Wednesday, December 26, 2012

More Comments to be Answered Part II

We seem to be flooded lately with numerous comments, mostly from critics of the Book of Mormon, which I welcome and will endeavor to answer here:
Comment #1: “The BYU interpretation of the Tree of Life Stone, claiming it contains Hebrew inscriptions and portrays Lehi, Sarah, and Nephi, has been refuted by Dr. Hugh Nibley of BYU, the Smithsonian Institute, and an expert in Meso-American archaeology” Zach.
Response: As it should be! The interpretation of Izapa Stela 5, known to some as the ‘Tree of Life Stone,’ was made by M. Wells Jakeman. He never actually interpreted the stone, but merely proposed that the image was a representation of a tree of life vision found in the Book of Mormon. His idea found little support among knowledgeable LDS people, however, many members in the 1960s embraced the proposal hoping it proved the Book of Mormon, which it did not, nor does it today. Hugh Nibley is in good company on this issue, as Jakeman’s view is not supported by Brigham Young University or the LDS Church, or any (to my knowledge) of its leaders, archaeologists, or historians.
Comment #2: “Egyptian speaking Jews is a major weakness in Smith’s book. When Lehi supposedly left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. to migrate to the Americas, no Jew spoke Egyptian! One author points out how preposterous it would have been for Lehi and his family to use Egyptian in any form. They were pure Hebrews, lived in Jerusalem all their lives, were surrounded by people who only spoke Hebrew, and their people hadn’t spoken Egyptian since they left Egypt under Moses” Johanna.
Outside the city walls of Jerusalem were many farms where people lived during Lehi’s time
Response: First of all, Lehi and his family never lived in Jerusalem—he lived “all his days” at Jerusalem (1 Nephi 1:4), which is an important difference. Secondly, this is another one of these silly comments that critics like to make that has no bearing on reality. The Jews in and around Jerusalem spoke Hebrew, of course, but being bi-lingual was not unknown among many, especially those involved in international trade (i.e., buying items from the Arab caravans coming up from the Frankincense Trail which passed by on the King’s Highway below Jerusalem). The Jews have always been involved in monetary matters, buying and selling, lending and collecting, etc., and to do so in the Middle East in any period, such Jews had to know other languages.
Third, the Book of Mormon does not say that Lehi and his family spoke Egyptian, in fact, 1000 years after landing, the last Nephite made it quite clear, that they only wrote on the record in Reformed Egyptian, but preferred Hebrew (Mormon 9:32-33). Fourth, when interacting with other cultures, a businessman would have had to know the language, for both communication and for record keeping, and since Lehi named his second two sons, Sam and Nephi, which were both Egyptian names, it might be concluded that Lehi had dealings with the Egyptians at this time while he was building his wealth, which the scriptural record tells us was great (1 Nephi 2:4.11; 2 Nephi 3:16,25). What you misunderstand is that no Jewish person in 600 B.C. would have chosen to speak Egyptian were it not necessary, and no Jew spoke Egyptian or any other language in their home among their family, in the city among other Jews, or in the synagogues. As a side note, several years ago I had a good friend that was a proudfully Jewish Engineer—he had two things he talked about a great deal, 1) how the Jews were an independent people who had never been swayed by other cultures, etc., and 2) that he could speak four languages beside Hebrew, and used that knowledge frequently to study Arab and other historical claims regarding the Middle East.
Comment #3: “If Moses, trained to speak in Egyptian, chose to speak and write in Hebrew--as well as the whole nation of Israel, after living in Egypt for 400 years--why, then, as author Anthony Hoekema asks, “should Lehi or his son Nephi, who apparently had never lived in Egypt, write in Egyptian?” Further, since the Jews hated the Egyptians, it would have been an insult for Lehi to have used that language. This raises the question of why Smith decided to say the Book of Mormon was written in Reformed Egyptian?” The Ripper.
Hoekema and two of his books, describing Mormonism as one of the four major cults in religion, and the false doctrine of being saved by grace alone
Response: First of all, Anthony Andrew Hoekema believed Mormonism was a cult, was born in the Netherlands but emigrated to the U.S. when he was ten years old, attended the Calvin College, and the Calvin Theological Seminary. He pastored several Christian reformed churches, before becoming Associate Professor of Bible at Calvin College, where he was the professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for 21 years, as a Dutch Reformed traditional minister, and spent two sabbatical years in Cambridge, England, one in the 1960s and one in the 1970s. He published four books, none of which dealt with early Jews and Egyptians, nor did any of his studies qualify him to be an expert in that matter. However, his writings against Mormonism are well known. 
Now, specifically to your questions: 1) Moses spent the first 40 years of his life speaking and writing and thinking Egyptian (Acts 7:21), the next forty years of his life as a Hebrew herdsman in the land of his father-in-law, Jethro, who was a leader in the Jewish faith at the time. When he was about 80 years of age, he had his life-changing meeting with God, appointed his mission to get the Lord’s people out of Egypt, and bring them to the Jewish Land of Promise in the Canaan/Palestine area. Moses’ biggest problem was to try and eradicated the 400-year Egyptian influence from his people, which he was never able to do so the Lord had them wander in the wilderness until all those except a valiant few, had died off. Since Moses effort was to take 10-12 generations of Hebrews who knew only Egypt, then it would be understandable that the Egyptian language and all things Egyptian would have been avoided at all costs. 2) Since Moses died about 1400 B.C., according to the best efforts at calculation of experts, by 600 B.C. the Hebrews had been in Israel for some 800 years, twice as long as they had been in Egypt.
By this time, Egypt was no longer the earlier threat, and at times, the Jews were aligned with Egypt on an international level. One of these was in their war with Syria in 700 B.C., when both Babylon and Egypt were aligned with Israel. By the 5th century B.C., Jews had built a fortress in Egypt to help the Egyptians protect their eastern border, considered to be the earliest Diaspora Jewish settlement. The Jews, from the beginning of their history were an independent people and remained such from that time to this; however, they were not fools—they knew at times they had to make alliances with other peoples in order to continue to survive, and often chose Egypt, sometimes to their detriment.
Comment #4:  “Giving Joseph Smith the benefit of the doubt, let’s say that Reformed Egyptian was indeed some kind of readable mixture of Egyptian and Hebrew. Since Smith portrayed it as being the universal language of North and South America, one would expect archaeologists to have uncovered something written in it. But, they haven’t” Kelsey.
Response: A reading of the scriptural record would tell you that at no time did anyone suggest, either Joseph Smith or the prophets who wrote in the record two thousand years ago, that Reformed Egyptian, with or without a mixture of Hebrew, was ever the universal language of North and South America. Reformed Egyptian was simply the language used by those who wrote on the sacred records, one such record has been translated into the Book of Mormon. We have no indication anyone ever spoke that language, only that it was written, and after the annihilation of the Nephite people and nation in 385 A.D., there was no one left who wrote that language in the Land of Promise.

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