Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part IV

Continuing from the last post regarding the silly and disingenuous descriptions and ideas Mesoamericanists use to promote their model of the Land of Promise, and specifically the so-called problems translating the the Egypto-Nephite directions argued by William Hamblin and championed by John L. Sorenson.
First of all, Hamblin and Sorenson claim that the Nephite language, when combined with the reformed Egyptian would render our known directions differently, as has been shown in earlier posts in this series. However, the Book of Mormon makes it quite clear that there is no trouble in interpreting these directions when translated into English. The Brass Plates, which were also written in Egyptian (Mosiah 1:4), translate directions correctly into English.
King Benjamin was one of the great examples of benevolent leadership in the Book of Mormon. The son of a king, he was the father of a king and grandfather of prophets
Speaking of the Brass Plates, king Benjamin, in talking to his three sons, Mosiah, Helorum and Helaman, said, “My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God. For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time” (Mosiah 1:3-4 – emphasis mine).
Now, since the Brass Plates were written in Egyptian, then when the words of Isaiah were copied into the Book of Mormon, and later both abridged by Mormon and translated by Joseph Smith, the directions came through correctly. As an example, when it says: “Therefore, O Lord, thou hast forsaken thy people, the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east…” (2 Nephi 12:6, Isaiah 2:6 - emphasis mine). And also, “But they shall fly upon the shoulders of the Philistines towards the west; they shall spoil them of the east …” (2 Nephi 21:14, Isaiah 11:14 - emphasis mine). In both cases, the terms east and west are used correctly and translated correctly. This ought to show that the so-called problem with Egypto-Nephite direction translations is not an accurate argument, and Hamblin and Sorenson’s claim is both ill-founded and fallacious.
This disingenuous approach to trying to alter or change the Nephite directional system is without basis and is unsupportable with any of the arguments used by Mesoamericanists. While the original Hebrew word translated “the east” in the above Isaiah passages, and literally means “front”—as in facing the sunrise—which is shown in Ezekiel 8:16 and 11:1; however, had there been any kind of problem in translating these so-called Egypto-Nephite words, or representing Hebrew directions with Egyptian styled characters, the Nephites could have simply “reformed” their characters so that they represented exactly what they wanted to convey. After all, they did alter both the reformed Egyptian and the Hebrew over the 1000 years of their history, as Moroni makes clear (Mormon 9:32-33). Moreover, had there been some difficulty in communicating the meaning of a Nephite expression or symbol into English, the translation could have simply inserted the familiar English equivalent, such as the Red Sea for the actual Semitic term like was done in 2 Nephi 19:1 (compare Isaiah 9:1).
The problem is compounded when we consider the simple fact that Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists know that their model is not aligned with the Book of Mormon descriptive directions of the Land of Promise as Mormon clearly states them. Obviously, the only way they can deal with that is to try and confuse the issue of directions with nefarious examples of how the Jews anciently developed words to mean east, west, etc., and try to apply that centuries later to the Nephites whose ancestors were never in the Old Country except for Nephi, Sam and Zoram. It is impossible to try and sell the idea that the Nephites were swayed by the development of a few directional words many centuries before Lehi left Jerusalem. Nor, as has been shown above, can they try to confuse the issue with Egyptian thinking that, with the exception of Nephi and Sam, would never have known anything about, and likely did not know the original meanings of the Egyptian symbols and words.
As an example, the Mesoamericanists would have us believe that because the Hebrew word qedem, meaning “east,” also means “front” or “facing,” that the Jews were confused which way was east in some other land, because their word ahor, which means “back,” was also used for “west”—thus Sorenson claims that the Jews had to stand with their back to the sea in order to know which way was east. While this would obviously have worked in Jerusalem—with one’s back to the Mediterranean Sea, one would be facing east—however, this would not have worked along the Red Sea, nor would it have worked in the area of Bountiful along the shore of the Irreantum Sea. Consequently, it is more likely that the Jews used mizrah, which means “sunrise” or “place of sunrise” (Joshua 11:3), and maarav, which means “from evening” or “place of sunset” (Isaiah 45:6; 59:19). These last two words were far more likely to be used by the Jews of Lehi’s time than qedem and ahor.
Another point is that the English word “east” originally came from the Greek eos, and meant “dawn.” So the question arises, how many people in the English-speaking world knows that “east” means “dawn”? And how many people in the Hebrew-speaking world think you have to have your back to the sea to know the direction of east? After all, common sense tells us that there comes a time in all languages where the original reason for naming something loses its importance and the word itself continues in use without anyone knowing about, or thinking about, the origin of that word.
In the Book of Mormon, when Gideon is telling king Limhi about an escape route, he says: Behold the back pass, through the back wall, on the back side of the city” (Mosiah 22:6), he did not use the word “west,” though the word used could mean either “back” or “west,” and we cannot interpret these words to mean they were on the “west” side of the city, because we simply do not know the direction in which they lay. On the other hand, Moses wrote “And the breadth of the court on the east (qedemah, which means before) side eastward (misrahah, which means toward sunrise) shall be fifty cubits” (Exodus 27:13). It should also be noted that in Hebrew usage, the frame of reference for which before is interpreted as east is standing before the rising sun. This Promised Land reference frame results in the right hand pointing south, the left hand pointing north, and if there is a sea nearby, opposite the rising sun, with a coastline running north and south, then yamah (seaward), is west. On the other hand, if there is no sea in that alignment and position, then ahor (behind), which is the same as maarav (place of sunset) appropriately names west.
Yet Mesoamericanists want us to think that the Nephites, hundreds of years after the word qedem came into their language as a word for “east,” still knew that the word meant something else, etc. Such thinking at best is confusing and immaterial, at worst is downright disingenuous regarding directions in the scriptural record.
(See the next post, “The Silliness Behind Mesoamerican Thinking – Part V,” for the final discussion on the argument that the so-called Egypto-Nephite that Mesoamerianists claim is a difficulty is really not a problem and does not allow for changing the directions in the Land of Promise)

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