Discussions of Book of Mormon issues and evidences, plus other topics related to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

My Uninspired "Translation" of the Missing Scroll/Script from the Hauglid-Jensen Presentation

While I have expressed disappointment with what was said, or rather, what wasn't said, at the Maxwell Institute's recent presentation, “A Window into Joseph Smith’s Translation” of the Book of Abraham by Professors Brian Hauglid and Robin Peterson, I recognize there must have be good reasons why those reputable men failed to provide any "first aid" to their large audience as they presented arguments that could wound the faith of some unprepared listeners. Perhaps they had initially prepared a careful review of how other LDS scholars had responded to the old questions they were raising anew, but then learned they just wouldn't have time to cover that. Perhaps a second event was already in the works at the Maxwell Institute to remind people of the many evidences supporting the antiquity and revealed nature of the Book of Abraham (if so, I greatly look forward to it!).

I'm not sure what happened, but I think something was lost in the translation of Book of Abraham knowledge to the information shared to a group of students and, via the Internet, to many others. As I pondered this issue, it suddenly hit me: if portions of our own scriptures can be temporarily unavailable (like the sealed portion of the gold plates, and, well, the plates themselves) or lost (like the 116 pages of the Book of Mormon) or burned (like a major part of Joseph Smith's collection of scrolls, apparently burned in the Great Chicago Fire), then of course there can be a missing portion in the presentation of two professors. So I'd like to share my own uninspired "translation" of what I think was lost from the script/scroll that they might have prepared, or that I wish they had prepared and shared if only they had been given more time.

Excerpts from the "Missing Script"

[Concluding remarks to be made by Brian, if time permits.]

Now let me point out that if anything we've said is making you think that the Book of Abraham was just made up and is a fraud, then you are making unwarranted assumptions and need to look at this inspired work of scripture more carefully. What we've addressed are some genuine puzzles to us regarding how the translation was done. But there's much more to the Book of Abraham than just the translation method, for which most of what we have is a question mark.

Indeed, what some of you might be hearing so far in this presentation may sound similar to what many critics of the Book of Abraham have observed long ago: looking at the Kirtland Papers and the Joseph Smith Papyri, it is easy to assume that Joseph Smith and his associates were trying to translate Egyptian in a very strange way, where a single Egyptian character or even a portion of a character could give a paragraph or two of English text. And of course, all the apparent translations in the Kirtland Papers are just wrong and even a bit crazy. So does that mean Joseph Smith was just making stuff up and was dead wrong? Not necessarily, for several reasons.

Just as the apparent problems with the Book of Abraham have been discussed for decades, so, too, have LDS scholars provided evidence, analysis, and alternate theories or frameworks to cope with these problems. Here are some important points and approaches to consider. I may not agree with all of these points, but as a responsible scholar, I need to acknowledge prior scholarship in this field, and the work of faithful LDS scholars like Hugh Nibley, John Gee, Kerry Muhlenstein, Matthew Roper, John Tvedtnes, Michael Rhodes, H. Donl Peterson, Robert F. Smith, and others should be carefully considered.

Regarding the "natural" but possibly incorrect assumption that Joseph was using the pagan Joseph Smith Papyri to create a "translation," here are just some of the points that various LDS scholars have made in their extensive treatments of the well-known problems we rehashed today. We may not agree with every point, but there are some serious arguments might be made to be weighed against rejection of the Book of Abraham as an authentic, ancient, and divinely inspired text:

1. A divine translation may have occurred first, followed by secular attempts to crack Egyptian. While we have pages in the Kirtland Papers with Egyptian characters on the left and translated English text from the Book of Abraham on the right, this does not mean that we are really getting a window into Joseph's translation process, in spite of the title of this presentation. There are good reasons to believe that the translation on those sheets had already been composed, and now somebody was trying after the fact to explore relationships between the Egyptian characters and the text, or add Egyptian for other purposes. For example, analysis of the writing shows that the English text was probably written first, followed by adding the characters on the left. See John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000), pages 21-23. [Note: the color images of the printed book are not in the free online edition which is text only.] Other details strengthen the conclusion that the Kirtland Papers are not at all showing the work of translation in progress.  Kerry Muhlenstein explains this well (see Kerry Muhlestein, "Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: Some Questions and Answers," Religious Educator 11, no. 1 (2010): 91–108):
Supposedly the translator looked at a few characters from the Book of Breathings and derived the Book of Abraham from them.[22] This premise assumes that the characters were written first and that the text written next to them was created afterward as an attempt to translate the characters’ meaning.

There are, however, a number of problems with this assumption: (1) Scribal errors and other critical textual clues make it very clear that these papers represent later copies of the text of the Book of Abraham, not the original translation; they were probably not even first- or second-generation copies. Thus the characters at the right were not characters they were trying to work through on these papers; they must mean something else. (2) The Egyptian characters appear to sometimes overwrite the English. If this is the case, then it is clear they were later additions. (3) The first Egyptian characters are written in the order they appear in the Book of Breathings, but some characters in one of the manuscripts skip characters and lines and are even from two different papyri, exhibiting no system or method. It is hard to believe that Joseph thought he was to translate from random parts of the text instead of systematically going from line to line.[23] (4) We have reason to believe that while Joseph Smith was involved in creating some of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (two of the sixteen pages contain Joseph’s handwriting), at other times his associates did this work without him. The pages whose composition we can date come from a period when the Prophet was out of town and the School of the Prophets seemingly went on without him. Adding up all these scraps of evidence, it seems highly improbable that this collection of papers represents Joseph’s original translation.

So what are these papers? Do they represent an attempt on the part of a group who was very interested in ancient languages to create an Egyptian grammar after Joseph had translated the Book of Abraham? Do the Egyptian figures serve as fanciful and archaic bullet points? Were the Egyptian characters placed beside the text to excite the minds of potential readers in hopes of increasing the book’s circulation? At the present, we do not have enough evidence to discern what these papers represent, but it seems unlikely that they represent an English translation of the Egyptian characters written on the side. The evidence points away from this conclusion. Thus, while we cannot present an answer as to what these papers are, we can say the evidence does not support the critics’ claims.
2. The Kirtland Egyptian Papers may primarily reflect the views of W.W. Phelps, not necessarily Joseph Smith.  According to John Gee, “Joseph Smith and Ancient Egypt,” in Approaching Antiquity: Joseph Smith and the Ancient World, edited by Lincoln H. Blumell, Matthew J. Grey, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2015), 427–48, the various manuscripts grouped together as the Kirtland Papers are largely from, and came into possession of the Church via, W.W. Phelps, not Joseph Smith:
The vast majority of the manuscripts were brought to Utah by Willard Richards and W. W. Phelps. But one of the documents was given to the Church by Wilford Wood. He in turn obtained it from Charles Bidamon, who, in turn, got it from his father, who was Lewis Bidamon, Emma Smith’s second husband. So we know this document belonged to Joseph Smith. The others did not. To whom did the other documents belong? They arrived at the Church Historian’s Office through Willard Richards and W. W. Phelps. Four of the documents are in the handwriting of Willard Richards and can be safely said to belong to him. Most of the rest of the documents are in Phelps’s handwriting and seem to have belonged to him.
Further, the format of these papers reflects what Phelps was already doing in his own project to figure out the "pure language" of Adam, a futile project he started before he ever heard of the Egyptian scrolls. The format, the handwriting, and other details indicate that this was Phelps' project and that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers can best be called a "window into what W.W. Phelps thought," not really a "window into Joseph Smith's translation." Perhaps we might need to, um,  revise today's title -- but of course, I recognize you all might not have come today to hear about Phelps' errant views. In any case, John Gee made some interesting points about how these documents actually don't give us a window into Joseph's thinking at all, in his view, and to be fair, here it is from Gee's “Joseph Smith and Ancient Egypt”:
Format. As William Schryver has pointed out, the format of many of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers follows that format established by W. W. Phelps in work he did on the pure language in May 1835 before anyone in the Church had heard of the papyri. All of them are from his collection of manuscripts. Kirtland Egyptian Papers show the influence of his thinking and were begun in his handwriting. They show what W. W. Phelps thought. They include the famous “Grammar and aphabet [sic]” book, which has been incorrectly included as the work of Joseph Smith on the Joseph Smith Papers website.

Contrary to the date provided on the Joseph Smith Papers website, the book cannot date to 1835. How do we know that? The system of transliteration that Phelps used in the book follows the transliteration system taught by Josiah Seixas beginning in January of 1836. Words with long final vowels end in an “h.” The transliteration system used before that does not have the “h” and this can be seen in the transcriptions of the same words made in October 1835. Since the book has the later system, it must date after the later system was taught and thus must date after its introduction in January 1836. Joseph Smith’s journal entries indicate that within a week of receiving Hebrew books, Joseph dropped working on Egyptian in favor of Hebrew.[77]

We have no record of Joseph Smith working on Egyptian materials from November 1835 until the beginning of 1842. Although Joseph Smith’s journals have numerous gaps starting in the spring of 1836, from October 1835 to April 1836, we have good records of what he was doing, and he was working on projects other than studying Egyptian after November 1835. This means that he was not working on the so-called Grammar and Alphabet, with its 1836 transliteration system. That work, instead, should be attributed to the man in whose handwriting it is and whose format it follows: W. W. Phelps.

Journal entries. Joseph Smith’s journal also seems to indicate that the documents in Phelps’s archive belonged to Phelps. After Joseph Smith heard W. W. Phelps read a letter that Joseph Smith had him write for him that quotes from the documents, afterwards Joseph Smith “called again and enquired for the Egyptian grammar.”[78] Yet two days later he “suggested the idea of preparing a grammar of the Egyptian language”[79] apparently because he did not agree with Phelps’s treatment.

Thus the provenance, the format, and Joseph Smith’s treatment in his journals indicate that the majority of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers belonged to Phelps. So they cannot be used to reconstruct Joseph Smith’s knowledge of Egyptian, only that of W. W. Phelps. [emphasis added]
Obviously, since we list 1835 as the date for the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, we don't fully agree with Gee's assessment and his interpretation of transliteration data, but if he is correct, that's a devastating blow to any theory that the Kirtland Papers are somehow a window into Joseph's translation methodology. I think more study of that issue is needed, and if our 1835 date is wrong, of course we'll revise that. I welcome further analysis here.

3. Facsimile 1 was not necessarily attached next to the text Joseph called the Book of Abraham.  Some argue that Facsimile 1 being attached to a version of the Book of Breathings in the Joseph Smith Papyri does not necessarily mean that the text Joseph was seeking to translate was the Book of Breathings. Kerry Muhlenstein, in fact, argues that in the time and place where Joseph's papyrus collection originated in Egypt, vignettes on a scroll often were not placed directly with the text they were related to. It could have been in another portion of a long scroll containing an Abrahamic section, for example. Several scholars have made similar arguments. Here's an excerpt from Kerry Muhlestein's "Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: Some Questions and Answers":
To begin with, we must ask if vignettes are always associated with the adjacent text in other Egyptian papyri from this time period. We know with some degree of precision the dating of the Facsimile 1 papyrus (also known as Joseph Smith Papyrus 1, or JSP 1), because we know exactly who the owner of this papyrus was. He lived around 200 BC and was a fairly prominent priest in Thebes.[4] (Incidentally, this priest is not alone as a practitioner of Egyptian religion who possessed or used Jewish religious texts. We can identify many others, particularly priests from Thebes).[5] During this period, it was common for the text and its accompanying picture to be separated from each other, for the wrong vignette to be associated with a text, and for vignettes and texts to be completely misaligned on a long scroll.[6] Frequently there is a mismatch between the content of a vignette and the content of the text, or the connection is not readily apparent.[7] This is particularly common in Books of Breathings, the type of text adjacent to Facsimile 1 on the Joseph Smith Papyri.[8] Incongruity between texts and adjacent vignettes is endemic to papyri of this era.[9] Thus, the argument that the text of the Book of Abraham had to be translated from the hieroglyphs next to the vignette is not convincing when compared with ancient Egyptian texts from the same period.
Also see Dr. Muhlestein's discussion in "Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Introduction to the Historiography of their Acquisitions, Translations, and Interpretations," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 22 (2016): 17-49.

4. The descriptions of the scroll Joseph was translating, based on eyewitness reports, do not match the surviving Joseph Smith Papyri. Hugh Nibley, of course, has made this point at length, as has John Gee and many others. Even amateur apologists can provide help on this issue, but first see, for example, Kerry Muhlestein, “Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View,” in No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues, ed. Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2011), 217-43.

