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

Friday, August 23, 2019

John Gee's Troubling Review of the Joseph Smith Papers Volume on the Book of Abraham

Update, Aug. 29, 2019: There has been an important and welcome update to John Gee's recent article, "The Joseph Smith Papers Project Stumbles," at The Interpreter that clarifies and to some degree softens some of the concerns he raised. This is a welcome sign of dialog occurring with the Joseph Smith Papers Project, as we learn in the editor's note announcing the revision:

 [Editor’s note: This review was edited by the author, after initial publication, to address multiple requests for clarification. In part, these clarifications came after a substantive conversation between the author and principal figures in the Joseph Smith Papers Project.]

I am elated that there was a substantial conversation between leaders of the JSPP and John Gee. I will note an important addition to Gee's comment that is cited below. Likewise, if my comments here, at The Interpreter, or in the two-part series just published at Meridian Magazine (Part One, "Friendly Fire," and Part Two, "The Twin Manuscripts") offer anything that they feel is unfair, unjustified, unkind, or utterly unfounded,  I would also welcome dialog and input so that I can make suitable corrections or statements to rectify the problem, an effort I undertook already prior to publication at The Interpreter. I do appreciate Robin Jensen informing me in comments on this blog of the errata page for this volume (which now notes that an upside-down document mentioned by Gee was printed upside down, but does not yet address any of the issues I have raised), and would welcome any further dialog to address their concerns regarding my reviews, as well as issues regarding possible ways to deal with apparent serious errors in the Book of Abraham volume. For the record, I welcome dialog.
"The Joseph Smith Papers Project Stumbles" is the title of a troubling new review at The Interpreter by John Gee on The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, eds. Robin Scott Jensen and Brian M. Hauglid (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2018). A few weeks ago my review of the same work, "A Precious Resource with Some Gaps," was also published at The Interpreter.

One could summarize my review as, "Technically strong, very valuable, but rife with bias and errant assumptions in the commentary, footnotes, and dating." But now, in light of Gee's review, I have to admit to being wrong in my assessment, for even the basic technical aspects of JSPRT4 have some painful flaws as well, such as more errors in transcription than I found, a fundamental flaw in the order of documents presented that reflects bias rather than data, printing two a documents of Egyptian characters upside down, and many unfortunate errors involving Egyptian characters.

Today was the first time I saw Gee's response, and I was taken aback, especially by a statement made in the penultimate paragraph:
It is regretful that although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counts several faithful Egyptologists among its membership, the editors deliberately chose not to involve them in any serious way. [emphasis added]
Update, Aug. 29, 2019: A few important sentences have been added to John's statement that softens the original. The sentence quoted above is till there, but the addition that follows clarifies the matter significantly:

Anything the editors say about Egyptian language, papyri, or characters is beyond their skill and training. It is regrettable that although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counts several faithful Egyptologists among its membership, the editors deliberately chose not to involve them in any serious way. It is true that two of that number were given a month to peer review the volume and some of their suggestions were accepted, but no photographs were included in what was reviewed, nor did the Egyptologists see the appendix on the Egyptian characters. One might argue that this series is about nineteenth-century religious history, but this volume, in particular, is about early Latter-day Saint leaders’ involvement with Egyptian characters. The volume editors cannot adequately deal with early Latter-day Saints’ interaction with those characters without some understanding of those characters of their own.

In sum, this volume does not display the care one has come to expect from the Joseph Smith Papers Project. The editors may have followed the general guidelines of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, but the material in this volume is not like the other material in the series and would have benefited by adapting the guidelines to the nature of the material. While it is great to have good-quality images of the documents finally available to the public, the transcriptions and notes are often inadequate to the needs of the ongoing debates about the documents. One still needs to be extremely careful using the material. This means that other than legal access to the photographs, neither the serious researcher nor the lay person is in a better position than they were before the volume was published. As the online version will be updated to reflect new information, it may become, over time, the preferred version to use.


That's painful but may help explain some of the puzzling and unfortunate problems in JSPRT4. This may be a huge misunderstanding of some kind, but it seems more serious than just a glitch in communication.

