Friday, April 20, 2018

Understanding Hebrew Directions – Part I

There seem to be a lot of difficulty among many who write about the Land of Promise in understanding Nephite directions found in the Book of Mormon as listed by Mormon throughout the scriptural record. While there shouldn’t be any difficulty at all, since Mormon uses north, east, south and west along with northward and southward, yet theorists labor over the information as they attempt to justify their own beliefs and models of the location of the Land of Promise and its various lands and locations.
The simple fact is, that there are certain steps that are required in following Nephite directions, and when understood and used, eliminates the problems so many have. It begins with an understanding of the Hebrew mindset regarding directions as viewed in the Middle East and how that varies considerably from those of the western viewpoint. If one is going to correctly understand Mormon’s directions, one needs to understand the Hebrew way of seeing directions and that means understanding how the Hebrews saw their world.
    Despite John L. Sorenson’s lengthy and energetic attempt to try and convince his readers and followers that there was such a thing as “Mormon North”—meaning when Mormon wrote directions he had different directions than we use today—and that north actually meant east, etc., we should discount out of hand such fallacious attempts at self-serving duplicity, if for no other reason than the Spirit seeing to the translation by Joseph Smith knew what Mormon’s writings meant and would never have given Joseph Smith the wrong information since the record was to be read in our day by English-speaking, English-thinking, and western-oriented minds.
    North, after all, means north!
    However, the fact is, the Hebrews did not think the way Sorenson claims in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, any more than they think that way today. This becomes quite plain when we understood the ancient Hebrew mindset.
    First of all, we need to keep in mind that there are certain things about the Hebrews that have not changed for thousands of years, such as:
1. There was and is only one God.
2. The Torah (first five books of Moses) was the Law (Pentateuch).
3. The Tanakh (all 24 books) was the central reference of their religion (Judaism), and all answers to all problems could be found there.
4. Israel/Israelites were the center of the world and all things evolved around them.
5. They were different and separate from all other peoples.
6. East was the predominant part of their world; and was the basis of their viewpoint, their orientation, their religion, and their way of life. Everything evolved around the “east” (this was also true of the Arabs and some other Semitic peoples)
In fact, no other direction had a specific location-meaning as did the East. In addition, the East was not a direction (like we think of in the West and in modern times), but a location, a place, even a circumstance or philosophy, such as:
1) the place where God dwelt, the place where God was from, the place where one went to meet God;
2) the area from which evil came; the “east wind” that brought destruction; the enemy—Arabia, Mesopotamia, Babylon resided there; the sea in the east that gave no life (Dead Sea);
3) that which lay before one, from the past to the present (from “aforetime” to “the fore”—their history to their future).
7. Other directions were merely references to east—that which was before them:
    North was to the left
    South was to the right
    West was behind them
In time of course, each of these other three directions took on meanings of their own, but they began as appendages of the “front” or what was ahead.
8. Cities, villages, settlements, were named after the first man who settled there. This is seen in the Nephite world: City of Nephi, City of Zarahemla, City of Gideon” (Alma 8:7). In addition, the land around that city (the distance varied) was also given the name of the city or founder: Land of Nephi, Land of Zarahemla, Land of Gideon, Valley of Gideon.
    In a work written by John L. Sorenson entitled “Book of Mormon Peoples” in which he erroneously claimed that “the people of the Nephites” was “a label given all those governed by a Nephite ruler,” showing that he and many other modern linguists, historians, scholars, etc., misunderstand the Hebrew language. While we frequently read “Nephites” in the Book of Mormon and “Jews” in the Bible, these are not the way the Hebrews/Jews spoke or wrote. The correct nomenclature of wordage in Hebrew grammar was “the people of the Nephites,” or “the people of the Jews” (more accurately and correctly, the latter would be “the people of Judah”).
    In addition, Joseph Smith sometimes used Hebrew grammar, as seen in “the people of Nephi” (Hebrew) and not “Nephi’s people” or simply “Nephites” (English). Sometimes he translated using English grammar, such as: “West Wilderness” instead of “the wilderness to the west,” or the “Sea East” and not “the sea in the East.”
Ancient Hebrew did not use language as we find in English, or as it is used today. As an example, “the people of the Nephites,” would be like saying “the people of the Americas.” Instead, we use “Americans,” or “Russians,” for “the people of Russia.” The scriptural record is often translated with English grammar using “Nephites” (Alma 2:17; Helaman 1:15; 3 Nephi 2:8); but not always, as in “the people of Nephi “(Alma 27:27; Helaman 1:12; 3 Nephi 2:17), or “the people of the Nephites” (Alma 2:12; Helaman 1:1; 3 Nephi 5:1). Also we find “dissenters of the Nephites” (3 Nephi 1:28) instead of “Nephite dissenters.” It is also interesting that the English grammar “north countries” was used in Mormon 2:3, instead of the Hebrew “countries of the north—the only time such reference is used.”
    The Hebrew language is very specific, not like English, or even modern languages in general. Ancient Hebrew had very little leeway, since words, when used in a context, had only one meaning (though the context could differ, thus changing the meaning).
9. Places, other than cities, villages, settlements, and land nomenclature, did not have names. Areas were normally designated
1) By location: “northern parts” (Alma 22:29) or “north parts of the land” (Helaman 1:23), and “north country” (Helaman 4:7);
2) By subject “isles of the sea” Nephi 29;7); “four parts of the earth” (2 Nephi 10:8); and “borders of the seashore” (Alma 50:15).
10. On occasion areas were named, but only by reference to something nearby (city, land), a person, or a circumstance. “Land of many waters,” “Land of First Inheritance,” “Land of Desolation,” “Land of their inheritance,” “Land of their fathers,” etc.
    It might be of interest to know that though the Hebrews knew the Dead Sea was a “dead sea,” they called it the “East Sea” (Sea to the East), and not the Dead Sea until modern times and modern map makers. So when someone says Sea East or East Sea in a Hebrew setting, an ancient Hebrew-speaking person would translate that in his mind to “Sea of the East” or “Sea to the East.”
    It is something like being an English-speaking person that automatically knows without being a linguist or English Major, that when someone says: “The car oil needs,” it is not correct and no one with a smidgen of English speaking background would say that, any more than they would say “Sell the car I did,” or “Gets gallon miles 17 it will.”
    Consequently, an English-speaking person would automatically know that such translations of English would be incorrect and automatically translate it in their mind to “The car needs oil,” and “I sold the car,” and “The car gets 17 miles to the gallon.” However, the problem is, if we are not a Hebrew-speaking person, or one who has studied ancient Hebrew, we would not know if a claimed interpretation were right or wrong.
    As a result, people accept someone’s interpretation or translation of Hebrew without knowing it is wrong because of the source from which it comes (college professor, writer, scholar, etc.) Unfortunately, many writers and Land of Promise theorists use a meaning of a Hebrew word to support their narrative or belief, but that interpretation is either out-and-out wrong, or a minor use of the word. It is like in English someone might say the meaning of “gun” is an instrument that holds a glue or caulking tube in construction, which is true, but it is a very minor use of the word “gun,” which is, of course, a weapon that shoots bullets.
(See the next post, “Understanding Hebrew Directions – Part II,” regarding how we can understand Hebrew words and their meaning in order to better understand what Mormon is writing, specifically as it relates to the many directions and his usage of compass directions to describe the Land of Promise)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Origination of North•ward – Part IV