5. The Joseph Smith Papyri form only a small portion of the collection of scrolls Joseph Smith had. There is no doubt that significant documents other than the surviving fragments were sold to a museum. These were presumably were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire. This at least raises the possibility that the missing documents could have dealt with Abraham. For some details, see John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri.

6. Significantly, the scrolls Joseph had came from the precise time and specific place where Egyptian interest in Hebrew texts and figures like Abraham was high, making it possible for something like the Book of Abraham to have been in that collection. John Gee treats this in detail in his useful book, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2017).


Ancient Roots and Modern Evidence
LDS scholars have proposed several theories for how the translation may have been done, besides the antagonistic view that "Joseph was just making stuff up and got everything wrong as he worked with pagan materials that had nothing to do with Abraham." Those other views include (1) translation from a now missing scroll that contained the Book of Abraham, or (2) revelation largely independent of whatever was on the scrolls, perhaps "catalyzed" by the scrolls, restoring an ancient document. But regardless of how the translation was done and what specific relationship it has to any of the scrolls, whether missing or surviving, analysis of the text and the facsimiles raises many issues that point to ancient content that would be beyond Joseph's abilities to fabricate.

One important source of such evidences comes from a publication that I edited with John Gee: Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, edited by John Tvedtnes, Brian Hauglid, and John Gee. In that volume, we compiles many dozens of ancient documents from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim sources that support many of the elements in the Book of Abraham that are not found in the Bible and would have been highly unlikely for Joseph Smith to have known of. Most of these documents were not known in Joseph's day or at least not translated into English. And while one detail, that of Abraham talking about astronomy, can be found in one part of the extensive writings of Josephus, there is no evidence that Joseph had access to Josephus when he began the translation of the Book of Abraham, making it unlikely that he knew this tiny detail.

Regarding the sacrifice of Abraham, while many ancient traditions speak of it, the long-standing consensus of scholars has been that human sacrifice was pretty much unknown in the peaceful society of ancient Egypt, raising serious questions about the key story that opens the Book of Abraham. I say "has been" regarding that consensus, but this apparent consensus has been shaken now in light of abundant data that ritual violence was in fact practiced in Egyptian religion and for precisely the kind of issues suggested in the Book of Abraham. What was once a glaring weakness in the Book of Abraham is now one of its many strengths.

The key work that has overturned the consensus came from the Ph.D. study of Kerry Muhlestein, now a professor here at BYU. This work led to a scholarly book: Violence in the Service of Order: The Religious Framework for Sanctioned Killing in Ancient Egypt  (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2011), which is available at Amazon, distributed by BAR Publishing, provided at Academia.edu, or can be directly downloaded for free online. It's a thorough and fascinating book that fills a gaping weakness in our understanding of ancient Egypt and also shows that ritual sacrifice of a religious rebel like Abraham, an opponent of idol worship, would, in the time of Abraham and in a place under Egyptian control, be highly plausible. A more recent scholarly publication on this topic is his “Sacred Violence: When Ancient Egyptian Punishment was Dressed in Ritual Trappings,” Near Eastern Archaeology, 78/4 (2015): 229-235, where he finds that from the Old Kingdom through the Libyan era of ancient Egypt, “disturbing either the divine or funerary cult is the most likely crime to elicit ritual slaying as punishment.” Also see his paper,  "Royal Executions: Evidence Bearing on the Subject of Sanctioned Killing in the Middle Kingdom," in The Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 51/2 (2008): 181-208.specifically on the Middle Kingdom, especially relevant for the Book of Abraham.

It turns out that there are numerous details in the Book of Abraham that are suggestive of ancient, mot modern origins. While some things Joseph says about, say, the Facsimiles, are puzzling to us, some are simply bulls-eyes such as properly identifying the four upside-down figures on Facs. 2, labeled as figure #6, as the "four quarters of the earth," an entirely appropriate description of the four sons of Horus who take messages to the four quarters of the earth and who each represent a cardinal direction. There are many other strengths to consider in the statements Joseph makes about the facsimiles. Some of these strengths were once glaring weaknesses. For example, one can ask why the Egyptians would care about Abraham, a Hebrew foreigner, and claim that the Egyptians don't have ancient texts dealing with him. But now we know of multiple examples of Egyptian documents  that involved Abraham in some way (including from the time and place where Joseph Smith's collection of scrolls came from, the region of Thebes around 200 B.C.), and in ways that are consistent with some aspect of the Book of Abraham. See John Gee, "Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts," Ensign, July 1992 and Kerry Muhlestein's above-mentioned “Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View.

Facsimile 1, with its scene of attempted sacrifice by a priest and supplication by Abraham, has long been dismissed by supposed experts as merely an ordinary funerary scene depicting the embalming of a corpse. Clearly it is related to many ordinary funerary scenes, but it has been adapted in an unconventional way. The figure on the lion couch is clearly alive! His legs are up. He is not wrapped or naked, as in typical funerary scenes. And as for the the notion that Abraham prayed upon the altar to be delivered as we read in Abraham 1:15 there's something you need to notice when you see this allegedly ordinary embalming scene that truly gives it a "leg up" on the competition.

Significantly, the person with the raised arms and extended leg is drawn in the exact posture used for the hieroglyph meaning "to pray" or "to supplicate," but rotated 90 degrees to be on the table or altar. The drawing is clearly and deliberately intended to depict a live person PRAYING - just as the Book of Abraham suggests. It's even drawn with the right orientation (head to the right) so that simply rotating the figure 90 degrees counterclockwise yields the easily recognized glyph (instead of being upside down).

For evidence, turn to the highly respected work of Sir Alan Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, Being An Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs, 3rd Ed. (Oxford University Press, London: 1966), p. 32, paragraph 24, where we find this (many thanks to Stan Barker for sending these figures):


and


The glyph above for death shows a figure depicted in the normal manner for funerary scenes: clearly immobilized and wrapped up, quite unlike the most unusual depiction in the Book of Abraham. A couple of other portions of Gardiner are also relevant. The figure below comes from Gardiner, page 445, paragraph 30:


The man with outstretched arms is used in the following excerpts to help convey prayer, praise, and supplication:

Joseph Smith's interpretation of the figure makes a lot more sense than that of his learned critics.

In terms of the text itself, there are numerous issues that defy the notion that Joseph just made up the Book of Abraham based on what little he knew at the time. One of many examples is the name and location of a place mentioned in Abraham 1:10, Olishem. It turns out that there is in fact such a place name from the ancient Levant in a plausible location. Here is what John Gee writes in An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2017), pp. 98, 101:
Biblical scholars have not agreed on the time and place that Abraham lived, but the Book of Abraham provides additional information that specifies both. In the Bible, Abraham must flee his homeland (môladâ) in Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 12:1). Later he sends his servant back to his homeland (môladâ) to find a wife for his son (Genesis 24:4, 7). The servant is sent to Aram-Naharaim in modern-day northern Syria or southern Turkey (Genesis 24:10) and not Mesopotamia as the King James translators rendered it. This location of Aram-Naharaim must have been the location of Abraham's homeland. The Book of Abraham also indicates that Abraham's homeland was in that area. Olishem (Abraham 1:10), one of the places mentioned near Ur, appears in Mesopotamian and Egyptian inscriptions in association with Ebla, which is in northern Syria. (pp. 98, 101)
Many readers may not notice how interesting or even sensational this issue may be. It was already interesting when Akkadian documents were noted that mentioned the place Olishem, and it got much more interesting when a Turkish team reported finding the site and noted that ancient documents indicate this was place where Abraham had lived. See the press release "Prophet Abraham's lost city found in Turkey's Kilis" in The Hurriyet Daily News, August 16, 2013. On this matter, Gee has elsewhere noted the potential value but urges patience as more work is needed. See John Gee, "Has Olishem Been Discovered?," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22/2 (2013): 104–7.

Finding the place name Olishem was interesting enough in many ways before the actual archaeological site was found and its connection to Abraham made. In a rather technical 2010 post, Val Sederholm explores the significance of Olishem and related Egyptian and Semitic words in "The Plain of Olishem and the Field of Abram: LDS Book of Abraham, Chapter One," I Begin to Reflect, April 27, 2010. "Is the place of Ulisum or Olis(h)em the plain of Olishem? Conclusions remain premature, but it would be remiss not to point out the similarity and, by so doing, show that the Book of Abraham merits a second look." Sederholm then explores the rich association of meanings related to Olishem that may make it an entirely appropriate name for a place with a hill, suggesting the possibility not only of a phonetic connection between the Akkadian account and the Book of Abraham, but also a semantic connection. Indeed, there are many such fascinating issues in the Book of Abraham, leading Sederholm to make a strong but supportable statement:
Exactly how does a book of 14 pages produce dozens upon dozens of linguistic, cultural, thematic, theological, and literary points of comparison to the Ancient Near Eastern record? The numbers are no exaggeration. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with no hesitation whatsoever, not even a hint of abatement, continues to post the canonical Book of Abraham on line and to print copies by the tens of thousands in scores of languages. There is a lot of explaining to do.
These issues include:
  • Abraham's opposition to idol worship, supported now by numerous ancient documents, many of which mention the resulting attempted punishment of being sacrificed and some of which mention that his own father had become an idol worshiper, as taught in the Book of Abraham.
  • The use of an ancient astronomical model implicit in the astronomical model that Abraham used in teaching Pharaoh, coupled with an apparent Egyptian wordplay or two, as John Gee has described in his book.
  • Identifying the crocodile in Facs. 1 as the god of Pharaoh. See Quinten Barney, "Sobek: The Idolatrous God of Pharaoh Amenemhet III," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 22/2 (2013): 22–27. Also see "The Crocodile God of Pharaoh in Mesopotamia," FARMS Update No. 108, in Insights 16/5 (Oct. 1996), p. 2, and other sources as well.
  • The plausibility of many aspects of the Book of Abraham in light of what we can determine about the ancient setting treated in the text. See, for example John Gee and Stephen D. Ricks, “Historical Plausibility: The Historicity of the Book of Abraham as a Case Study,” in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 63–98. 
  • Possible evidence for the authenticity of several names in the Book of Abraham. For a wide-ranging discussion, see the transcript of  John Tvedtnes, "Ancient Names and Words  in the Book of Abraham  and Related Kirtland Egyptian Papers," 2005 FAIR Conference, August 5, 2005. (See the links on the final page to watch the presentation on YouTube.) 
  • The Book of Abraham's cosmology and the theme of the divine council which fit remarkably well in the world of the ancient Near East, as detailed, for example, in Stephen Smoot's "Council, Chaos, and Creation in the Book of Abraham."
For further details and background, one might consider some of these references:
Be Careful About Your Assumptions

Given the rich evidences of ancient influence in the Book of Abraham, it is fair to recognize that something is going on in this story that is clearly beyond random guesses from Joseph Smith. It is a powerful account rich in beautiful doctrine that demands respect. When Latter-day Saints and our investigators become upset about some of the puzzling aspects around the Book of Abraham, it is inevitably due to expectations that aren't entirely reasonable. We cannot expect that every detail about the papryi and the mummies were instantly revealed or ever revealed to Joseph Smith. His translation, however made, was a work in progress and he did not live to see it through to completion and canonization. It is entirely possible that during this project, he brought many of his own ideas to the work as he steadily gained revelation and new insights. Amid the jewels he has given us, if there is a peripheral statement that currently seems wrong or unintelligible to us, let us be patient and not fall apart. Kerry Muhlestein explains that when we look at how other revelations such as the doctrine of baptism for the dead came, it seems to have been a process that took time for Joseph to winnow out his own thoughts from revelation and gradually come to a finished work ready to be promoted among the Saints as doctrine. There may have been a similar process going on with the Book of Abraham that was cut short by his death. See Kerry Muhlestein, "Joseph Smith and Egyptian Artifacts: A Model for Evaluating the Prophetic Nature of the Prophet's Ideas about the Ancient World," BYU Studies 55/3 (2016): 35-82.

There are other questionable assumptions that people bring to these issues when they consider the relationship of our text, the Egyptian scrolls, and the life of Abraham. Do we require the Book of Abraham text to be a document exactly as written or dictated by Abraham, including the facsimiles? Or do we recognize that like much of scripture, the original documents and accounts can go through a process of transmission over time that may introduce anachronisms or or other puzzles? Do we expect that Joseph's comments on the facsimiles must be what Abraham meant to convey? Do we expect it to be what an Egyptian in 200 B.C. might have understood when applying those figures to Abraham's story? Or could it be what a Jew in that time familiar with Egyptian themes might have understood or wished to convey? Or do we take it as what Joseph and/or the Lord wanted us to understand from those figures as applied to the Book of Abraham? These issues are complicated. Please don't let simple statements from anyone, myself included, shake you up based on a clash with a possibly unrealistic or naive assumption that you may have. Marvel at the miracle of the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon, but don't fall apart when facing a problem. Study these issues out with patience, with flexibility, and with the help of the abundant evidences that something fascinating and something worthy of respect and ongoing study is going on in these scriptures.

