Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Look at Welch’s Approach to City Placement, Directions & Distances – Part III

Continuing with John W. Welch’s comments in Reexploring the Book of Mormon, in which he discusses Nephite placement of cities, the directions in the Land of Promise, and the distance across the narrow neck of land, and continuing with Chapter 52: “Directions in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Nephite Language,” with “Alma 22:27 on the east and on the west” as a sub-heading, he states:    
    3. “The Nephites also knew the "language of the Egyptians" (1 Nephi 1:2; Mosiah 1:4; Mormon 9:32). The Egyptians oriented themselves by facing south, toward the source of the Nile. "One of the terms for 'south' [in Egyptian] is also a term for 'face'; the usual word for 'north' is probably related to a word which means the 'back of the head.'" The word for east is the same as for left, and west is the same word as right.”
Response: First of all, it was Nephi that said, “Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (1 Nephi 1:2). Second, he said this in conjunction with making his record, that is engraving on the plates. We do not know what the “language of the Egyptians” meant other than knowing and being able to read and write Reformed Egyptian. Perhaps it meant that Nephi knew and understood the normal Egyptian language, but even so, it does not suggest that Nephi knew all the nuances of the language, such as where words came from, their original meaning, and thus thought in terms of Egyptian. Nephi, after all, along with Lehi, Sam and Zoram (and their wives), all spoke Hebrew, and Hebrew was their main language, and was for all the Nephites throughout their entire 1000 year history in the Land of Promise (Mormon 9:33). On the other hand, it might have meant that Lehi taught Nephi the Reformed Egyptian, which might have been a sort of shorthand for record keeping and, as a result, Nephi, nor none of his descendants knew the actual Egyptian language, but only that short form of it. In addition, we do not know if Nephi taught what he knew to subsequent Nephites other than the ability to read and write the Reformed Egyptian.
We also find that the Nephites knew Reformed Egyptian after that 1000-year period, but that it had been “altered” by them, “according to our manner of speech” (Mormon 9:33). Thus, we might conclude that the Nephites, or at least those keeping the records, knew Reformed Egyptian, and that they changed the language according to their Hebrew language. Consequently, the belief that the nature of the Egyptian language was a driving language within the Nephites is inaccurate—Hebrew was the driving language, and its use caused an alteration of the Reformed Egyptian.
    4. Thus the Hebrew orientation is shifted 90 degrees from the Egyptian. The Hebrew word for west (rear) has the same basic meaning as Egyptian north (back of the head); Hebrew east (front) equals Egyptian south (face); Hebrew north (left) matches Egyptian east (left); with Hebrew south (right) being Egyptian west (right).” 
    Response: This concept of how a word originated is of little use and totally misleading. Words have changed in meaning and use since language was first known. Over time, few, other than lexicographers, know the original meaning of words. Almost all people know a word as how it is in use today. As an example, during the days of the pioneers, the word bail meant a support canvas of a covered wagon or a circular handle for a bucket, but today we use the word to mean “bail out on someone” or “to post bail” for someone, and originally meant “to take charge.” If someone called you facetious, are you aware that it originally meant “someone who was polished, one with urban manners”? Or, as a guy, if someone called you “a girl,” that it meant “a young person of either sex”? Or that if you had heartburn, it meant you were jealous or full of hatred”? And if you were an addict, you were “a debtor awarded as a slave to his creditor.”
When we use words, we rarely, if ever think of their original meaning, and more often than not, have no idea how the word came into being and what it originally meant, or even its exact meaning today. As an example, when we use the word belittle today, do we know that Thomas Jefferson coined that word and before his time it meant something that became small? When you use the word accent, do you know it originally meant “to sing”? Or that afford meant “to advance,” or that lavender meant “laundress,” Jumbo meant a “large and clumsy person,” impertinent meant “not belonging,” debacle meant “to break up ice on a river,” guess meant to “take aim with a weapon,” charisma meant you could “perform miracles,” awful meant “full of awe,” cheap meant a “tradesman,” climate meant a zone “between two lines of latitude,” matrix meant a woman’s “womb,” left meant “weak,” abscond meant “to go into  hiding,” manure meant “to hold or manage land or property,” ammunition meant “all military supplies,” a bellboy was “one who rang the ship’s bell,” grin meant “to scowl,” bugle was a “drinking horn,” and aerial originally meant something imaginary.
The point is, when a Jew, Nephite, or American uses the term north, they are not thinking of the back of their head, or their left hand, or anything else—they know they are talking about a direction and where that direction is—to the left when facing the Sun.
     5. “Thus when Nephi or his descendants wrote in "the language of the Egyptians," they would conceptualize the land westward in terms of the Hebrew word back. But in writing the Hebrew land backward in Egyptian characters, they would actually be writing the Egyptian word for land northward. So when the Nephites wrote the Egyptian word for north, did they have the Hebrew meaning west in mind, or the Egyptian meaning north?”
    Response: First of all, the word conceptualize means think in the “abstract, theorize, hypothesize or intellectualize.” Perhaps it should be pointed out that when one thinks of something they know quite well, like the cardinal directions as they relate to one another, they do not need to conceptualize a direction in regard to their body. If they know which way is north, they simply think of it as north; and if they know which way is east, they can point to west without conceptualizing it is their back. Such an idea as Mesoamericanists create about directions is absolutely ridiculous and without any logical basis. Second, children in the United States are typically taught to face north and then think in terms of east to the right, west to the left, and south behind. Does that mean that when they are adults they think in terms of back when thinking south? So if children in the Middle East are taught to face east, and have north to their left, south on their right and west behind them, does anyone think as an adult they would conceptualize their back when thinking of west? My house faces east, and it will always face east, so I can use that for a starting point if I must, but my back faces in whatever direction I happen to be standing at any one time and would be a terrible criteria for finding directions.
The black arrows depict a person standing with their back to the sea in four different locations to show the fallacy of Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists’ claim that the Jews (including Nephites) figured directions with their back to the sea. In these cases, four seas (Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea in Egypt, Red Sea in Arabia, and southern Arabian coast, all would show a person facing in a different direction (Sorenson’s East)
    In addition, why do we make the assumption that if Nephi knew the Egyptian language enough to understand it this well, why would he not have known that the Egyptians used a different orientation for north, east, west and south? Certainly Lehi, in his dealing with the Egyptians must have known this. So why should we assume such a juxtaposition, or comparison, would not have been made by Nephi as he taught his descendants how to use Reformed Egyptian?

(See the next post, “A Look at Welch’s Approach to City Placement, Direction & Distance – Part IV,” for more of this type of problem facing Mesoamericanists and how it is ignored in order to sustain and support their Mesoaemrican model)

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