Continued from the previous post, regarding ancient Hebrew directional words, and how the word Northward came about as well as understanding how to use Hebrew thought in defining words.
    Brant A. Gardner continues with his writing in support of John L. Sorenson skewing the Land of Promise directions: “There was just that little problem of north not being north. This paper reexamines the Book of Mormon directional terms and interprets them against the cultural system that was prevalent in the area defined by Sorenson’s geographical correlation. The result is a way to understand Book of Mormon directions without requiring any skewing of magnetic north.”
    It is true that Sorenson and other Mesoamericanists have gone to great lengths to try and convince the average reader that east-west is the same as the Book of Mormon north-south with a myriad of examples, but the fact of the matter is that Mesoamerica does not run north-south, or even northwest to southeast. It runs due east and west, particularly in the areas of greatest involvement, that is from their Land of Zarahemla to their Land of Bountiful and beyond into their Land of Desolation and to their Land of Many Waters in the far distance from the narrow neck (Cumorah).
Mormon’s north-south Land of Promise. Orange circle: Lehi’s landing and the travel of Nephi to the area called the city of Nephi in the area they called Land of Nephi (encompasses 1 Nephi 19 thru 2 Nephi 5). Green Circle: Land of Zarahemla and Land of Bountiful (2 Nephi 8 thru Alma; the bulk of the Book of Mormon) takes place in a more limited area

The point is, when Mesoamericanists attempt to prove their east-west oriented land by talking about such things as “Mormon North,” or a change in directions between modern times and the ancient Hebrews; or that Hebrews knew east because of the location of the sea to their back, and suggest that “Northwest” really meant something other than our modern understanding of the word, they are treading on unsupportable grounds.
    In Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, “northward” meant only “toward the north,” the meaning Joseph Smith used to describe what direction Mormon knew. Whatever the glyph was that represented Mormon’s viewpoint, the Spirit inspired Joseph Smith to use the modern English term “northward,” meaning unquestionably “toward the north.” It did not mean “east” or “west,” it meant “toward the north,” not “toward the west” or “toward the east” as Mesoamericanists try to tell us.
    Regarding having the sea at your back when landing in a new area (the Land of Promise), in his book Sorenson states (p39): “the first step to go inland, away from the sea, would be “eastward’ (“to the fore,” literally).”
    First of all, the literal translation of “qedem,” קֶ֫דֶם is “aforetime,” meaning “In time past; in a former time; formerly.” It is also used as “east” or “front,” but the literal translation of qedem is not “to the fore.”
    Secondly, when talking about a “literal” meaning, which regarding translation means “representing the exact words of the original text,” Sorenson errs in his comment. The one thing that all linguists know is that there are often many meanings to some words and in translating, or using words to make a point, one needs to take into consideration the various meanings of words and not just settle on one definition because it makes their point or agrees with their narrative as Sorenson does.
    Thus, in order to interpret a Hebrew word correctly, we must look at its usage, instead of imposing modern scientific interpretations on it, consequently, a word’s meaning depends on the specificity of the terms to which it refers. In this way, we are not placing our own interpretation on it, but letting the divinely inspired and authoritative scriptural record speak for itself.
    As an example, “eastward,” or “in the east” can mean several things in Hebrew since the word does not literally mean “to the fore,” but is derived from מִן (mîn) and קֶדֶם (qedem). מִן means ‘from, out of, on account of, off, on the side of, since, above, than, so that not, more than’ according to the lexicon. And קֶדֶם can be translated to ‘east,’ but also to “antiquity, front, that which is before,’ or ‘aforetime,’ (a time prior to our physical existence).” Qedem can also means “the past.” In some lexicon descriptions, qedem literally means “before.” But more accurately, qedem literally means “the direction of the rising sun.”
    Another way to see this is in the following simplified statements:
1. Lehi, upon landing, faced qedem (east)
2. Lehi, upon landing, stepped qedem (to the front or forward)
3. Lehi in Jerusalem faced qedem (land to the east, ie., Mesopotamia, Arabia, Babylon)
4. Lehi, in the Land of Promise thought qedem (about the past, about events that had taken place)
Thus, it cannot be said, as Sorenson goes on to talk about Lehi’s party in the landing site location Sorenson describes where the seashore runs northwest to southeast, that those in Lehi’s party would take their first step inland in a northeasterly direction and say that was the direction “east.” They would not do that, because that would not be the direction of the rising sun, which they would verify the next morning and realize that east was not directly aligned with the seashore in the Land of Promise as it had been in the land of Palestine.
    It also might be of importance in this to keep in mind that the eastern mind is not obsessed with time as the western mind is. Anyone who has lived and worked in the near or Middle East knows that they are “event oriented” rather than “time oriented” as are westerners. Their lives are not ruled by the clock, and the tenses in Hebrew and Arabic and as well in the Greek are not primarily concerned with time but rather flow or type of action.
    "eastward" is literally "unto the land of kedem;" kadeem means “that which is before or in front of a person, physically meaning the land before one, or more specific to the Jews, the land to the east of Palestine, i.e., Arabia, Mesopotamia, Babylonia, etc. In that, Misrach is used to mean the far east, with a less definite signification.
    Hopefully, when we read the scriptural record and make note of the geography, that we not make definitive statements of a word meaning, as Sorenson so often does, when a word has several equal and sometimes varying meanings, because singling out just one is both misleading and self-serving.
    Consequently, Sorenson’s point in his writing on this “to the fore,” which he sums up as “In the absence of a conscious group decision to shift the sense of their Hebrew direction terms by 45 degrees or more, the little group of colonists would have fallen into a new directional language patter as their Semitic-language model encountered the new setting.”
    Such would not be the case in the one Sorenson describes of Lehi’s “little party.” People of antiquity were not stupid. They knew and understood directions—most of the ruins we find of antiqitous peoples shows they knew how to and did align their important buildings toward certain directional points for both religious and agricultural needs.
    They knew what “north” was and fully understood the meaning of “toward the north” as being “in the direction of north,” therefore when Mormon writes of the Land Northward, he was referring to a land that lay to the north of where his main viewpoint was located, such as the Land of Zarahemla, meaning “toward the north” from the Land of Zarahemla.
    Thus, when Sorenson wrote (p39): “When you said yamah, intending ‘westward,’ the term would mean literally ‘seaward’ although the water would actually be ‘behind your back’ to our southwest.”
Yellow Arrow: Santa Barbara coastline in California running east and west for about fifty miles, while the coast in the entire state is generally north and south 

