones to build private house

As was shown in the last post, these chullpa funerary towers were built with great care and reverence in which the dead were placed in a systematic manner, as did the ancient Hebrews in the Old World in their rock carved stone sepulchers. However, while what is mostly seen today of the chullpas in their damaged and somewhat ruined form, the original chullpas had elaborate domes covering the towers.
Domed funerary tower sepulchers in Andean Peru showed the reverence with which the ancient Peruvians interred their dead
Like the ancient Hebrews with their rock-carved sepulchers, caves and catacombs, the ancient Peruvians held great reverence for the “burial” of their dead. They built thousands of these family funerary towers throughout Andean Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and northern Chile, and interred the dead in much the same manner as the Hebrews in Palestine.
    Unfortunately, the local governments along the Andes paid little attention to these burial towers until recently, having allowed looters to break into chullpas and even dynamite them to get at what was believed to be great riches and gold within; however, except for some personal belongings of the departed, the chullpas were empty except for the mummies of the ancient peoples. Many locals even tore down the chullpas to obtain both field and dressed stone and carted them off in order to build their private houses and structures.
    It is of interest that the largest of the chullpas was square in shape and composed of several multi-ton blocks, now often scattered about as though some major destruction, such as a catastrophic earthquake had struck them.
    It should also be observed, that like the ancient Hebrews, who interred their dead in caves cut into the rock cliffs, as well as stone built sepulchers and even catacombs in some lands, the ancient Peruvians used similar methods for burial other than just the chullpas. Many areas have different “burial” methods and locations, such as those interred in caves cut into cliffs and hard-to-access mountain locations.
    These cliff area caves, like the larger chullpas, had “burials” within dedicated rooms for family and the community, often in groups, and these chambers were reopened every so often so that new mummies could be added. High status individuals were clothed and wrapped in particularly fine textiles and jewelry. The deceased's possessions were often interred along with their owner, sometimes also with the tools of their particular profession.
Top: Cliff side tombs built on lofty ledges, scarring the cliffs of the remote Colca Canyon, south central Peru; Bottom: Stone tombs or sepulchers built along cliff faces in Cajatambo in the highlands of central Peru

One of the most remarkable sites for mummified remains is the area around Cajatambo (Qaqatampu) in the highlands of central Peru among the Huayhuash mountain range, about 70 miles north of Lima. No fewer than 1,825 ancient mummies were recorded by the Spanish in the 17th century, not long after their conquest. Here mummies were stored in sacred caves known as machay and, dressed in finery, they were periodically visited and looked after.
    Another remarkable area of burial tombs are those built into the cliffs of the remote Colca Canyon. The graves were hewn into the granite cliffs of the rugged Cerero Cerani near Cabanaconde in southern Peru and closed off with rock walls. There are no footholds that would allow workers to climb up so they must have been suspended on ropes from above. These rock tombs, referred to as Tumbas de Choquetico, pre-date the Inca; however, most have been plundered as seen by the openings in the rock.
    In addition, there were sepulchers of stone built in various areas, and according to Matthew Velasco of Cornell University (February Current Anthropology), some can be found at the base of a cliff in the Colca Valley in southeastern Peru. Others cut into the rock of mountain cliffs to form towering edifices of burial cubicles or rooms.
Burial compartments or niches on a cliff at Carajia, nestled in the cloud forests of northern Peru not far from Cajamarca and northeast of the city of Chachapoyas

These burial niches were cut into the rock of a mountain cliff at Chachapoya in northern Peru by the Chachapoya “Fog or Cloud Warriors” culture of the last century B.C. These ancient Peruvians interred their dead in these cliff faced catacombs carved out of the rock in the same way ancient Hebrews/Jews interred their dead in foreign lands in catacombs or recesses beneath large cities cut into the rock walls of underground tunnels and rooms.
    These ancient northern Peruvians also interred their dead in life-sized sarcophagus with human faces containing mummies within and placed on the mountain ledges of hard-to-access cliffs. They also interred their dead in mausoleum buildings like those a little to the south at Revash near San Bartolo where burial chambers or tombs were cut in cliff-side walls of a canyon above the Utcubamba River and in little rock buildings of small stones like miniature “villages” placed on ledges and cliff overhangs; or Laguna de los Cóndores, where tombs are located on a cliff 328 feet above the Lagoon.
    In addition, there were “burials” where the dead were interred in sarcophagi made like human forms and placed within clefts and ledges on cliffs, all facing the east, and placed in inaccessible locations where they were difficult for looters of the day to reach.
Human-shaped, life-sized sarcophagi at Karajía, east of Chiclayo, near Cohechán in north central Peru, the largest site of sarcophagus known today and has remained intact over the centuries, with a single mummy within each sarcophagus

