This issue comes up in apologetics all the time, especially with respect to the
evident lack of horses in the New World between the end of the ice age and the
time of Columbus (the Vikings don't count because it's known they didn't bring
horses with them). And the answer, or more properly, I suppose, the speculation,
is that besides the fact that you can't prove a negative (that is, you can't
prove there *weren't* horses or sheep), that the way people use language is
different in different circumstances -- this is similar to what I've said already
about the difference between sacred history and secular history, and between
human languages. I'll give you a specific example so you can see what I'm getting

When I write "deer" you think of an animal with antlers, more or less. But
imagine the following conversation:

John: "I saw a deer on the road the other night,"
Marc: "well, what kind of deer? Was it a red-tailed deer or a mule deer?"
John: "How should I know? It was a deer. What's your problem?"
Marc: "If you can't tell a red-tail from a mule, then how do I know you didn't
see a caribou or a moose or a wapiti?"
John: "Oh, leave me alone..."  :-)

Okay, that's a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there is a point. It's been proposed by
etymologists and linguists that the parent tongue of almost all the European
languages, Persian, and the northern Indian languages was a language called
Indo-European. This is a bit of a convenience, actually, because nothing in
Indo-European (or "indo-germanisch" in German -- you can already see that there
are controversies here!) has ever been found. They were probably pre-literate.
However, if a people has lots of words for, say, different types of trees, then
you can be safe in assuming that they lived in an area that was heavily forested,
so they'd know the difference between, say, a ponderosa pine and a blue spruce,
let alone between an oak and a birch. If they lived in an area which didn't have
oak trees, they probably wouldn't have a word for it. This is an
over-simplification because today you don't need to experience snow to know what
it is, but we are in a "global village" now -- I'm talking about ancient
societies. I knew what henna was long before a Moslem woman I worked with got
engaged and "got hennaed" by her girlfriends (now I'll recognize that fragrance
whenever I encounter it again).

Now it so happens that in German there's a word for reindeer (Renntier) and
there's a word for deer in the sense we think of a deer (Hart), but the word
"tier" (also written, archaically, "thier") doesn't mean deer, it means animal.
Of course the set of animals is a superset of the set of deer, so how did Tier
come just to mean deer? One proposal is that the northern Germanic peoples came
to use the word to refer to the most common animal they were concerned with --
the deer, or more specifically, actually, the reindeer. It provided them with
clothing, food and transport; kind of like an Old World counterpart to the bison
(which we confusingly call a buffalo, which actually is supposed to refer to an
Old World animal, but I digress). This is a case of the general becoming specific
through the evolution of languages (btw, it probably came into English not
through German, but through Norse, as the Vikings occupied a good part of England
-- the region known as the Danelaw -- until Alfred the Great managed to drive
them out).

This also works the other way around. When the Spanish encountered the Carib
Indians of Hispaniola (the island which today is shared by Haiti and the
Dominican Republic), they noticed that they made an alcoholic drink brewed from
palm hearts. The Spanish had no word for this, so they just called it "viña" (I'm
going from memory; let's at least pretend that's the Spanish word for wine!
Someone please correct me if I'm wrong). But strictly speaking, viña comes from
grapes, so shouldn't they have used a new word for this palm wine? Maybe, but
they didn't. They just didn't care. We care more today -- our languages are, as a
rule, more complex and have larger vocabularies than earlier versions of them
did. For instance, why don't we call the "wine" that's brewed (distilled? see my
point?) from agave juice "agave wine"? But, no, we call it "tequila," because
we've borrowed the word from the Spanish.

This is all by way of leading up to the suggestion that the terms "sheep" and
"horse" could be relative, and have to be seen through the filter of a translator
who may not have been a trained etymologist and scientist, like Joseph Smith. A
llama is close enough to a sheep to be called a sheep, and an alpaca could be
called a horse. That an alpaca is not of the equus family is beside the point --
our modern system of biological classification wasn't even invented until, iirc,
the 18th century, when a Swede named Linnaeus invented the species/genus/....
system that scientists use today. So maybe to me I see a "turdus migratoris"
[guess why I've always remembered *this* one!!]  but my 4-year old granddaughter
sees a "robin" and her little 2-year old friend sees a "birdie." And is it the
European robin or the New World robin? They're not the same.