As I have mentioned before, growing up as a kid and teenager in South Los Angeles (California), where the ocean was to the west wherever you were in the Basin, you headed west to get to the beach, etc. When I went away to college in Santa Barbara about 90 miles to the north, where the seacoast runs east and west for about fifty miles from Point Concepcion past Goleta and Santa Barbara to Carpinteria, from the school in Goleta to my apartment in Santa Barbara, to go to the beach you actually went south—an unusual concept for a Californian where basically the ocean was to the west throughout the entire state (except for small pockets here and there).
    The point is, while my natural tendency to think of the ocean being to the west, I knew I had to drive south to get to school and to the beach. It was not rocket science. It was a simple understanding of directions. Wherever I was in that unfamiliar area, the directions to go places was understood even though it was completely misaligned from all the years of my upbringing in Southern California.
    Sorenson’s rationale, needed by him to sell his Mesoamerican model, is completely without merit. After all, northward is “toward the north,” as the very word implies—not in some other direction.
    Another factor in translating is a matter of understanding. Sorenson lays the claim that the Nephites would have been confused about the Land of Promise not having the sea aat their back running in the exact same direction is in Palestine. However, before ever coming to live in Palestine, though the words for directions had been known long before this, Israel spent 400 years in Egypt (Genesis 15;13) before Moses led them out. It would not have taken long for that first generation in Egypt to pass into history and a new generation grow up, followed by some 15 generations before leaving and two before resettling in Palestine. It seems unbelievable that Sorenson or anyone else would think that 15 generations in Egypt where the sea was to the north (on the left hand when facing east), or the two generations in the wilderness, that by the time Israel claimed their homeland (where the sea was to their back when facing east), thousands of years and innumerous generations after the origination of the words qadem, yam, yamin, semol were developed and used, that these newly settled Israelites could only think of directions by having the sea to their backs.
    Lastly, in translating, is the factor of accuracy. Sorenson claims that:
1. Yam meant “west” or “left hand.”
    However, yam translates to “sea,” and out of 421 Old Testament uses, 335 are translated as meaning “sea,” with only the other 86 relating to the direction of west.
2. Qedem meant “east” or “to the fore.”
    However, qedem translates to “aforetime,” meaning “In time past; in a former time; formerly.” The direction of “east” is a secondary meaning, while mizrach” actually translates to “east,” and does so in 61 instances of use in the Old Testament, and the other 13 in the direction of the sun’s rising, as in “toward the sunrise,” which would also be “east.”
3. Yamin meant “south” or “right hand.”
    However, the word “negev” translates to “south,” and in all 109 times used in the Old Testament, all related to the direction of south.
4. Semol meant “north” or “left hand.”
    However, “Tsaphon” (tsaphan) translated to “north” in all 152 uses in the Old Testament.
    Thus, we need to be careful how we accept someone’s view of translated Hebrew words and their meaning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Origination of North•ward – Part III

