Monday, August 5, 2013

Ancient Near Eastern Scimitars (Howlers # 19)

Part 1

A Cimeter (more commonly spelled scimitar) is a sword  “having a curved blade with the edge on the convex side” or “something resembling a scimitar (as in sharpness or shape); esp: a long-handled billhook” (Webster’s Third International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged 1993). Critics have long claimed that the scimitar was unknown before the rise of Islam and that references to this weapon in the Book of Mormon is anachronistic.

I might urge the utterance of ideas and the use of words which these ancient writers, if genuine, could not have known, as an argument against the authenticity of the book. Such as . . . . Cimeters.”

John Hyde Jr., Mormonism: Its Leaders and Designs (1857), 234-35.

The book contains evidence of its modern origin . . . . The cimeter, a Turkish weapon, not known until after the time of Mohommed.

Samuel Hawthornthwaite, Adventures Among the Mormons (1857), 69.

The use of the word `scimitar’ does not occur in other literature before the rise of Mohammedan power and apparently that peculiar weapon was not developed until long after the Christian era. It does not, therefore, appear likely that the Nephites or the Lamanites possessed either the weapon or the term.

W. E. Riter to James E. Talmage, August 22, 1921.

Cimeters were curved swords used by the Persians, Arabs, and Turks, half a world away from America and appearing a thousand years too late in history to enter the picture.

Gordon Fraser, Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates (1964), 58.

Scimitars are unknown until the rise of the Muslim faith (after 600 A. D.)

James Spencer, The Disappointment of B.H. Roberts (1991), 4.

There are other anachronisms such as . . . cimeter, the latter presumably an Arabian scimitar that "did not originate before the rise of Islam" more than a millennium  after Lehi.

Earl Wunderli, An Imperfect Book: What the Book of Mormon Tells Us About Itself (2013), 36.

We now know that scimitars of various forms were known in the Ancient Near East as early as 2000 B.C. (Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963, 1: 10-11, 78-79, 172, 204-207; William J. Hamblin, Warfare in the Ancient Near East to 1600 BC. London and New York: Rutledge, 2006, 66-71, 279-80). They are subsequently portrayed in martial art from Mesopotamia and Egypt. Rare archaeological specimens of this weapon have also been found. The cutting edge was usually on the convex side, however some were double-edged such as the “curved sword sharpened on two sides” discovered at Shechem which dates to 1800 B.C. (“Arms and Weapons,” in Charles F. Pfeiffer, ed., The Biblical World: A Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology. New York: Bonanza Books, 1966, 93). “Ancient representations show mostly the employment of the inner blade; that of the outer one is however also perhaps to be found. Preserved oriental scimitars have the blade outside” (G. Molin, “What is a Kidon?” Journal of Semitic Studies 1/4 October 1956: 336).

In the biblical account of David’s confrontation with Goliath the Philistine champion is said to be well armored. In addition to his spear he had both a hereb sword with a sheath (1 Samuel 17:51) and a kidon which he carries between his shoulders (1 Samuel 17:6). The term kidon was once a mystery, but texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that it was some kind of sword and is now widely acknowledged to have been a scimitar (Paul Y. Hoskisson, “Scimitars, Cimeters! We have scimilars! Do we need another cimeter?” in Warfare in the Book of Mormon, 352-59. G. Molin, “What is a Kidon?” 334-37; Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel. New York and Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 1965, 1:242). When challenged in 1 Samuel 17:45 David responds to his opponent, “You come against me with a sword [hereb] and spear [hanit] and scimitar [kidon], but I come against you with the name of Yahweh Sabaoth, god of the ranks of Israel” (See P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., 1 Samuel. New York: Doubleday, 1980, 285). Interestingly, as Hoskisson observes, the biblical description in the Hebrew text parallels that in Alma 44:8 in which the Zoramite chieftain carries both a sword and a scimitar (Hoskisson, “Scimitars, Cimeters!" 355).

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