Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part II

Continuing with John R’s January 2014 rebuttal of our March 1, 2011 article series on Mesoamerica, which did not come to our attention until now, we ended the last post with a map showing how far off Mormon’s compass headings the Mesoamerican land of promise is. 
Though Lehi might have known about the first leg of his journey before hand, it would be highly unlikely he knew about the second leg (south-southeast), and certainly not the third leg (nearly eastward). Yet, Nephi describes these directions perfectly
    Although Nephi, journeying in a land of which he had never before been, along the Red Sea and then across the Rub’ al Khali desert, he used the exact compass directions of his heading, including not just the four cardinal direction (north, east, south, west), and not just the eight ordinal directions, (southeast) but also an intermediate (sixteen) point in south-southeast. He first mentioned a “south-southeast” course along the Red Sea (1 Nephi 16:13), and later along a “nearly eastward” direction (1 Nephi 17:1), both directions being exact to our map today!
    Of course, directions have never been a problem for the Mesoamericanist who simply claims that Mormon and those before him had no idea of our compass directions; however, Nephi knew his compass directions and applied them accurately, perhaps using the Liahona, but when he arrived in the Land of Promise, he also had the Liahona with him. And, as the ancients well know, whenever arriving at an unknown area, the first thing you want to know are the directions of the sun and winds for planting, which is why they built so many observatories.
Top Left: Ancient observatory at Machu Picchu, Peru; Top Right: Chankillo, Peru; Bottom Left: Mayan Observatory at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico; Bottom Right: Goseck Circle sun observatory in Germany
    Directions, climate, solstices, equinoxes, seasons, etc., were all incredibly important to ancient agrarian cultures—it meant life or death to them. To think that any successful pre-historic society could have existed without such knowledge is simply foolhardy. In fact, such matters, especially directions have been known and understood for thousands of years, the one constant factor involved in all world geography. Take, as an example:
• The first world map that we have is the Babylonian Imago Mundi, 600 B.C., showing Babylon and the Euphrates, Assyria, Uratu, the Ocean, and several islands, one of which is described as “it lay in the northwest and after sunset in summer was practically in semi-obscurity”; the seventh island “lay in the east and is where the morning dawns.” In all cases, in this 600 B.C. Babylonian map, the cardinal directions were accurate, and accurately stated!
• Anaximander, who died in 546 B.C., created one of the first maps of the world which was circular, with the Aegean Sea and the lands surrounding it and the ocean all in the proper cardinal directions.
• Hecateaus of Miletus, who died about 476 B.C., created a two-volume set with maps entitled Ges Periodos ("Travels round the Earth" or "World Survey'), in two books each organized in the manner of a point-to-point coastal survey. One on Europe of the Mediterranean, described each region in turn, reaching as far north as Scythia. The other on Asia, reaching to the east. In all cases the correct compass points were given accurately.
• Eratoshenes, drew a more complete map in 220 B.C., incorporating information from the campaigns of Alexander the Great and his successes. Asia was widened, reflecting the new understanding of the actual size of the continent. Eratosthenes was also the first geographer to incorporate parallels and meridians within his cartographic depictions, attesting to his understanding of the spherical nature of the earth—all compass points were correctly stated and drawn.
Map of Eratoshenes, 220 B.C.
    In addition, there was Posidonius, Stabo, Pomponius Mela, Marinus of Tyre, Ptolemy, and others who all drew maps of part or all of the world, with every place in a proper north-south orientation, as well as east to west, though sizes and shapes were not always accurate. But the directions were always correct.
    John R: “Moroni said that his record was a history of the people living on “this” continent, meaning the North American continent.”
    Response: Again, we have a critic that does not understand the nature of his own world. In the days of Joseph Smith and clear up until into the 20th century, both North and South America were referred to as one, single continent—the American Continent.
    In the book Primary Geography (Ivison, Blakeman, Taylor & Co., New York, 1881) by William Swinton, the author of Elementary Geography, Complete Geography, Word-Book Series, Outlines of History, etc., in the Section on “Continents (Part I: Definitions),” under Lesson VI (page 4), only two continents are listed: “The Western Continent, in the Western Hemisphere, and the Eastern Continent almost wholly in the Eastern Hemisphere.” In addition, it is stated that “The Western Continent is divided into two grand divisions, called North America and South America.” It was also stated that “The Eastern Continent contains three grand divisions, called Europe, Asia and Africa.” This book, advertised as “The Elementary Geography was designed to embody the most advanced views on geographical teaching,” both North and South America were viewed as a single continent called “America,” which was the common view in the United States until World War II, and even today called such in some Asian Six-continent models (Lewis, Martin W., Kären E. Wigen. The Myth of Continents: a Critique of Metageography. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).
A quote from 1873: “Joe Matkin wrote of the Rocks, “They are 850 miles from the African, and 650 miles from the American continent, and are only 90 miles from the equator.” In fact, in the five continent listing, they are: Africa, America, Asia, Australia and Europe, for instance symbolized in the five rings of the Olympic Games.; and in the six continent listing, they are: in Europe, many students are taught about six continents, where North and South America is combined to form a single America. These six continents are Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Australia/Oceania, and Europe. In fact, all South American countries recognize just five continents: Asia, Africa, America, Europe, and Australia) 
    In addition, Lewis and Wigen stated, “While it might seem surprising to find North and South America still joined into a single continent in a book published in the United States in 1937, such a notion remained fairly common until World War II. By the 1950s, however, virtually all American geographers had come to insist that the visually distinct landmasses of North and South America deserved separate designations."
    Thus Moroni’s comment and Joseph Smith’s statement of such is clearly accurate that “continent” meant both North and South America in the 1820s. 
    John R: “And Joseph Smith specifically stated during the latter part of his life that Mesoamerica was where the Book of Mormon events took place.” 
    Response: No, he did not. As we have written in previous posts in some detail, Joseph was given a book “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan,” by John L. Stephens, who was the first to visit, write about, and make drawings of the ruins in Central America that reached the United States. In 1839-1840, Stephens and a companion, Frederick Catherwood, “went on to Palenque, Uxmal, and according to Stephens, visited a total of 44 sites. Stephens and Catherwood reached Palenque in April 1840 and left in early June. They documented the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Foliated Cross. Of even greater importance, their book provided descriptions of several ancient Maya sites, along with illustrations by Catherwood. These were greatly superior in both amount and accuracy of depiction to the small amount of information on ancient Mesoamerica previously published.” (Joseph Smith to N. C. Saxton, 4 January 1833, American Revivalist, 2 February 1833).
When Joseph read the book and saw the pictures, he naturally thought of the Nephites in the Americas, and since the Nephites spread from Andean Peru to Central America, and finally to North America, all his statements about the Nephites occupying those lands would be correct. Joseph, of course, was not limiting the Nephite activity to just the time period of the Book of Mormon, and recognized that the Lamanite descendants were very much in evidence throughout the Western Hemisphere, especially in the area he knew best, the Eastern U.S. 
(See the next post, “A Look at a Mesoamericanist Rebuttal – Part III,” for more on John R’s rebuttal of our six-part post on Narrow Neck of Land and the Fallacy of Mesoamerica’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec.)

No comments:

Post a Comment