Thank you for being here today!

Other Resources:

This post is part of a recent series on the Book of Abraham, inspired by a frustrating presentation from the Maxwell Institute. Here are the related posts:


129 comments:

Anonymous said...

Once again, instead of an effort to explain we find an effort to explain away the evidence, this time by challenging the assumptions underlying the interpretation of that evidence.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is true that what appear to be the defendant's bloody fingerprints were found all over the inside of the murder victim's home as was the knife found lodged in the victim's body. It is true that the defendant's blood was found mixed with that of the victim, and that in a long series of social media posts in the defendant's name, and traceable to the defendant's IP address, someone using the defendant's name repeatedly indicated a clear intent to murder the victim.

All this is true. But please, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, be careful of the assumptions you make!

In the course of this trial the evidence will show that things are not always as they seem, and that there is a very real possibility my client was framed! For example, social media accounts can be hacked. We will show several examples proving that in fact such "hacking" has really happened. And, while the fingerprints found at the crime scene are 99.99999 percent likely to be those of the defendant, they could also match those of approximately 0.000001 percent of the population, so there are more than 700 other people who could have committed this crime. And you might assume that the defendant's blood was found at the crime scene because he cut himself during his struggle with the victim. But that assumption would be unwarranted. Just three weeks before the crime was committed, the defendant had visited a local medical clinic for an annual checkup, where a sample of his blood was drawn for the purposes of measuring the defendant's cholesterol and PSA levels. It is quite possible, we will argue, that much of this blood was in fact used for the purpose of framing him. We will show that the amount of blood drawn was more than ample enough to account for the amount of blood found at the crime scene. You might assume that a medical professional would be unlikely to sell the defendant's blood to the true killer, who remains unknown to us, but we will show that in fact the phlebotomist involved had once asked his employer for a raise in pay, showing that he was unsatisfied with his finances and thus highly susceptible to a bribe.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the drawing of the defendant's blood, and its transmission to a third party, where it was completely outside the defendant's control and could have been put to any of a number of nefarious purposes, are FACTS. The amount of blood that was drawn is likewise a FACT. You can't argue with the FACTS, and these FACTS, when understood in light of the proper alternative assumptions, indicate the very real possibility that the defendant is plausibly innocent of the charges against him.


If one is sufficiently diligent, creative, and motivated, one can always find ways to retrofit the evidence to a claim.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

On a related note.... I’ve always wondered why the Church was so lax in its handling of the Book of Abraham papyri after Joseph Smith’s murder.

If the Book of Abraham were in fact all it’s cracked up to be, wouldn’t the papyri rank among the most valuable ancient religious artifacts on the planet?

Imagine if someone today found a manuscript dated before Christ and written by Moses or David. It would be an absolute sensation! Its value would be incalculable!

This is what the Church had, or at least believed it had, or at least claimed it had, in its possession in 1844. Such an amazing treasure!

And how was this incalculably valuable gem handled? Eh, Joe left it with his mom, and when she died it went (ho hum) to Emma, who sold it (yawn) to some guy, who (yawn) left it to his housekeeper, whose daughter I think sold part of it to some museum somewhere, but really who cares about that old stuff anyway?

I understand that things were a little hectic after Joseph’s murder. But still, you would think that Brigham Young and other leaders would have made strenuous efforts to get the papyri into the Church’s possession rather than letting them slip away.

Any thoughts on why the Church would be so incredibly lackadaisical about one of the absolute greatest religious discoveries of all time?

— OK

Anonymous said...

Yeah, pretty crazy, right? After having fled to Nauvoo from Missouri where there was an extermination order and then after Joseph's murder there were people essentially forcing Mormons in outlying towns to seek refuge in Nauvoo and then the city becomes disincorporated and the city government having to figure out what to do with the influx of people and then there was the forced expulsion from Nauvoo (159 years later, on April 1, 2004, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution of regret for the forced expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo in 1846 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Nauvoo,_Illinois ) so not only were the papyri left but so was the Inspired Version of the Bible, the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon, the original dictated pages of the Book of Mormon and I am sure there was more of value that got left. Ask any group of people who were forced to leave their homes how come they couldn't take with them their valuables.

"Hectic" - I vote that that is the understatement of this blog post.

Steve

Frith said...

The most valuable thing left was the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House. Of course, Emma stayed behind, and so in that sense it wasn't left. It would have been good to take it out in the late 1840s, once things were secure in town, and make multiple copies of it. Then the text could have been reconstructed more surely in the future.

Anonymous said...

Steve, that’s not much of an explanation. Between Joseph’s death in 1844 and Emma’s sale of the papyri in 1856, there was ample opportunity for the Church to retrieve them. How much trouble could it have been for Young, at some point in those 10+ years, to send a couple of agents back to Nauvoo to buy the papyri and bring them back? Not much. The artifacts just don’t seem to have been considered worth it, and maybe I’m missing something, but that seems ... strange. It’s especially strange considering the importance accorded to recordkeeping in both the BoM and the Church itself. Maybe some Brigham Young experts can explain.

— OK

Anonymous said...

@ OK 4:48 PM, March 20, 2019

I think you underestimate the difficulty and expense of retrieving the Papyrus, as well as overestimating their value. As far as the church was concerned the important thing was the translation which the had, and which wasn't even canonized until 1880.
Additionally as someone who has traveled overland from Cedar Rapids to Denver it's not an easy trip even now. And 1856 is the year of the Martin and Willie hand cart disaster. The Church was struggling to help move PEOPLE across the plains. They didn't have the time or money for curiosities the couldn't read. Especially as no one after the death of Joseph appears to have manifested the gift for translation.

Joseph M

Anonymous said...

Got it, Joseph M. The papyri weren't really very valuable, just curiosities that people couldn't read anyways.

Personally, I think the papyri would be incredibly valuable --- if, that is, they really were what Joseph claimed they were, ancient documents written by Abraham "by his own hand upon papyrus" (or even just a second century BCE copy of something originally authored by Abraham).

But they wouldn't be very valuable at all if Joseph were wrong about them. My own sense is that pretty much everyone, Joseph included, knew they weren't what he'd claimed them to be, and that is what explains their careless handling, though it doesn't explain why people would continue to put so much faith in Joseph as a prophet. But hey, lots of people in this country will freely admit that Donald Trump is a liar and a con man and then add that they love and trust him anyway. Personality cults are weird, but very real.

What do you think, Jeff?

-- OK

Anonymous said...

OK,

We can appreciate the importance of those papyri now but back then did they appreciate them for what they were? The Church did send agents to collect some of these valuable manuscripts and who is to say that they also tried to retrieve the papyri? You are making some assumptions based off of nothing but ideas that pop into your head. And now you claim that Joseph knew that the papyri weren't what he claimed them to be. How so? Did he read them and know that they had nothing to do with Abraham or did he read them and know that they were about Abraham? But I am sure you are referring to another idea you have that Joseph knew that he was a fraud and that he made up the Book of Abraham. But that doesn't make sense because the papyri were available for people to see for 25¢. He also pulled out Olishem out of thin air only to have that place name validated? Lucky guess I suppose.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Steve, if the historians can show us that the Church actually did make an effort to retrieve the papyri but for some reason failed, I’ll be happy to change my mind. But it strains credulity to think the leadership (a) sincerely believed the papyri to be authentically Abrahamic, yet (b) also believed them not worth keeping in the Church’s possession. The BoA is part of the Pearl of Great Price, after all, not the Pearl That Was Not Worth Going Back For.

— OK

Anonymous said...

I guess Joseph M hasn't read the intro to the Pearl of Great Price. It makes the stuff out to be pretty important. Hell, they called it THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, but who gives a care about the source documentation.
Mormon apologetics is funny, funny stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:32 — Amazing, isn’t it?

A 2,000 year old manuscript of hitherto unknown writings by Abraham himself! The only known copy in existence! The revelation of the secret of the true priesthood that makes ours the only truly authoritative church on earth!

Skeptic: Wow! Sounds unbelievable, but if it is what you say it is, I suppose you’ll want to hang on to it, right?

Believer: Nah, why bother. Too much trouble. Got other things to do.

Amazing.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

OK,
"My own sense is that pretty much everyone, Joseph included, knew they weren't what he'd claimed them to be"

Evidence for that POV? I know of none. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that the Book of Abraham and its illustrations were too often right on target to be a mere fantasy, as I point out in my "Brief Assessment of the LDS Book of Abraham,” version 9 online Feb 20, 2018, online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/118810727/A-Brief-Assessment-of-the-LDS-Book-of-Abraham .

Anonymous said...

Robert, the evidence is right there in the careless handling of the papyri.

As for the illustrations, well.... “Olimlah, a slave”?

What a freakin’ joke.

— OK

Unknown said...

Thanks, Jeff. Excellent work.

Anonymous said...

Robert that wasn't very convincing in light of common sense, logic, human nature, signed affidavits, Joseph and his contemporaries actions, and historical research from those without a vested interest. Nice try though, pal.

Robert F. Smith said...

OK,
I liked what you said earlier: "if, . . they really were what Joseph claimed they were, ancient documents written by Abraham "by his own hand upon papyrus" (or even just a second century BCE copy of something originally authored by Abraham)." The original illustrations are long gone by then, a Jewish scribe substituting whatever seems appropriate from his own time period. So, you say,

“Olimlah, a slave”? But that is the whole point: A substitute, as I have illustrated in my paper, may be a similar scene, but with different details. Please take a look at it, and note the Semitic gods in the scenes. Syncretism is a major issue.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Robert, many thanks for the link to your paper, and great to hear from you! By the way, the Geocities link to Wernick's thesis no longer works, but it is available via Archive.org: https://web.archive.org/web/20091022200908/http://geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/2671/WERNICK.html.

Anonymous said...

Robert, as an effort to salvage the BoA's antiquity, "A Brief Assessment of the LDS Book of Abraham" is certainly creative, but it's entirely unpersuasive.

The whole approach is wrong. The idea that "ancient Jews did a bunch of stuff that is kinda like what Joseph Smith said the Book of Abraham does" tells us very little. At best it only knocks down one particular argument, the argument that "The BoA cannot be an ancient Jewish text because the Jews of that time never produced texts like that."

But the argument has no positive force at all; even if it's true that "Ancient Jews sometimes did things kinda like X," that does nothing to demonstrate that ancient Jews actually produced this particular example of X --- especially in light of extremely strong evidence that X is a modern text. Such evidence includes the identification of a black figure as a slave (a natural move for a 19th-century white American), the retelling of the racist theories of the Mark of Cain and Curse of Ham (both a part of Joseph's modern milieu), and the obvious reliance on modern source material like "Philosophy of a Future State."

Sorry, but the Book of Abraham is not ancient. It's a product of the 19th century. I would ask you to ponder the question of whether faith, if it be genuine and true, should not lead one into the clear light of truth, and steel one to accept that truth, and then assist one in working out the consequences of that truth. Faith should place one in the vanguard, not the reactionary rearguard. It should not lead to stubborn adherence to falsehood, but to the calm acceptance of truth. And part of that truth is that Joseph Smith was not a translator of ancient Jewish texts, but a writer of a kind of 19th-century American midrash.

That's still something incredibly interesting, creative, and valuable --- something that can still be the foundation of a religion --- but it's simply not what the Church claims it is.

-- OK

Robert F. Smith said...

OK,
Thanks for you kind comments. I'll take whatever positive notions come my way.

As to faith, my paper was solely and only a scholarly approach to the issues. Faith entails completely different assumptions, equally valid in their own right, but quite separate.

Robert F. Smith said...

Jeff,
Thanks for the info. I'll update my paper.

Anonymous said...

The BYU religious center has a work available by Matthew J Grey which sheds some valuable light on the period of the Book of Abraham translation in relation to Joseph and the saints learning Hebrew from Joshua Seixas. Some key points to consider that call into question some of Jeff’s assertions above:

—Oliver Cowdery arrived in Kirtland with Hebrew learning materials in November 1835. Joseph commenced personal study of the documents immediately. He had spent enough time studying that when the original agreed upon instructor failed to show up in January, Joseph assumed the role of instructor.
—According to Grey, “Joseph spent much of December conducting his own personal study of his new resources, spending days rotating between studying his new Hebrew books, examining his new Greek lexicon, and continuing work with the Egyptian papyri.”
—Grey also reminds us that “In addition to attending his regular classes, Joseph asked Seixas for private study sessions.” Any chance that these sessions included discussions of Jewish oral traditions of Abraham?