There seems to be a serious problem here. Not just one of clashing personalities and disputes between academic peers, but of flaws in scholarship that may need correction. It was bad enough when I found that Hugh Nibley was completely excised, and that Dr. John Gee and Dr. Kerry Muhlenstein of BYU were barely recognized in the 1000+ footnotes and extensive commentary, when they have published much original, vital scholarship directly related to many core issues addressed in JSPRT4. But it is even more upsetting to now learn that some basic technical issues have serious flaws which could have been avoided if our BYU Egyptologists had been included from the beginning, when it seems that they were not. How can you deal with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers without tapping the knowledge of Egyptologists intimately familiar with the documents and the issues? Some of the gaps go beyond the minor embarrassment of getting a document or two upside down. Rather, the more serious problem, though an understandable one, is getting some documents "backwards" in terms of their relationship to the Book of Abraham, in addition to many other errors noted by Gee. An upside down photo is a minor annoyance that won't affect anyone's testimony or understanding, but getting the story of the documents backwards is a risk to be avoided. The bias in this volume is totally unacceptable, however it came about.

The photos are fabulous and the transcriptions for the most part seem carefully done to me, in spite of some understandable glitches, but the sequencing, the assigned dates, and the extensive commentary enforcing a particular framework for interpreting them, often show serious flaws that cry out for a  correction or at least an acknowledgement that there are other perspectives that other scholars have provided.

I don't think the many good people over the esteemed Joseph Smith Papers Project should just sit this one out and ignore Gee's complaint. There's a mess on our hands [here I refer to all of us who care about the Book of Abraham] that needs to be addressed. This is not about casting blame or faulting the editors for whatever perspectives they may have shared with many others that may have led to the oversights in this volume, though there is no pain-free way to deal with this. I'm comfortable assuming the flaws occurred in good faith, guided perhaps by personal confusion and perhaps by too much closeness to hostile critics of the Book of Abraham, resulting in an unjustified but socially acceptable bias against Nibley et al. and leading to an unfounded sense of confidence in the perspectives the editors developed over time. Assume good faith and normal human flaws, but recognize that we still have a genuine problem in need of correction. 

Correction? If the JSP Project is to maintain a high standard of academic trustworthiness, when serious academic missteps occur, what is needed is a careful correction of some kind. One step to be considered might be a revised commentary or a list of corrections provided on the JSP website.

I have seen no indication of any public response from the editors or from the Joseph Smith Papers group to the publication of my related paper a few weeks ago, and that's fine, but to have one of the most qualified experts on the JS Papyri and the Book of Abraham write such a review and state that he and other capable Egyptologists were left out of the process indicates that something very serious went wrong.  Some kind of response would be helpful as part of the quality control for the publication, in the interest of ensuring that what is published is accurate and fair. At the moment, it may not be.

Some people have had a crisis of faith over the issues created with this volume and the summaries made by the editors. Such crises can be addressed by pointing out the flaws and bias in the perspectives provided in this volume and providing the abundant "first aid" regarding those issues, including discussion of the many positives in the Book of Abraham story that are invisible in JSPRT4. But the basic flaws in this volume itself, no matter how sincerely they were made, should be viewed as something of a problem for the JSP Project, one that should be treated the way smart organizations handle major flaws that occur in their systems, services, or products: rather than silence and business as usual, admit the problem and address it with openness. Get John Gee and other scholars more fully involved to find ways to strengthen what is being offered to the world and the Church with this publication on a critical topic. Or we can ignore the issues Gee has raised and just hope nobody will notice. Maybe nobody will, but I don't think that's best for the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Is an online addendum a bad idea? Your thoughts?

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jeff, Gee and Muhlstein and their ilk are a joke. Beginning from a conclusion of one's unabashed "faith" has no place in any serious science. You say "There's a mess on our hands that needs to be addressed." Who is this "our" of which you speak? Do you include yourself in that? You're not a professional in this field. Sure, some of your heroes link to you from time to time, but you rarely actually know what you're talking about. You strain at gnats and make something out of nothing so very often. You're a dilettante at best. The field doesn't need your input, nor does it need those other jokers. Mature professional adults have taken the reins, and no amount of whining will change that. The day of armchair apologetics from amateurs and people with an ax to grind is OVER!
The church has a problem on its hands that has to be addressed: the story is wearing thin. The story HAS to be reframed based on what's actually happening in the actual fields of science and DNA research and history and a hundred other disciplines they've tried to ignore for so long. The LDS Topics essays on the church's own website show their hand: they're in damage control mode. The church is losing faithful members (there is no denying this), and continuing to obfuscate their past will never bring anyone back, nor will it stop the hemorrhaging.

