Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Additional Clues to the Land of Promise Location-Part II Third of Nephite Coins

In the last two posts we covered the fact that the Nephite monetary system as described in the 11th chapter of Alma, was, indeed, made up of gold and silver coins, and that contrary to a FARMS article on the subject, coins have been used for exchange over weights since late B.C. times.

In addition, there are other errors in the FARMS article such as: “The fact that there were no coins in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica fits quite nicely with the Book of Mormon, which mentions weights rather than coins as money."

This error in understanding Mormon’s writing comes from the two verses within his explanation of the value of the gold and silver coins. “A senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold, and either for a measure of barley, and also for a measure of every kind of grain” (Alma 11:7), and “A shiblon is half of a senum; therefore, a shiblon for half a measure of barley” (Alma 11:15).

First of all, Alma is explaining the role of the judges leading up to the occurrence of the judge Zeezrom trying to bribe Amulek before the people in the public square to deny the existence of God. Second, Alma describes how the judges were paid: “And the judge received for his wages according to his time -- a senine of gold for a day, or a senum of silver, which is equal to a senine of gold; and this is according to the law which was given” (Alma 11:3).

At this pint, Mormon inserts the value of the Nephite monetary system so the reader can appreciate the value of Zeezrom’s bribe. And in so doing, he also shows the value in the purchasing power of the coins by stating: “a senum of silver was equal to a senine of gold,” and either of these coins could be used to buy “either a measure of barley,” or “a measure of every kind of grain.” He also inserted the comment, “A shiblon is half of a senum; therefore a shiblon for half a measure of barely.” That is, a shiblon coin could purchase half a measure of barley” which is quite clear when we read the word “for” in this statement—“a shiblon FOR half a measure of barley”—which is like saying “three dollars for a loaf of bread,” which, of course, we would understand because we talk that way today.

Thus Mormon explains for our benefit that a “shiblum” is worth half the value of a “senine” or a “senum,” and therefore, has half their purchasing power. A senine or senum could purchase a full measure of barley, and a shiblum only half a measure.

One might want to consider if he were writing a record he knew would not be read for 1500 years, how would he explain things he knew would be very different in the future? What is the value of a dollar, a twenty, or a hundred? Somewhere in the explanation, one must equate the value of the money (coin) to the value of a product that would still be a common purchase 1500 years in the future. Mormon chose to equate the value for the purchase of grain—a commodity that would always be necessary for the sustenance of people. Thus, he chose barley as the grain, and added “every kind of grain,” which suggests that all grains had the same purchasing value to the Nephites.

According to biblical scholars, a “measure” at the time of Christ was equivalent to about a dry quart in our measurement today, or about 1.7 pounds. If this was the same weight the Nephites used, and there is no indication it was, since they did not use the same values as the Jews, but by way of example, if this were the case, the bribe Zeezrom offered Amulek was equivalent to about 72 pounds of grain.

So when Zeezrom said, “Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being” (Alma 11:22). The key word in this sentence for understanding is the word “here.” So Zeezrom is telling Amulek ”HERE are the coins, and I will give them to you if you deny God.” As mentioned in the last post, since Zeezrom was playing to the crowd, there would be little effect if the onties were not present—and, obviously, on his person.

In addition, the words "all these" in the statement: "..and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being" obviously suggests something more than one, which Zeezrom said were "six onties of silver." Certainly if he meant a measure of barley, he would have said, "..this will I give thee" but he said "all these" which is in keeping with the fact he held out six coins.

Thus, it seems most unlikely that Zeezrom had 72 pounds of barley or grain present to back up his bribe. Thus, it cannot be said that the Nephites trafficked in “weights rather than coins as money” as claimed by FARMS and other Mesoamerican Theorists.

No comments:

Post a Comment