As with all other “miraculous” events in church history, this one did not happen in a vacuum. Please read Grey’s article as, unlike Jeff’s information, it doesn’t seek to distract and confuse, but is straightforward and informative.

https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/approaching-antiquity-joseph-smith-and-ancient-world/word-lord-original-joseph-smith-s

Jeff Lindsay said...

In order to properly weigh comments from Robert F. Smith, please be warned that he is the author of one of the most preposterous Book of Mormon studies I've ever seen, or rather, one of the most intriguing papers about the preposterous nature of the Book of Mormon.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon @11:31, I've read the excellent paper by Matthew Grey and thank you for the reference. But can you explain how it contradicts anything I've written above?

Here is what I quote from John Gee above:
Contrary to the date provided on the Joseph Smith Papers website, the book cannot date to 1835. How do we know that? The system of transliteration that Phelps used in the book follows the transliteration system taught by Josiah Seixas beginning in January of 1836. Words with long final vowels end in an “h.” The transliteration system used before that does not have the “h” and this can be seen in the transcriptions of the same words made in October 1835. Since the book has the later system, it must date after the later system was taught and thus must date after its introduction in January 1836. Joseph Smith’s journal entries indicate that within a week of receiving Hebrew books, Joseph dropped working on Egyptian in favor of Hebrew.[77]


Does that contradict anything in Grey? I don't think so. See below.

Perhaps you were thinking of what I say of another reference:
Kerry Muhlestein and Megan Hansen, “'The Work of Translating': The Book of Abraham's Translation Chronology,” in Let Us Reason Together: Essays in Honor of the Life’s Work of Robert L. Millet, ed. J. Spencer Fluhman and Brent L. Top (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: 2016), 139–62. The authors argue that by the end of 1835 Abraham 4-5 had already been translated. Hebrew words may have been added to the text later as a gloss to incorporate words learned during Joseph's later study of Hebrew.

But I think that fits with Grey as well.

Here is a relevant excerpt from Grey:
Cowdery returned to Kirtland on November 20 with “a quantity of Hebrew book’s for the benefit of the school . . . [including] a Hebrew bible, lexicon & Grammar.”[55]...

Despite plans to begin studies immediately, the class did not have a proper instructor for almost two months after obtaining their Hebrew materials....

The day after Christmas, Joseph and some of his associates “commenced regularly, & systematically, to study the venerable Hebrew language,” whereas they had only “paid some little attention to it before.”[64] Less than two weeks later, on January 4, 1836, Joseph took it upon himself to teach the newly formed Hebrew school despite the fact that his only exposure to Hebrew at this point was his personal reading of his books during thirteen days within the previous two months.[65] After the first day of class, Joseph became aware of his own limitations and commissioned another search for a proper teacher.


So Hebrew materials arrive Nov. 20, 1835, and Joseph starts serious study Dec. 26, with some dabbling before. But it won't be until early 1836 that he brings in a Hebrew teacher. Before all this Joseph had been focused on the Book of Abraham. Then he drops the translation effort and begins studying Hebrew. Gee suggests that the particular transliteration system is introduced by Seixas, who comes onto the scene in 1836.

I don't see the problem you're referring to. Care to elucidate? And can you also explain why pointing to some of the studies on the ancient elements of the Book of Abraham seeks to "distract and confuse"? Name calling is fun, I admit, but please help me out since I'm distracted and confused by your comment.

Jeff Lindsay said...

An important fact from Grey's paper is highly relevant in light of Robert F. Smith's work, “The Preposterous Book of Mormon: A Singular Advantage,” lecture, August 8, 2014, at the annual FAIRMORMON Conference, Provo, Utah, online at http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf, and many other works discussed here, at The Interpreter, the Maxwell Institute, etc., on the many Hebraic elements found in the Book of Mormon, such as evidences of Hebrew word plays. Robert F Smith's paper shows, for example, some fascinating connections to ancient weights and measures, along with Old World terms used for them, plus many other connections that show interesting connections with Hebrew. But Joseph's first contact with Hebrew language materials that he could study and "plagiarize" occurred much later. Smith's paper, by itself, provides a mountain of intriguing evidence that defies our critics tired mantra that the Book of Mormon is obviously modern, obviously modern, obviously modern ... chanted without meaningful engagement with the evidence. Ditto for the Book of Abraham.

So let's start with some basics. Critics have long said that (1) Egyptians did not practice human sacrifice and (2) that Facs. 1 is an ordinary funerary scene. Strong, peer-reviewed evidence now indicates that ritual slaying of humans happened at the time of Abraham, and for the kind of reasons implied by the text. Abundant ancient documents now point to ancient traditions that an attempt was made to slay Abraham for his opposition to idol worship, consistent with the Book of Abraham. And analysis of Facs. 1 shows that this is clearly not a dead mummy being embalmed, and in fact might even be drawn to mimic a glyph meaning "to supplicate" which is what the Book of Abraham text implies is going on. Further, peer-reviewed data shows that some Egyptians from the time and place of the origin of Joseph's scrolls (Thebes, ca. 200 BC) were keenly interested in Jewish lore, especially Moses and Abraham, making it possible that they could have used a figure like Facs. 1 to describe an Abrahamic scene. All this overturns the lazy dismissal of the Book of Abraham as an obviously modern concoction and points to ancient, plausible elements in the account that could not be derived from the Bible or from materials Joseph had access to. So how does Joseph seem to get the upper leg on our learned critics on these points? Lucky guesses? Or very, very lucky guesses?

Easy to deride weaknesses (no human sacrifice, an ordinary embalming scene, Egyptians didn't care about Abraham) are oveturned and become some of the many strengths of the Book of Abraham. Your refutation of these points? Or maybe you prefer to explain why Olishem is a meaningless word Joseph made up with no connection to the ancient place that appears to correlate nicely with the text? I'm interested in your refutation for that, as well.

Anonymous said...

Good heavens, Jeff, I simply can't believe you're trying to make hay from the facsimiles. There's absolutely no way to rectify what Joseph claims they represent vs what actual Egyptologists know they represent (based on volumes of evidence). I'd say it's laughable but frankly it's disgusting how blinded you are.
But, now that I've insulted you, I may as well have pity and take the bait. WHO are the so-called critics who have made claim 1 and 2 that you list above? Are you citing S. Trawman?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon 2:30, that kind of language, and the sentiment it expresses, have no place here.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 11:31,
Thanks for your comments.
I agree with Matt Grey, who is an excellent scholar (and archeologist). We do need to ferret out all the information we can on the sequence of Joseph's study of Hebrew, and the methods of transliteration he used.

Anonymous said...

These assertions seem to be at odds:

“Joseph Smith’s journal entries indicate that within a week of receiving Hebrew books, Joseph dropped working on Egyptian in favor of Hebrew.”

“We have no record of Joseph Smith working on Egyptian materials from November 1835 until the beginning of 1842.”

VS

“Joseph spent much of December conducting his own personal study of his new resources, spending days rotating between studying his new Hebrew books, examining his new Greek lexicon, and continuing work with the Egyptian papyri.”

Your source separates Joseph’s Hebrew studies from his work with the papyri. Grey indicates the the two were coeval.

Grey also associates the two items in his following two quotes:

“the Egyptian project might have been a major impetus for Joseph to begin learning Hebrew; if he and his associates initially believed that the papyri contained Hebrew writing (which seems to have been the case), perhaps they felt that Hebrew could aid their translation of the manuscripts.”

“the ongoing Egyptian project, efforts to recover the language of Adam, and an increased desire to commune with the sacred past all converged in Kirtland in late 1835, apparently combining to persuade Joseph that the time was right for the Saints to learn Hebrew.”

As for Egyptian human sacrifice, the first chapter of the Book of Abraham refers to facsimile 1 multiple times. The “translation” is a guess from the picture. Just because experts didn’t agree on Egyptian practices doesn’t make the “translation” more or less correct, (and the interpretation is completely incorrect by the way). The picture isn’t even right—it was “fixed” incorrectly.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 12:14,
Matt Grey is not my source, but I do agree with him and you that we need to find out what sort of sequence of work on Hebrew and Egyptian took place at Kirtland, and later.

However, your statement that Joseph Smith's "interpretation [of facsimile 1] is completely incorrect by the way" is ridiculous. Even the late Wesley P. Walters (and others) asserted certain of Joseph’s correct facsimile identifications to have been “common knowledge prior to 1835.” Yet, the dearth of reliable and easily accessible sources on ancient Egypt contemporary with or prior to Joseph’s time suggests rather that Joseph could not have made the sort of accurate explanations which are presented in the Book of Abraham, while avoiding the gaffes so common in the books of his day.

Anonymous said...

"Or maybe you prefer to explain why Olishem is a meaningless word Joseph made up with no connection to the ancient place that appears to correlate nicely with the text? I'm interested in your refutation for that, as well."

As for Olishem, there is a place that sounds like Olishem but there is no Olishem--sounds likes should be reserved for pictionary and charades. In order for the Olishem model to work, you must move the location of Ur.

Robert, my previous comments were directed towards Jeff. As for the interpretation of Fac. 1, I'm wondering how an Egyptian death scroll can be interpreted as a portrayal of Abraham's escape from being sacrificed and still be considered correct? No mention of Osiris. No mention of Anubis. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Anon 11:08. Olishem has a chance resemblance to a settlement near one of the possible locations of “Ur of the Chaldees.” Nothing more. It hardly outweighs the fact that Facsimile 1 does not depict what the BoA says it depicts. Joseph got it wrong, and the reason he got it wrong is because he was winging it rather than translating.

The BoA (and facsimile interpretation) is clearly modern. That explains why it misidentifies a black figure as a slave. That explains why it expresses the Hamitic Theory. That explains why it borrows from Philosophy of a Future State.

— OK

Anonymous said...

On a more simple, stylistic note, how often do we see self-referential writing in Egyptian? The scholarly/legal reference to other locations in the document within the first chapter of Abraham seem out of place in an ancient document:

"12 And it came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record."

"14 That you may have an understanding of these gods, I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which signifies hieroglyphics."

Anonymous said...

Yep, Anon 1:52. Stylistically, all the LDS scriptures compare very unfavorably to the Bible (except of course when they’re quoting the Bible), but perhaps nowhere is this clearer than when we compare the BoA’s hackish description of Abraham’s would-be sacrifice to the supreme artistry of that other near-sacrifice, the Binding of Isaac episode in the Book of Genesis.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 1:52,
"how often do we see self-referential writing in Egyptian?"

Autobiography with personal detail is a very common genre in ancient Egyptian literature, though quite uncommon in biblical lit (a misunderstanding that caused David Bolovoy to stumble). A good example is the Tale of Sinuhe, and there are plenty of others.

OK 9:31 makes a similarly incorrect assumption.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 11:08,
"As for Olishem, there is a place that sounds like Olishem but there is no Olishem--sounds likes should be reserved for pictionary and charades. In order for the Olishem model to work, you must move the location of Ur."

Scholars rarely find exact duplicates of names. They only require reasonable similarity and context. Moreover, great scholars such as the late Ephraim Speiser and Cyrus Gordon placed Abram in the great bend of the upper Euphrates River in Haran, within a land called Padan Aram or Aram Naharaim, not in southern Mesopotamia (which would be an anachronism). In the Ritner volume, Chris Woods deliberately ignored good scholarship: See Speiser, Genesis, Anchor Bible 1 (Doubleday, 1965), 80,

"The one fact beyond serious dispute is that the home of the patriarchs was in the district of Haran, and not at Ur. According to [Gen 12:1, 5], Haran was Abraham’s birthplace. The toponymic models for the names of Abraham’s close relatives have been found in Central Mesopotamia (see above). And the cultural background of many of the later patriarchal narratives is intimately tied up with the Hurrians of Haran and the regions nearby rather than with the Sumerians and Babylonians in the south. Thus Ur proves to be intrusive in this context, however old that intrusion may have been."

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 11:08,
"As for the interpretation of Fac. 1, I'm wondering how an Egyptian death scroll can be interpreted as a portrayal of Abraham's escape from being sacrificed and still be considered correct? No mention of Osiris. No mention of Anubis. What am I missing?"