Jeff Lindsay said...

"The day of amateurs is over" -- just sit back and trust the elite scholars and accept their almighty proclamations. Really? That's so last century, Anon. Maybe even so last millennium. Amateurs in our era are making all sorts of great advances in numerous fields.

The great thing about our era is that information is more accessible than ever. People can learn, dig in, and uncover things that experts might miss. From decoding Mayan to discovering new comets to solving problems in data science or finding new plants that may cure disease, it's a great time for "amateurs" entering new fields IF they do their homework, and, of course, if they have an identity. Do you have a name and affiliation, by the way?

Say, your definition of abhorrent armchair apologists and amateurs who to be ignored seems to include Egyptologists with Ph.D.s and extensive publications in their field. So please tell us about your pedigree and publications so we can understand why your assessment is so credible? I think the day of credibility for drive-by commenters who don't even dare to identify themselves is over. But for some reason I feel a yearning to continue allow anonymous comments just because I know it makes it easier for some gentle souls to share what they think, and sometimes anonymous commenters say very valuable things that they might not dare say if they were known. Thanks for sharing -- but your comment lacks credibility.

Jeff Lindsay said...

When I say a "mess on our hands," the "we" in there is those of us who care deeply about the Book of Abraham, about Church publications, and about the integrity of the lofty and inspired Joseph Smith Papers Project. The "we" is mostly (but not only) members of the Church who care about these things. I hope you may have noticed that I care deeply and have written a great deal. If the minor contributions I have made are flawed, then the proper approach is to point out the flaws, not to just make purely ad hominem attacks. Instead of explaining what specific errors I have made, you resort to name calling: "you're a joke." That's not terribly intellectual, scientific, academic, logical, or convincing. Fortunately, you are free to go to any of my posts and point out specific errors. And feel free to share your name and background, too.

Anonymous said...

First you say amateurs are great, and then you demand my credentials. Why? What would that prove to you? Do you value professional acclaim or not? Is this the new age of amateur revolutionaries, or isn't it? You don't care about credentials held by "elites." Nice weasel word, by the way.
You wouldn't believe me if I told you who I was anyway. Not in a million years.
If you don't want drive-by commenters, turn them off. This is your blog.
In your follow up comment you wrap yourself in sanctimonious language. Typical.
I have indeed noticed that you've written a great deal for a long time, usually in the service of trying to insinuate yourself into the ever-shrinking apologetic circles. The blogernacle's empty, Jeff. This is a vainglorious effort that certainly hasn't helped my testimony. When I first read your stuff a long time ago, I was mostly on board. Then I learned to be skeptical and analytical, rather than merely faithful and speculative. I'm much happier now. I don't lose sleep about whether or not I'm living up to impossible standards or if I'm worthy of a heavenly reward I never actually wanted. I don't stress and sweat over the endlessly repeated lessons and so-called wisdom of a bunch of out of touch corporate executives that haven't actually contributed much good to the world aside from some pretty buildings and a nice mall. Jesus left the building a long time ago, if he was ever there to begin with.
Nice attempt to bait me by the way. You'd love for me to bring back a "long list" of all your failings so you can dismiss it as a "long list."
Jeff, I look forward to the day when you see all of this for what it actually is. It's getting ridiculous. You need to come up for air and breathe deeply the actual truth: the Mormon church is a pack of very obvious lies. It's falling apart around you and your head's too far into the clouds to notice.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Sorry I've offended you. Your denunciation, though, was based on the premise that I'm not a professional in whatever field this is -- in other words, saying I lack the professional accolades to have an opinion that matters. So being a bit of a tease, I threw it back at you, while also defending amateurs. Looks like you found that pretty annoying. "First you say amateurs are great, and then you demand my credentials. Why?" No, you raised both issues. But I shouldn't have taken your complaint so lightly.

"You've written a great deal for a long time, usually in the service of trying to insinuate yourself into the ever-shrinking apologetic circles." I'm sincerely curious on this: how are you able to divine my secret motives? Secret motives that contradict the ones I've expressed many times? Do you do this through mind reading or just great psychoanalytical skills? I just hope these aren't amateur skills, by the way -- those days are gone, right? Oops, there I go ago, being a tease. No, I'll be clear: your assertion is not even close to my motives and if you think that after reading much of my stuff, I think you aren't reading very accurately.

