Friday, June 7, 2013

Developing an Internal Model for Better Understanding – Part II

Continuing with the article one of our readers sent in about several points regarding someone else’s view of developing an internal model, and asked us what we thought of it. The first five points were answered in the previous post, the following points are answered here:
6. “If there is insufficient information in the Book of Mormon to put a place in relation to other places, then the location is identified as having insufficient information to establish a location.  They are placed on the map according to Occam’s Razor – to minimize the number of assumptions about their placement and also to prevent their locations from interfering with the locations of known places.”
Response: This is foolish. Of all the place names in the scriptural record, maybe two or three can be understood sufficiently enough to place on a map. As an example, while we know that several Nephite cities were along the East Sea coast, from Moroni in the south to Mulek in the north of the Land Southward, there is no way of knowing how far form the coast they were, how far apart they were, if there were other, unnamed lands and cities between them, etc., etc., etc. What happened to being exact? The trouble with placing something on a map is that it becomes institutionalized after that point and is impossible to relocate later based on clearer information or understanding.
7. “The lands should be capable of meeting requirements of polities (areas of political control, organization, and identity).  Human history is the basis for this hypothesis. Human history concerning geography is simply a matter of what area a group of people controlled.  A group of people typically does not control the same area that is controlled by another group.  Disputes over territories are disputes over who will control the area.  This means that lands in the Book of Mormon would not overlap unless an area was contested.  This hypothesis does not preclude contested areas of overlaps between lands.  The corollary to this hypothesis is if there was a conflict over an area between two lands, then the two lands were next to each other in order for both lands to claim the disputed area.”
In comparatively flat country, borders may well meet, but in topography of mountains, canyons, valleys, etc., divisions are not that clear cut. In these examples, the actual mountain may not be part of a government’s land designation, but just the valley between
Response: The problem with this thinking, though it sounds good on the surface, is that lands do not always join one another in ancient times, especially in hilly, mountainous or desert areas. Even today there are numerous borders which are relatively unknown, and only vaguely understood. Take the borders of Yemen and Oman, and Oman and Saudia Arabia. These borders run through an uninhabited sand desert with few, if any landmarks. Neither of these governments claim an exact location, nor are they concerned about it. Unless there was a river, canyon, mountain range, etc., a border was generally flexible until surveying and later GPS came into being. And some disputes over land anciently was not to see who controlled the land in question, but from a legitimate misunderstanding or misunderstanding over where that boundary lay. Just because Morianton and his people were aggressively trying to control a portion of Lehi’s land (Alma 50:25) does not mean that all disagreements were of such a nature. Wanting an area of land is not necessarily based on a desire to control it, as much as a commitment to a population, the resources involved, water rights, or age-old claims. Also, it is entirely possible that two adjoining governments could claim the same strip along a border without even knowing it until some contention of people moving in later, etc., occurred. Nor did lands always run along a common border. Take, for instance, the narrow strip of wilderness between the Land of Nephi and the Land of Zarahemla (Alma 22:27). There is always danger in making claims that are not that commonly accepted or practiced. Borders have been quite flexible over time until the last few centuries.
8. “The sizes and spacing of the polities need to be consistent with the size references provided within the Book of Mormon.”
This is another good-sounding comment, however, it is entirely impractical since distances are never mentioned, though in a few places time is discussed. The only exception to this is that in the day and a half journey for a Nephite across the narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32). As an example, we neither know the distance north-to-south of the Land of Zarahemla, or from east-to-west. And the same can be said of every land mentioned in the scriptural record. There is no way to know how large a polity controlled, claimed, or laid out. When it comes to distances, there are a few areas where common sense might prevail, such as how far a Nephite could walk in a day and a half, but there are not many of these. When Nephi fled from his brothers, he traveled for “many days” but nothing further is suggested in distance or time. The same is true when Mosiah I fled the city of Nephi. And we are never even given a hint as to the distance from Zarahemla to Bountiful, etc.
The narrow neck of land in the Bay of Guayaquil in Ecuador, South America, before the Andes Mountains arose, which did so where the East Sea is shown, retaining the narrow passage, with the narrow strip approximately 26 miles across
9. “Since Lehi left Jerusalem around 600 BCE, the books in the Bible and other Hebrew texts that dated from before 600 BCE could be used as a reference to help understand grammar, idioms, and colloquialisms in the Book of Mormon only if the Book of Mormon was unclear about the specific meaning of the phrase.”
Response: Only four people left Jerusalem around this time that could have been involved in writing of the record: Lehi, Sam, Nephi, and Zoram. Now it is unlikely we have any record involving Zoram and Sam, therefore, we are limited to only Lehi and Nephi. Whatever grammar, idioms and colloquialisms involved would, therefore, be extremely limited. And once we leave Nephi’s writings, no one, especially not Mormon, who was born around 900 years later and who would not have known any of these points of the language from direct contact with Hebrew speaking people of Jerusalem, would be using Hebrew as it had been altered over the 900 years before his birth (Mormon 9:33), who was the person who abridged, and used his own writing in many instances. In fact, the Nephites carried no records of Hebrew with them--only the Brass Plates which were written in Egyptian. Academicians obviously place far too much emphasis on original Hebrew under these circumstances.
10. “These books of that Hebrew period in the Bible, written before 600 BCE, are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obidiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Zephiniah, Habakkuk, and Zephiniah.”
Response: In all reality, the only one among the Book of Mormon peoples who would have known and understood the writings of such people would be Lehi, who, himself, was also a prophet and called the Jews to repentance in Jerusalem. How much Zoram knew abut the ancient writings is unknown. Nephi, of course, would have been taught by Lehi, and they all had the Brass Plates (left) obtained from Laban. But again, this would have been of minimal use, and none would have contained the meaning or origination of the Hebrew used, or anything in Hebrew with which to compare it.
11. “I certainly would not hold it against anyone to compare the Book of Mormon with contemporary books.  The premise for the Book of Mormon is that it is a book written by people of Hebrew descent.  Therefore, it should show similarities to other books written by Hebrews from the same area and time.”
Response: Actually, the only Hebrew used that would be contemporary with Lehi would be the writings of Jeremiah, and moving backward, a few other prophets, perhaps back to Isaiah, more than 100 years before they left Jerusalem. It is doubtful how that would have been much help unless there were people who studied the Egyptian on the Brass Plates with the intent of teaching the language as we see today.
(See the next post, “Developing an Internal Model – Part III,” for more on this article and our responses)

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