Monday, August 20, 2012

More Covino Comments Answered-Part XVI- The Narrow Passage

The scriptural record describes a narrow passage: “they did not head them until they had come to the borders of the land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward, yea, by the sea, on the west and on the east” (Alma 50:34), and “Moroni also…sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side: (Alma 52:8-9); and “And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:29); and “I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward” (Mormon 3:5).

A Narrow Pass, by definition, is narrow, as are these various passes depicted above

From this, we know four things:
1. The pass was narrow
2. The pass ran north and south
3. There was a sea on the west and on the east
4. The pass ran from Bountiful in the Land Southward, to Desolation in the Land Northward

We can also surmise that the pass was narrow enough to afford a strategic military position to guard against an army moving from one land into the other. Lastly, we can understand that the Nephites considered this pass as a last resort in keeping the Lamanites to the south and not allowing them into the Land Northward.
However, Peter Covino sees this quite differently. In his True Book of Mormon Geography website, claims that “the reason it was called the Narrow Passage was because of an inland body of water called the Sea that Divides the Land.

It is interesting that Covino creates an inland sea by this narrow pass. First of all, there is no mention of an inland sea anywhere in the Land of Promise, nor is there any indication of such by hint, suggestion, intimation or reference.

The fact is, one can show the narrow neck and the sea that divides the land without creating another, unknown and unmentioned, body of water, such as an inland sea.

Since the Nephites were on an island, there would have been an East Sea and a West Sea to either side, however, where the Bay of Guayaquil cut far into the land, leaving about 30 miles of land between the Bay and the East Sea, the water could well have been referred to by Mormon as the Sea that Divides the Land, for surely that is what the Bay of Guayaquil did

The problem in interpreting scripture is often in a person already being predisposed to think a certain way. This, then, causes a person to think a scripture is supportive of his idea when it is not. When Covino thinks inland sea, he sees no problem with the sentence: ”they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20). This is the only place in the scriptural record that mentions the sea dividing the land.

The question then is, was the word sea mentioned prior to the introduction of the word “sea” in Ether 10:20. And the answer is yes—12 times!

So, when do we use the definite article “the” and when do we use the indefinite article “a”? An article, by the way, is like an adjective, which modify nouns. The word “sea” in this case is a noun, and the word “the,” a definite article, is used in the scriptural record—thus, “the sea divides the land.” In this case, the definite article “the” signifies a specific, or aforementioned, sea, and the definite article “the” signifies a specific, or aforementioned, land. In each of these cases, the word “the” modifies the noun following (sea, land). To modify in this sense means “to limit or restrict the meaning of, especially in a grammatical construction.” Thus, the modifier “the” restricts the meaning of the following noun—sea—to mean the sea that was aforementioned, or previously introduced.

Said differently, “the sea that divides the land” is meant to convey that the word “sea” and the word “land” have been introduced earlier. Had the statement been “a sea that divides the land,” or “a sea that divides a land,” would be significantly different and would, in either case, introduce the “sea” for the first time. However, “a” was not used, but “the” was used. Thus, Ether/Moroni is discussing a sea that is already understood by the reader. And which sea is it? The sea that surrounded the land of Promise—that sea over which the Lord guided the Jaredite barges. Not only did that see make up the North, South, East and West seas, but also was the “sea that divides the land.”

This is the same type of understanding of English that allows us to use the (ellipses) in better understanding the scriptural record. As an example, an ellipses is the omission of a grammatically required word or phrase that can be inferred. From the ancient Greek, elleipsis, meaning omission, it is used to omit from an utterance (by ellipsis) a word or phrase necessary for a complete syntactical construction but not necessary for understanding.

As an example, in Alma 22:27, it is written “Land of Nephi bordered on the sea east and the sea west.” Thus, we know this land stretched from sea to sea. Yet, in other statements of this same concept, one or both completed words are omitted:

Alma 22:27:  “borders of Manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east [sea] towards the west [sea]—and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided”

Alma 22:32-33, “the Nephites had inhabited the land Bountiful, even from the east [sea] unto the west sea”

Alma 50:8:  “And the land of Nephi did run in a straight course from the east sea to the west [sea]”

Alma 50:34: “they did not head them until they had come to the boarders of the Land Desolation; and there they did head them, by the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward yea, by the sea, on the west and [the sea] on the east.”

Helaman 4:7: “And there they did fortify against the Lamanites, from the west sea, even unto the east [sea]”

It is always helpful to understand what is written before trying to determine its significance to a believed location or model.

(See the next post, "More Covino Comments Answered-Part XVII- Many Waters, Fevers and Liahona,” for more of Covino’s erroneous thinking)

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