Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Another look at Ziff - Part I

Responding to a reader who commented about our un-informed response to his comment and reference to a book written by Jerry D. Grover, Jr. 
Response: The reference given involves more than one subject—in fact four or five. I was referring to only one of them in my earlier comment you mentioned, and that was “Geology of the Book of Mormon” (the geologic work the book's author did only in Mesoamerica), with some nice art work and geologic studies, but once again, in a part of the world that has nothing to do with the Land of Promise of the scriptural record. I gave my response on that.
    As for a second work on the reference, “Translation of the ‘Caractors’ Document,” which has to do with the so-called Anthon script, which he claims to have translated the Reformed Egyptian language, again has to do with Mesoamerica, in which the author writes on page 2: “After 1000 years of assimilation in Mesoamerica, the Nephites were no doubt speaking some Mesoamerican language that may have contained some elements of Hebrew and/or Egyptian. I am currently working on the presence of Semitic languages and Egyptian in the Uto-Aztecan language, which indicates there was perhaps a language creole that occurred…we do have some information from the Book of Mormon itself. Again, the derivation (although 1000 years removed) from Egyptian and Hebrew gives us some platform to operate off of, with the understanding that Mesoamerican elements should also be present.”
Regarding this, first of all we might define “creole” which means a person of mixed European and black descent, or a mother tongue formed from the contact of two languages through an earlier pidgin stage—either way, I am flabbergasted that someone would suggest this of an area no one knows anything about, there are no authentic records of the period, and certainly no one could tell about their languages (if they existed at all) 1000 years before the earliest of man’s claim to know anything about the area (Popol Vuh, Codex Borbonicusam, Dresden codex, etc.)
    Regarding someone today claiming to interpret what was written by the ancient prophets in Reformed Egyptian, I am reminded of Moroni’s words: “But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof” (Mormon 9:34). Consequently, while it might be possible for the Lord to have prepared Jerry D. Grover, Jr., to be the translator, it does not seem likely according to the events of history already known through Joseph Smith’s work on this subject.
    And since the languages of Mesoamerica, whatever and whenever they were, has nothing to do with Nephite language and usage, it hardly seems of any value to try and figure something out that is involved in languages not present or involved in the Hebrew or Egyptian the Nephites would have known and used.
As for the third article, on “Ziff, Magic Goggles, and Golden Plates,” involving the etymology of zyf and a Metallurgical Analysis of the Book of Mormon Plates, we can say first that the word is Ziff, not zyf, until some transition from one to the other is made.
    First, Grover uses Royal Skousen’s argument to suggest mistakes in the usage of the word in the translation of the Book of Mormon—something we have dealt with in this blog extensively and recently. He also quotes Skousen “observation of errors in spellings of proper personal and place names,” also the idea that Ziff is a transliterated word, he claims means “a word from a different language written in English solely based on pronunciation in the original language”—however his explanation is inaccurate, since “Transliteration is not concerned with representing the sounds of the original, only the characters, ideally accurately and unambiguously.”
The word “transcription” is what he meant, since it denotes the sounds but not necessarily the spelling (N. S. Khaarusi & A. Salman, The English Transliteration of Place Names in Oman. Journal of Academic and Applied Studies Vol. 1(3) September 2011, pp. 1–27).
    However, the point is that Grover, like Skousen, keeps pressing the fact that the difficulty between the interpreter (Joseph Smith) and the scribe (Oliver Cowdery, et al.) led to mistakes in spelling, etc., which is a comment
    Sorenson and Grover, as well as Royal Skousen, are convinced that mistakes were made in the translation of the Book of Mormon between Joseph Smith, the translator, and Oliver Cowdery, the scribe. We reject such type errors as we have described countless times in this blog when dealing with the Spirit involved in the process. This was not an academic assignment where mistakes are often made, but one controlled by God through the Spirit, using prophets especially called and scribes especially arranged by the Lord. As such, unlike Skousen and Grover, we do not look for errors in what they transcribed and wrote (other than the variance in grammar and spelling as existing between then and now).
Building with its distinctive Bismuth crystal-like blocks as designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
    It is also interesting of the 37 choices Grover lists that are possible metals of Ziff, plus the 3 alloys, and the 20 additional metals, for a total 60 in all, bismuth is not listed; however, as we’ve pointed out before, bismuth was a metal, and the only one outside the previous metals we know, used for decoration in pre-Inca and during Inca times in Andean South America; and in addition, Peru is one of the world’s leading producers of bismuth, silver, zinc, lead, and copper—ranking first in the production of bismuth and should have claimed a place on his list for anciently bismuth was an important metal in antiquity and before discovered to have such pharmaceutical value, was used primarily in Peru as building decoration, just as is mentioned (Mosiah 11:3,8) with king Noah—but when  you are centered in Mesoamerica, such an important issue is lost.
Bizmuth has also been used in decoration in the making of "precious things," to enhance appearance in the Pre-Inca Peruvian world with such decorative items as seen here
    Along this line, it is also interesting that while bismuth was unknown in Europe until the 15th century, with its eventual discovery leading to its use as a silvery ink or pigment which gave rise to a craze called Wismuth Malerel, i.e., Bismuth Painting, its chemistry was not explored until the 19th century. Yet, the Pre-Inca Peruvians knew of it and used it long before the Inca, and not only for decorations but also to make knives, such as the llama-headed handle on one found at Machu Picchu that was 18% Bismuth. Its many properties were used in decoration and considered quite valuable.
Bizmuth painting (left) on a cabinet; (Right) a casket. It was one of the highest regarded styes of painting in antiquity
    As an example, besides painting, bismuth was attached with wax or glue, creating a metallic surface about one millimeter thick, overlaid with gold or amber lacquer for decoration. In the latter part of the eighteenth century, bismuth painting was superseded by a cheaper process in which perfected lacquers were  applied directly to the wood. In addition, natural bismuth was added to tin to make it hard and brilliant, as well as whiter and more sonorous, and its many colorful properties exploited, as mentioned in the original article on Ziff.
(See the next post, “Another look at Ziff – Part II,” for a continuation regarding the naming of the metal Ziff)

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