Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Precious Things of Solomon’s Temple

There seems to be a considerable disagreement among some historians and scholars about the simple language of the Book of Mormon regarding Nephi building a Temple “like unto Solomon’s.”

Many claim that when Nephi said, “iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” that when he turned around in the next statement and said, “it was not built of so many precious things; for they were not to be found upon the land,” that he was contradicting himself.

Gold: Precious Ore (left); Ark of the Covenant: Precious Thing (right)

However, “precious ores,” and “precious things,” are two entirely different meanings. Ore, of course, means “metal,” and “precious ore” means “gold and silver (or any rare metal, such as platinum, palladium, etc.) But the word “things” means “any substance, that which is created.” So what were the precious things of Solomon’s temple “were not to be found upon the land”?

Solomon’s temple was built of huge blocks of the choicest stone, overlaid with olive wood and vast amounts of cedar (from Lebanon—the city of Tyre). Stone, of course, was available to Nephi, as was wood, but not olive wood or cedar, which did not exist in either Mesoamerica or the Andean area.

The walls were lined with cedar, on which were carved figures of cherubim, palm-trees, and open flowers; the roof was of cedar and the ceiling was supported with cedar beams; the door-posts, of olive-wood, supported folding-doors of fir, and the doors of the Holy of Holies were of olive-wood; and the walls of stone were covered with fir-wood. Two brass pillars named Boaz and Jachin stood in the porch of the Temple (brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and the chief ore of zinc is spalerite—neither of which is mentioned in the record nor found in Mexico, Central America, or the Andean area of South America).

There were also things like brazen (bronze) lavers, bronze alters, the brazen sea that could hold 24 to 36 thousand gallons of water resting on the backs of 12 oxen cast in brass, portable bronze holders, lions and cherubim ornaments, many vessels of orichalcum (copper and bronze, or copper and tin—not found in Mesoamerica but may be similar to Peruvian tumbaga). And, of course, the Nephite temple did not contain the most precious twin tablets of Moses or the Ark of the Covenant.

“For they were not to be found upon the land,” would certainly refer to olive wood, cedar, bronze of any kind for the many items in the temple, including the lavers, sea, and 12 oxen. Bronze is made from copper and tin and there was no tin in Mesoamerica or the Andean area

“The workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.” Nephi taught his people "to build buildings,” and obviously their skill was up to the task of building a temple like unto that of Solomon.

Thus it can be said that the temple “like unto Solomon’s” which Nephi built was made of stone and wood—the finest that could be found in the Land of Promise, but not the same fine stone, wood and bronze as Solomon had in Jerusalem, Lebanon, or the country round about. And there were numerous brazen or bronze objects (precious things to the Jews) in the temple. Nor would they likely have been able to cast the life-sized oxen, and certainly not in bronze, or made the huge “sea” out of bronze, for they had no tin to mix with copper. In addition, at this early stage, probably not able to make fine, huge tapestries that hung on the walls and over openings.

But they would have had plenty of gold, silver and copper to adorn the temple, as had Solomon, so Nephi, who had seen Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem before leaving, could say, “But the workmanship thereof was exceedingly fine.”

It is a shame that so many historians, scholars, and theorists spend so much time “looking beyond the mark” in order to prove their beliefs or disprove those of others. The Book of Mormon was written for us in our language for our understanding. And Nephi, as well as Mormon’s abridgement, was written in plain and simple language.

No comments:

Post a Comment