There were also more elite burial chambers, called “temples of the dead,” such as the one found in 2012 north of Lima, Peru, with 58 female skeletons in a series of rooms or chambers built for the burials. In addition, there were also walled tombs just east of Chiclayo uncovered beneath an eroded pyramid structure in Sipán complete with sarcophagus and a wealth of treasure and additional skeletons surrounding the main mummy.
Left: A burial temple of several rooms where 58 mummies were found; Right: an elite burial chamber beneath a pyramid in Sipán

It might also be noted that very similar stone constructions on Easter Island known as tupas have been found and archaeologists suspect they are closely related to the Peruvian chullpas, though far less in quality of construction. Still, they represent a type of burial that is consistent with the ancient Hebrews/Jews and that of Andean Peru.
Easter Island tupa, some are built very similar to the chullpas of Peru, and served as ancient “burial” chambers for the early Rapa Nui people of the island 

Thus, we find that the burial methods of the ancient Hebrews/Jews, unique in their day where the vast majority of pagan cultures buried their dead in the ground or cremated them, was duplicated in Andean Peru with above-ground structures (sepulchers called chullpas) or in caves and compartments carved into rock cliffs as found in the Jewish catacombs, and in mausoleums and other similar rock structures with great reverence paid to the entombing of the dead.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Were There Ancient Hebrew Burials in Peru? – Part I

Some of the ancient burials in Andean Peru, like those previously discussed in ancient Israel, were not in the ground, but in stone structures, carved rooms in caves, niches in catacombs and sepulchers. To see the connection between this Hebrew/Jewish method of burial in Lehi’s time in the Americas, we only need to look to Andean Peru, where the ancient dead were placed in above ground stone towers called Chullpas.
    These chullpa towers (Burial or funerary Towers) had chambers built inside that housed the remains of complete family groups, and were originally known as “uta amaya,” or “houses of the soul.” Their origin goes back to before the Tiwanaku (Tihuanaco) period to during the last century B.C. around Lake Titicaca, with the insides built to hold entire groups of people—with modern DNA showing the males were always related, leading to the knowledge that these were extended lineage kinfolk of a family.
A series of chullpas built along a slope on a mesa southwest of Lake Titicaca

These tower sepulchers are found in various sizes and quality of construction, with some put together poorly with rough field stones just piled on top of each other, while others were better constructed with cut field stones so they slotted together well. Still others were constructed with adobe cement on the outside of rough stones and were well sealed, while some were constructed of massive stone blocks cut and fitted together tongue-and-groove style without mortar, so tightly arranged that an alpaca hair could not be inserted between the stone, much like the construction at Sacsayhuaman in Cuzco.
    Most were circular in shape, while others were square or rectangular, sometimes each shape distinct to an area, but occasionally all three found built in the same funerary area. Some of the towers were small with ill-fitting river stones, but others were tall and tapering and built with massive curved stones, In all the chullpas yet investigated, mummified bodies were found, and most of the towers in the Kalaslaya ceremonial center of the Pucará culture, which reached its peak between 250 B.C. and 380 A.D., the large fortified burial towers overlooked the landscape.
While most chullpas are either (top) round, or (bottom) square, and built in separate centers, those found around Cutimbo near Puno, were built by the predecessors of the Aymara Lupaca (Lupaqa) Culture

These Chullpa Towers, or Burial Towers, were found in more than 100 grouping areas across the Altiplano in Peru and Bolivia. Many were highly adorned or decorated with carvings, such as those found at Cóndor Amaya near Patacamaya where 21 adobe towers were painted in yellow and red colors.
Some towers were built with colored stone, or painted mud covering for adornment