Continued from the previous post, regarding ancient Hebrew directional words, and how the word Northward came about.
    As shown in the previous post, Sorenson’s comment to suggest that the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians did not know the direction of the rising sun and attributed it to a south southeast direction is totally misleading and inaccurate. In fact, another point Sorenson makes in summation (p39) is that “in fact, we don’t know what Laman, Lemuel Sam, and Nephi did call their directions, since the first terms for directions appear in the Book of Mormon only hundreds of years after the first landing (Mosiah 7:5; 9:14)
    This is another inaccurate statement, which leads to a completely erroneous thought. We do know what Nephi called directions, for when Lehi and his party were moving down by the Red Sea, according to Nephi, discussing an area where he had never before been, states: “we traveled for the space of four days, nearly a south-southeast direction” (1 Nephi 16:13) and again later, “we did again take our journey in the wilderness; and we did travel nearly eastward from that time forth” (1 Nephi 17:1).
    Now the fact that Nephi, in an area he had never before been, moving along the Red Sea, where he had never before been, and then across what is now known as the Rub’ al Khali “The Empty Quarter,” where he had never before been, accurately states the directions in which he traveled. While we may not know the actual names of the Land of Promise he used, we can rest assured that he would have known the cardinal, intercardinal (or ordinal), and the principal winds directions, since he used them previously in these areas of which he had never before been. Chances are, he knew the Land North and the Land South, and knew of the land northward and the land southward, for those were the types of names the Hebrews gave areas overall.
    Now, let us return to northward and its use and meaning. “Northward” comes from the Old English norðweard, used around 1100 A.D.; that is, “north” (norð) and “ward” (-weard). Interestingly, the word “north” was not used as a noun until around 1200 A.D., and was first used in America as a noun in connection with North America in 1766 by Benjamin Franklin, and as an adjective in 1770.
    There seems to be an interesting point about “northward” that might be critically important about the use of Northward and Southward in the original Mormon script.
    First of all, it seems doubtful the Mormon would have used the actual words of Northward or Southward, for it is highly unlikely they would have appeared in the glyphs he used—few ancient languages had such differentiation in directions. As an example, in ancient Hebrew
צָפוֹן tsaphon (north) pronounced tash-FONE’ (with a near silent “t”) is used 138 times in the Old Testament and translated as: “the north” “on the north” “to the north” “for the north” “your north” “in the north” “of the north” “by the north”
צָפוֹנָה = (tzfoni) northern
צפוני = northernmost
צָפוֹנָה = northward
צָפוֹנָה = to the north
    Note that in the words “northern” “northward” and “to the north” the Hebrew has added Niqqud (vowel points) which is a way to indicate vowels, using a set of ancillary glyphs. They were neither used nor known anciently, and vowels were simply not indicated in written form. Thus, the words for “northern” and “southern” in Hebrew even today are the terms north and south with added symbols to indicate the further meaning.
    Perhaps by way of explanation:

Letters are in black—all that existed in the time of the writing of both Old and New Testaments and for some centuries afterward. Vowel points are in red, which did not exist ­anciently, with vertical ones meaning long or short vowels. Blue are cantillation marks to help in chanting

These additional marks for vowels are found beneath the letters, something that original Hebrew did not have until rabbis began adding them in around1000 B.C., or the time of king David. Initially, when added, these vowel additions were simply letters (H [heh] for “a”; Y [yud] for “i” and “e”; W [vav] for “o” and “u”). Thus, “ram” which would have been written before this time simply as RM, would now be RMH to distinguish it from “rom” “roam” “ream” etc., or RWMH for “rome.”
However, around 900 A.D., dots and dashes (niqqud ) in and around letters were added.
    Today, modern Hebrew has added several points, some called rafe (raphe), d’geshim or germination marks, and cantillation marks. Some show how to force sound through the lips, others are accent marks, and still others are how to chant, which complement the letters and vowel points. There are also gershayim marks which means double geresh or punctuation mark.
    While none of this is important, it shows that modern Hebrew allows for many changes in the language since its origination in ancient (Biblical) times and to what would have been known to the Nephites who spoke and wrote Old Testament Hebrew generally.
    A dagesh, which modifies the sound, with weak, light and strong dots (dagesh kal, dagesh qal and dagesh lene) and are placed within the consonants. 
Ancient                Present
In addition, in Egyptian, they would have had no use for northward or southward since they had a very narrow land occupied along the banks of the Nile River simply used a symbol for north and for south, represented by a ship without sail meaning north (the way the Nile flowed) and a ship with a sail going south (the way the wind blew).
    As mentioned earlier, these symbols were specific and had very generalized meaning of things to the north and things to the south when combined with other glyphs.
    Consequently, since the term “northward” and “southward” were not terms used anciently, for they would have said “to the south” or “to the north,” Mormon or Nephi, even though the latter’s writing in 1 Nephi 17:1 is so translated, simply would not have used “northward” or “southward.” More likely, the original Hebrew or Reformed Egyptian stated “toward the east” or “in the general direction of the east,” which would be more in line with the use of language in both ancient Hebrew and Egyptian.
    In Hebrew thinking, and Egyptian writing, the phrase “The Land to the North,” would be more accurate and typical than “The Land Northward.” While it is understandable that in English Land Northward is more common, the point is that Sorenson and other Mesoamerican theorists make a big deal out of the terminology “northward” and “southward” to justify their land arrangement, by claiming those words have a much wider meaning.
    As an example, Brant A. Gardner states in his “Problems of Directions in the Book of Mormon,” John L. Sorenson’s An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon presented the best argument for a New World location for the Book of Mormon. For all of its strengths, however, one aspect of the model has remained perplexing. It appeared that in order to accept that correlation one must accept that the Nephites rotated north to what we typically understand as northwest.”

Of course, northwest is not correct. Fudging by Mesoamericanists has become a common factor in their effort to make east-west oriented land seem an acceptable land base for their Land of Promise. While Central America overall can be considered northwest to southeast, the small area known as Mesoamerica is exactly east to west, not southeast to northwest as Gardner claims. But that is not the only thing Gardner claims. Consder his support of Sorenson’s “tiny little problem.” 
(See the next post, “Origination of North•ward – Part IV,” for more information regarding how the directional words were used in ancient Hebrew, and how and when the word Northward came about as well as understanding how to use Hebrew thought in defining words)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Origination of North•ward – Part II