I also am disappointed that you thought I was baiting you with a request for a long list of failings. I was saying that instead of name calling and bittnerness, you would be doing yourself and everyone else a favor to deal with substance and engage in actual conversation. You assert, with a little less charity than I would like, that I am a joke and make terrible, pathetic arguments. Each argument I have made on my posts is open for comment. If I make a point that is wrong, you are free to engage in reason and explain why. You say Kerry Muhlestein is a joke. Do you mean that his peer-reviewed publications on the reality of human sacrifice in ancient Egypt were way off base? If so, rather than saying "he's a joke," why not explain what facts he got wrong and why his argument is fallacious? Name calling is not conversation, it's not thoughtful, it's not intelligent, and it's not productive. It's an ugly habit that doesn't belong in interactions with people who are trying to engage in conversation.

You may not be losing any sleep with your new found approach to life, but coming here to dismiss my religion with name calling does not suggest that you have found the peace you want me to think you've got. It doesn't make me think that you've become a better, happier, more clear-headed or charitable person now that you can so freely ridicule others and dismiss their arguments with ad hominem rants. Is this really a sign of progress in your life? Or a sign of losses and pain in need of healing? I know, I know nothing about you -- the anonymous mask doesn't help, but don't blame me for that, it's your choice to be anonymous -- and these negatives I see may just reflect a bad day. But your anger tells me something is wrong, and it may be much deeper than your dissatisfaction with City Creek Mall.

Asking you to explain where I make errors was not a way to get a long list for me to dismiss. I want the list to be as short as possible, frankly! You've misread me on that. I want engagement and discourse, not name calling, and hope you'll understand that. Meanwhile, I hope you'll be able to get past the anger you have and remember the good that some of us find in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we understand, even if that's not your approach any more.

Anonymous said...

Just read Gees review. I see some issues with his issues. First, in pointing out an error in the introduction he writes:

“So the only firsthand, contemporaneous evidence for the translation process is independent of — and thus irrelevant to — the Book of Abraham and its translation. There is a problem with the editors’ logic here that may be the result of many revisions during the volume’s development.”

He has either intentionally misunderstood the language of the introduction that he cites or just missed the mark entirely. He is referring to the following quote (emphasis added by me):

“The Egyptian- language manuscripts created by Smith and his associates while they worked with the papyri from July through about November 1835 give the only firsthand, contemporaneous evidence of how they understood the Egyptian language.

Gee equates understanding of the Egyptian language with evidence for the translation process of the BoA. His view assumes that the Egyptian text was used to create the BoA, which the evidence doesn’t support. There is no problem of logic in the editors’ statement—the understanding of Egyptian, and the translation process are separate things. Indeed, if one reads Hauglid’s article “The Book of Abraham and the Egyptian Project: ‘A Knowledge of Hidden Languages’” (https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/approaching-antiquity-joseph-smith-and-ancient-world/book-abraham-and-egyptian-project) this distinction is very clearly made:

“In examining the documentary evidence related to the Abraham and Egyptian projects three main points emerge: (1) the language (Egyptian) project was likely going on before Joseph Smith acquired the Egyptian papyri; (2) the translation and language projects were occurring at roughly the same time, and (3) the Egyptian project evidences a serious attempt at unveiling the Egyptian language using an imaginative, intricate system that connects the Egyptian alphabet documents to the grammar book and possibly the Abraham documents as well.”

More to follow. . .

Anonymous said...

Gee also writes:

“The editors date the copying of Egyptian characters to early July based on their assumptions rather than any evidence. The only reference to transcribing Egyptian characters in Joseph Smith’s journals is 26 November 1835, which unfortunately does not match with the editors’ date for these documents.

One might imagine they used the History of the Church entry to establish a July timeframe. HotC reads “July 1835 Translating the Book of Abraham &c. The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arrangeing a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.” There’s a strong and reasonable inference that can be made that characters were copied in the efforts. His claim that their dating is “based on their assumptions rather than any evidence” is disingenuous—there is clear evidence. Now the fact that different dates were given between volumes is a problem and should at least be addressed by the writers if it was intentional or fixed in subsequent editions if unintentional.

Anonymous said...

