Friday, September 9, 2011

Where the Events of the Book of Mormon Took Place – Reached by Boat – Part I

As a side note to the previous post, John L. Sorenson made the statement: “Isle anciently did not necessarily mean an area entirely isolated by water, but rather that the area so labeled could be reached via boat. See the dictionary in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, s.v. ‘Isles’."

According to Sorenson's definition, when Henry Hudson sailed into Hudson Bay in 1610 and discovered Canada, that we should consider Canada an island.

First of all, two “LDS” KJV Bible Dictionaries have been consulted:

1) Old King James Scriptures: Specially Bound for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and distributed by the Deseret Book Company (no date). These are the scriptures that preceded the 1979 LDS version. In the Bible Dictionary, there is no definition for the word “isle” “isles” or “island.”

2) 1979 LDS King James Version of the Bible, Published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—Dictionary. “Isles.” The word is frequently used to denote any lands washed by the sea, especially the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean (Gen 10:5; Ps 72:10; Isa 20:6; 24:15; 66:19)

This Bible Dictionary Preface: “This dictionary has been designed to provide teachers and students with a concise collection of definitions and explanations of items that are primarily mentioned in or are otherwise associated with the Bible. It is based primarily upon the biblical text, supplemented by information from the other books of scripture accepted as standard works by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is not intended as an official or revealed endorsement by the Church of the doctrinal, historical, cultural and other matters set forth.”
In addition, it seems quite evident from the scriptures quoted above in the LDS dictionary, that the word “isles” may well have been used in two different senses—one, regarding isles as a generalization of a separate body of people or a separate area as in:

Genesis 10:5 – By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands.

Psalms 72:10 – The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents.

Isaiah 20:6 – And the inhabitants of this isle shall say in that day…

The second use, is to isolate the area to a location embossomed in the sea, or stated differently, as an actual island as we understand the word today. Such is the case in:

Isaiah 24:15 – Wherefore glorify ye the Lord in the fires, even the name of the Lord god of Israel in the isles of the sea.

Esther 10:1 – And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the isles of the sea.

Ezekial 26:18 – Now shall the isles tremble in the day of they fall; yea, the isles that are in the sea shall be troubled at thy departure.

There is another scripture, found in Isaiah which, I suppose could be placed in either category, depending upon how one might view it:

Isaiah 66:19 – And I will set a sign among them and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow to the Tubal and Javan to the isles afar off that have not heard of my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles.

However, the real point of all this is to mention once again that Joseph Smith used his language in the translation of the gold plates as he was aided in their correct or incorrect usage by the Spirit. Thus, we need to understand what Joseph Smith knew of words in his day and at the time (1828-29) when he was translating. As has been mentioned in many previous posts about Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the dictionary was written in the same period as Joseph translated, and was written by Webster who lived only a hundred miles or so from where Joseph grew up, and was the American usage of the English language in the area of New England in the early 1800s.

Thus, we can suggest that Joseph would have used terms and words as they were then known, and as we have today in the form of Webster’s 1828 dictionary, which defines the word “isle” as:

“A tract of land surrounded by water, or a detached portion of land embossomed in the ocean.”

In searching all definitions of the word “isle” and “isles” in all dictionaries listed today, including those specializing in ancient definitions, there is NOT ONE SINGLE reference to a land “that could be reached by boat” as Sorenson claims. Obviously, any land adjacent to water could be reached by boat if one chose to travel in that manner—but it is not a definition of the word “isle,” and is clearly a disingenuous approach by Sorenson to cloud the issue of Nephi’s “Plain and simple” language, and Joseph Smith’s translation of the scriptures.

(See the next post, “Reached by Boat – Part II” for a clearer understanding as to why Bible dictionaries associate the word “isle” to the Mediterranean area)

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