Sunday, April 16, 2017

Metallurgy Did Not Exist in Mesoamerica Prior to 600 A.D. – Part IX

Continuing from the previous post regarding the importance that the lack of metallurgy in Mesoamerica is when considering where the Land of Promise truly was located. Also continuing with the comments of John L. Sorenson, the so-called guru of Book of Mormon Land of Promise geography, that are meant to lessen and even question the meaning of the use of metal terminology in the scriptural record, and discussing William Hamblin’s apologetic comments about the scriptural record.
William Hamblin continues with his attack on the use of “steel” in the Book of Mormon and our acceptance of this simple word. He states: “An interesting key to the problem is Nephi’s steel bow (1 Ne 16.18). My assumption here is that this phrase is meant to describe the same weapon that is called a “steel bow” in the KJV Bible. (I think this is obvious whether Joseph Smith invented the text or it is ancient.) The phrase “bow of steel” occurs three times in the KJV: 2 Sam 22.35, Job 20.24, and Ps 18.34. In all cases it translates the Hebrew phrase qeshet nechushah, which modern translations consistently, and correctly, translate as “bronze.”
    However, in an excellent piece by Aron Pinker entitled “On the meaning of קשת נחושה,” he states that the phrase קשת נחושה in 2 Samuel 22:35; Psalms 18:35 and Job 20:24, has been routinely translated in modern times as “bronze or brass bow.” However, though the modern New King James Version has “bronze bow,” the original King James Version as well as the earlier Webster’s Dictionary had “bow of steel.” At the same time, some Jewish medieval commentators take קשת נחושה as “bronze bow,” and some consider נחושה a metaphor for strength, i.e. “strong bow, hard to pull bow.”
A brass bow made as a decoration and relates to myth and storied legend—no real brass bow has ever been found or known

    The problem is, there can be no question that the phrase קשת נחושה cannot mean “a bow made of brass or bronze.” Neither of these materials are practical for construction of a bow’s body, which has to be light and pliable (M.H. Pope, Job. AB 15. New York: Doubleday, New York, 1986, p153). For the same reason the phrase cannot mean “brass or bronze plated bow” or “arc composite bound and/or inlaid with bronze” (F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, “A royal song of thanksgiving: 2 Sam 22, Ps 18a.” JBL 72 no 1, 1953, p31), since metal plating of the body, even of an ornamental kind, such as bronze, brass, or copper, would undermine its pliability, increase its weight, and hamper aiming without adding any advantages. Perhaps, some ceremonial bows or bows used for ritual purposes were of this kind ( R. De Vaux, Institutions de l’Ancien Testament. Paris: Éditions du Cerf, Paris, France, 1961, p53). However, neither a brass, or copper bow nor a metal plated bow that was used for warfare has ever been found in any archeological excavations, though it would have had a better chance for preservation than the wood based bow. 
    In addition, the phrase קשת נחושה cannot mean “strong bow, hard to pull bow” either, but could mean “solid” or “robust” (B. Couroyer, “L’arc d’airain.” RB 72, 1965, p513). After all, iron and bronze are often used in the Hebrew Bible as symbols of strength (Job 40:18, Deuteronomy 33:25, Jeremiah 15:12, Amos 1:3); however, it is difficult to see how a metaphor based on a known impracticality of making brass or bronze bows could convey a meaningful concept of unusual strength.
    Pinker suggests that enigmatic שבעות מטות in Habakuk 3:9a is symbolically the Lord’s composite bow made of seven strips. Such a bow would be an exaggeration of the practical composite bow, which had only a few strips.
Steel bows were known to Ancient Israel from 1000 to 600 B.C.