Gee also takes issue with the statement:

“there is no evidence before early 1842, however, that JS had translated more Book of Abraham material than what survives in the extant Kirtland-era manuscripts,” and cites several journal entries as evidence that BoA text was being produced in 1835. What he doesn’t cite is actual BoA text. The Journal entries are as follows:

7 October 1835. “this afternoon recommenced translating the ancient reccords”

19 November 1835. “I returned home and spent the day in translating the Egyptian records: on this has been a warm & pleasant day.”

20 November 1835. “we spent the day in translating, and made rapid progress”

24 November 1835. “in the after-noon, we translated some of the Egyptian, records”

25 November 1835. “spent the day in Translating.”

Now who is making assumptions based on no evidence? Note the glaring omission in the entries—no mention of the BoA. Translating Egyptian records could mean the BoA, but as we have seen, it more likely means the Alphabet and Grammar (see above for mention of translation in regards to the production of these documents). Please note that Nov 26 is only a few days (less than a week) after most of these entries and on that day he writes “we spent the day in transcribing Egyptian characters from the papyrus.” Assuming that they were translating purely BoA text during this timeframe is a very large assumption, especially knowing that they were concurrently working on the grammar and alphabet.

Anonymous said...

And finally, Gee bemoans:

“Anything the editors say about Egyptian language, papyri, or characters is beyond their skill and training. It is regretful that although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counts several faithful Egyptologists among its membership, the editors deliberately chose not to involve them in any serious way.”

He fails to recognize that matters of Egyptology are beyond the scope of the project. The editors are not seeking to prove or disprove the correctness of the translation. Clearly “Anything the editors say about Egyptian language, papyri, or characters is beyond their skill and training,” and they have sought and cited the prevailing academic information in the field when the need has arisen. The religion of the experts cited is (and should be) irrelevant. More sour grapes. . .

Regretful said...

Regrettable.

Anonymous said...

Jeff isn't interested in reasonable answers, he's interested in feeling bad for someone he thinks is his ally.

Ryan said...

Jeff is wonderful. And I hope anonymous was just having a bad day - we all have them. I hope we can all stick to discussing substance.

It's always pleasant to read a response from someone without worrying about being attacked. We all have feelings, and like Mr. Rogers said, "feelings are mentionable, and manageable." Deep down, we are all children of God. Somewhere along the way, this crazy world makes us think that it's cool to be callous. God has promised that heaven doesn't see things that way. There, we will delight in being tender-hearted as little children for of such is the Kingdom of God. I imagine the City of Enoch and how wonderful it would be to work towards that a little each day.

Jeff Schrade said...

I don’t know who Anonymous is, but his (I’m assuming it’s a guy) comments are so filled with anger that I suspect he must be one of those who have been working on the JSP and wants to defend his work. That may not be accurate -- but that’s the way Anonymous’s comments come across.

My view is, if you are so emotionally involved that you’re writing in anger, you should probably push away from the computer and spend a week or more away from the issue. Cool off and try to remember that those of us who are faithful are all in this together. Let’s treat each other the way Christ would treat us.

My best to all.

Anonymous said...

Anger is a valid and useful form of self-expression, especially in the face of frustrating circumstances--- like when someone continues to not be able to see the forest for the trees. It may not be the best form of self-expression, but it's useful, as we can see from God's own example (since Ryan brought him up).
I'm interested in chapter and verse on "heaven doesn't see things that way" by the way.
I have no affiliation whatsoever with the JSP, though I do support them and think they are very much on the right track in getting this church to own up to the actual true events that surround its origins. The best and most shocking is yet to come, I'm sure. The truth will out, as they say, and no amount of "well actually-ing" will stop its flow, gentlemen.
And as for Jeff's insinuation that I no longer have access or connection to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I have to take exception to that. I do. I believe in Christ more than ever. I believe his example is fundamental to making me and the rest of mankind into better people and the world a better place. I no longer have admit any loyalty to Joseph Smith though, nor to Brigham Young, whose church you truly belong to. The idea of heaven that this church has allowed to flower is monstrous, and the continued assertion that literally everyone want their idea of heaven is drivel.
Since you brought up the gospel of Jesus Christ, it's interesting to look around your blog here for the virtuous and praiseworthy. It's hard to find, Jeff. All I seen is hand-wringing and (again) straining at gnats (such a perfect phrase for this blog!). There's so little actual Christianity or "good news" on display here. No talking of Christ or rejoicing in him, only examining languages you don't understand or putting made up nonsense under a microscope, or tiring your hands on some socioeconomic theory you like to beat, or highlighting fake statistics from spurious sources. Where's Jesus?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Sorry, Anon, did not mean to suggest you had abandoned Christianity. Should have said the "Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ" or something more clearly linked to our flavor of it. And yes, my recent fascination has been in the details of the Book of Abraham, but I'm happy to report that this blog has had many posts dealing more explicitly with the substance of the Gospel and our faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, I had already begun a new post coming soon on the issue of forgiving enemies, based on Elder Brough's wonderful Conference talk last year.

