Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Dates of the Patriarchs are Exact - Part I

In an effort to make scriptural dates agree with the Maya calendar, which in turn then agrees with the Mesoamerican model and the Theorists dating events, Joseph Allen in his book Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon,” writes on page 13:

“Dates are very elusive and, as a result, allow a great degree of flexibility. We run into the same problem (elusive dates) as we attempt to correlate Book of Mormon dates with secular dates of Mesoamerica.”

There are three things Allen is writing about:

1) Noah’s Flood
2) Dating events of the Flood
3) The Maya Calendar

Because the Maya calendar begins in the year 3114 B.C. according to those who have determined its interpretations, Mesoamerican Theorists claim that this is the date of the Flood because no other calamitous or singular event fits that date. And because it is 770 years before the date of the Flood according to Genesis in the Bible and the Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, Allen, and other Theorists, must show that scriptural dates are wrong.

To those who hold the Book of Mormon geography lies in Mesoamerica, the Maya calendar holds an important part in their calculations. First of all, while the calendar is a marvel of ancient accomplishment, it is a circular calendar. That is, the calendar has a cycle, and that cycle began in 3114 B.C. and currently ends in 2012 A.D. Thus, these Theorists claim the start date is a calamitous event, therefore, the end date, must also signal something of singular importance—many non LDS figure it will be the end of the world.

The important thing to keep in mind, is that the calendar is a series of cycles. One cycle is 260 days, and when combined with another 365-day calendar (known as the Haab), to form a synchronized cycle lasting for 52 Haabs, called the Calendar Round. Smaller cycles of 13 days (the trecena) and 20 days (the veintena) were important components of the Tzolk'in and Haab' cycles, respectively. A different form, known as the Long Count, by its linear nature, was capable of being extended to refer to any date far into the future or far into the past. A 584-day Venus cycle tracked the heliacal risings of Venus as the morning and evening stars. Many events in this cycle were seen as being astrologically inauspicious and baleful, and occasionally warfare was astrologically timed to coincide with stages in this cycle. Other, less-prevalent or poorly understood cycles, combinations and calendar progressions were also tracked. An 819-day Count is attested in a few inscriptions. Repeating sets of 9-day and 13-day intervals associated with different groups of deities, animals, and other significant concepts are also known.

To understand the future and past events in a cycle, let’s take the idea that you were born on July 1 of a given year, say 1975. While your life began in July, that year could be projected backward in time 6 months and forward in time 6 months. There would be no correlation between your existence, beginning in July to January 1 or December 31 of that year. Of course, in a one-year example, you would live through half of it. But take a cycle that was beyond life expectancy where the years were not numbered (as in the Mayan Tolk’in and the Haab systems), which repeated itself every 52 years, known as the Calendar Round. The end of the Calendar Round was a period of unrest and bad luck among the Maya, as they waited in expectation to see if the gods would grant them another cycle of 52 years.

Another cycle was the K’atun, which was 7,200 days, just under 20 years; and the Bak’tun, which was 20 K’atun, or 144,000 days, or about 394 ½ years, well beyond anyone’s life span. So one born in the middle of a Bak’tun cycle could project backward 197 years to the start date of that cycle, or project forward 197 years to the end of that cycle, both events beginning and ending after the person’s lifetime.

Now take the date 3114 B.C. Let’s say the ancient Maya developed their calendar in the year 0, or 1 A.D. That would mean that they could project backward a cycle to any previous date as far back as 3114 B.C., or forward to any future date to 2012. It does not mean they, themselves, were around during the previous start date. Nor does it mean that start date signified any particularly singular or calamitous event. It was simply a cycle, a great cycle that covers 5,125 years. We can project our own 365 day cycle calendar as far backward, or as far forward, as we choose.

(part II continued in next post)

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