Continued from the previous post, regarding how the directional words were used in ancient Hebrew, and how the word Northward came about.
    As we have shown many times, Sorenson loves to cloud the issue. Take for example his claim about the sun being to the east. He writes (p38) “We in the European tradition say that east’ is “where the sun comes up”; but in the arctic the sun unconcernedly rises in the south.” However, since Lehi didn’t land, and the Nephites never were even close to the arctic, the example he uses has no meaning other than to try and confuse the reader so he can slip in his east-west Mesoamerican model instead of Mormon’s north-south Land of Promise.
In another example, Sorenson goes on to say: “The Assyrians referred to the Persian Gulf as “the sea of the rising sun,” when actually it was south-southeast from them.” This is actually totally misleading. To understand this label, we have to understand the Assyrian Empire and the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, often referred to as “the mighty king.” First of all, in the days of Empire Building, conquering kings boasted of their achievements and conquests, thus their power and might in order to frighten and cow leaders and peoples of surrounding lands. In Sennacherib’s case, when he came to power in the beginning of the seventh century B.C., he struggled to put down resistance to his rule. The peoples of Syria and Palestine had counted on Egyptian help to throw off the Assyrian yoke, but Sennacherib brought them all under control. In 701 B.C. he laid siege to Jerusalem and then ruled Judah through king Hezekiah who was “confined like a bird in a cage.” Although the Assyrians finally left without taking the city, they took large quantities of plunder and numerous captives. The following text comes from a series of inscribed prisms (viewpoints) on which the kings of Assyria recorded the warlike deeds by which they wished to be remembered.
    In the “Prisim of Sennacherib,” (Sennacherib’s Annals) a historical recording in cuneiform writing written in Akkadian in which the siege of Jerusalem is described, giving a different account than that found in the Bible. In this writing under regarding “An Assyrian King’s Wars,” Sennacherib describes the process of acquiring an empire, and how new territories and peoples are incorporated under Assyrian control.
    The first entry reads: “Sennacherib, the great king, the mighty king, king of the universe, king of Assyria, king of the four quarters (of the earth); the wise ruler (shepherd, "pastor"), favorite of the great gods, guardian of the right, lover of justice; who lends support, who comes to the aid of the needy, who turns (his thoughts) to pious deeds; perfect hero, mighty man; first among all princes, the powerful one who consumes the insubmissive, who strikes the wicked with the thunderbolt…”
    Obviously, it is easy to see that accuracy and exactness are not involved here, but the bragging of one’s greatness. Sennacherib then goes on to say that “the god Assur, the great mountain, an unrivaled kingship has entrusted to me, and above all those who dwell in palaces, has made powerful my weapons…” Again, laying claim to his right to control all the country round about, from the north (Assyria) to the south (Palestine), from the east (Persia) to the west (Mediterranean). He goes on “…from the upper sea of the setting sun to the lower sea of the rising sun, all humankind (the black-headed race) he has brought in submission at my feet and mighty kings feared my warfare.”
The Assyrian Empire in 700 B.C., showing the Lower Sea (Persian Gulf) and the Upper Sea (Mediterranean)

Now here we find an interesting fact. While Sorenson claims this statement of sea is about the Persian Gulf, we need to understand how the Assyrians in 700 B.C. referred to these seas. First of all, the “Lower Sea” was the Persian Gulf; however, the “Upper Sea” was the Mediterranean Sea. Thus, the sun rose over the Lower Sea (Persian Gulf) and set over the Upper Sea (Mediterranean).
    While Sorenson tries to say that the east sea to the Assyrians was really south south-east, it was never the “east sea” it was the Lower Sea, because it was in the lower quadrant of their empire or land; just as the Upper Sea was in the upper quadrant of their empire or land. In fact, to the ancient Babylonians and Assyrians, their land was not designated east-west, but Upper and Lower. Their directional designations within their land were called Upper and Lower, as in Upper Mesopotamia and Lower Mesopotamia, the Upper Euphrates or Tigris and Lower Euphrates or Tigris, the Upper Zab river and the Lower Zab river, etc. (J.N. Postgate and R.A. Mattila, From the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea, Studies on the History of Assyria and Babylonia, ed Grant Frame, Nederlands Instituut, 2004).
    When looking at the statements Sorenson made regarding the seas, the correct wordage of the statements Sorenson erroneously used, is:
“to upon the great sea of the rising of the sun"
"to upon the great sea of the setting of the sun” (Edwin Norris, Assyrian Dictionary, Cuneiform Inscriptions of Assyria and Babylonia, Part III, Williams and Norgate, London, 1872, p1023).

