Sunday, February 21, 2010

Strabo and the Jaredites

Strabo's third volume of "Geographica" (written during the time of Tiberius Caesar, 1st Century A.D.,) discusses the people and places of Iberia, today's Spain and Portugal. I have found many details to be of interest.

Quite striking is the mention of a city of Moron. Of course the word in English is quite unflattering, but certainly a transliteration from some other language wouldn't have the same meaning. Moron also turns up as the name of an ancient New World Jaredite city in the Book of Mormon, surely the subject of derision from people unable to comprehend the above principle.

So perhaps Joseph Smith copied "Moron" from a map of Spain, right? Not likely, since that ancient name has long since given way to Al-Merim.

If the Iberian "Moron" is of Punic origin, it fits nicely into the possible Semitic connections of the Jaredites. But suppose it is purely Celtic? Not a problem either, since the Jaredites may actually be of a different ethnic stock than the children of Shem -- and they are certainly not Hebrews like the Lehites. Celts and Jaredites may be of closely related ancestry. Strabo himself notes that the Iberian Celts "share traits with the Thracian and Scythian tribes," who ranged across Europe and into Eurasia, the latter being where LDS scholar Hugh Nibley placed the Jaredite wanderings.

Those Iberian Celts also had a "sort of women-rule," says Strabo (3:14:18), a concept that Nibley also finds among the Jaredites.

Friday, February 12, 2010

All about joy!

The gospel of Christ is all about joy.








All God's children, except for those very few who in full knowledge openly reject Him, who "deny that the sun is shining at noon-day," as it were, have a place in His heaven. Those who have developed their talents and Christ-like qualities, will qualify for greater responsibilities, and the blessings that go with them. We give those levels of progression the titles of "terrestial" and "celestial" -- and are reminded of the teaching of Christ that within His Father's house are many mansions.

But the point is, for the majority of God's children, we have reason to rejoice.

We will never be perfect in this life. Is that reason to hang our heads, and grovel in the dirt of depression? No! To do that is, verily, to reject Christ and deny His Atonement. Do not make that mistake!

The gospel is Joy, Joy, Joy!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The dastardly demagogue

The Book of Mormon uses a rare word, scriptorally speaking, to describe the villain Amlici. He is a "cunning" man.

All instances of that word in the KJV Old Testament go back to its older, non-perjurative sense, as in skillful. Only in the New Testament, and only once, do we find it denoting a bad person. That is, Ephesians 4:14, speaking of "cunning craftiness."

The Greek behind that phrase is "panourgia," which translates, fittingly enough, as specious or false wisdom. Indeed, the enemy of righteousness may appear to be a clever person, honey-tongued and quick-on-his-feet, but ultimately, he is a fool with a sad fate ahead of him.

I wonder if the Hebrews, without the long history of sophistry and rhetoric of their Hellenistic neighbors, truly had a societal concept, an archetype, of the "cunning man," the panourgia, the demagogue, among them.

The closest that the Old Testament seems to get is the tale of how Absalom organized rebellion against his father, David. His doomed uprising began with beguiling promises to the disaffected subjects of his father's kingdom. ((2 Sam. 15:4) But his grandstanding seems rather clumsy -- no Greek sophist would have been impressed.

If the "cunning man," the demagogue, is not to be found among the ancient Hebrews, from whence did the New World Hebrew expatriates, the Lehites, derive the concept? Is this an anachronism? Or is it in fact a subtle clue that the Lehites were not alone in their new home, that there were among them remnants of another people who did indeed understand the concept and used it against them?

Friday, February 5, 2010

New villain on the scene

I have just reached the second chapter of Alma in my study of the Book of Mormon and am curious about the villain we meet there, Amlici. As with many of those who sought to overturn the order of things in the Nephite world, Amlici himself is an enigma. Was he wholly a Nephite or of some other ethnic derivation with an axe to grind, perhaps considering himself an aggrieved minority in the Nephite culture, as might an Ainu in Japan or a Native American in the United States today? Consider his very name -- impossible to derive from the m-l-k root so familiar in the Book of Mormon, if the transliterated "c" is in truth to be pronounced as an "s."

If he was simply a power-hungry Nephite, or if this is a title put upon him by his Nephite enemies (there is a long history in Native American culture of doing so -- just ask an "Eskimo") then I may be very off base but his name might mean "Man of Aml," if "ic" is a garbled version of the Hebrew "aish" and the final "i" is a possessive marker.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The enigma of Abgar

The enigma of Abgar:

Within the first few pages of the venerated History of the Christian Church, by Eusebius, occurs a peculiar story, which brings up a lot of questions.

Abgar was supposedly king of the Edessa region circa 30 A.D. According to Eusebius, he somehow got word of the miracle-cures being performed by one Jesus of Nazareth and wrote Him a letter, to which Jesus responded by promising to later send a disciple.

So accustomed are we Christians to our specific picture of Christ from the Bible that it is difficult, for me at least, to picture him writing a letter or even dictating to an amanuosis. The Gospels present no hint of him ever doing such. Then again, He is never mentioned fluffing his pillow or washing His hands but surely He did at some point.

The closest that we come to such a dictation, is more of a verbal command than anything else: Tell that fox (Herod) and we are not told whether anyone dared comply with that request.

But that is a trivial issue. Writing a letter is no sin and if He did, He did.

Bigger item number one: If these are genuine words of Jesus, even if they are approximated elsewhere in the New Testament, they are scripture. And if scripture, then they are a precious fragment that belongs within the canon, not buried in an old book that apparently only scholars read anymore.

Bigger item number two: This text seems to thrust a spear into the heart of scholarship that early Christians considered themselves still under the Jewish umbrella – just sectarian rivals as it were. Jews were erring brothers, not an alien race, not Christ-killers or demon spawn to be caricatured, despised and persecuted. That attitude came later as Gentiles took over leadership of the church and misunderstood the position of the first Christians.

Abgar, however, is presented as a man full of rage against apparently the whole Jewish nation for purportedly holding the still-living Christ in contempt. If his letter is genuine, then Christian anti-Semitism is much older and began even while Christ was yet alive.

If Eusebius were simply presenting a hoary old legend that he heard from a friend of a friend, the enigma might not be so perplexing. But he insists that he read the Abgar story first hand, from the official files of Edessa. That alone wouldn’t prove its purported date, provenance and authorship, but it would certainly strengthen the case.

And yet in my 30-plus years of being a Christian and reading every author from C.S. Lewis to Pope John Paul, I have never heard this story before.