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The Mayan Long Count as Interpretive Lens


When looking for a theory to explain something, one of the most important things is that the theory answers more questions than it creates. In my last few posts, I have used the Mayan Long Count as an interpretive lens through which to read the Book of Mormon and explain the behavior and historical context of it's people. 

Here are some of the  tentative fruits of that experiment:

1)Using the Long Count as an interpretative lens puts the Jaredite chronology on more of a sure footing. We now have a reliable end date for the patrelineal lineage described in the book, 400BC. This gets us closer to possibly deciphering the rest of the Jaredite history as well.

Because the Jaredite kings were almost certainly polygamists, had children in their old age and practiced ultimogeniture, I have used the average age of death for ancient Mayan kings as a rough approximation for the average generation length for the old, libidinous, polygamous kings.

The resulting chronology, plus Sorenson's geographical model, fits the Jaredite ruling lineage comfortably within the Olmec heartland, participating in it's cultural development and demise. The new tentative start date of 2300 BC situates the Jaredite lineage founders at around the time the first ziggurats were being built in Mesopotamia. In the Book of Ether, Moroni connects the circumstances surrounding the first Jaredite's exodus with the Tower of Babel myth.

If, hypothetically speaking, the Jaredite lineage founders were the speakers of a dying language isolate, in Mesopotamia, during the time of the first ziggurats, which is my guess, then that might explain Moroni's confusing their story with the Tower of Babel myth, which tower myth he likely believed was a factually correct story, though I do not.

Brant Gardner has shown how this could happen using the Hispanicized Aztec myths of later Aztec chroniclers. The only difference between Gardner's view and mine is that I don't think the level of contamination, via Moroni's knowledge of Hebrew mythology, is as great as it is in Gardner's view, though it was still great.

2)Using the Long Count as an interpretive lens illucidates the relationship between Mulekites and Jaredites and the textual variants of Mulek's name in the manuscripts(Muloch, Muleh).

3)Using the Long Count as an interpretative lens explains why the wicked Nephites would attempt a genocide of the Christians at the exact two times that they did.

4)Using the Long Count as an interpretive lens highlights the messianic nature of the event that was the Savior's birth.

Possible Criticisms
One criticism of using the Long Count as an interpretive lens is that, unlike Hebrew or Egyptian, I have no justification from the Book of Mormon text in doing so. While it is true that the Book of Mormon doesn't explicitly say the Nephites used or were familiar with the Long Count, that in itself is not an indication that they weren't.

As Sorenson, Clarke, Gardner and Wright have shown, Mesoamerica is the best candidate for the lands of the Book of Mormon. Because the Nephites occupied the same time and general space as people who did use the Long Count, we are within our rights in assuming they might have too.
In using the Long Count as an interpretive lens, I'm doing something similiar to what scholars of the Hebrew Bible do with Akkadian.

Even though we lack direct evidence that Hebrew scribes knew Akkadian, the Hebrew Bible's dependence on Mesopotamian myth and law are enough to show that they did. The Babylonians and the Jews were two semitic cultures, inhabiting opposite ends of the Fertile Crescent.

At the time the texts of the Pentateuch (Torah) were being composed, Babylon was home to Semitic high culture and Jerusalem was a backwater. The same is probably true for the Maya and the Nephites. Occupying the same general region and at the same time, allows us to, at the very least, ask the question of whether the Mayan calendar(s), with the resultant cyclical view of history, would have any bearing in illucidating the Book of Mormon. As it turns out, it does, providing us with multiple productive convergances. What more could we ask for?

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