Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not After the Manner of Men – Part I

What exactly is meant in Nephi’s comment when he said, “Now I, Nephi, did not work the timbers after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I build the ship after the manner of men; but I did build it after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore, it was not after the manner of men” (1 Nephi 18:2).     What was the manner of men?
It certainly was not the European hulled ships of the 14th century, nor the ships of Magellan or Sir Francis Drake, or that of Columbus or even Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama, for those types of rudimentary ships had not yet been invented.
    At the time of Lehi, there were two maritime peoples, one in the Mediterranean (Phoenicians) and one in the Sea of Arabia (Arabs, which also included the lands eastward even to China).
    Most historical works report: “The best navigators and shipbuilders of the ancient world in 1500 – 1000 years B. C. were Phoenicians who lived on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The famous Libyan cedar, which covered slopes of their motherland, gave an excellent material for building of strong seafaring ships.”
Left: Phoenician Ship carved on a sarcophagus 2nd century A.D.; Right: A depiction of the 2nd century A.D. Phoenician ship. Note, this is not in Lehi’s time or before as so many historians want to claim and give the Phoenicians credit for what they did not do

The picture depicts a Phoenician merchant ship dated 1500 year B. C. It is claimed that this was “a sufficiently capacious vessel with powerful posts and two stern oars. Twig gratings were strengthened along the boards of the ship to protect the deck cargo. The mast carried a square sail fastened to two curved yards of an Egyptian type. A large amphora made of burnt clay was erected on the stem to keep drinkable water. Phoenician helmsmen contributed to the navy science introducing separation of a horizon circle into 360 degrees and they composed reliable celestial reference-points for future generations of seafarers.”
    However, the fact of the matter is as shown on the carving above, these Phoenician ships were not sailing until around the 2nd century A.D., not 1500 or 1000 B.C., at which time the Phoenicians had oar-driven coastal vessels as we have stated here many times. 
    Today, the remains of Phoenician ships can be observed restored in museums. Their hulls were a thin shell of planks joined edge-to-edge and then stiffened by a keel and light transverse ribs. No doubt Nephi understood this was the technique used to build boats after the manner of man near Jerusalem (or at least that is the meaning the Lord conveyed to him). 
    An important question theorists never ask is: “If the Phoenicians truly had ocean-going ships, why didn't Lehi, with his stated wealth, simply buy a ship already built by the Phoenicians?” 
Phoenician ships of Lehi’s time still had oars and external rudders; Right: A Phoenician ship during the time of Christ: note the extreme width compared to the length, a design that would never survive in deep water oceans, but served well in the Mediterranean and would have been the type of ship Paul sailed on to Rome

The answer, of course, lies in the ancient evidence of these ships that were not built for deep-ocean travel, and despite a lot of rhetoric to the opposite, Phoenician ships were used for coastal trading enterprises along the north and south Mediterranean coasts. On only a couple of occasions do we have evidence of Phoenicians sailing along the coast of Africa, and as far north as coastal voyages to Gaul.
    Obviously, those ships were not made for deep ocean sailing, having been designed and built to basically travel the waters of the Mediterranean—and like all Mediterranean vessels, as late as the Roman period, were mainly driven by oars, with sails in case of a favorable wind, which often rose and fell on the Mediterranean, requiring oars for any lengthy sailing venture.
Phoenician Settlements (green) along the western and southern Mediterranean coasts 
As history shows, Phoenician exploration was along the Mediterranean coasts where the established settlements for the purpose of extending their trading empire. The would rarely have traveled out of the sight of land, and then only in the Mediterranean which was an almost entirely enclosed sea basically surrounded by land, providing a sunny, gentle climate, turquoise sea, balmy weather and tranquil waters. This sea, of course, was an important route for merchants and travelers of ancient times that allowed for trade and cultural exchange between emergent peoples of the region, and an easy sea to sail requiring no or very little knowledge of boats and currents. 
    In addition, Phoenician ships were not designed or built for the open sea, while ships built of heavier wood along the Red Sea, where Lehi passed, were larger and constructed of a heavier wood, they were sewn together with rope, which was the Omani way of building ships "after the manner of man," that existed well after Lehi left on his ocean voyage
    While many theorists want to place ship builders and people already in the Salalah/Khor Rori area of Oman, who Lehi could have employed to build their ship, Nephi tells us he asked the Lord where he could find ore to make tools (1 Nephi 17:10), which he used to “make tools of the ore which [he] did molten out of the rock” (1 Nephi 17:16). The question never asked by these Theorists but should be, is if there were others in the area already making ships, why did Nephi need to make his own tools when surely tools would have been available in the area? And also, if he needed to make his own tools, surely shipwrights in the area would have known where ore was in which to make those tools.
    Certainly the knowledge of where such ore to make tools was located would have been known by local ship builders, but it it was a competition thing, obviously  people in the area not building ships would also have known and been able to help. This again suggests that there were no others in this area of the Salalah Plain, which was the area Lehi called Bountiful.
Another probability is that Nephi needed ore to make metal nails and spikes, items not being used in that area at the time, for the Omani shipwrights sewed planks together with rope and did not use nails or spikes. Yet, nails and spikes would be required to provide the securing of planks and frame that would have been needed to endure a voyage across the ocean far beyond the coastal voyages of the day. 
(See the next post, “Not After the Manner of Men – Part II” for more information about the building of Nephi’s ship and where it was constructed)


  1. “The best navigators and shipbuilders of the ancient world in 1500 – 1000 years B. C. were Phoenicians." This statement is only partly true as there was also the Polynesians, who made sea travel a way of life between Islands and longer.

  2. Miles: Perhaps you should read more of our blog regarding the Phoenicians and the Polynesians and their maritime abilities and achievements, and not pay so much attention to contrived history based not upon facts, but upon opinions, like that of the Inca building all the ruins in South America. Factual history is often far different than what is taught in schools and colleges and had among men.