While most of these chullpa burial towers were between nine and fifteen feet in height, the tallest stood over 38 feet high, though the vast majority have suffered great damage from looters and those who used the stones to build houses elsewhere.
    The chullpas at Sillustani, just north of Puno and about a dozen miles west of Lake Titicaca on a finger of land jutting into Umayo Lagoon, are probably the most prominent and best preserved sites left standing, but others have been located—at Molloko near Acora, Peru, south of Puno; on the mesa at Cutimbo (Kutimpu), east of Acora, where the funerary towers face to the East, as well as at Ancash, north of Lima, and Tinyash near Huaraz southeast of Chombote , also Honocpampa and Chinchawas in central eastern Peru, also in Caillama, Arica, Parinacota, Ninamarca, Mauk’allaqta, Tambo Nuevo in northeast Ecuador, and also some sites in northern Chile.
Both round and square chullpas built at Cutimbo, near Puno, Peru, by the Aymara Lupaca (Lupaqa) Culture or its predecessors

Most towers had multiple burials, suggesting family or even extended family groupings. In addition, each tower had a small opening, which always faced east (the rising sun), and the more elite were often buried with a treasure trove of belongings. It is interesting that most of the burial towers had a lizard carved into the stone, which was a symbol of life because they could regrow their tails (resurrect).
    The better chullpas were built of faced stone without mortar, much like the construction found around Cuzco and in the Sacred Valley, though lesser constructions are also found, perhaps of the poorer class, where smaller, rougher, local stone was used and stacked with clay mortar.
Two unfinished towers have been found, one with a ramp still in place, which was used  to move blocks up to the higher levels, and the other with cut stones ready to place on a very large dome
The engineering involved in the construction of these chullpas was far more complex than it appears and certainly more so than anything the Incas or later cultures ever built. To get the large blocks higher up on the tower, long ramps were built where the blocks could be moved upward and set in place. There also appear to have been two different types of chullpas—one of superior quality, height and construction, and others of far lesser quality and no doubt involving far less time and cost to build with natural field stone. The best made chullpas were composed of two separate layers of stone, each being of different composition and from separate quarries. Those at Sillustani were predominantly red sandstone. The outer layer was of non-local basalt from a specific location many miles away, and the inner dome area was made of dense andesite, and cemented together with a white clay material. No matter the construction method, the overall appearance of these chullpas show that the people who built them did so with reverence for the dead who would be interred within them.
The poorer made chullpas were mostly field stone simply stacked upon each other without mortar, cutting or fitting

The less finely made and smaller of the chullpas were often hastily built by simply stacking small stones upon one another, and had no such organized compositional structure. These were made of field stone and broken pieces of red sandstone, basalt and andesite, with red adobe material, which was the soil of the area, used as filler and binding agent.
(See the next post “Were There Ancient Hebrew Burials in Peru – Part II,” for more about the method of burial by the ancient Peruvians and how they match the burial methods of the Hebrews)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Burial Mounds – A Non-Jewish Idea – Part IV

Continued from the previous post, regarding the difference between ancient  Hebrew/Jewish burial practices and those of the rest of the world, including the so-called burial mounds, which had no place among Jewish practices.
    As indicated earlier, the Jews believed in a concept called kevod ha-met, honoring the dead by treating the body with respect, where an uninterred corpse was considered to be naked and humiliated. The injunction to bury Jewish dead with haste is given a lower priority only to saving human life. Archaeologists have discovered ornamented Jewish catacombs with hinged doors and gabled columns dating from the immediate centuries surrounding the time of Jesus, which suggests that the practice of cave burial increased in popularity from the biblical era through the Babylonian period and into Roman Palestine.
    In the Talmud Sanhedrin 96b (line 55) there is a clear reference to Jewish cave burial where Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (600 B.C.) is advised by his Palestinian agents that the Jewish catacombs surrounding the city of Jerusalem could shelter his army: “their graveyards are better [more practical] than your palace!”
Moroccan Jewish graves were unadorned and lay horizontal instead of positioned upright like many of their European counterparts. The Jerusalem Talmud (Mo’ed Katan 1:5) describes the practice of likut atzamot (gathering of bones), a two-phase procedure of burying Jewish bodies in deep pits (mahamorot) and waiting for the skin to dissolve before removing the bones for reburial. During this time, the body was laid on a shelf for the first year, while the flesh decayed, and the soul underwent the purifying process. The relatives laid tree branches on the corpse, and it was also customary to leave perfume tools in the tomb or pour perfume directly on the corpse. A year after the burial, the relatives returned to the tomb, collected the bones and put them in stone boxes called ossuaries. It was a celebration: the relatives were assured that the deceased finally arrived at his proper place, under the Seat of Honor and eternal, pure life. Now they collected the bones to the ossuary, and put the ossuary in a niche, carved into the tomb wall in anticipation of the resurrection of the dead.
    The Jewish acceptance of ossuaries was consistent with Ezekiel’s prophecy of the Valley of the Dry Bones (around 592 B.C.), but when the Romans lay siege to Jerusalem and Judea in 63 B.C., Pompey’s victory spelled the end of Jewish independence and the incorporation of Judea as a client kingdom of the Roman Republic. During the Roman occupation, they introduced the concept of ground burial in public cemeteries.  Eventually, burial in cedar coffins was seen as more hygienic than disinterring bodies and placing bones in ossuary boxes. Over time, ground burial in private plots became common practice in Judea.
   However, this was more than 50 years after Lehi left Jerusalem. Eventually, it became necessary for Jews, especially in foreign lands, to accept burial in the ground—especially as a result of the plague of 1347-1351 A.D., which killed nearly a third of Europe. At that time Gentile common burials became necessary and were required throughout Europe, Jewish law forbid sharing the same grave in the ground. This was adjusted to allow stacked burials, one above the other, as long as there was six tefachim (handbreaths) of soil separating them.
Burial Sepulchers for the wealthy were elaborately built, large, and imposing, whereas those of the average Jewish family were much smaller and very modest