What fake statistics were you referring to, by the way? My concerns over debt and inflation? Or something else?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon #2819 (just a random fake statistic to spice things up) says: “[Gee] fails to recognize that matters of Egyptology are beyond the scope of the project."

Perhaps, but the book has a great deal to say about Egyptian characters and hieroglyphics. It cites Ritner about 50 times on matters often related to Egyptian issues, assigns numbers to characters, links characters copied by the scribes to specific characters on the papyri, describes Egyptian documents, describes documents of Egyptian characters copied by the scribes, etc. Those are actually significant portions of the work.

Gee points to particular mistakes made due to their lack of expertise, ranging from getting documents upside down to using improper descriptors of both documents and characters, etc. Those portions DEMAND attention from someone who understands the material. Not the translation necessarily, but the nature of the characters, the index numbers they should have, the way to describe the documents, and, for example, how to tell when something is about to be printed upaide down. Gee's statement seems quite accurate.

Gee said, "Anything the editors say about Egyptian language, papyri, or characters is beyond their skill and training. It is regretful that although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints counts several faithful Egyptologists among its membership, the editors deliberately chose not to involve them in any serious way."

He's not saying that Egyptology is the focus of the book, but that in those many instances where something needs to be said about Egyptian, the papyri, or the characters themselves, there are painful mistakes in this volume that really should have tapped the expertise of those with skills in Egyptology. The purpose of the volume is to provide a lasting resource that can assist scholars and others delving into the Book of Abraham and the related documents, including many documents involving Egyptian. Not tapping into expertise on the Egyptian aspects runs counter to the mission here. It's a terrible mistake, however unintentional it was. Even if an innocent oversight, there needs to be a correction to let people know such things as which documents are inverted, what labels the characters and documents should have, and what mistakes have been made in describing documents and characters. Is that unreasonable?

Anonymous said...

First you say that the project “cites Ritner about 50 times on matters often related to Egyptian issues,” and two paragraphs later “in those many instances where something needs to be said about Egyptian, the papyri, or the characters themselves, there are painful mistakes in this volume that really should have tapped the expertise of those with skills in Egyptology.” So 50 references to an Egyptologist isn’t enough?

It seems there was a rush to get this volume out and mistakes were made. You must recognize the difference between an upside down slide and improper academic research.

By the way:

“Robert Kriech Ritner is an American Egyptologist currently at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.”

Sam L said...

Thank you for your two interesting blogs. The Book of Abraham is fascinating to me. I often think of it as my favorite part of the canon and very important in understanding temple doctrine.

I think I'll summarize your two blogs and Dr Gee's article and add that to my copy of Vol 4. Hopefully there will be a corrected addition, and we can trade in the old for the new - down the road.

Zerabp said...

Matthew 7:15

Unknown said...

If Anon is speaking in any way for those who produced JSPRT4, then that volume was produced with so much pride that the consecrated work of faithful Saints living and dead were deliberately ignored. The present responses to JSPRT4's deficits also reflect much pride.

Working such pride out in a public forum is not the Lord's way. All of you who want to consecrate a gift at God's altar need to remember this one thing: "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."

The LORD will not bless us if we serve our own pride.

Anonymous said...

If I'm the anon who you're insinuating was involved with JSRPT4 (which no one calls it, by the way. What's with this blog and its readers making up acronyms all the time???) I told Jeff I have nothing to do with it. You wish you had the eyes of that crew upon you. You don't. Don't flatter yourself.

c365 said...

I'm an interested faithful member. I dislike the pushback against apologetics. I think that often comes from people who want to push our church in their own secular directions and the apologetics hold them back by creating spaces of belief for the words of the prophets and scriptures as they are written and commonly understood. That might sound a little harsh, but I just wanted to make the point that I'm definitely not on Team Secular.

