Monday, March 7, 2011

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

Mesoamerican and Great Lakes theorists make a point of claiming that the Hebrew word "mizrah" literally means “sunrise” or “place of sunrise” and is translated "east." However, this same logic when applied in the opposite, shows that the English word “east” literally means “sunrise” or “place of sunrise,” or “where the sun comes up”; and it is translated as “l'est” in French, as “osten” in German, as “est” in Italian, “itaan” in Finnish, “dong” in Chinese, “ekialdean” in Basque, “istocno” in Croatian, “soir” in Irish Gaelic, “austur” in Icelandic, “higashi” in Japanese, “anatoliká” in Greek, and in Hebrew as “mizrah.”

Along this same line, the Hebrew word “gedem” means before time, or in the beginning, or creation, or, as in describing Christ being born in Bethlehem, “whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Or, in the case of “mi yitt’neni I’yarnbe gedem” which means “Oh that I were as in the months of old” (Job 19:23). But as shown in an earlier post, of the 87 usages in scripture, the word “gedem” is translated as “east” 57 times, and “ancient” 29 times.

The word “yam” which literally means “sea” is often translated as the direction “west” as in “And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west (yam), and Ha-i on the east” (Genesis 12:8), and “And for the sides of the tabernacle westward thou shalt make six boards” (Exodus 26:22), and ”He took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Beth-el and A-i, on the west side of the city” (Joshua 8:12), and “from the west side westward, and form the east side, eastward” (Eziekel 45:7).

The point is, just because a Hebrew word has a literal meaning, it is often used for a different purpose, which is clear in the context, but often not as a single usage. As an example, the word “derek” literally means “way” or “road” but is often used to mean “toward” as in “toward the city” and “toward their land” (1 Kings 8:44, 48). Another word, “sela” means rib, side, but in use in describing the temple construction, the word became “planks” or “boards” (1 Kings 6:15). The Hebrew “ko(a)h,” which means “strength,” “might,” or “power,” has become, over time, to mean “wealth,” “goods,” and “substance,” as when Job confounded his friends (Job 6:22).

All any of this proves is that any game can be played, or point made, with words. Because a word has a meaning in any language does not mean that usage is exclusive to the way it is used. That is, because “mizrah” means east in Hebrew and at the same time its literal root is “place of sunrise” does not mean that it may not be used different, or for a different purpose.

The Hebrew word for “west” is "ma’arav" and can also mean “western.” Its root would obviously be from evening or place of sunset. But that is no different that the English word “west” which means “where the sun goes down,” or “place of sunset.” The word originates from the Latin “vesper: meaning “the evening.” This ma’arav also means from the place of mixing, meaning the mixing of light and darkness at sunset. Like the word east, west is identified with the direction of the sun.

Thus, when the Lehi Colony landed in the Land of Promise, they would have oriented themselves to the rising and setting of the sun, not as Sorenson claims, with the placement of the oceans or seas. This means that their description in the scriptures as northward, southward, etc., would have been correctly stated. East would be where the sun rose in the morning, and West would have been where the sun set in the evening. They would not have stood with their backs to the sea and said they were facing east, as Sorenson claims.

When words have specific meaning to a society, they do not change them except over time. Yamah may well have meant seaward in Palestine, and would have been synonymous with west or westward, but if the sea did not line up with the west orientation in a new land, then the word’s original meaning of westward would have fallen into disuse—not driven the change of directions as Sorenson claims.

Because of this and all the other reasons stated in the last several posts, the idea of the Isthmus of Tehuantepect as the Land of Promise is both fallacious and disingenuous.

(See the next post, “Narrow Neck of Land and the Fallacy of Mesoamerica’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec - Part VI,” to understand what part Hebrew words and their ancient meanings had in the interpretation of the Book of Mormon)

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