Thousands of rock-cut tombs were constructed in Israel/Palestine in ancient times. They were cut into the rock, and for the wealthy, were sometimes elaborate facades and multiple burial chambers. Some are free-standing, but most are caves. Each tomb typically belonged to a single family. Bodies were laid out on stone benches. After a period, the bones were moved to a bone chamber or, later, into ossuaries and the benches used for new burials. Rock tombs were the province of anyone but the poor, who were buried in the ground. This was not the case in Jerusalem, where the ossuary boxes on the Mount of Olives date back at least four thousand years, covering the entire hillside.
    The Jewish custom of Lehi’s time was for the body to be elaborately wrapped in a shroud and the face was covered with a special cloth called a sudarium (a sweet cloth for wiping the face clean; also called a shroud); the hands and feet were then tied with strips of cloth. Once this was done, relatives and friends could come to the home to say goodbye to the deceased for the last time. All of this happened in very short order; burial usually followed within eight hours of death.
    Since Biblical times, specially trained members of the community called the Chevra Kaddisha ("the holy brotherhood"), or Jewish Burial Society, prepared the body of the deceased for burial. Following this, the funeral procession proceeded from the home of the deceased, who was carried in a kind of liter, to the place of interment. Pallbearers would include close friends, and family. The entire community stopped what they were doing and joined the funeral procession. This was especially true in the case of a Met Mitzva, a person who had died with no family to ensure a proper Jewish burial.
Top: Typical cave sepulchers in Jerusalem where the so-called “Middle Class” Jews laid their dead to rest; Bottom: Where the moderately poor laid their dead
In the rare case of a very poor person, who could not afford a rock-hewn tomb, or foreigners who had no land, they were buried within vertical shafts in designated fields. In the Gospels there is reference to the purchase of the potter’s field as a place to bury the poor and foreigners who died in Israel (Matthew 27:7).
    After a year, family members returned to the tomb and collected the bones, placing them in ossuary box and marking it with identifying information and placing it in the back room of the tomb where the bones of other relatives were also stored. This was the basis of the Jewish expression that the deceased “rested with his ancestors.” It also explains the concerns of the patriarch Joseph: Then Joseph took an oath from the sons of Israel, saying, “God will visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Genesis 50:25). And Scripture says that as Moses left Egypt he took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel, saying, “God will visit you; then you must carry my bones with you from here” (Exodus, 13:19). And Scripture says that after entering the land, The bones of Joseph which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt were buried at Shechem” (Joshua 24:32).
    Now, given all of this, from the Jewish attitude toward burial, to the Jewish burial practices, it should be a no-brainer that the Jews would never have conceived of burying people in the ground, especially for anyone that could afford or manage a cave or sepulcher interment. The very requirement of re-interment would have precluded any concept of burying people in the ground and covering them with tons and tons of dirt, making a revisit, cleansing and re-interment impossible.
Five skeletons in a seated position stretched horizontally on the original surface of the ground, parallel to each other, three with heads toward the east and two with heads west