That being said, my understanding of the missing scroll/section theory should point to *some* kind of evidence of the scroll's existence, rather than just the handful of accounts about the size of the scroll. If we have so many members close to Joseph copying characters out of the remaining scroll, shouldn't we have a bunch of unidentified sections that came from the missing scroll?

Are there any transcriptions from this missing scroll somewhere? I think in general, if we don't have those, then it's fair to simply say, "some researches speculate there is a missing papyrus, but there is no evidence of it's contents found in any available documentation."

Or is there?

Aside from that, I have no problem with the content of the Book of Abraham. I'm perfectly willing to accept that multiple levels of meaning could come from the documents. I don't think it's fair to simply say that everyone around Joseph was constantly getting it wrong on one hand, and on others accept all of their descriptions and memories of Joseph's teachings in other areas, like we do.

I don't see any reason why members would try to "translate backwards" using the Book of Abraham english text with the papyrus text. What's the point of that?!? There's definitely a lot of mystery surrounding it and if I didn't have a testimony and personal revelation on the matter of Joseph Smith and the restored church I'd surely be confused. And I can't blame others for not believing it.

But I do think the biggest evidence is the content speaks for itself. I can't explain it anymore than I can explain Christ's atonement and resurrection. Certainly, I can't explain things like a flood, tower of babel, or missing Nephite villages. But I do know what it's like to walk into a dark room and have the light of revelation turn on and brighten the path. I have received personal revelation that can't be undone by curious historical fragments and evidences that are tangential or even parallel to the restoration.

Anonymous said...

If someone is going to reject JS as a seer, it should be done on the basis of the Book of Mormon, not on the basis of the Book of Abraham. The evidence surrounding the Book of Mormon has a much clearer textual history than the Book of Abraham, whose textual history is very difficult. And when we realize JS didn't author the Book of Mormon, then there's little reason to be concerned about the issues surrounding the Book of Abraham.

Tim said...

Fortunately, the Book of Mormon is true and so is the Book of Abraham. Wow, we were able to take care of all of that with one simple truth.

Dan Vogel said...

Gee’s review of Jensen and Hauglid’s scholarship may have validity with regard to transcription errors, but he once again shows that he has no idea what is going on with the English documents. His comments about the chronology and relationship of the documents are still wrong. One would think that since Hauglid has endorsed my videos that Gee would take a look at them before commenting about such matters in the Jensen/Hauglid volume.

The problems with the photographs may not be Jensen and Hauglid’s responsibility. However, the order of the placement of the papyri fragments was given first and then apparently arranged economically. One of the problems Gee pointed out dealt with comments that identified the photos left and right when they were up and down, which was probably due to their commenting on the reconstruction photos. Gee’s quibbling went so far as to criticize the exact placement of the six fragments of the reconstruction of the Ta-sherit-Min Book of the Dead. He referred to his own reconstruction, which had the first fragment lower and the last higher but nevertheless in the same order. He had placed his first fragment incorrectly because he didn’t bother to look at the drawing on the backs.

The Jensen/Hauglid production was about the JS papers, not about Egyptian papyri. Gee merely laments that his work wasn’t recognized and that various apologetic chestnuts were not endowed with the JSP authority.

Dan Vogel said...

“Anything the editors say about Egyptian language, papyri, or characters is beyond their skill and training."-- John Gee

Anything John Gee and Kerry Muhlestein say about early Mormon history and the English documents relating to the Book of Abraham is beyond their skill and training.

Dan Vogel said...

“The editors date the copying of Egyptian characters to early July based on their assumptions rather than any evidence. The only reference to transcribing Egyptian characters in Joseph Smith’s journals is 26 November 1835, which unfortunately does not match with the editors’ date for these documents.3 So the editors’ theory inexplicably takes precedence over the only historical evidence we have.” (178)

DV: Gee gives no reference for this accusation. If the copying of characters refers to the Valuable Discovery notebooks, then early July is correct because they date before the Alphabets, and the Alphabets date before the Grammar. Jensen and Hauglid wouldn’t deny that other items could be copied later, and Gee can’t assume that copying wasn’t done in July.

Dan Vogel said...