However, it should be understood that neither Sennacherib nor the Assyrians referred to as “the rising sun over the Lower Sea” and the “setting sun over the Upper Sea” as meaning from east to west, but meaning over the powerful and all-mighty Assyrian Empire, from eastern border to western border, or all-inclusive of the entire Empire, as the map above shows. It might also be of interest to know that this Empire was referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun,” and covered Assyria, Elam, Armenia, Media, Nairi, Syria, Phoenicia, Tyre, Sidon, Sameria, Edom, and Palestine. And it should also be noted that the Assyrians did not say “sea of the rising sun” or “sea of the setting sun,” as Sorenson states, but the “Lower Sea of the rising sun,” and the “Upper Sea of the rising sun,” as is stated in “from the upper sea of the setting sun to the lower sea of the rising sun, all humankind…” of Sennercherib’s Prism or viewpoint of his exploits.
“In ancient Mesopotamia, "the upper sea" and "the lower sea "were the common appellations for the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf respectively. It is evident that "upper" and "lower" in these names corresponded to the upper and the lower reaches of the Euphrates. These classical names, which were often used in a pair, originated in Sumerian literature and were inherited into the Akkadian literary tradition at the time of the Sargon dynasty” (Keiko Yamada, “From the Upper Sea to the Lower Sea: The Development of the Names of Seas in the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions,” Society for Near Eastern Studies, Japan, Vol XL, 2005) 
    Ancient Mesopotamians believed that the Mediterranean (the “Upper Sea”) and the Persian Gulf (the “Lower Sea”) represented the extremities of the entire world, and the idea that the two seas should be unified under the hegemony of a single Mesopotamian ruler was very influential, and recognition of this is crucial for understanding the Assyrians’ world view (Yifat Thareani, “The Empire and the Upper Sea: Assyrian Control Strategies,’ Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No.375, May 2016, pp77-102). In fact, the idea that the two seas represent the extremes of the entire world unified under the control of a single Mesopotamian ruler was also established in the inscriptions of the late Neo-Assyrian kings.
    Consequently, the Assyrian Royal Inscriptions, “from the upper sea to the lower sea” were often intended as ideologically motivated expressions of the extent of the Assyrian dominion rather than geographical information. In addition, upper, referring to the location of sunset, and lower, referring to the location of sunrise, in a geographical sense was also mixed with the term “great” (rabītu) to indicate tâmutu elēnītu, or the more common tâmtu elītu meaning the Upper Sea (Mediterranean), sometimes referred to as “the upper sea of the sunset” and sometimes as “tâmtu rabītu” meaning “the great sea,” was of far greater importance geographically than tâmtu šupālītu meaning “the Lower Sea” (Persian Gulf).
    In ancient Babylon, an empire preceding the Assyrians, the term “Upper Sea” also applied to the Mediterranean, and the “Lower Sea” to the Persian Gulf. In fact, there was the Upper Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and the Lower Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and kings and countries along “the Sea of the Setting Sun” were those on the eastern seashore of the Mediterranean. (Josiah M. Ward, Come With Me Into Babylon, Frederick A. Stokes Co., New York, 1902, pp176-179). In addition, the Babylonians called the area of the city of Aššur as being in the Upper Land, an area along the western bank of the Tigris River, north of the confluence with the Little Zab river in what is now northern Iraq. There  king Adad conquered the Upper and Lower Country, or all of Mesopotamia.
Another statement to show that this was a territory, not specific about the direction of seas, the ancient writing states: “Assur, the great god, has entrusted me a kingship without rival, and has made my weapons powerful above all those who dwell in palaces. From the upper sea of the setting sun to the lower sea of the rising rsun he has made the four quwearets submit to my feet” (Beate Pongratz-Leisten, Religion and Ideology in Assyria, Walter de Gruyter Inc., Berlin, 2015,  p151,153,155). 
(See the next post, “Origination of North•ward – Part III,” for more information regarding how the directional words were used in ancient Hebrew, and how and when the word Northward came about)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Origination of North•ward – Part I

There seems to be some confusion among some Book of Mormon Land of Promise theorists about the meaning of the words “north” and “northward” and as a result some erroneous idea have crept into the design and understanding of the Land Northward and the meaning of that as a directional land.
    First of all, let’s take a look at some word meanings.
    The word “north” as we know it in English comes to us from the Old High German norð, and descended from the Proto-Indo-European unit *ner-, meaning "left; below," as north is to the left when facing the rising sun. It is the same as the origination of the Old English norþ, a cognate with various Germanic counterparts such as Dutch noord, West Frisian noard, Danish and Norwegian nord, which are all from a Proto-Germanic nurþrą, and cognate with Greek ner-νέρτερος (nérteros, infernal, lower), with “*ner” meaning “left, below” as north is to the left when one faces the rising sun.
    At the same time, the term Northward, is derived from German nordwärts (nord + -wärts) or nordwärtig from the Greek βόρειος (o pio vóreios) meaning “northerly” or “toward the north,” and is noordwaarts in Dutch, modnord in Danish, noarden in West Frisian, pohjoiseen in Finnish, and nord in Norwegian.
The suffix –ward is used to denote “in a particular direction” or “toward a particular place” and is used with some nouns and adjectives. So in the case of north (a singular direction) when adding the suffix –ward (northward) it means simply “toward the north.” The term –ward comes to us from Old English -weard, -weardes; akin to Old Saxon and Old Frisian -ward. Old High German -wert, German -wärts, Icelandic -verðr, Gothic -vaírþs, Latin vertere, all of these mean “toward.”
    Consequently, the simple meaning of “Northward” is: “toward the north.”
    So the “Land Northward” is a land situated or directed towards the north. To point in that direction, one faces or moves towards the north. That is, northwardly is moving northward, bearing, facing, or situated toward the north.
    Synonyms of “North” are northward, northwards, northern, northerly, northbound, northmost, and even toward the north pole. Consequently, northward is having a northerly direction northwards, northwardly; toward the north.
    In the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, the dictionary known to the Saints in 1829 and part of the reference books used in Joseph Smith’s School of the Prophets, the definition of northward is:
    Northward: adjective Being towards the north, or nearer to the north than to the east and west points.
    Northward: adverb Towards the north, or towards a point nearer to the north than the east and west points.
    John L. Sorenson makes a mockery of this understanding in his book An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, when he tried to justify his east-west Mesoamerican model by claiming that the ancient Hebrews understood directions only in relationship to the seas around them.  He wrote (pp38-39) yam (“sea”) meant “west,” qedem (“fore”) stood for “east.” Then yamin (“right hand”) meant “south,” while semol (“left hand”) denoted “north.”
    First of all, “yam” and “yamin” was the god of the sea in the Canaanite pantheon, with “yam” taking the role of the adversary of Baal in the Ugaritic Baal Cycle. (ים ym), the
Canaanite word for "Sea," is one name of the Ugaritic god of Rivers and Sea.
    In Hebrew, “yam” יָם means “sea” and is translated as “sea,” and is translated 278 times in the Old Testament: “seas” (27 times); “seashore” (10 times); “red” (24 times); “south” (once); “west” (59 times); west side (4 times); “western” (once); and “westward” (12 ties). That is, it is used 421 times in the Old Testament, and translated as “sea” 339 times; and both as south and west directions 77 times. In fact, from Genesis to Exodus, it is translated 21 times as sea, and only 4 times as west.
Yam, translated “Sea,” is placed in all four directions from Palestine and does not denote a direction 