The Book of Breathings, for which facsimile 1 is an illustration, is not a "death scroll" so much as it is summary of Book of the Dead rituals -- which are performed by the living in Egyptian temples. Those rites are efficacious for eternal life, which is the whole point. They are buried with the deceased so that he can use them on the other side.

Osiris, like Christ, is the dying and rising god whose power assures the resurrection of the just. The victim appeals to his Lord for salvation in a time of crisis. With or without the Anubis mask, the priest stands in to perform the sacrifice:

Fac 1:3 has the priest of Elkenah holding a knife, just as the priest also appears on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos in which Ahiram holds a lotus, sitting before an altar opposite a priest holding a knife about to perform a sacrifice (National Museum, Beirut, Lebanon; John Gray, NEM, 100, top right). Old line anti-Mormon Egyptologists Von Bissing, Woodward, and Hughes all agreed that the Anubis-priest in Fac 1:3 could have a knife in hand. Well, in Egyptology, it is Anubis who presides over blood sacrifices as the representative of Pharaoh (Pyramid Texts 157, 590, 650, 727, 811d, 1286-1287, etc.), as adapted by the Jewish scribe transmitting the Book of Abraham.

Anonymous said...

Just read the Tale of Sinuhe. No self-referential writing. In fact, the opposite is true. Decrees were presented in the text as the story unfolded—the reader was not redirected to another portion of the text. The reader wasn’t addressed at all. Also the Egyptian style and imagery is distinctly different from the Book of Abraham. Any other “examples”?

Anonymous said...

Really? No self-referential writing? Here is the Tale of Sinuhe:

http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/texts/sinuhe.htm

The first sentence he refers to himself:

I was a henchman who followed his lord, a servant of the Royal harim attending on the hereditary princess, the highly-praised Royal Consort of Sesostris in the pyramid-town of Khnem-esut, the Royal Daughter of Amenemmes in the Pyramid-town of Ka-nofru, even Nofru, the revered.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Olishem...

Sibboleth vs shibboleth anyone? Vowels change, some consonants change. Basic linguistic studies.

Steve

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia:

Self-reference occurs in natural or formal languages when a sentence, idea or formula refers to itself.

Let's keep up here, Steve. . .

Anonymous said...

Does "COPY OF THE DECREE WHICH WAS BROUGHT TO HIS HUMBLE SERVANT CONCERNING HIS RETURN TO EGYPT," followed by the decree in question, count as self-referential? Or "COPY OF THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THIS DECREE," followed by said acknowledgement? Or "IT IS FINISHED, FROM THE BEGINNING TO THE END, ACCORDING AS IT WAS FOUND IN WRITING," found at the end of the document?

Anonymous said...

Sibboleth vs shibboleth anyone?

Grenada vs Granada anyone? See how a subtle difference can make all the difference?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:17

Do any of those examples refer the reader to other places in the text? The Book of Abraham does.

Anonymous said...

Also Anon 11:17, note that in my 9:02am response, I addressed the reference to the Decree.

Anonymous said...

Robert,

Thanks for the info. Interesting reading about King Ahiram who was Phonecian, not Egyptian or Hebrew.

You have pointed out other examples that have some similar depictions, but in which none have similar interpretations. Do we have any other funerary texts that, instead of ushering someone into the afterlife, depict the great escape of an intended sacrifice?

You state that "in Egyptology, it is Anubis who presides over blood sacrifices as the representative of Pharaoh," but fail to mention that Joseph's interpretation of the figure is "The idolatrous priest of Elkenah attempting to offer up Abraham as a sacrifice." No mention of Anubis in the interpretation.

The idolatrous priest of Elkenah appears to be a complete fabrication. In order for pictographs to convey meaning, the reader or viewer must have some point of reference to the representation. Egyptians or anyone associated with their society would have that point of reference if the image is of Osiris, just like most Americans know who Uncle Sam is from a picture without the need for a cultural or historical treatise. Where does Elkenah appear in Egyptian mythology? Where does he appear elsewhere? Why would someone go to the effort to attempt to convey a message where the receiver of the message has no point of reference? It would be like writing a letter to my grandmother in Korean--she doesn't know how to interpret the characters she sees because she has no point of reference to their meaning.

Anonymous said...

Steve, the example you’ve given us is first-person, not self-referential in the sense being used in this discussion. First person involves the speaker speaking about himself; self-referentiality involves the text somehow referring to itself as a text.

Your example would be self-referential if it read, say, “As you can see if you read Chapter 3 of this document, I was a henchman....”

— OK

Mazel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 11:31,
"Self-referential" I take to be autobiographical. You have already been provided with an example from Sinuhe, which fits your narrower definition. However, we also have one from King Hammurapi, who claims his Code to be “my words which I wrote on my stela” (Codex Hammurapi, reverse, XXIV:65-66), which is written on all copies of his stela throughout his kingdom. St Paul is similarly self-referential in many of his epistles (1 Cor 16:21, Col 4:18, etc.), in addition to the colophons in most of them, and in nearly all Egyptian literature.

Mazel said...

Hasn’t the LDS Church already said the Book of Abraham isn’t a literal translation of the papyri?

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 12:30,
Yes, King Ahiram is Phoenician king of Byblos, a fully Egyptianized port-city in Syria. Bear in mind that Olishem and the Chaldean altar of sacrifice are also not in Egypt, but in North Syria.

"You state that "in Egyptology, it is Anubis who presides over blood sacrifices as the representative of Pharaoh," but fail to mention that Joseph's interpretation of the figure is "The idolatrous priest of Elkenah attempting to offer up Abraham as a sacrifice." No mention of Anubis in the interpretation."

Please note that in Abr 1:7 it says "the priest of Elkenah was also the priest of Pharaoh," thus doing double =-duty as both Anubis-priest and the Semitic priest of Elkenah -- who is the well-known Hittite, Canaanite, Aramaic, and Neo-Punic god (and is even a name for Hebrew El in the OT) -- see Kevin Barney, “On Elkenah as Canaanite El,” JBMS, 19/1 (2010):22-35; Daniel O. McClellan, “El Elyon, Begetter of Heaven and Earth,” SBL Paper, March 2010 (see pdf).

Anonymous said...

Jeff and others didn’t seem to get that memo.

Anonymous said...

"'Self-referential' I take to be autobiographical."

Robert,

You seem to only accept your interpretation of how things should be, not necessarily as they are. I gave you examples, and then definitions of the term and you still don't get it.

The reason for the narrowness of the definition is that it is important to understanding not only the audience, but the format on which the text appears. Self-referential documents are a somewhat recent occurrence (in relation to the time frames we have been discussing). A document that is self-referential has some inherent expectations of the readership and its ability to refer back to the text it is reading. A scroll, or a set of scrolls, would be much harder to reference than a book, for example. A readership that is familiar with referring backwards in a text is also important (this could also be seen as an acceptable, or not, cultural phenomenon). That's why I'm looking for other examples--I'm not sure that the readership and the format are conducive to self-referential writing. I cannot recall ever seeing self-referential writing from this era, though, admittedly, I'm not familiar with much writing from this era.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the usual LDS apologetic tactics are running out of steam, and the Church knows it. What is needed for the future is not more of the same FAIR-styled, methodologically flawed scholarship, but a new paradigm and a new conceptual vocabulary.

One key element of that vocabulary might be a term, analogous but not identical to the term pseudepigrapha, that would denote "writing falsely attributed to fictional authors," just as pseudepigrapha denotes "writing falsely attributed to actual authors." The idea is to have a conceptual vocabulary that can be used to say something like this:

In the ancient world it was a common way to pay respect to figures like David or Solomon while also claiming some of their cultural and religious authority for one's own work. While to a modern sensibility that sort of thing seems dishonest, in historical context it must be considered a perfectly respectable rhetorical form. In the same way, Joseph Smith's attribution of the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham to a variety of ancient fictional authors, and his integration of New World into Old World narrative in order to produce a new kind of midrash, must be understood in its context: as a then-acceptable rhetorical move that in no way detracts from the truth, the integrity, or the religious value of those works....

Something like that. Just thinking out loud here.

-- OK

Anonymous said...

You’re looking at fighting against generations of insistence that the narrative was the actual sequence of events. It would be difficult, if not utterly destructive, to make those claims right away. I think the Joseph Smith papers project and the church’s current stance on the book of Abraham are steps in that direction, but it will be a slow and careful matter to change course. I think a step in the right direction would be “there are a lot of things we aren’t sure of and the evidence we have points us to this conclusion. We welcome open discussion and invite our members to bring their beliefs to the table, be they what they may.” It’s been an either/or culture for too long.

Anonymous said...

For a long time The Spirit told people that the Lamanites were the principal ancestors of the American Indian and today it tells people the Lamanites were only among the ancestors. With the Spirit, all things are possible.

Anonymous said...

Like Bob Jones University, the Mormons will lose a large part of their tax exempt status soon enough, the only question is will they have to pay back taxes also.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Anon 7:53. As we learned in 1978, long-held beliefs and traditions can end quickly when the leadership sees that the time has come. That’s one of the advantages of being an autocratic organization. But in this case I think we’ll see a gradual change whose end-point may well be a sort of detente between chapel Mormons, who mostly go on believing in the historicity of the BoM/BoA, and the scholars, who will, with the blessing of the Church, take a more intellectually respectable “modern-revelation-of-spiritual-truth-expressed-in-the-form-of-fictional-narrative” approach. Both approaches will be acceptable, just as you see in many other churches. Formal teaching will change accordingly (and this need not be as difficult as one would think).

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 1:59,
'Self-referential'
Even by the strictures of your own narrow demands, you still automatically rejected the good examples given by me (Hammurapi, St. Paul) and Steve. These were first person examples referring back to the very text being written.

Compare also magical Papyrus Leiden I 384, which mentions “Abraham” by name, and features a lion couch scene (with a female upon the bier), immediately beneath which we find a fragmentary Greek text which refers to “Abraham, who is upon” something, and in which a conjuring formula says that one should write these “words together with this picture [the lion couch vignette] on a new papyrus.” – illustration of this in John Gee "Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts (Research and Perspectives)," Ensign, 22/7 (July 1992):60-62, online at https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/1992/07/research-and-perspectives-abraham-in-ancient-egyptian-texts?lang=eng .

Both the Testament of Abraham and Apocalypse of Abraham feature a world tour with detailed descriptions of the cosmos and death. However, the Apocalypse of Abraham does it in first person, and even repeatedly refers to the "picture" being shown.

My "Brief Assessment" paper notes that this is characteristic of pseudepigrapha in late antiquity. Thus, on balance, we should not be at all surprised. Rather than constantly changing the goal posts, you might be gracious enough to acknowledge that.

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 5:56,
"the usual LDS apologetic tactics are running out of steam"

Why not try replacing tired old polemics and apologetics with logic and scholarship? We might even make some progress, instead of playing silly games of one-up-manship. A cooperative effort to bring clarity would be wonderful. C'mon, guys, what do you say?

Anonymous said...

Robert, I say the evidence is overwhelming that the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are modern texts.

In the case of the BoA, that evidence includes the completely erroneous identifications on the facsimiles, the text’s inclusion of Hamitic Theory, and its extensive borrowings from Philosophy of a Future State, which we know Smith owned and Cowdery quoted from. Against this kind of incredibly strong Sequoia-like evidence you’ve got little blades of grass like, oh, somewhere in the vast archives of antiquity someone found an Egyptian text that incidentally mentions Abraham. Big whoop.

The Maxwell Institute has decided to distance itself from the foolishness. Brian Hauglid has had enough of it, too. Richard Bushman is “in the closet” about it, but he’s also off the reservation. Many, many more will follow.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 10:45,
You mischaracterize the state of research on the BofM, BofA, and the opinions of capacious scholars like Richard Bushman in typical partisan fashion.

Wouldn't it be far more meaningful for everyone to accept the variegated nature of reality in each case where appropriate and let the chips fall where they may? Wouldn't it be nicer to put the tribalism behind us, and attempt to throw light on the controversial issues? Might we all make more progress in that cooperative fashion? Or is it more fun to simply make war?

Anonymous said...

Robert 11:25 - Your 11:25 is nothing than ungrounded ad hominem attack. Clearly, you are having difficulty looking in the mirror.  The argument (or war as you call it) was started by your camp and you lost. It is your camp that is refusing to let the chips fall where they may, being tribal and partisan, refusing to cooperate, and mis-characterizing. But I don’t think your camp is having fun doing it. It appears to be a neurotic obsessive compulsion derived from a delusional condition known as denialism and belief perseverance.

Anonymous said...

Might we all make more progress in that cooperative fashion?

No.

