Monday, March 5, 2018

That Troublesome Island of Jacob – Part III

Continuing with the scriptural mention of the island the Nephites settled according to Jacob’s Temple statement. While almost all Book of Mormon writers pay little attention to Jacob’s declaration and few, if any, give it any value, the important point is that if we are going to discuss the temporal destruction that took place in the Land of Promise at the time of the crucifixion and all that followed, then it is critical that we come to an understanding of this island home. 
    Continuing with the points of disagreement:
6. Only divinely revealed knowledge would have been Jacob's sourceeither to him directly, or to Nephi and/or Lehi. As a result, the people to whom he was preaching either were taking him at his word on faith, or it was a generally accepted belief having taken Nephi or Lehi at his prophetic word.
Response: This was most probably what took place. Both Lehi and Nephi had visions that are recorded in the scriptural record of seeing the Land of Promise.
    Still, let us not forget that the land they knew was completely surrounded by water (Alma 22:32)—what they knew of the time was they were at least on a peninsula, and if they had no knowledge of what was north, i.e., the shoreline, then they know at least their part of the land, the Land Southward, was pretty much an island. We also need to keep in mind that we have nothing recorded as to what Nephi and Jacob or others were doing between the time they reached the city of Nephi and built buildings and a temple, and the time that Mosiah left that area 350 years later. In the 50 years or so that Nephi lived after settling there, one might think he or others did some exploring. We also might ask what happened to Nephi’s ship. Certainly it would have been still in good shape. Did they just leave it there among Laman and Lemuel? And if so, did someone before Hagoth build other ships, at least for fishing?
7. I don't think that we can assume that Jacob and the Nephites knew that the Earth is a globe.
    Response: Since the days of Abraham, man knew that the planets, stars, etc., were orbs (globes) for the Lord made it clear (Abraham 3:2-13), a knowledge Abraham taught the Egyptians (Abraham 3:15), who taught the Greeks, who taught the Romans, who more or less taught the world that they conquered. The attitude that used to be prevalent among “historians” was that this was unknown, i.e., the fear of sailors sailing off the end of the earth, etc. There are even “square” or “flat-earthers” living today, but the point is, the Hebrews well knew and understood this principle, as did ship captains, navigators, etc., throughout history.
Top Left: A view of a flat plane; Right: A view of a rounded plane; Bottom: The actual view as would be seen on the sea as this view of the Lake Pontchartrain power lines in Louisiana, showing how a straight line. bends over the horizon on a globe

One cannot sail at sea without coming to this realization very quickly because of the curvature of the horizon. There have always been superstitious people with weird ideas, but that does not mean people of enlightenment were so ignorant.  Quite often, but not always, the superstitious people were those without education, and on board ancient vessels, were likely to be the deck hands, who furthered the fear of sailing off the edge of the world.
Mostly, however, this was the lower class—the rank and file who went to sea for a living.
    As for specifics, According to Stephen Jay Gould, an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science, and one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation, who taught at Harvard and the American Museum of Natural History that "there never was a period of 'flat Earth darkness' among scholars (regardless of how the public at large may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the Earth's roundness as an established fact of cosmology” ("The late birth of a flat earth, Dinosaur in a Haystack: Reflections in Natural History, Three Rivers Press, New York, 1997, pp38–50)
    In addition, historians of science David Lindberg, who was the Hilldale Professor Emeritus of History of Science and Past Director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities, along with Ronald Numbers, an American historian of science, point out that "there was scarcely a Christian scholar of the Middle Ages who did not acknowledge Earth's sphericity and even know its approximate circumference” (Lindberg and Numbers, "Beyond War and Peace: A Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science," Church History, Cambridge University Press, vol 55 No 3, 1986, pp338–354).
    Historian Jeffrey Burton Russell, an American historian and religious studies scholar, says the flat-Earth error flourished mostly between 1870 and 1920, and had to do with the ideological setting created by struggles over biological evolution. Russell claims "with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the Earth was flat", and ascribes popularization of the flat-Earth myth to histories by John William Draper, Andrew Dickson White, and Washington Irving.
8) There are some that say because the Lord showed Nephi how to build a ship, He also showed him the shape of the land of promise. The two thoughts are so completely disconnected as to almost be non-sequitur.
    Response: As we have stated elsewhere, one might conclude from all this that Nephi would have seen the entire Land of Promise in the many visions the Angel provided him.
    At one point in this vision, the Spirit zeroed in on Nephi’s view and Nephi writes: “I looked and beheld many waters; and they divided the Gentiles from the seed of my brethren,” which one also might conclude that Nephi was given a vision of the Land of Promise, which he likely told Jacob at some point, though my belief is that Lehi was given that vision himself and probably was the one to tell his entire family.
    It probably needs to be understood from the beginning, that Nephi had known he was being led to a land of promise by the Lord (1 Nephi 2:20); Lehi also knew he was being led to a land of promise (1 Nephi 5:5); and even while in the wilderness, Nephi understood they were being led eventually to a land of promise (1 Nephi 5:22)—and both understood their eventual destination was to be a land of promise (1 Nephi 7:1, 13) and that they were being led toward that eventual destination (1 Nephi 10:13).
    The point being that both Lehi and Nephi well understood this Land of Promise, Nephi at least saw the land in a vision and both the battles and events that would take place upon it, and the eventual arrival of the Gentiles that came to it (1 Nephi 13:3, 10, 12).
    It seems only reasonable that Nephi understood they were upon an island, and when Jacob spoke these words, no matter where Jacob learned them, Nephi knew it was true—as is custom with the Lord, he provided us in the mouth of two witnesses that they were on an island in the sacred document of the Book of Mormon that was inspired in its translation by the Spirit. It is hard to understand why we need “wiggle room”—if it were not true, it would not be in the scriptural record. That we have five voices of great distinction, four being prophets (Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Joseph Smith) and verified by the Spirit seems pretty good evidence that it is true, for “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
(See the next post, “That Troublesome Island of Jacob – Part IV,” for more information regarding the island that gives Mesoamerican, Great Lakes and other theorists so much trouble and forces them to try and find some other answer to Jacob’s statement than how it is interpreted by the majority of people)

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