An example I used to use in GD class whenever something like this came up was to
point out that the 3 evangelists who mention the colour of the robe that the
Roman soldiers draped over Christ when they were mocking his "royal pretensions"
was inconsistent. One says scarlet in the KJV, one says gorgeous, and I think the
other one says either blue or purple, I'd have to look it up.  As it happens, if
you want to get technically correct, the colour would have been "claret", not the
colour we nowadays call purple. English has changed since even Joseph Smith's
day. What we call purple "should" really be called violet, as purple meant a more
reddish kind of violet. How do we know this? Because purpura for years has been
the technical term for what is commonly called a "port wine stain" that many
people are born with as a birthmark. But it goes back further than that. The
colour was never really the same from one batch to another, but it was originally
made from grinding up certain parts of a shellfish that is only found along the
eastern Mediterranean, especially around what is now Lebanon. It was very rare
and costly to make. Archaeological finds in Ashkelon, Tyre and other places have
found pits stained purple where this dye was made. The indigo plant, part of the
mallow family, iirc, gives something close, but more bluish. No artificial
substitute was found until a German chemist working for Bayer found an artificial
dye (he was trying to make something else and found that this particular chemical
was a very good and consistent substitute for indigo, and if you mixed in a bit
of scarlet, you'd get true purple).

So for thousands of years purple-coloured clothing was a sign of wealth and
privilege. Under the Romans, only the emperor himself could wear a purple cape;
senators could wear a formal toga with a purple stripe, consuls I think had a
double stripe, etc., etc.

So the simple question, "what was the colour of Jesus's robe?" turns out to be
amazingly complicated. Is a sacred text going to worry about that? No -- the
point *isn't* the colour, it's that it stood for something, the fact that the
Romans mocked him for pretending to be a king, as they saw it. And that's the
difference between secular and sacred history. It's not that they necessarily
conflict, although they do that at times, it's that they have entirely different

So when the Book of Mormon says "sheep" the point isn't to think of fuzzy white
pacific, cud-chewing animals, it's to thnk of some kind of animal that was
important to the local economy and that probably was valuable because it provided
food and clothing to the population. Who cares if it was literally a sheep, or a

"John W. Redelfs" wrote:

> At 04:13 PM, Friday, 11/1/02, Dan R Allen wrote:
> >Something else to consider on the sheep issue John is that we seem to be
> >the only group that understands that Adam lived here - I think that most
> >people assume that Eden was somewhere in what is now the mid-east, if they
> >think about it at all.
> Yes, the sheep thing really puzzles me.  As Latter-day Saints we often
> think of horses when answering the questions of the anti-Mormons.  But what
> about sheep?  Is there any evidence that there were any sheep in the New
> World before Columbus?  And if the Garden of Eden was near Spring Hill,
> Missouri, and Abel raised sheep, how come there weren't any sheep here?  I
> guess they all drowned in the Great Flood.  Oh wait... I forgot, the flood
> was only over there in Mesopotamia somewhere.  Here it shouldn't have had
> any effect on the sheep population, do you think?
> I've heard some Latter-day Saints speculate that the "flocks" mentioned in
> the Book of Mormon had reference to turkeys rather than sheep.  Because
> there were domesticated turkeys in the New World before Columbus, but not
> sheep.  Is that a good supposition?  Can turkeys actually be herded like
> sheep or cattle?  Was Ammon defending a flock of turkeys when he cut all
> those guys arms off?
> Always wondering, so many questions, so few answers,
> John W. Redelfs, [EMAIL PROTECTED]
> /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
> ///  ZION LIST CHARTER: Please read it at  ///
> ///      ///
> /////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland

Guns don’t kill people; people with guns kill people

Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the author
solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the author’s employer,
nor those of any organization with which the author may be associated.

///  ZION LIST CHARTER: Please read it at  ///
///      ///


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