We make progress by doing sound research. If you and others want to cooperate with those (like Hauglid) who do sound research, fine. If not, well, that’s your decision.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 9:09,
"We make progress by doing sound research. If you and others want to cooperate with those (like Hauglid) who do sound research, fine. If not, well, that’s your decision."

Sounds like it's your way or the highway, instead of dispassionate adherence to straight scholarship. So you don't think that we would all be better off to do away with the polemics and apologetics? How sad. ☹️

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 5:25,
"The argument (or war as you call it) was started by your camp and you lost. It is your camp that is refusing to let the chips fall where they may, being tribal and partisan, "

My "camp" is scholarship. Sorry you don't like good scholarship. I guess it's not for everybody.

Anonymous said...

Robert,

You wrote "Even by the strictures of your own narrow demands, you still automatically rejected the good examples given by me (Hammurapi, St. Paul) and Steve. These were first person examples referring back to the very text being written."

I'm not sure if you're being intentionally obtuse and trying to get my goat or if the difference is really so difficult to understand. First person narrative is irrelevant to my argument. The more examples you provide, the further from the mark you stray. This leads me question any of the research you may have participated in.

Consider your Apocalypse of Abraham example (which was written thousands of years after the Book of Abraham would have been by the way). Here are some excerpts from that document, which I have to assume you were referring to. As background, at this point Abraham has been brought into heaven by an angel and a view of all the creations of God is unfolded to him (no illustrations accompany the text):

And I saw there a great multitude—men and women and children [half of them on the right side of the picture] and half of them on the left side of the picture.

And I said: “O Eternal, Mighty One! What is this picture of the creatures?” And He said to me: “This is my will with regard to those who exist in the (divine) world-counsel, and it seemed well-pleasing before my sight, and then afterwards I gave commandment to them through my Word. And it came to pass whatever I had determined to be, was already planned beforehand in this (picture), and it stood before me ere it was created, as thou hast seen.”

And I said: “O Lord, mighty and eternal! Who are the people in this picture on this side and on that?” And He said to me: “These which are on the left side are the multitude of the peoples which have formerly been in existence and which are after thee destined, some for judgement and restoration, and others for vengeance and destruction at the end of the world. But these which are on the right side of the picture—they are the people set apart for me of the peoples with Azazel. These are they whom I have ordained to be born of thee and to be called My People. XXIII. “Now look again in the picture, who it is who seduced Eve and what is the fruit of the tree, [and] thou wilt know what there shall be, and how it shall be to thy seed among the people at the end of the days of the age, and so far as thou canst not understand I will make known to thee, for thou art well-pleasing in my sight, and I will tell thee what is kept in my heart.” And I looked into the picture, and mine eyes ran to the side of the Garden of Eden.

Now compare this to the text of the Book of Abraham (written by his own hand, upon papyrus). I’ve added italics to the portion of the text that is self-referential.

12 And it came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record.

14 That you may have an understanding of these gods, I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning

Any difference?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:26, you are quite right. Robert’s supposed example of ancient self-referentiality is nothing of the sort.

And let’s not forget the other huge problems with the passages you italicized in Abr. 1:12 and 1:14.

1:12 promises to give us “a knowledge of this altar.”

Um, “a knowledge”? What does this mean? What kind of knowledge do we get by looking at the crude drawing in the facsimile? We’ve already been told about an altar used to perform human sacrifices. If the words were all we had to go on, we might be thinking, “Um, okay, sure, whatever, Abraham was almost sacrificed on some kind of altar.”

But when we are referred to the facsimile, our reaction changes. Now, as modern readers informed by Egyptology, we say to ourselves, “What the heck? That’s not an altar used to perform human sacrifices, that’s a lion couch used to perform embalming rituals.”

So then, what knowledge do we gain by being referred to the facsimile? The knowledge that the text is not literally accurate. We don’t actually gain any knowledge at all about the altar, since it’s not an altar in the first place; what we gain is some sketchy but useful knowledge about what kind of text we’re dealing with — evidently some kind of fiction.

As for 1:14, the problem is very simple. The passage promises to give us “an understanding of these gods,” and refers us to a document that gets everything about those gods wrong.

And again, when we read this stuff with the benefit of the knowledge provided us by the Egyptologists, and if we are genuine scholars, we are compelled to ask ourselves just what kind of text we are reading. I should add here that we are thus compelled in a way that would not have occurred had the text not referred us to the facsimiles. (Thanks, Joseph!)

The response of the apologist has not been to take a fresh look at the kind of text they are dealing with, but to continue to assume the text is ancient and historical and work backward from there, searching the ancient archive for anything that might explain away these huge problems, or trying to disconnect the BoA text from the papyri, etc. — anything at all to preserve their testimonies.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 10:26,
A scholar would have carefully read the Hammurapi and St Paul examples and found them referring to the very stela and very signature in a self-referential way. The same applies to the common scribal colophons used in ancient Egypt. A scholar would accept them with good grace. A polemicist would not.

As for the Apocalypse of Abraham, you immediately ignore an already accepted agreement that the Book of Abraham (of the same genre) could be a pseudepigraphon from the Ptolemaic period, in order to declare the BofA written thousands of years before the ApocAbr. A scholar would take the actual claims made for a Ptolemaic period papyrus as normative -- at least for the sake of discussion. Instead you play dirty pool. Again, you prefer polemics over scholarship.

Indeed, an illuminated manuscript of the ApocAbr even includes an illustration of the "picture" discussed in the text. I didn't mention it because it did not appear to be self-referential. You appear not to understand the difference.

You go on to emphasize "the Book of Abraham (written by his own hand, upon papyrus)," while ignoring the very same phrase used by Hammurapi (even though he certainly did not write his stela with his own hand). In so doing you ignore what I have pointed out previously:

In Abr 1:12, the text refers back to the illus at the beginning. However, that illus (fac 1) is an Egyptian illus, and Abr 1:13 (which you left out) refers to an altar in North Syria which is like a Chaldean [Aramean] bedstead. In other words, any original illus would have looked quite different from the late Ptolemaic illus for a Book of Breathings. The Jewish scribe passing this story along is adapting a late Book of Breathings illus to his own purposes, and only approximating the original -- which has long since disappeared.

Unlike a scholar, you failed tor read for context and drew convenient polemic conclusions. In my paper, I discussed and cited examples of Jews using late pagan symbols in actual Jewish religious contexts. Instead of basing your discussion on already available data, you exclude it in each new iteration of the discussion. That is a favorite polemic tactic.

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 12:57,
"a document that gets everything about those gods wrong."

I have for the second time now gone over the nature of the altar in fac 1:4 and Abr 1:12-13 (above), and discussed it in my paper. Instead of responding to that and to the authentic nature of the pagan gods listed, you continue the empty diatribe, falsely claiming that the BofA "gets everything about those gods wrong." You seem able only to deal in blanket statements. No allowance for fact-based analysis. No real give-and-take.

Anonymous said...

Robert said "My "camp" is scholarship. Sorry you don't like good scholarship. I guess it's not for everybody."

A true scholar would have never have resorted to such an ungrounded ad hominem based an your false assertion. Sorry you prefer fake scholarship to real scholarship. I guess it is not for you.

Anonymous said...

Robert,

I'm sorry, I was under the impression that you were working from a position of belief in the authenticity of the BoA as being what it claims to be--written by his own hand, upon papyrus. You've now qualified the authenticity of the claim of the work, which you failed to do from the start. You've now added a "Jewish scribe passing this story along." Where did he come from? Who is "moving the goalposts" and "playing dirty pool"?

Here are the words from Hammurapi:

"That the strong might not injure the weak, in order to protect the widows and orphans, I have in Babylon the city where Anu and Bel raise high their head, in E-Sagil, the Temple, whose foundations stand firm as heaven and earth, in order to bespeak justice in the land, to settle all disputes, and heal all injuries, set up these my precious words, written upon my memorial stone, before the image of me, as king of righteousness."

Does the author address the reader and request that he/she refer to another portion of the writings? I hope you haven't injured yourself with this attempted stretch.

Back to the original theme of the post, I, like the BYU presenters, didn't address the St. Paul references because they are not relevant to the discussion--they are not self-referential. Please show me how they are comparable to the BoA quote.

Anonymous said...

On a related note Robert. If you're willing to accept that the BoA is midrash, why does it have to be ancient Jewish midrash? If we're being "honest scholars" here, why isn't Joseph an acceptable author of the text?

Anonymous said...

Joseph, at best your paper shows that there were texts circulating in the ancient world that suggest that some Jewish texts do some things that are compatible with the Book of Abraham, or that an ancient Jewish writer might have written something that in some ways would resemble the BoA. Or something. But so what? The fact remains that the Joseph Smith papyri are what they are: ordinary Egyptian funerary documents. And they don’t say what Joseph told us they say. Nothing in your paper changes any of that.

I’m not sure how else I can respond to your paper (and still be reasonably polite).

— OK

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:09, the thing you have to understand is that what is by far the best explanation, that Joseph himself composed the BoA, is a priori off the table here. Verboten. Unpossible.

— OK

Anonymous said...

“Unpossible”

I see you are a student of the Ralph Wiggum school of English. :^) A personal hero of mine.

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 3:23,
"at best your paper shows that there were texts circulating in the ancient world that suggest that some Jewish texts do some things that are compatible with the Book of Abraham, or that an ancient Jewish writer might have written something that in some ways would resemble the BoA."

That is a fair summation. Attempting to explain how that is possible is another matter entirely, which is probably why you revert to the apriori "unpossible" at 4:42. Why? Because Joseph Smith could not possibly have engineered that feat of scholarship.

You go on to say that "The fact remains that the Joseph Smith papyri are what they are: ordinary Egyptian funerary documents. And they don’t say what Joseph told us they say. Nothing in your paper changes any of that."

Of course your description is correct for most of the Joseph Smith Papyri. However, what you fail to say is that, if there ever was a source among the JSPap underlying the BofA, we do not have it today. All we have are three illustrations, which tend to confuse both apologists and polemicists. I have discussed them here and in my paper in a reasonable way, finding Joseph's explanations quite accurate, and have yet to be refuted.

Anonymous said...

"Joseph Smith could not possibly have engineered that feat of scholarship."

If only he had a revered Jewish scholar available as his personal tutor for nearly a year, he might have been capable of doing it. Alas, we have no record of this happening.

Anonymous said...

Robert F. Smith writes, All we have are three illustrations, which tend to confuse both apologists and polemicists. I have discussed them here and in my paper in a reasonable way, finding Joseph's explanations quite accurate, and have yet to be refuted.

Wow! Robert has yet to be refuted!

For Robert I offer a parable:

Back in the 90s, when I was a student at LSU, I would go a few times a week to one of the big gyms on campus. This was when Shaquille O'Neal was there, and occasionally he'd be in that gym, too. Shaq and I would get in pickup games, and I am proud to say that he never scored on me once.

Note, however, that I didn't say Shaq and I ever got in the same pickup games. He played with the big guys, and I played with the little guys.

Still, Shaq never scored on me. One might even say, quite truthfully, that he has yet to do so.

That's how awesome I am at basketball!

-- OK

Anonymous said...

I bet nobody ever stopped you from scoring either. Their definition of scoring was too narrow.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 2:52,
You quote briefly from the Epilogue of Codex Hammurapi. However, note the key repetitions in that Epilogue: "the words which I have written in this inscription;..which I have written on my monument...the words which I have written in this inscription....my words, which I have written in this my inscription, . . which I have written in my inscription” (L. W. King translation, online at http://avalon.law.yale.edu/ancient/hamframe.asp ). He repeats "my words, my inscription, my monument, this inscription," and you deny that those are self-referential.

When St Paul says at Gal 6:11 "Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand," that is clearly self-referential (cf. 1 Cor 16:21, 2 Thess 3:17, Coloss 4:18, Philemon 19).

Last year Donald Haase wrote an M.A. thesis on “Self-Referential Features in Sacred Texts” (Florida International University, 2018), online at https://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=5124&context=etd , which dealt with self-referential examples from the Egyptian Papyrus of Ani to the Book of Mormon.
Note, for example, Ani's Book of the Dead papyrus begins with liturgical directions at the beginning of spell 1 -- “Here begin the chapters of coming forth by day, and the songs of praising and glorifying which are to be recited for 'coming forth' and for entering into KhertNeter, and the spells which are to be said in beautiful Amentet. They shall be recited on the day of the funeral, entering in after coming forth." (Haase p. 45)

This actually takes place in the illus, as Haase points out:
"These passages have the appearance of mere instructional apparatus not actually to be
read, but these are specifically those contained within chapters. Many more references to
when and how to recite occur within the ‘Rubrics’ which provide more instructional
apparatus and appear not to be content to be recited.

