Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sorenson’s Fallacy of Basing Nephite Directions – Part II

As stated in the last post, Writers and Theorists with a predetermined answer in mind have a tendency to give only the information that supports their point of view when citing other work, or even the scriptural record. This is especially true of John L. Sorenson as he tries so hard to convince us that the Nephites had their own directional system.  
Hebrew child learning directions by facing “east”
    Sorenson’s theory of Mesoamerica being the Land of Promise, as covered in the previous post, is based entirely on his belief that the Nephites did not use our compass directions, but had their own compass orientation, what has become known as “Nephite North.” To better understand his meaning, Sorenson writes (p38): 
    “The Israelites of Palestine, in their most common mental framework, derived directions as though standing with backs to the sea, facing the desert. Yam (“sea”) then meant “west,” for the Mediterranean lay in that direction. Then yamin {“right hand”) meant “south,” while semol (“left hand”) denoted “north.”
    However, as has been pointed out, Sorenson’s interpretation is both erroneous (the way he implies it) and very simplistic.
American child learning directions by facing “north”
    It is quite like my learning my cardinal directions when a child in school as mentioned in the previous post—I stood facing north, therefore, east was to my right and west was to my left and south was behind me. As I recall, I did this for a little time before needing only to think of facing north and placing the other cardinal points. After that, the idea of the four cardinal points was automatic, I didn't have to think of hands, facing, or behind me.
    The way one learns can be traced to root words or simplistic understanding, but it is not the way one thinks when they learn beyond the simplistic. All of this, including the previous post and the following is meant to show how fallacious Sorenson's idea is and that the ancient Jews, like us, use the same compass—as did the Nephites.
    In fact, so oriented to the East is Israel, that when they marched to war or set out to march for any reason, it was always the tribes who camped in the east that led the way, followed by the southern tribes, then the western, then the northern. This represented to them how God, depicted as being present in the east, should lead the way; man, centered in the south (away from God) was to follow. This “south” idea is seen in the Jewish Targum (a spoken paraphrase delivered by a Rabbi) of Joshua 15:19 says "The earth is the south,” again referring to man being away from God.
    From Fausset’s Bible Dictionary: “qedem, literally, "before"; for in describing the points of the compass the person faced the East, or sunrise—where God dwelt—which was thus before or in front of him; the South was on his right, and so is called in Hebrew "the right hand"; the North was on his left, and so is called in Hebrew Tzafon, meaning “north” or "the left hand” (Tzafona means “toward the North.”)
    In fact, according to Fausset, the word “West” (behind) was of such little importance to the Hebrews (nothing that way but Sea, and they were not seamen or mariners), that their word Mizrach separated the east from the west (or the vertical [our horizontal] direction) and was used mainly to indicate the main or important direction.
    The word “west” itself came from two Hebrew words: 1) yawm, meaning “to roar,” referring, of course, to the sounds of the Great Sea (Mediterranean Sea); and 2) ma’arav, from the root arav, meaning “setting of the sun.” As a point of interest (perhaps to some), the meaning of the root `rb (`rv) as "setting (down),” which, in modern Hebrew has been lost, but ma`arav is “where the sun goes” “at the” `erev, “evening.”
Left: ma’arav meaning the “setting of the sun” in Hebrew; Right: mizrach Hebrew for “rising of the sun”
    However, with an understanding of linguistics and comparable Arabic (second language) knowledge, you can trace the Hebrew ma`arav back to (ghrb) `rv, the "going away, or setting of the sun." More general, ‘rb means “west” or “evening,” which is taken as “setting down,” but more accurately as “the sun is going west” or “the sun is going to its evening destination,” meaning metaphorically “the sun is setting down.”
    Now, in a more correct picturesque (and religious) understanding of Hebrew, the word for west literally means “shading” or “shadows.” That is, west was both the end of their land and the end of their day. Stated differently, the west was the end of the world. The Lord said, “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else." (Isaiah 45:5-6, emphasis mine). The Psalmist assured Israel, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:11-12, emphasis mine).
    While qedem can be said to mean “behind,” “back,” “sea,” or “seaward,” the better understanding of the word and its root shows a different understanding of the Hebrew direction.
Left: The Greeks were the West; the Saracens (Muslims) were the East
    In addition, directions often were applied to words in the Middle East to describe people, as well as places. As an example, the Assyrians called people to their west “westerners” (from grb), while the Greek use of the term Saracen (those to the east) meant in Arabic “Easterners.”
    Nomad, people of the desert, etc., were originally called Arabs or Arabic before the term became accepted as the name of a country and people. The Hebrew word arav, which originally meant “desert” has become to mean Arab or Arabian.
    Thus, we can see that Sorenson’s simplistic understanding of the word origins does not at all give credence to his using his “back to the sea” to justify the altering of cardinal compass points, or give the Nephites a different compass than ours. In fact, the strong relationship that the Jews had with the directions and their religious significance of understanding that "east" was where the sun rose, shows that the Jews always oriented themselves to the east and understood its direction very well. In fact, the compass points Nephi give us were: “south-southeast” (1 Nephi 16:13), and “nearly eastward” (1 Nephi 17:1), both directions involving the east, and both used correctly to our compass.
    But Sorenson has an ulterior motive in mind in trying to cloud the issue of Nephite understanding of their directional system. He writes (p39): “Suppose, for a moment, that you were with Lehi’s party as it arrived on the Pacific coast of Central America By western civilization’s general present-day terminology, the shore would be oriented approximately northwest-southeast. When you said yamah, intending “westward,” the term would mean literally “seaward,” although the water would actually be behind your back” to our southwest.
    However, here is where Sorenson errs. The Jew’s mindset was not toward the “west” or toward “the sea,” but toward the “east” where God dwelt, with the word qedem meaning “where the sun rises.” And in Mesoamerica, like just about everywhere, especially those latitudes between 45º north and 45º south, which includes Jerusalem, Mesoamerica, Andean Peru, Coquimbo, Chile, the Great Lakes, the Heartland and Baja California—all the areas claimed to be the Land of Promise—the sun rises in the east and everyone within those latitudes knows it! For those who have spent much time in all those latitudes, it is easy to see that Sorenson’s attempt to cloud the issue with Nephite misunderstanding of “east” is totally fallacious and without a shred of value in this discussion.
The sun rises much the same in the latitudes that have been submitted as the Land of Promise by various Theorists
    How sad it is that such a misunderstanding and misstatement of ancient Hebrew word origins and their root derivations have caused so much misleading and fallacious information to be printed and accepted by so many people who will never read the above and understand the error of their theories and Land of Promise models. It is no wonder there are so many critics of the Book of Mormon when they continually have such deceptive material before them to criticize.
    It is now and always has been the purpose of this blog and the (now nearly 1500) posts to try and keep before us the actual words and descriptions of Mormon who walked the Land of Promise from one end to the other and probably knew it better than any other mortal, including its directions and distances, so that the reader of the scriptural record could feel confident in what they are reading is the correct and unabridged writings of the ancient prophets.
    Mormon knew what direction north was, as we do, and used it correctly. Joseph Smith translated it correctly, and the Spirit verified its correctness so that we could understand, in our language, the meaning of what is written in the Boo of Mormon. After all, as Nephite said, “For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men. For the Lord God giveth light unto the understanding; for he speaketh unto men according to their language, unto their understanding” (2 Nephi 31:3).
    It seems time that Mesoamericanists realize the error of their model, that it does not meet the directions and understanding Mormon gave us, that there is nothing confusing about Alma 22:32, and that they can no longer claim a Land of Promise that is 90º off kilter with Mormon’s descriptions.

No comments:

Post a Comment