Saturday, March 5, 2011

Narrow Neck of Land and the Fallacy of Mesoamerica’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec - Part III

When I was in elementary school, I was taught to stand and face the north in order to memorize the cardinal points of the compass. Therefore, north was before me, south was behind me, the west was to my left, and the east was to my right. As a result, I learned over time that facing the north, the cardinal points went north (before me), east (right hand), south (behind me), and west (left hand).

In ancient Israel, rather than facing north, the individual faced east, for to the Hebrews, the east held specific and special religious connotations for it was from the east that Noah came out of the Ark, and from which Shem later traveled to settle in Salem (Jerusalem). Thus, a student in Israel would face east, making south on their right hand, west behind them and north on their left hand.

While both these societies learned directions in the same manner, their orientation was different. Thus, we all learned directions. The words used to teach us, the ideas presented, were not what we remember. I do not have to stand facing north anymore to orient myself to the cardinal points. Nor do I have to think of the “freezing” north, the “tropical” south, or the sun rising in the east, or setting in the west, to know my cardinal directions. Nor, I suspect, did the Nephites once they learned their directions.

I can now travel to far off lands, go places I have never been, be dropped into mountainous country of which I am unfamiliar, or taken blindfolded to the forests and left alone, and still be able to equate myself to the basic cardinal directions. I may not always be able to pinpoint 0-degrees for north, but I have found I can pinpoint northward within a couple of degrees. And most people can do the same. It does not take long to see the sun rise and set, especially over time as it moves within its arc of the equinoxes, to orient myself to east and west.

Certainly, the Nephites, being farmers and living by the seasons, would certainly have been able to do the same. Every early society learned this and developed some type of celestial measurements in order to know when to plant, harvest, prepare for winter, etc. For Sorenson and others to claim the Nephites did not know their basic directions is sloppy scholarship and foolhardy at best, disingenuous at worst, in order to prove a Mesoamerican model. Neither approach has any place in writing about the Book of Mormon.

And, it certainly should be remembered, that when the Lehi Colony landed, they had in their possession the Liahona, which by interpretation, is a compass (Alma 37:38), which Nephi took with him when he fled from his brothers (2 Nephi 5:12). Certainly this instrument, which showed the Nephites their course across the ocean to the Land of Promise (Alma 37:45) and was known well into Alma’s day, would have told the Nephites their basic and cardinal directions as any compass would.

But Mesoamerican theorists are forever trying to claim that which is not claimable. Take for instance, one theorist who wrote: “Y’shaYahu 9:11 in the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 9:12 in the KJV, ‘The Dead Sea is sometimes referred to as the "former sea" or "eastern sea", while the Mediterranean is sometimes called the "back sea", "hinder sea" or "western sea.” Now, all one has to do is read this verse in either Bible to see that this is a blatant falsehood—there is no mention or even reference to any sea, back, hinder, or western! The scripture has to do with Israel being caught in the middle of the Syrians and Philistines “and they shall devour Israel with open mouth.” The fact that the Syrians were before them and the Philistines were behind them emphasizes the untenable position in which Israel lay geographically, and without the Lord, would be overridden by their enemies. This is a message from Isaiah about the birth of Christ and his leadership of Israel and their rejection of him. It is not about seas or any kind!

It might also be understood that Syria, with Damascus as the capital, in the days of Isaiah as now, is to the north of Israel, not the east. The phrase Isaiah writes about is not discussing the location of seas nor directions of east or west, but that Israel had two enemies, one to the west, the other to the north (there was little or no traffic to the east). Thus, it cannot be said this reference has anything to do with anything east at all.

(See the next post, “Narrow Neck of Land and the Fallacy of Mesoamerica’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec - Part IV,” to continue the understanding of the Hebrew words used by Mesoamerican theorists to defend their model)

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