This should make any Mound Building model and Nephite claims an obvious misuse and misunderstanding of the burial rites of the Hebrew/Jews of the B.C. period. When Lehi, Nephi, Sam and Zoram left Jerusalem, each knew quite well the burial customs of the Jews, and the religious significance of interring the dead for a year and then re-interment in ossuary boxes in the tomb.
Analysis of remains from mass graves like this small, ridge-topped mound in Cahokia’s Mound #72 near Collinsville, Illinois, which shows that bodies were buried in the ground, not in separate chambers, or on stone loculi shelves. The Jews had a clear mandate not to bury people in such manner in B.C. times, and could never allow dead bodies to touch one another for any reason

The method of burial by the Mound Builders in ancient North America would have violated all the customs and practices of the Jews’ burial traditions and religious tenets toward interment. There is simply no way the Nephites, who lived under the Law of Moses, and obeyed the Jewish laws throughout their period in the Land of Promise until the advent of the Savior around 35 A.D.
Cutaway diagram of the Criel Mound, one of 424 mounds in South Charleston, Moundsville, West Virginia. Dated between 1000 and 200 B.C., called the Adena Period, they were a culture who built mounds over the remains of chiefs, shamans, or other people of high social standing. There are two bodies lying feet to feet near the top, and eleven bodies at the bottom, with one in the middle and five on either side, each wrapped in elm bark, in the midst of animal bone and hickory-wood ashes. All were covered with dirt

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Burial Mounds – A Non-Jewish Idea – Part III

Continued from the previous post, regarding the difference between ancient  Hebrew/Jewish burial practices and those of the rest of the world, including the so-called burial mounds, which had no place among Jewish practices in ancient Palestine or the Middle East.
Burial kokhim, a type of tomb complex characterized by a series of long narrow shafts, in which the deceased were placed for burial, radiating from a central chamber

In Lehi’s time, certain terms were known among the Jews regarding burial. Kokh (kokhim), כּוּךְ meaning “tomb,” was a repository for the remains of the dead. 
• It was a type of tomb complex characterized by a series of long narrow shafts radiating from a central chamber, in which the deceased were placed for burial. Many such burial chambers were found throughout the Judean foothills. It was generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes, generally a rectangular rock-cut sloping space, running inward, like tunnels into rock, sufficiently high and wide to permit the admission of a corpse. It was a complex characterized by a series of long narrow shafts, in which the deceased were placed for burial, radiating from a central chamber.
The Loculi, or burial shelves, cut into the stone, making up the burial recesses in the catacombs

These tomb complexes were generally carved into a rock face, and were usually closed with a stone slab and had channels cut into the center of the shaft to drain any water that seeped through the rock.
    • A burial vault was a stone or brick-lined underground space for multiple burials, originally vaulted, often privately owned for specific family groups; usually beneath a religious building such as a church.
    • Mausoleum (pyramid) was an external free-standing structure, above ground, acting as both monument and place of interment, usually for individuals or a family group.
    • A crypt was a stone chamber beneath the floor of a church or other building. It typically contained coffins, sarcophagi or religious relics, and was often a place for public interment.
    A burial method not found in the Middle East, and specifically not Jewish in any manner, was the Megalithic tomb (including Chamber tombs), which was an ancient (often prehistoric) place of interment, often for large communities, constructed of large stones and originally covered with an earthen mound. These above ground burial chambers, built of large stone slabs (megaliths) laid on edge and covered with earth or other, smaller stones, were a type of chamber tomb and found built across Atlantic Europe. They were also found in the northern and southern Mediterranean area, built by Neolithic farming communities.
    They differ from the contemporary long barrows through their structural use of stone and were found in Brittany, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Scotland, Ireland, England, Wales, the Orkney Islands, Netherlands, Sweden, Italy, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, and Spain.
They were generally covered by a stone cairn or earth barrow, and did not generally contain rooms, but were completely filled in and over with dirt.
    Prior to Lehi’s time, as an example, several generations of a single Jewish family were typically buried in a single cave, whether natural or artificial. Pastoral nomads also used caves that were entered through a vertical shaft. Multiple interments in caves continued over succeeding millennia. There is evidence of the use of long subterranean channels and spacious chambers by about 1500 B.C. By the time of the Assyrian and Babylonian conquests of Israel and Judah, some burial caves were quite large and elaborate. 
    Common to the Jews were catacombs, which belonged to a very specific period in the history of Judaism, when the verse ‘For dust you are, and to dust you shall return’ (Genesis 3:19) was fulfilled not by burying the dead in the ground, but in the loculi shelves excavated in the stone,” according to Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome. This method of burial originated in the Middle East approximately 6,000 years ago, and after the Roman conquest of Palestine, many Jews settled in Rome and adapted their Middle East burial customs to their new environment. In contrast to the Roman practice of cremation, the Jews buried their dead in catacombs they created for this purpose.
Jewish ossuary boxes for the re-interment of human bones: Left: Plain, early box; Right: Elaborate, geometric inscriptions often identifying the deceased 