"An additional passage has the reader self describe as the one who recites 'the
words of the liturgy of the festival of the Soul-god in Tetu.' (5 1:27). Compellingly, a
number of the pictorial scenes that are part of the scroll are also self-referential. These
scenes, called vignettes by E.A.W. Budge, depict various stages of the funeral process
and some portray a priest reading from the scroll itself. It is especially clear that this is the scroll itself as the scene contains text that reflects the words of the priest, which come from the scroll.* These reflect, as in many of the above examples, how the text in itself is necessary for the ritual as an object."

* See this priest pictured in R. Faulkner, Book of the Dead, rev ed. (Univ of Texas, 1985), p. 38, bottom register, pAni.

For the BD spell 125, The Judgment, rubric at end, for preceding section:
“The correct procedure in this Hall of Justice. One shall utter this spell pure and clean and clad in white garments and sandals, painted with black eye-paint and anointed with myrrh. . . . when you have put this written procedure on a clean floor . . . . As for him who makes this writing, he shall . . , and he shall be in the suite of Osiris.” (Faulkner, Book of the Dead, 33-34) Fully self-referential for the Judgment scene in the papyrus.

Anonymous said...

Robert,

There is a big difference between "I am Hammurapi, and I approve this message" and "Reader, for examples of what I'm talking about, please refer to this specific place in the included documents." One is a signature, the other is a literary device.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 1:36,
According to the Jewish scholar H. Tawil, an expression such as West Semitic bīdiya “with his own hands” is quite common and is not meant to be taken literally (Tawil, Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew, 138). It is clearly self-referential in “my words which I wrote on my stela” (Codex Hammurapi, reverse, XXIV:65-66), as translated by K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, 134 n. 90; J. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts, 3rd ed., 178.

John Gee gives the excellent example in a magical papyrus from Egypt which features a lion couch scene (with a female upon the bier), immediately beneath which we find a fragmentary Greek text which refers to “Abraham, who is upon” something, and in which a conjuring formula says that one should write these “words together with this picture [the lion couch vignette] on a new papyrus.” -- illus in Gee, "Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts (Research and Perspectives)," Ensign, 22/7 (July 1992):60-62, online at https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/1992/07/research-and-perspectives-abraham-in-ancient-egyptian-texts?lang=eng .

In the midst of the Middle Kingdom “Story of Sinuhe” (line 204) there suddenly appears a “Copy of the reply to this decree.” M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, I:230.
In the Ptolemaic period Stela of Taimhotep (BM 147) – Miriam Lichtheim points out that the concluding colophon is “The signature of the scribe and sculptor who composed the text and designed the stela” (AEL, III:64-65 n. 23). That colophon reads: "The scribe, sculptor, and scholar; the initiate of the gold-house in Tenent, the prophet of Horus, Imhotep, son of the prophet Kha-hapi, justified, has made it." That is the self-referential signature.

Anonymous said...

Robert,

Apparently we need to more clearly define the type of self-reference that was used in the Book of Abraham, and continues to be used in the modern day. Your examples are not up to snuff. I will use my above examples from the Book of Abraham, as well as more modern examples from Donald Haase, whom you cited above (since his work is close to hand), to establish the type of self-reference that appears in the BoA, and is anomalous.

A modern self-reference will:

1. Address the reader either explicitly (ie. you, the reader, one) or implicitly (understood you):

BoA: “I will refer you to” & “That you may have an understanding”
Haase: “With this study though, I do intend to provide [you] a set of tools that might illuminate future investigations”

2. Refer the reader to the document itself, or even better, to specific locations within the document:

BoA “the representation at the commencement of this record” & “in the figures at the beginning”
Haase: “In this first section, the focus has been on laying out a background and foundation” & “In Section II, I will lay out my data.”

3. Imply that by referring to the text, or other locations within the text, the subject of discussion will be further elucidated.

BoA “that you may have a knowledge of this altar” & “That you may have an understanding of these gods”
Haase: “provide a set of tools that might illuminate future investigations” & “In this first section, the focus has been on laying out a background and foundation. By taking a look at the ways in which sacred texts have been treated, the usefulness of my approach has been made clear.”

Items that are not relevant to the discussion but you repeatedly use to in an effort to confuse the argument:
1. First person narrative
2. Writer refers to himself or his words (“I made this,” or “written by”)
3. Writer provides instructions on how to perform an act (recipe instructions)

OK, if I'm missing something, please feel free to suggest additional modern characteristics.

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 11:59,
Haase himself uses the self-referential example of the liturgical rubric in pAni which is followed exactly in the illus with the lector-priest standing and reading the BD spell. John Gee's example likewise recognizes the illus and gives directions for its use. St Paul speaks directly about his letter (within that very letter), written by him, with his signature. When Hammurapi refers to "this my stela" he is referring to the very object which has been engraved, and he is claiming to have engraved it personally (hyperbole).

Self-referential doesn't necessarily mean "first person," and I gave plenty of examples without it. The key is that the text refers to itself and the object upon which it is written (and drawn). Your strictures are not designed to enlighten, but to exclude.

You may not appreciate the definition of "self-referential" used by Haase, and you seem to reject his examples, but his is the scholarly standard.

Anonymous said...

My argument is that the Book of Abraham is a modern construct. My evidence for this argument is the use of modern self-referential rhetorical devices in its writing. Haase's definitions do not apply in this situation as his specified objective is not the same. The strictures of the definition in this case are definitely "not designed to enlighten, but to exclude." That's the point. They are designed to demonstrate that the rhetorical conventions used are modern. I can provide you with countless examples of these conventions being used in writing within the past several hundred years--in fact I bet I could find them in your own scholarly work. Can you do the same for any ancient texts originally written in Egyptian? If not, finding them in an Egyptian text claiming to be ancient is an anomaly as stated, and points to the work being modern, not ancient.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 11:07,
"the rhetorical conventions used are modern"

Of course, internal directions (stage directions in a script for example) are going to be more common in modern times. However, that sort of feature is part of a class of self-referential instances which also occur anciently. Moreover, we do not know to what degree a modern translation can be taken as fully literal, unless the apriori assumption is that the source is entirely modern. One can make the same assumption about the self-referential instance in 2 Nephi 3:15-16. Surely we can find far more convincing evidence than such confirmation of bias.

Anonymous said...

“One can make the same assumption about the self-referential instance in 2 Nephi 3:15-16.”

Exactly.

Jeff Lindsay said...

OK speaks about Joseph's alleged borrowings from Philosophy of a Future State. Here is the reference so you can see for yourself: Thomas Dick, The Philosophy of a Future State (E. and G. Merriam, Brookfield, MA, 1830), https://archive.org/details/philosophyoffutu00dick_0.

OK said this: "...and its extensive borrowings from Philosophy of a Future State, which we know Smith owned and Cowdery quoted from. Against this kind of incredibly strong Sequoia-like evidence you’ve got little blades of grass like, oh, somewhere in the vast archives of antiquity someone found an Egyptian text that incidentally mentions Abraham. Big whoop."

OK, you're relying on the CES Letter. Sorry, but that's flawed scholarship, not some kind of Sequoia-like evidence. We know Joseph had a copy of Philosophy of a Future State by 1844 (no evidence he ever read it or used it -- he had a bunch of books by then), but not necessarily in 1835. The "extensive borrowings" other critics have pointed to include the Book of Abraham's denunciation of creation ex nihilo -- but if you look at his book, Thomas Dick actually shows belief in creation ex nihilo. Not a very convincing source. Other elements said to be borrowed often can be found in the Bible. The most interesting parallel, IMO, is the concept of multiple worlds, an interesting but not unique part of his book, but the concept of multiple worlds in LDS thought was already established in 1830 in the Book of Moses, at a time when Joseph most likely didn't have Dick's book (resources were terribly limited -- had been a struggle just getting paper for the translation).

Please see my article, "Joseph Smith’s Universe vs. Some Wonders of Chinese Science Fiction," Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship 29 (2018): 105-152, where I gradually get into some of the details about the deficiencies of the CES Letter in its claims that Joseph plagiarized from or relied on this particular book. The cosmology and creation accounts in the Book of Abraham cannot be explained as plagiarism from Thomas Dick. And again, you have sorely characterized the coolness of the multiple evidences for ancient origins of the Book of Abraham, however it was translated. From the star/soul Egyptian wordplay apparent in Abraham's teachings to the Egyptian court to the surprising bulls-eyes such as the four sons of Horus representing the four quarters of the earth, or the crocodile being the god of Pharaoh, or the wavy lines being the pillars of heaven, or the existence of Olishem in the right place, or the role of Abraham as an opponent of idol worship who was nearly sacrificed for that crime, with many more cool issues including those in Robert F. Smith's excellent article, there is much to suggest that something is going on here besides random guesses by Joseph. Even the strange coincidence of the provenance of the scrolls coming from the one place and time in Egypt when there was a fascination with Abraham and the possibility that a text could exist dealing with Abraham, who was often associated with Osiris -- there's something going on here that demands more inquiry than just alleging that it's all obviously made up and dismissing the work.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Some have also confused Thomas Dick's teachings on souls and matter to suggest that Dick was the source for the notion of eternal matter and spirit as a finer form of matter. But that's a stretch. In a lengthy footnote, Dick does claim that angels must be material and corporeal though invisible and made from “a finer mould” than mankind.” This could seem to echo Joseph’s statement about the “finer” nature of spirit matter (D&C 131:7). On the other hand, in distinguishing angels from “immaterial substances” and “mind” in that footnote, Dick does not deny the existence of immaterial matter. Indeed, Dick views the soul as immaterial and sees “intelligences” as constantly coming into existence rather than having some eternal aspect:

We are, therefore, necessarily led to the following conclusion: “That, when the human body is dissolved, the immaterial principle by which it was animated, continues to think and act, either in a state of separation from all body, or in some material vehicle to which it is intimately united, and which goes off with it at death ; or else, that it is preserved by the Father of spirits for the purpose of animating a body in some future state.” The soul contains no principle of dissolution within itself, since it is an immaterial uncompounded substance. … And the Creator is under no necessity to annihilate the soul for want of power to support its faculties, for want of objects on which to exercise them, or for want of space to contain the innumerable intelligences that are incessantly emerging into existence. (Dick, pp. 104–105. See also p. 187.)

Anonymous said...

Once again, Jeff, you’re mischaracterizing the way literary borrowing and influence work. They’re not typically a question of verbatim copying; a certain amount of re-working such as you describe is the norm, as we see in examples ranging from the New Testament’s borrowings from the Hebrew Bible to Shakespeare’s borrowings from Holinshed to Avatar’s borrowings from Dances with Wolves. Apologists have mischaracterized influence for decades to explain away View of the Hebrews, and more recently with Philosophy of a Future State.

No one outside the bubble is fooled.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 12:40,
Leaving aside apologetics, polemics, and the bubbles within which they exist, you make a valid point about literary borrowing and influence in the creation of fictional works. We have known about View of the Hebrews, Philosophy of a Future State, Swedenborg's writings, and the like for many decades. The real question is, do such works available to Joseph Smith actually contain adequate stimulus to produce his major scriptural/theological works?

Dan Vogel and many others certainly think so, but are very short on details -- because the devil is in the details:

Even if, for example, we allow considerable latitude for creativity, how do we explain the uncanny coincidences with actual history and archeology? There is, after all, nothing about the nearby Iriquois League or the Algonquian Nation to suggest Book of Mormon peoples. Book of Mormon peoples are literate, have books, have populations in the millions, and build with cement.

There is only one place in the New World where that can be found: Mesoamerica.
Moreover, the ancient Olmec flourish and eventually disappear on the same schedule as the Jaredites in the book of Ether, while they are succeeded by several groups which continue their highly developed cultural characteristics until they too are destroyed. As John Sorenson shows in his Mormon's Codex (2013), each such rise and fall fits the archeology of Mesoamerica. How can literary creativity alone account for such coincidences?

In addition to those considerations, I have provided a series of additional evidences in my “The Preposterous Book of Mormon: A Singular Advantage,” lecture, Aug 8, 2014, at the annual FAIRMORMON Conference, Provo, Utah, online at http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf .

Anonymous said...

"uncanny coincidences with actual history and archeology" As you know, asked and answered a million times over.

The short answer is only Mormons call them uncanny, based on some unspecified baseline, and when Mormons attempt to specify a baseline, similar baseline techniques will describe things Mormons don't believe in as uncanny also.

Anonymous said...

