Saturday, June 20, 2020

More Comments from Readers – Part II

Here are more comments that we have received from readers of this website blog:
Comment #1: “I have noticed how contrary to popular assumption the Mormon doctrine of Native Americans being Israelites isn’t about the “Lost Tribes” at all. In fact, I've noticed a high tendency for Mormons to believe in British Israelism. Then of course Joseph's Smith's claim that he descended form Jesus further complicates things. How does a Mormon apologist genealogically back that up” Jared M.
The Lost Ten Tribes were distributed throughout the Middle East and Europe, not the Americas

Response: First, the Book of Mormon is not about, and has never been purported to be about, the Lost Ten Tribes. It is about one extended family being led away from Jerusalem by the Hand of the Lord prior to the fall of the city under Zedekiah.
    Secondly, and frankly, having been a member of the Church for over 65 years, being heavily read in LDS works, and involved in numerous positions and discussions, I have never heard of the Church favoring a view of British or Anglo-Israelism. On the other hand, most members would say they believe that the Lost Ten tribes moved northward and westward into East and West Europe, etc., on their trek or movement away from Babylon, and that a large amount of the House of Israel is scattered through that pathway northward—our past and current missionary work is dedicated, in part, to that end.
    Elder David F. Evans, the Executive Director of the LDS Missionary Department as reported in the Deseret News on Wednesday, July 2, 2014, said that the number of missionaries will reach 88,000, of which 85,593 are currently serving, but will probably soon settle around the high 70,000s.
    Third, Joseph Smith never suggested he was a descendant of Jesus Christ. He, as do all LDS, accept the knowledge that we are all spiritual children of our Heavenly Father, including Jesus (the only begotten in the flesh), which, by definition makes him our Older Brother in the Family of God.
    All of this information is quite easy to obtain from hundreds of printed sources available to anyone. It is surprising when someone seems so ill-informed on a subject they choose to criticize.
    Fourth, regarding the website you listed and your response to “Native Americans being Israelites,” in which you start out: “There is a tendency for the claims of the Book of Mormon to come up any time theories about Israelites coming to the Americas in any form are discussed.” It seems humorous that you make an issue out of an LDS person making fun of someone who was making light of an LDS view so deeply ingrained in the LDS conscious (Book of Mormon). Evidently, it is all right to make fun of Mormons but not for Mormons to reply.
Top: Ancient ruins in Sayacmarca, Peru; Bottom: Mexico (Mesoamerica)

However, the point of your comment is the LDS claim, as found in the Book of Mormon, regarding the origin of the so-called Native Americas, i.e., specifically who built the fantastic civilizations found in Meso- Central and western South America.
    At least the LDS claim has a complete record about them, where they came from, how they got here, and what became of them. A far superior approach than bringing natives of antiquity across a so-called Siberian Land Bridge that then infiltrated the Americas clear to Tierra del Fuego for no credible reason. At least the LDS approach gives full credit to God, the creator of all things, whose Plan for His children included the settlement of the Western Hemisphere and a partial record of their existence, belief and trust in God, and a Second Witness of Jesus Christ.
    It might also be added, that when you write: “America Unearthed is popular in Mormon circles because it seems to provide support for Mormon claims for Jewish colonization of America before Columbus,” you might want to read the Book of Mormon before you comment about it. If you were to, you would find out that Lehi was of the Tribes of Menasseh, not Judah; and Ishmael was of the Tribe of Ephraim, not Judah, and the earlier Jaredite settlement were a people long before Israel’s time and the creation of the 12 tribes. Only Mulek was of the Tribe of Judah, a small inclusion of people who were folded into the lineage of Nephi (Manasseh and Ephraim from his mother—the twin sons of Joseph). The settlement of America, as shown in the Book of Mormon, was by the House of Israel, not by the Jews.
Comment #2: “According to Jewish legend Abraham invented the Hebrew Alphabet” Michael P.
Response: The Bible suggests that Hebrew (Canaanite) was first written after the time of Joseph (great-grandson of Abraham), but before the time of Moses. The Hebrew verb katab (write), which occurs 262 times in the Old Testament never occurs in the book of Genesis; its first occurrence is Exodus 17:14, should be translated as “scroll.” It does not say “write this for a memorial in a book.” Again, megillah (scroll, roll, book, writing) occurs 22 times beginning in Psalm 40:7 with King David, but does not appear in Genesis.
Proto-Sinaitic alphabet

This agrees with archaeological and other external evidences, which suggest that the first writing of any Northwest Semitic language (which includes Hebrew and Canaanite as well as Aramaic) and the first real alphabet anywhere in the world, was the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet used to write various inscriptions in the Sinai Desert starting around 1850 B.C.
    Still, according to one Jewish tradition, the block script seen today in Hebrew Torah Scrolls, known as Kthav Ashurith (Assyria alphabet), a traditional calligraphic form of the Aramaic alphabet, and first used in certain Jewish ceremonies, was the original Hebrew script carved into the Ten Commandments. On the other hand, there is a famous saying, from the Zohar Chadash (Splendor or Radiance—the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah), on Song of Songs that there are 600,000 letters in the Torah.
    These letters correspond to the 600,000 Jewish souls that exist, according to the 1637 “Jewish mystical text” Megaleh ‘Amukot, a widely circulated and influential text, by Rabbi Nathan Nata Spira (Shapira), a preacher and famous kabbalist (system of Jewish theosophy, mysticism, and thaumaturgy marked by a belief in creation through emanation and a cipher method of interpreting Scripture), after composing Megaleh ‘Amukot, which was published posthumously in 1637, in which he interpreted the prayer of Moses in the weekly Torah portion “Va-Ethanan” (Deuteronomy 3:23-25) in 252 different ways, some of which were based on numerology (gimatriyah) or complex mathematical calculations and others on kabbalistic interpretations from various traditions. However, the Torah only has about 304,805 letters, and Spira’s statement is puzzling and does not seem to describe any known or possible variant of the Torah.
Sample of the Ashuri alphabet written according to the Askhenaz scribal custom on parchment (kiaf) 

The resolution of this issue, like that of so many legends or myths associated with ancient Jewish writings, is that it is recorded in kabbalistic books and characteristic of this genre, the statement is referring to mystical issues and not the simple letters of the Torah. Some claim that it refers to the strokes a scribe requires to write the letters while others suggest that it refers to both the written and unwritten portions of a scroll. Whatever the saying means, we can be certain that it does not mean that there are literally 600,000 letters in the Torah.
    The same might be said regarding Moses inventing the Hebrew alphabet. According to scholars, the original Hebrew script developed along side others in the region (Cannan and Arabia) during the course of the late second and first millennia B.C. Not only is it closely related t the Phoenician script, but that this gave rise to the use of alphetic writing of Greek
    It is also claimed that around the 10th century B.C., a distinct Hebrew variant, the original “Hebrew script,” emerged, which was widely used in the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah until they fell in the 8th and 6th centuries B.C. However, other scripts, such as the Moabites and Ammonites were also involved. After the exile, the Jews gradually stopped using the Hebrew script, adopting the “square” Aramaic script, which evolved into the “square” Jewish script still used today. Eventually, the numerous closely related scripts in use all over the Middle East for several hundred years gave way to Latin and Arabic scripts after the rise of Christianity and later Islam).

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