It should also be noted that “yam” is translated as “sea” generally (45 times), as well as “Mediterranean Sea,” which is to the west (20 times), “Red Sea,” which is to the south (13 times), “Dead Sea,” which is to the east (18 times), and “Sea of Galilee,” which is to the north (4 times). It is also translated as seaward (28 times), River (7 times), and the Temple Basin (6 times).
    It can hardly be said, as Sorenson does, that “yam” is singularly referenced in direction to the Mediterranean Sea when it is referenced to other seas or sea in general 108 times and only 20 times to the Mediterranean Sea.
    Secondly, “semol” (semovl) שְׂמֹאול means “left” not “left hand.” In a practical sense, it can mean “left hand” but almost only when addressing a direction, such as “on the left hand” (Genesis14:15) or “you take the left hand, then I will go to the right” (Genesis 13:9); however it is defined as “to the left” (Genesis 24:49; 48:13; Numbers 20:17; 22:26; Deuteronomy 2:27; 5:32; 17:11; 28:14; Joshua 1:7; 23:6; 2Samuel 6:12); “on their left” (Exodus 14:22,29); “or the left” (Deuteronomy 17:20). In fact, in the 54 uses in the Old Testament of “semovl/semol,” 44 relate to the word “left” as a direction, only ten as “left hand” and six of those are merely direction, only four truly use the meaning of “left hand.”
    Thirdly, Yamin יָמִין basically means “hand” and is translated as “right hand” 75 times out of the 139 times it is appears in the Old Testament; “left-handed” (2 times); “right” (49 ties); “right side” (8 times); “south” (4 times) and “southward” (once).
    Fourthly, Qedem קֶ֫דֶם means “aforetime” and means “the front” “the fore part” “before” and “forward/foreward.” It is also used as a time frame: “eternal” “old/past” ”ancient/anciently” “in ancient days” “everlasting” and “eternal.“ It is also used as a direction, meaning “east” ”toward the east/eastward” “east end” “east part” “east side” and “sideward.”
Sorenson’s location for Lehi’s landing along the El Salvadorian south coast 

To sum up his points, Sorenson then states: “Suppose, for a  moment, that you were with Lehi’s party as it arrived on the Pacific coast of Central America. By western civilization’s general present-day terminology, the shore would be oriented approximately northwest-southeast. When you said yamah, intending “westward” the term would mean literally “seaward,” although the water would actually be behind your back” to our southwest. Further, the first step you took inland, away from the sea would be eastward(“to the fore,” literally) in Hebrew; we today would say the motion had been northeastward. In the absence of a conscious group decision to shift the sense of their Hebrew direction terms by 45 degrees or more, the little group of colonists would have fallen into a new directional  language patter as their Semitic-language model encountered the new setting.”
    Now, the reality of this would be quite different. First of all, standing along a coast of a huge ocean (Pacific Ocean) with land stretching as far as the eye can see to both the left and the right, you might well think that behind you was “west” and foreward or in front of you would be “east.” However, at dawn, the next morning you are going to find that the sun rises in the “east” and where the sea lies would quickly dawn on you that the sea was out of position to your earlier thought. After all, even using Sorenson’s own convoluted thinking, directions were assumed to be based on the foreward, or “east” position. And to a Hebrew, “east” was the dominant direction by virtue of its relationship with religion (God dwells in the east).
    Thus, once the sun rose, there would be no question where east was located and everything else would then be oriented to that direction. And in the area Sorenson claims Lehi landed, it is about 14º north Latitude (Guatemala City is 14.6349º North). Since the sun moves from 23.5º south latitude at the summer solstice to 23.5º north latitude at the winter solstice, then 14º north would certainly place the area of Sorenson’s Nephites in the near center of the northern movement of the sun from the equator to its northern terminus each year. That would provide the Nephites with a very clear understanding of where the four cardinal directions (north, east, south, west) were located.
(See the next post, “Origination of North•ward – Part II,” for more information regarding how the directional words were used in ancient Hebrew, and how the word Northward came about)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What Was Nephite Cement? – Part II

Continued from the previous post regarding what Nephite cement was and how it worked, and how it was made.
Cinder block house being built in Mexico

Today, concrete is poured with rebar, meaning a reinforcing steel bar, used as a tension device in reinforced concrete and reinforced masonry structures to strength and hold the concrete in compression; however, this tension strength is only about one-tenth of its compressive strength. As an example, the strength of concrete experiences significant gains (strengthening) over time: gaining 16% strength in one day, 40% in 3 days, 65% in 7 days, 90% in 14 days and 99% strength in 28 days. The rebar holds the cement or concrete together as it strengthens immediately, and keeps it from separating, shrinking (which causes cracks) and deteriorating over time—all of which cause strength loss.
    Thus, reinforced concrete has a high compressive strength compared to other materials used for building, and due to the provided reinforcement, reinforced concrete can also withstand a good amount tensile stress.
    The problem is, and it should be kept in mind when discussing building houses out of cement, such as the Nephites are said to have done in the Land Northward, that cement hardens with age. It starts out as a powder, and when made into workable cement, by adding water and lime, it hardens, and as time passes, the nature of cement is to harden and harden until it becomes brittle. It will start to deteriorate and eventually return back into powder, or decompose. Very few cement houses would last very long, especially because of weathering and especially around salt, such as salt water of seas, etc.
Forms are made and rebar placed within before cement is poured. When finished and set, the forms are removed and the cement left to cure