The uncanny coincidences that the BoA and BoM are 19th century products far exceeds the uncanny coincidences of their claimed historicity. And hundreds upon hundreds of pages is an interesting claim of short and details.

Your Mesoamerica claim is the perfect example of the defenders moving their goals posts, not the skeptics, which pretty much says it all.

Anonymous said...

“There is, after all, nothing about the nearby Iriquois League or the Algonquian Nation to suggest Book of Mormon peoples. Book of Mormon peoples are literate, have books, have populations in the millions, and build with cement.”

The Book of Mormon is an attempt to describe the decadence of an advanced society into the native Americans Joseph and his contemporaries were familiar with. There was plenty in the history books, tumuli in which Joseph dug, as well as the presence of other man-made earthen structures to suggest that such decadence occurred. Joseph connected the dots between theories of his day (Indians as Hebrews, America a promised land, fear of secret societies) to create the work. Evidence of this is prevalent throughout the book.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 5:02,
"Book of Mormon is an attempt to describe the decadence of an advanced society into the native Americans"

Yes, and that is the whole point which professional anthropology brings to bear on the matter: The Amerinds of Northeastern America (and the Mississippi Valley) are too decadent to be equivalent to actual BofM cultures. Joseph could not have known that only the cultures of Mesoamerica could accommodate the BofM. The polemicist is thus reduced to equivocating about the facts -- reduced to claiming accidental coincidence for all instances of close correspondence.

Anonymous said...

“Joseph could not have known that only the cultures of Mesoamerica could accommodate the BofM.“

And yet he insisted that the BoM was about North American native cultures. Guess he got the whole thing wrong.

“I was also informed concerning the aboriginal inhabitants of this country, and shown who they were, and from whence they came; a brief sketch of their origin, progress, civilization, laws, governments, of their righteousness and iniquity, and the blessings of God being finally withdrawn from them as a people was made known unto me: I was also told where there was deposited some plates on which were engraven an abridgement of the records of the ancient prophets that had existed on this continent.”

“In this important and interesting book the history of ancient America is unfolded, from its first settlement by a colony that came from the tower of Babel, at the confusion of languages to the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era. We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people.”

“The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country. This book also tells us that our Saviour made his appearance upon this continent.”

Ramer said...

I might be misreading the arguments here, but it seems like people like OK and other anons are claiming the BoA's self-referential sections indicate modern origin, rather than ancient. If this is the case, then let me point you to these Bible verses:

And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.
1 Kings 14:19

And the rest of the acts of Amaziah, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
2 Kings 14:18

Now the rest of his [Ahaz] acts and of all his ways, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel.
2 Chronicles 28:26

It seems pretty close to the standards Anonymous 11:59 AM March 29 set out. The only thing missing is an address to the reader, but I have to wonder if that's really necessary to be self-referential.

Ramer said...

Oh, and regarding Mesoamerica: I'm pretty sure that's still part of the American continent. Since Joseph Smith also lived on the American continent, I don't see a problem with him describing a civilization supposedly in Mesoamerica as being part of "this continent" or "America."

Anonymous said...

Of course the Book of Mormon appears to be a 19th century product, because it was written for our day and age. It never claimed otherwise. Of course, as a prophet, Joseph Smith could have solve all the theological concerns himself without the Book of Mormon, but the book's sacred past gives us confidence that God always knew what would happen and prepared for Joseph Smith's birth for thousands of years. Just like when man tells a lady he is proposing to that he dreamed in the pre-existence they promised to marry each other, leading the woman to make the same mistake twice.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:21, who is this lady? I’ve got some essential oils to sell her.

— OK

Anonymous said...

I got a religion for her to sacrifice her children to.

Robert F. Smith said...

Ramer 10:37 and 10:31,
Yes, of course. Very perceptive of you.

Anonymous said...

Ramer, for what it’s worth, I don’t really have much invested in the argument about self-referentiality.

I will say that there are huge problems with locating Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica, among them the absence of any details about interactions with surrounding cultures, etc.

Compare the BoM’s geographic vagueness to the detailed and historically/geographically confirmable way the Hebrew Bible situates itself amid Egypt, Canaan, Assyria, Persia, etc., and the way the New Testament sets itself accurately into the history and geography of the ancient Mediterranean. Despite decades of hard work, LDS apologists can’t do anything remotely similar for the BoM. They’re still arguing over whether it’s set in Mesoamerica, the American Midwest, or the entire Western Hemisphere!

Why is it so hard to pin down the BoM’s geography? For the same reason it’s hard to locate the geography of Tatooine.

— OK

Anonymous said...

Discovery of hobbit skeletons prove Middle Earth was in New Zealand.

Anonymous said...

Ramer 10:21:

“aboriginal inhabitants of this country

“the history of ancient America

America in ancient times”

“The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.”

Anonymous said...

https://www.millennialstar.org/fair-mormon-conf-robert-f-smith-the-preposterous-book-of-mormon-a-singular-advantage/

The comments section to the link above is closed.

The preposterous Mormon claim is that all others are wrong. Good to see that the Mormons are admitting that this is a preposterous claim. Welcome back to reality.

Anonymous said...

Close is for hand grenades and horseshoes. :^)

Anonymous said...

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."

You mean after 150 years no asked God where the BoM scene is or does God not actually give liberally?

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:34, it’s almost as if that whole “revelation” thing doesn’t work.

Well, it seems to work when the revelation in question can’t be fact-checked, otherwise not so much.

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 2:27,
"there are huge problems with locating Book of Mormon events in Mesoamerica, among them the absence of any details about interactions with surrounding cultures, ...... Compare the BoM’s geographic vagueness to the detailed and historically/geographically confirmable way the Hebrew Bible situates itself amid Egypt, Canaan, Assyria, Persia, etc"

An entirely legitimate question, for sure. And your comparison with the Bible is apropos, even though it does remind me of non-LDS biblical scholar John Bright commenting that the

"Genesis narrative is painted in blacks and whites on a simple canvas with no perspective in depth. It depicts certain individuals and their families who move through their world almost as if they were alone in it." Bright, A History of Israel, 1st ed. (London, 1960), 67.

We need to be aware of the full panoply of evidence, not simply single issues.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 4:09,
http://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/PREPOSTEROUS-BOOK-OF-MORMON.pdf .

You could comment on it here, even if the MillennialStar comments are closed.

Robert F. Smith said...

OK 2:27,
"Why is it so hard to pin down the BoM’s geography? For the same reason it’s hard to locate the geography of Tatooine."

How about Naboo?

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 2:50,
"Discovery of hobbit skeletons prove Middle Earth was in New Zealand."

You may have confused the skeletal remains of 1 meter tall people on the Indonesian island of Flores. Some have referred to them as hobbits. Nature, 431 (Oct 28, 2004), 1055-1061.

Anonymous said...

Talk about self-referential. Man produces a "scripture" that says how great he is. What an amazing coincidence. Sigh, he would have slightly more credibility if someone was the source of the scripture production.

Mormons see a billion gullible Muslims, and then say how can 15 million Mormons be wrong. Sigh, thus we see, religion is nothing more than thinking your stuff is roses while every else's stuff is just stuff. Grow up.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Also, prophecies of known events are surprisingly detailed and accurate.

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 5:25,
"Mormons see a billion gullible Muslims, and then say how can 15 million Mormons be wrong."

Instead of projecting your own anti-Muslim feelings onto Latter-day Saints, and engaging in tendentious ad hominems, we would all be better served by a rational exchange of meaningful ideas. You have demonstrated your capacity to do so in previous posts.

Anonymous said...

Now who is resorting to ad hominem?

Anyone that uses anti as a descriptor is not interested in rational exchange. Please share with us your def of anti.

Why do you consider Muslims gullible, lying, or are confused the way do? If they are not right, then what r the other options. If you r truly interested in rational dialogue you would have explained with out me asking.

Unlike you, I do not think Muslims are wrong. Just because I do not prefer brocolli does not make me anti-brocolli, I think people who like it should get there nutrients from brocolli, unlike you. So who is really whatever your def of anti is.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Robert, there are several points in which we see characters in Genesis interacting with other peoples, as when Abraham interacts with Egypt, when Isaac interacts with the Philistines, when Esau checks out the Canaanite women but learns that they do not please his father, etc.

Also, of course, we can easily place Genesis geographically, since it mentions the Euphrates River, Mount Ararat, Chaldea, Egypt, Canaan, and many other actual, identifiable places.

What a difference from the Book of Mormon!

As I am so fond of asking, Where is Zarahemla?

— OK

Anonymous said...

Naboo is in southern Illinois. The name is now pronounced slightly differently: Now-voo.

— OK

Anonymous said...

Robert F Smith said "e would all be better served by a rational exchange of meaningful ideas. You have demonstrated your capacity to do so "

Well that is more than Robert himself. He has never demonstrated capacity to do so.

Anonymous said...

My all-time favorite prophecy is the one (in JST Genesis and 2 Nephi) promising the appearance of a prophet named Joseph, son of Joseph.

In the 19th century, who could possibly have foreseen the existence of someone named Joseph, Jr.?

— OK

Robert F. Smith said...

Anonymous 12:15,
You are the person who referred to "gullible Muslims," and are now pulling a "Trump" on me by deliberately lying about it and suggesting that I or someone else said it.

You not only owe Muslims some contrition, but you actually have a chance to do the right thing about this in general. If not, I see no purpose to be served by carrying on a conversation with a knowing liar who hides behind his anonymous status.

Anonymous said...

I did not say I see Muslims as gullible the way Mormons do. You, as all Mormons, in FACT say that the Muslims are wrong, making them either confused, gullible, or liars. Your refusal to explain any alternatives proves this is in FACT your position. Your lack of integrity to address your hateful positions and hide behind your ad hominem attacks says it all.

You prove that Mormons who use the descriptor anti know that they are in the wrong. You are the ones going door to door telling people that eat brocolli they are wrong for during so. Your definition of anit makes you anti-Muslim and you obstinately refuse to show contrition to your anti-Muslim stance.

Those that fought valiantly in the war of heaven do not run away with their tails between their legs, the way are doing now. I choose to follow the example of Jesus and never run away in fear from liars and pharisees such as your self.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, what is wrong with saying someone is "easily persuaded to believe something; credulous: having or showing too great a readiness to believe things." ?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Claims that the Book of Mormon geography is hopelessly vague need to be reconciled with its geographic strengths. Have you read Sorenson's Mormon's Codex? Intricate correlations point to Mesoamerica and many of its details as far more than a hopelessly vague work of fiction. But of course, the easiest strengths to recognize are from the Old World, where we have many things once mocked now standing as startling strengths. Things like a candidate for the River Laman, archaelogical evidence for the place name Nahom, and a plausibly route nearly due east from Nahom that will not only avoid death among endless sand dunes in the Empty Quarter, but lead you (with a touch of divine guidance via the Liahona) into the wadi that becomes a truly remarkable candidate for Bountiful. How can any of this be explained by Joseph's literary osmosis from Ethan Smith, Shakespeare, etc.? How does your theory account for the strengths?

Anonymous said...

Everything has "once" been mocked, so saying something has once been mocked is meaningless. Given that, one immediately questions your def of "startling strengths", which you give with the now famous straw grasp of Nahom.

I do not know whose theory your question refers to, but your question has been asked and answered a hundred times over. How does Jeff's theory account for Mohammed's account of a sunken city that has now been proven with modern satellites? How does it account for Ignatius Donnelly's Atlantis theory and volumes of "startling strengths"? Asked for a decade and never answered. He refuses to answer because if he does he knows he will have retorted his own susposed question. Chris Johnson pointed out to Jeff that if he wishes to be at all honest with Nahom he will need to develope some sort of baseline to even attempt the claim of "startling strengths". We have been waiting along time, but that hasn't stop him from asking his question like it has not been responded to countless times.

Anonymous said...

Again, the cat has got Jeff's tongue. So we see Jeff's efforts here are manipulation and sleight of hand rhetoric (Nahom, etc). He has already confessed that his efforts here could be immoral (2005 post). But he does not care because he is convinced that people who go to Church, any Church, must be better off (recent most). So in his moral universe, immorality is ok if everyone does it. No point in trying to be reasonable with a person like that. Though it took me a while to realize how morally inferior Mormons are.

Most people feel the Spirit at dramatic moments in life, but wow, some people have sandy interpretations of It.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Cat has my tongue? Nahom is sleight of hand? Have you explored the detailed evidence around Nahom and Bountiful? Not sleight needed.

And what you mean about confessing that my blog is immoral? Are you confusing me for someone else, perhaps?