Friday, September 27, 2013

The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part IX—Mesoamericanists’ Achilles Heel

Continuing from the last posts showing the fallacy of the Mesoamerican Theorists’ view of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in being the narrow neck of land—it becomes clear that this isthmus is the real Achilles heel of every Mesoamerican model. In pursuing this, the following is from John E. Clark, himself a Mesoamericanist and follower of John L. Sorenson’s model, in which he defends the Mesoamerican Theory.
Clark’s arguments continue:
6. “A place where "the sea divides the land." Warr's interpretation of Lake Nicaragua as "dividing the land" is really innovative but, I think, implausible. At best, this criterion is extremely ambiguous and unhelpful. Most proposals I have seen argue that it is a place in the narrow neck where the water comes in, such as a river mouth or a bay, rather than being an inland division. This criterion does not favor either proposal.”
Response: No, it doesn’t fit Mesoamerica or Costa Rica, but it does fit the Andean area perfectly, with the Bay of Guayaquil, now about 25 miles from the water to the impassable Andes mountains, with a narrow passage through it. Anciently, prior to Christ’s crucifixion, the East Sea was about 25 miles from the eastern edge of the bay where the mountains now rise, to a “height which is great” according to Samuel the Lamanite.
7. ”The distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite"…Warr muddies the water extensively in his comments on his proposal by putting restrictions in the text that simply are not there. The "Nephite" mentioned in the Book of Mormon becomes "an average person" or "an average Nephite" in Warr's exposition. This is probably wrong. B. Keith Christensen argues that the context and phrasing suggest something significantly different. He proposes a distance upwards of a hundred miles, with the "day's journey" occurring under military conditions and with a special courier, being at least eighteen hours of travel per day, and probably on a horse.”
Response: No, the text does not say an average Nephite, but it certainly doesn’t say a warrior or a horse, either! To understand this statement, we have to realize Mormon’s purpose in his description. Why would Mormon write: “And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.”  Now, Christensen can argue about a military matter, but when reading the entire section (Alma 22:27 to 22:34) we find that Mormon starts out describing the Land the Lamanite king controlled, and to which he sent out a proclamation about the Nephite missionaries Aaron and his brethren. Mormon then goes on to describe how this land controlled by the Lamanite king (Land of Nephi) was situated in relation to the rest of the Land of Promise. The only military comment is in regard to the fact that the Nephite lands controlled the Lamanite advancement northward (Alma 22:34). The entire section is about land orientation and where the various lands were located in relationship to one another. Thus there was no military purpose involved. Nor is there any mention of a horse and, in fact, the only mention of horses in the entire scriptural record is in conjunction with chariots, and that would require some type of hard, mostly level surface running from the east to the west, which again is not suggested by Mormon’s comments. In fact, he describes the narrow neck or small neck as having a narrow passage running south to north (Alma 50:34).
Coming back to Mormon’s purpose, he tells us that the Land Southward (Land of Nephi and Land of Zarahemla) “were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32). In explanation of this small neck, Mormon then states that it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea. Here we have to step back and ask ourselves, who was Mormon writing to—and the answer is his future readers as the Book of Mormon frontpiece says, “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel, and also the Jew and Gentile.” Obviously, Mormon knew the book would not be read until a future time. As a result, in trying to show his future reader how wide this “small neck” was that separated the two lands, he describes the distance “a Nephite” could cover in a day and a half.
Why would he use that term—a Nephite, and a day and a half? Obviously, because at a future time, any other measurement might not be understood in another language, by a different people, especially when they would not know where this land was located. So he chose a typical, average person that could be compared by some future people with their average person—no doubt Mormon considered that people would change less over time than words and distances. Thus, an average man can walk a certain distance, and that has not changed much over all recorded history. What has changed is the ability to travel faster, such as by car, motorboat, airplane, etc. He would not have used a “courier,” a “soldier,” or a “special runner,” since none of those could be defined in the future (despite Sorenson’s attempt to do so). Nor would he have used a “horse,” since 1) he could not know if a horse would be the mode of transportation in some future time, and 2) if someone in the future would know how fast and how far a horse can travel. On the latter point, obviously B. Keith Christensen does not, because if you rode a horse 100 miles in a day and a half, you would kill it long before you got to your destination. Generally, over long distances, you walk a horse most of the way, trot for a time, then walk it more, etc.
Unlike in the movies where cowboys are always riding hard, horses were ridden at a walk over long distances
Since the normal speed for a horse walking is 3 miles per hour, and trotting is 7 miles per pour, with walking about 75% to 25% trotting, means you would cover 16 miles in four hours, or 4 miles per hour, but that could not be maintained by a horse. And after a day’s travel, you would need to rest the animal and let it crop grass for some time. Covering 100 miles in 18+9 hours, would be a clip of 3.7 miles per hour. Ask any horseman and he would tell you that 20-30 miles a day would be standard, and 40-50 miles a day might be possible; however, that would be a maximum of 75 miles at the fastest pace you could go in a day and a half, and horses simply could not go that far unless it was bred for that purpose over several generations, and even then it is questionable (it also might be understood a horse with a rider will go as far as the rider demands, even until it kills him).
So the question begs itself, why would Mormon choose to use a horse in trying to tell his future reader the distance of an area? Why would he use anything but an understandable example that would be common to both eras? He would not, and no one should think otherwise or the entire concept makes no sense at all.
8. “In terms of semantic domains, the text conveys a sense of equivalence between the two seas, indicating that they are the same kinds of bodied water and of similar magnitude. Sorenson's model preserves semantic similarity, but Warr's does not. He would have one sea be the Pacific Ocean and another a large lake. Many Book of Mormon "geographers" entertain the notion that large lakes could have been called "seas," but these designations ignore the fact that the seas were also crossed to get to the new "promised land."
Response: Finally, something that Clark and I can agree on. These seas were not lakes. In that vain, then, it should be acknowledged that the Jaredite Waters of Ripliancum was most likely the Sea North mentioned in Helaman.
(See the next post, “The Narrow Neck of Land One More Time – Part X—Mesoaermicanists’ Achilles Heel,” for more on this difficult area for the Mesoamerican Theorist model to reconcile with the scripture)

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