Another factor to keep in mind is that in order to pour or use cement, forms into which it is poured have to be made—and those forms are made of lumber, Of course, a set of forms, once made, can be used over and over again.
    Generally the steel rods are patterned (not smooth) to form a better bond with the concrete. The most common type of rebar is carbon steel, typically consisting of hot-rolled round bars with deformation patterns.
    In practice, any material with sufficient tensile strength that is materially compatible with concrete could potentially be used to reinforce concrete, for example bamboo might be considered a viable substitution in regions where steel is not available. Steel and concrete have similar coefficients of thermal expansion, so a concrete structural member reinforced with steel will experience minimal stress as the temperature changes. Reinforcing bars in masonry construction have been used since at least the 15th century. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that rebar displayed its greatest strengths with the embedding of steel bars into concrete, thus producing modern reinforced concrete. Several people in Europe and North America developed reinforced concrete in the 1850s.
    In 1824, an Englishman named Joseph Aspdin discovered that by burning finely ground chalk and clay in a kiln until the carbon dioxide was removed, that cement could be made. He named it “Portland“ cement because it resembled the high-quality building stones found in Portland, England. Cement was used by the Greeks and the Romans who used lime made by heating limestone and adding sand to make mortar with coarser tones for concrete. The Egyptians made cement by using calcined gypsum—even today an amount of gypsum is added because it controls the “setting of cement,” and plays a very important role in controlling the rate of hardening of the cement.
    The key to making cement is the conversion of calcium carbonate to calcium oxide (lime) in a process called calcination. This means heat is applied and required to break chemical bonds in the compound undergoing decomposition, thus calcium oxide is usually made by the thermal decomposition temperature at which the substance chemically decomposes. This is achieved by heating the materials, such as limestone or seashells, that contain calcium carbonate (CaCO3; mineral calcite) in a lime kiln to above 1,517°F, a process called calcination or lime-burning, to liberate a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2), leaving quicklime: CaCO3(s)CaO(s)+CO2(g).
The quicklime is not stable and, when cooled, will spontaneously react with CO2 from the air until, after enough time, it will be completely converted back to calcium carbonate unless slaked with water to set as lime plaster or lime mortar.
    This obviously requires fire, and the Nephite producers of cement in the Land Northward would have needed a lot of flammable material to sustain the cement industry in order to make homes for the thousands that moved into that land.
    One of the critics main issues with cement among the Nephites, other than their lack of understanding that cement was known in the ancient world among the Egyptians who were often associated with the Hebrews, is in the firing of materials needed. In other words, they claim, you make cement because you have a lot of wood. If you don't have a lot of wood, you can't make cement. Yet "Helaman" they point out said they made cement because they had no wood.
    To counter this, Brant Gardner erroneously has suggested that the cement buildings were made before the wood ran out, which of course is the opposite of what the Book of Mormon says is very clear. They used cement because there were no trees. Some have suggested that there must have been other stuff to burn. But what? The critics point out that far as we know they knew nothing of oil. And the people covered the land from sea to sea. That implies thousands of houses, many of them made from cement. You cannot make that much cement without trees. Obviously, this has led some critics to claim the Book of Mormon description of cement houses because there were no trees is just impossible.
    The problem lies in part with the fact that we have so little to go on in the scriptural record, and critics love to take limited information and built it into a major issue. When it is said that the Nephites “became exceedingly expert in the working of cement” (Helaman 3:7), we are not told in what way they worked with cement. After all, there are numerous applications for cement—all the way from building a house completely out of cement, to using cement (mortar) as a facing over stone or brick, or even in “cementing together” brick. “Therefore they did build houses of cement, in the which they did dwell” tells us only that they used cement as a major ingredient or material in the building of houses.
    In addition, it needs to be kept in mind that the scriptural record is a complete record and for those who dwell on one idea instead of the overall information and picture it presents often miss the point. As an example, in the midst of the information about the Nephites in the Land Northward who “did dwell in tents, and in houses of cement,” we also find the statement:
    “And it came to pass as timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping” (Helaman 3:10).
    That is to say, not everyone was living in cement houses, and that timber was being shipped into the Land Northward from the Land Southward. Stated differently, while “there being but little timber upon the face of the land” in the Land Northward, and “they did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up, that in time they might have timber to build their houses, yea, their cities, and their temples, and their synagogues, and their sanctuaries, and all manner of their buildings.”
    That is, they did have lumber in the land. It was shipped there from the south.
    Thus, “they did enable the people in the land northward that they might build many cities, both of wood and of cement” (Helaman 3:11). How that wood shipped into the Land Northward was used and in what manner it was used to build houses, is not stated. It could have been used to build forms into which the cement was poured, it could have been used to fire kilns, it could have been used for beams in roofs—typically flat or slight pitches as opposed to severe snow country in North America where roofs are steeply pitched for snow runoff—or any number of ways to supplement the building of houses, while the generations waited for the forests to grow as “they did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up” (Helaman 3:9).
    It might be noted that in Ecuador (Land Northward) the Balsa tree is predominant in the rain forest, and 90% of all Balsa wood lumbered comes from Ecuador. However, balsa wood is very light, soft, and with a coarse grain, and is not used for construction and would not be used in building homes. Rubber trees, also a rain forest tree, is not suitable for construction; nor are the Amazonian rain forest palm trees suitable for construction. All of which, however, could be used to fire kilns and make cement.
    Naturally, cedar, fir, pine, spruce, and oak make the best building materials, even elm, hickory and chestnut can all be used for building construction. On the other hand, people are generally adaptable and have been known to make do with natural materials available to them in their building. Still, with a thousand-year history of building with adobe, brick and stone, or living in tents, the Nephites may have preferred more stable construction like what they were used to and found working with cement to their liking more than using some unknown and undesirable material for homes.
    The point is, we simply do not know and to make issues out of unknown factors that cannot be determined, or to judge the past by current standards, is both unwise and foolhardy. Yet, there are some trees that would not have been usable for building homes, temples and cities out of and those would include Balsa, Hemlock, Eucalyptus, Rubber and Palm trees, most of which would have been found in the rain forests of the ancient world where the Nephites were located.
    In addition, tropical forests do not generally grow trees overly suitable for construction, and the Land Northward may well have been in a more tropical area than that of the Land Southward. Also, there are several tree woods that are used for more specific construction, like furniture, cabinets and paneling that may not have been sturdy enough to build the types of homes the Nephites were looking to build, such as Ash, Beech, Birch, Cheery, Dogwood, Mahogany, Ash, Maple and Walnut.
    To judge an entire book and people on such flimsy and limited information seems unworthy of scholars and historians, who would do better to take all things into consideration than a single thought.