Saturday, January 24, 2015

Into that Quarter Where Never Had Man Been – Part I

Continuing from the previous critique of our suggested Jaredite route southward to the Great Sea, we move along to an understanding of the Lord’s term: “that quarter where there never had man been” (Ether 2:5). 
    This comment in Ether is one often misunderstood and mis-interpreted by readers, especially Theorists who often want to link it to an eastern journey for the Jaredites after leaving the Valley of Nimrod. First of all, the full quote has to do with a comment made by the Lord to the brother of Jared after they had reached this valley, which was northward of their homeland (Ether 1:42).
And it came to pass that when they had come down into the valley of Nimrod the Lord came down and talked with the brother of Jared; and he was in a cloud, and the brother of Jared saw him not” (Ether 2:4). At this time, the “Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been. And it came to pass that the Lord did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whither they should travel.”
    There are two important issues here: 1) An understanding of the word “quarter” as used here, and 2) an understanding of the term “where there never had man been.” It is not proper, of course, to place any meaning you want on these two issues. Taken in context, each conveys a specific meaning, which will aid in understanding the overall intent.
    As an example, the meaning of “quarter” could refer to a specific area, not specifically one-fourth, but meaning “part.” Alma uses this meaning several times: “all the people in that quarter of the land…” (Alma 46:26); “that he would be faithful in maintaining that quarter of the land…and scourge the Lamanites in that quarter…” (Alma 52:10); “stating the affairs of the people in that quarter of the land” (Alma 56:1); “the armies of the Lamanites did flee out of all this quarter of the land” (Alma 5:30); and “began to scatter abroad upon the face of the earth, yea, on the north and on the south, on the east and on the west, building large cities and villages in all quarters of the land” (Mosiah 27:6). In all these cases, it is obvious a portion or area of the land is meant by “quarter.”
Ptolemy’s three parts of the world map in 130 A.D. The area to the left, beyond the Oceanus Occidental (Western Sea) was marked “Unknown to Ptolemy” 
    In the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language as the term “quarter” was known to Joseph Smith, it is described as “a particular region in a town, city or country; as all quarters of the city; in every quarter of the country or of the continent.” It is also defined as “to divide, to separate into parts. To divide into distinct regions or compartments.”
    On a small scale, when Sargon ruled Akkadia (Mesopotamia), which is claimed to be in 2334-2279 B.C. (shortly before the Jaredites), he boasted of having “subjugated the four quarters” of the world which was Assyria in the north, Sumer in the south, Elam in the east, and Martu in the west. In fact, many of the kings of the Greater Mesopotamia region proclaimed themselves to be the “King of the four Quarters,” a term apparently similar to the Indian term of Cakravartin—a Chakravala Chakravartin is the one who has conquered the four continents.
    Thus “quarter” as used by the Lord to the brother of Jared could mean simply an area.
    On the other hand, the term “quarter” could mean a specific one-fourth, as in quadrant, of an overall area. In this sense, in the early 16th century, the world was divided into four quarters by the four continents: Africa, America, Asia and Europe. Each of these continents was seen to represent one-fourth of the world: Europe in the north, Asia in the east, Africa in the south, and America to the west. In this sense, then, the Western Hemisphere, or America (North and South America) would have been seen as a quarter, “where never had man been” since the Flood.
    Nephi uses the term “quarter” in an overall planetary concept: “from the four quarters of the earth” (1 Nephi 19:16) which was definitely the use of one-fourth of the area of the sea, which was a phrase Nephi quoted from the unknown prophet Zenos who wrote on the Brass Plates. And again “And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth…” (1 Nephi 22:25.
Even at Columbus’ death, he thought he had merely discovered a different part of Asia—however, map makes of the time realized that a new, fourth part of the world had been discovered across the sea, separate from Africa, Asia and Europe. It was an awesome and remarkable discovery at the time 
    Additionally, the “quarters” could be considered the ancient understanding of the world as having four quarters: The three quarters that were known and on all maps prior to 1500 and were for centuries believed to be the only three continents, were: Africa, Asia and Europe. However, the German Martin Waldeseemuller’s world map of 1507, the “Fourth Part of the World” was the undiscovered West (the Americas) recently claimed to have existed, and it was added to the other three (the original, and hitherto only) Africa, Asia and Europe. By 1515, maps were using the word “America,” on both the northern and southern portion of this new world, and by 1538, these four continents were finalized in print on all maps.
    Thus “quarter” as used by the Lord to the brother of Jared could mean a quadrant or one-fourth of the Earth.
    To better understand its meaning, we need to consider the context in which the Lord used the term. “And it came to pass that the Lord commanded them that they should go forth into the wilderness, yea, into that quarter where there never had man been” (Ether 2:5). The Lord is directing the brother of Jared that he is to leave the Valley of Nimrod and go into the wilderness (an unoccupied tract of land) to a quarter of the land where man had not been. So where was the Lord leading or directing the Jaredites? Since the Lord “did go before them, and did talk with them as he stood in a cloud, and gave directions whether they should travel” (Ether 2:5), he “would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness…” (Ether 2:6), meaning obviously that the wilderness and the sea beyond were not the destination—they were not that “quarter where never had been man.” 
    So where were they going and where was the Lord leading them? “but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all over lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people” (Ether 2:7). Obviously, the Lord was leading them to “a land which is choice above all over lands” (Ether 2:10)—that “quarter where there never had man been.”
    And why had man never been there? Moroni tells us that: “after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof” (Ether 13:2). This land, called the Land of Promise, had been kept from the knowledge of men since the Flood—none had occupied it, none had been to it. It was that “quarter where there never had man been.” 
(See the next post, “Into that Quarter Where Never Had Man Been – Part II,” for a further understanding of the meaning of this term and also where man had been at the time of the Jaredites)

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