These earliest examples were often secondary burials where the bones of the dead were placed in ossuary containers, a chest or box, and re-interred for a “second burial.” One form of ancient catacombs is underground city of the dead consisting of galleries or passages with side recesses for tombs, which served as an ossuary.
    These underground galleries with side excavations for tombs, or in which human bones were stacked, was derived from "catacomba," a compound of the Greek and the Latin "comba" ("cumba"), and means "near the sepulchers." Originally it applied to a single area, but later applied to all subterranean burial-places in Italy as well as in other countries.
    In the Middle Ages only Christian catacombs were known; in modern times, however, Jewish burial-places have been discovered resembling the Christian ones, though built before them, and hence have been also called catacombs. Definitely of Jewish origin, catacombs tombs were used in Palestine even in early times. While in the East corpses were usually put into the earth, in the West they were cremated. Around Jerusalem there are so-called tombs of the Prophets—that, in their labyrinthine arrangement, resemble the catacombs. Tombs of the judges—i.e., tombs of the Sanhedrists—are also to be found throughout Palestine. 
    The architect Schick found at Jerusalem a catacomb begun by Jews and continued by Christians. These tombs, which are hewn out of the rock, differ from the Roman catacombs only in that they are difficult of access, while the latter are arranged with a view to the frequent visits of the living. In fact, wherever the Jews went in the course of their wanderings, they endeavored to preserve this custom of their fathers—and they did so at Rome, in lower Italy, Carthage, Cyrene, etc. 
    The Talmud gives a detailed description of this kind of tomb, the chief characteristic of which is that the bodies were placed in niches in the subterranean vaults. The Christian catacombs originated in imitation of this Jewish custom, although among Christians, Jesus' tomb in the rock must have been the model from the beginning. Over the years, Talmudic complexity was added to the burial until the Jews had a very specific, clear-cut method of interment that could not be violated out of the respect they had for their dead. 
    A traditional Jewish burial, known as Kever Yisrael, was always considered a highest priority, and the typical Jewish tombs of the late B.C. period involved a kind of cave or excavation cut into a rocky cliff. Sometimes larger families or groups of families would use these burial areas together. An opening in the side of a cliff might lead into a crypt of several rooms used by different families. There would be an outer and an inner chamber, or at least a front and back portion to the cave. In the outer chamber the body would be laid out on a kind of bench or shelf cut into the rock. After the final respects were paid, a large round stone was usually rolled into place along a groove to cover the tomb. 
    These large stones would often be whitewashed as a kind of warning to passersby that the area was in fact a gravesite. This was because Jews incurred ritual uncleanliness by coming in close contact with a dead body. Surely this could be endured as an act of charity for a dead relative, but one would not wish to incur it for a stranger. Thus the whitewashed tomb entrances served as a kind of warning to steer clear.
Under Jewish law and custom, the dead had a right to ceremonial care, and a Jewish funeral was distinguished by its simplicity, humility, and solemnity. Before the funeral could take place, however, the body of the deceased had to be prepared for burial in accordance with Jewish tradition, and its general format has not changed for over four thousand years. As soon as a person was dead, his eyes were to be closed, he was to be kissed with love, and his body was to be washed (Genesis 50:1; Acts 9:37) and dressed with dignity (called Taharah). In this washing, the body was anointed with perfumes. Nard (Spikenard), a class of aromatic amber-colored essential oil derived from Narsostachys jataansi, a flowering plant, was the most usual of these, but myrrh and aloes were also used.
    The body was then “enwrapped” or “bound” in white linen or muslin burial shroud (kittel or later Tacvhricchim) that reflected simplicity and a limit of ostentation in th garment (Takhrikhin), and then laid to rest on a shelf or bench cut into the stone where it was expected to decompose for a year. At the end of that time, the family then re-entered the sepulcher, cleansed the bones, carefully placed them in an ossuary box and put the box in another section of the sepulcher for its final resting place.
(See the next post, “Burial Mounds – A Non-Jewish Idea – Part IV,” regarding the difference between ancient Hebrew/Jewish burial practices and those of the rest of the world, including the so-called burial mounds, which had no place among these ancient Jewish practices)