        Since it seems prudent to reject both “bronze or brass bow” and “strong bow, hard to pull, what is then the meaning of the phrase? Several have suggested numerous meanings, but all seem to fall short. Perhaps we should use the original King James Version translation as “bow of steel.”
    Despite such widespread disagreement with his conclusions, Hamblin goes on to write: “At any rate, it is clear we should not necessarily presume that Book of Mormon steel is related to modern steel. Once again, it is necessary to examine these issues in their original linguistic, textual and cultural context to understand what the text is saying.”
    Of course, we have done that, using Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, of which language in New England Joseph Smith would have been quite familiar when he translated the Plates in 1829, and which definition we have previously given in this series of articles.
    Hamblin goes on to write “In Ether we find the word “steel” used only once (Ether 7:9), only a few generations after Jared. It does not say how many swords were made.” Yet, we understand that after making these swords, Shule (son of Kib) took the swords he had made and armed his followers who then attacked his brother, Corihor, who had rebelled against his father and captured the kingdom and took captive his father. To do this, he would have had to have a large following, so while we may not know how many swords were made, it would have been sufficient to arm his “army” that they overturned the kingdom and restored his father to the throne (Ether 7:5-9).
    Seemingly not understanding the scriptural record, Hamblin adds, “Anti-Mormons often assert that this necessitates a large-scale iron and steel industry. This interpretation is not required by the text. Ether does not make this claim in any explicit form. This is a classic example of the fallacy of hyper-skepticism. Considering a counter-example will help to illustrate the absurdity of this fallacy.”
Hammering iron into a steel blade

    The point of this is not to suggest a large industry, but a large-scale production of swords, that would have had to have been in the hundreds, given the numbers of the Jaredite kingdom at the time. How that was done is not stated, but you don’t make hundreds of swords over a fire on a hill somewhere, but through a concentrated and well organized production effort.
    Hamblin then goes on to write about finding a steel dagger in an ancient tomb and extrapolating this one find into the massive existence of daggers among the ancient people of that time.  He then sums up with, “Thus, the assumption that a single reference to “steel swords” in Ether necessitates that all Jaredite soldiers in all ages had “steel swords” would, if consistently applied to the Near East, likewise require that [this] example of an iron dagger means that all soldiers in the Near East in all ages would have to also have iron daggers. But this was not the case. Critics employing the hyper-skepticism fallacy ignore the concept of elite weapons vs. common weapons and the issue of transformation of weapon types through time.”
    He then goes on to state that while the king or an elite leader had a steel dagger, his troops would not have had steel weapons. This seems a little odd, since any kind or elite leader would want to arm his army with the best possible weapons so that any war they fought, they would be both superior and defeat their enemy--this would be specific in quality, capability and endurance of the weapon, though not in its fineness of decoraton or embellishment (such as jewels or certain type handle material). For a leader to withhold superiority in weapons so that he alone had a good sword or weapon simply does not make sense, no matter how cleverly a word game is played by so-called "experts."
    Hamblin then claims: “Why should we reject the possibility of a very rare royal metal weapons in Book of Mormon times when most of the commoners used stone weapons? To reject this possibility is blatant anti-Mormon special pleading.” To understand his meaning we have to realize that he is telling us that while the man Shule, who was building a fighting force and arming them sufficiently that they could overthrow the kingdom, which would have been heavily armed and protected by the followers and army of a usurper (Corihor), that he made one sword of steel, and armed his followers with stone weapons?
    Wouldn’t it make more sense that if you were planning an attack against a superior force that you would want to arm your men with the best weapons possible?
    The trouble with trying to change the meaning of the scriptural record, even well-meaning members get themselves into trouble with reality since their changes have to go so far afield that reality and reason end up taking a back seat and in the end exposing the silliness of the apologetic attempt.
The scriptural record tells us: “Wherefore, he came to the hill Ephraim, and he did molten out of the hill, and made swords out of steel for those whom he had drawn away with him; and after he had armed them with swords he returned to the city Nehor and gave battle unto his brother Corihor, by which means he obtained the kingdom and restored it unto his father Kib” (Ether 7:9, emphasis added).
    We do the scriptural record of the Book of Mormon a tremendous disservice, as well as the members who read what we write, when we try to change the meaning and understanding of the clear and simple language that Joseph Smith used to translate the Plates—words, by the way that were approved by the Spirit as has been pointed out!
    Steel is steel! It may not be the purest steel, nor the exact steel we are capable of refining today, but it was nonetheless steel, i.e., iron alloyed with carbon. 
(See the next post, “Metallurgy Did Not Exist in Mesoamerica Prior to 600 A.D. – Part IX,“ to see how far theorists go to try and bend the facts presented in the scriptural record to maintain

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