Saturday, May 9, 2015

More Comments from Readers – Part IV

Here are more comments that we have received from readers of this website blog: 
    Comment #1: “In light of your recent comments about the Smithsonian, about a year ago or so I wrote in a question that was never answered regarding that fact that the Smithsonian claims iron and steel were not known or available in the Americas before 1492 when the Spaniards arrived and claim the Book of Mormon is incorrect in this” Grayson.
    Response: Thank you for your reminder, however, your question was answered in “Questions #2,” of the post “More Comments Answered Part III,” dated Saturday, February 1, 2014, in which we showed that iron and steel were known (see also the post dated Tuesday, November 20, 2012, “Steel Among the Nephites?”) The problem often lies with the fact that when the Smithsonian says “the Americas,” they usually mean North and Central America—and in this case, they are right about that. South America, on the other hand, has excavated numerous iron and steel artifacts, including the knife shown in that article.
Sword found near Jerusalem made of Philistine steel and dates to around 600 B.C. Gordon C. Thomasson in The November-December 2005 issue of “Biblical Archaeology Review” reports that a steel short-sword (16 inch blade) with ivory hilt and bronze rivets was found at Philistine Ekron (Tel Miqne) during an excavation by Seymour Gitin, director of the William F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem, Ernest Frerichs, the Albright president, and Trude Dothan, from Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology
    Comment #2: “I used to read the Book of Mormon and the rest of the scriptures and enjoy them. Now, after reading your posts for so long, when I read the scriptures now, I am fascinated with them. It is no longer as relaxing, but much more rewarding. Thank you for your influence” Fred D.
    Response: Learning to “ponder” beyond the obvious, and even the hidden, to more fully understand the content of the scriptural record I have also found to be a very rewarding experience.
Comment #3: “You wrote in your book “Who Really Settled Mesoamerica,” that the Empty Quarter (Rub al-Khali) over which the Jaredites (and later Nephites) crossed, was the “quarter” mentioned in Ether as that quarter where never had man been. Yet, you write also that that quarter mentioned in Ether really refers to the land of promise. So which is it?” Larry T.
    Response: First of all, the Rub’ al Khali—literally translated as the “quarter of emptiness”—is an arid wilderness larger than the size of France, Belgium and Holland combined, and is the world’s largest sand sea. The Sahara is fifteen times larger in size, yet the Empty Quarter holds roughly half as much sand! It takes in a substantial portion of Saudi Arabia, parts of Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. And although one might easily assume this part of the world to be uninhabited, Bedu tribes have survived here since before recorded time.
    Because of these sandy expanses, not to mention its profound heat, the Sands have long been judged too unforgiving for all but the most resourceful humans, considered more a wasteland to cross than a landscape to settle in. Still, along its edges—and venturing across it from time to time—the dozen tribes of leathery and enterprising Bedouin, also known (especially in Arabia) as Bedu, have survived here since before recorded time.
    Now, regarding the comment: “…that Quarter where there never had man been” referring to the Ar Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter). I can see in re-reading it, that it would be easy to think that was what I meant—unfortunately, I was mixing metaphors there and did not make it clear.
The Arabic words Rub’ al Khali  (ar-Rub’ al-Hali, which is the correct Arabic spelling in English) is a play on the words in Ether; however, they do not refer to the same meaning or understanding. I can see that I did not make that clear. What was in my mind at the time of writing was that the two expressions, one in English (Ether 2:5), and the other in Arabic, both refer to an area where man was not. The funny thing is, while it is considered by Westerners as virtually uninhabited, man (Bedouin) has lived in the Rub’ al Khali for as long as man has been, dating no doubt back to and possibly even just before the Jaredites. It is just that they do not claim any area of it as their land—that is, they do not live permanently anywhere or erect any long-lasting edifices other than their large and commodious tents. They move with the weather, though they can stay in one area for half a year or so (until the water dries up, the grass is exhausted and the few resources are gone).
When the Bedouins look at this desert (it is the largest area of continuous sand in the world) it is like an Empty Land, which is what they call it (“Quarter” in this sense in Arabic means about the same as “Land” in English; Rub’ al Khali literally means “quarter of emptiness” or “land of emptiness”). We translate that to mean “quarter” or “area” or even “one-fourth” since it occupies somewhere around (a little more) than one-fourth of Saudi Arabia. They also call it ar-Ramlah, which means “The Sand.” When we look at it, we see one-fourth of the peninsula (Saudi Arabia) as empty—that is “emptiness,” no cities, towns or villages, i.e., “Empty.”
   In the book, I was comparing this area through which the Jaredites traveled as being “empty” of anything at all (even man in the Western sense), just like the Lord said of the land. However, I was not trying to draw a connection to the Empty Quarter being the land to which the Lord was leading the Jaredites, for they merely traveled through it on their way to that land the Lord had in mind.
    The problem is, that was not the issue (Ether 2:5) of that comment—obviously, I should not have used that quote at that point. It is also true that I did not spend much time on talking about the Land of Promise as being that Land Where Man Never Had Been. It was probably not until I read the book “The Fourth Part of the World” by Toby Lester (July 2010) that I actually thought of “Fourth” and “Quarter” in that sense, and especially saw the way the ancients drew their maps of the Three Parts of the World before 1492, and the advent of linear perspective that took place in 1493 where the world (The Whole World) was depicted for the first time. It’s a good read if you have time and like highly technical and complex writing.
    As for your direct question, I have always believed “that quarter where never had man been” was the Land of Promise—I do not recall that it was ever a question to me. But it wasn’t until I read that book that I started putting it in that context since it went so well with the ancient understanding of the world—a thought, I believe, the Lord well knew at the time he said that to the brother of Jared.
    In fact, as you said about the sons of Shem passing through the Empty Quarter desert, Joktan’s sons, including Jared and Ophir (Jerah and Moriancumr) all passed through it, perhaps near the same time, since all of Joktan’s sons (other than these two) and their descendants are credited with having emigrated there from Mesopotamia.

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