“This date provided for the Egyptian Alphabet documents by the editors does not match that provided by Joseph Smith’s journals, which indicate a specific date for these documents (1 October 1835).” (Gee, p. 178)

DV: Jensen and Hauglid give “circa Early July-circa November 1835,” which is like not giving any date. Nevertheless, this reflects Gee false conclusion that the “alphabet” mentioned in JS’s journal refers to what we call the Alphabets. However, the Grammar is also mostly an expansion of the Alphabets into five degrees. Some of the pages of the Grammar have the heading “Egyptian Alphabet.” The entry in JS’s journal also connects the Alphabet to astronomy, which is at the end of the Grammar, not the Alphabets. It would do Gee well to review my videos.

Anonymous said...

How complicated! Perfect for ends-oriented reasoning.

Dan Vogel said...

To Jensen and Hauglid’s comment that the GAEL was used in JS’s 1842 comments on Fac. 2, Gee with help from Muhlestein tries to argue that “One could argue that the effort flows the other way around.” By this, Gee and Muhlestein mean that the hypocephalus was deciphered in 1835, which influenced the GAEL, which Gee has incorrectly dated to the beginning of 1836. Gee concludes, “This is an example of an unexamined and unsupported assumption of the editors. At no point do the editors provide an argument or justification for their assertion.” (Gee, p. 180)

DV: This shows how unfamiliar Gee and Muhlestein are with the content of the documents. The astronomy is dated to October 1835, and the 1835 document containing that information is the GAEL, which JS’s history says was begun in July 1835. The discussion of astronomy therein did not come from characters from the hypocephalus but from the columns of JSP I next to Fac. 1.

baxter666 said...

Vogel says, "“Anything the editors say about Egyptian language, papyri, or characters is beyond their skill and training."-- John Gee

Anything John Gee and Kerry Muhlestein say about early Mormon history and the English documents relating to the Book of Abraham is beyond their skill and training. "

In that context Vogel either believes that the editors had no skill and training in Egyption stuff and Gee and Muhlestein have no training in Mormon history or Vogel is making false statements for who knows what reason. Am I really supposed to take this kind of nonsense from Vogel seriously?

Robin Scott Jensen said...

"Correction? If the JSP Project is to maintain a high standard of academic trustworthiness, when serious academic missteps occur, what is needed is a careful correction of some kind. One step to be considered might be a revised commentary or a list of corrections provided on the JSP website."

We have carefully looked at all the reviews of the fourth volume of the Revelations and Translations and have updated our errata sheet according to what we feel are legitimate mistakes. For those interested, they can see those updates here: https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/articles/r4-errata. We look forward to the continued peer-reviewed responses and online reaction to this volume. We’re confident in the volume and eagerly await the scholarship that the volume promises to prompt.

Terry Hutchinson said...

Robin Scott Jensen:

I appreciate your comment here. I'd recommend that you post it also on the Interpreter site where the reviews of John and Jeff originally appeared. I recall interviewing Richard Draper after some fairly critical reviews of his BYUNTC volume on Revelations. He (and co-author Michael Rhodes) had just completed their 1 Corinthians volume. He acknowledged making some changes to his work as a result of some of the criticisms. The key word in your statement is "legitimate mistakes". While you and your co-editor are entitled to have the final say in the book (after all you're doing the heavy lifting while we're on the side commenting), I would encourage you to remember the obvious--this project is treated by the vast majority as being definitive. That should be kept in mind, even as you accept theories put forward by those critical of Joseph's role or inspiration. Even in a Church publication such as the JSPP, their work and conclusions can be used, when appropriate.
Their use shouldn't completely supersede other theories and conclusions, even when, as Editors, you determine they take priority. My belief is that the JS Papers are to present the documents and let the reader judge the evidence for themselves. When there's more than one way to look at them, the commentary and editorial comments should reflect that.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Thanks for the comment, Robin. The 3 corrections on the errata page do fortunately include one of the upside down images John Gee noted. A welcome correction. I hope the more substantial gaps (IMO) can also be considered, gaps that involve dates, relationships, interpretations, and so forth. But I recognize that will take time. And some might be insurmountable for now.

Anonymous said...

Tim. You're wrong.

Rob said...

Hi Jeff. Thanks for the comment, because it's clear that I wasn't clear in my earlier comment. We've confirmed with two Egyptologists. There is only one image that's upside-down. And we've already spent the time looking at what you feel are the substantial gaps and have no plans to add anything else to the errata. We're quite confident in how we've presented the documents of the Book of Abraham and Egyptian Language documents.

Anonymous said...

I'm having a Nelson Muntz moment right now, Jeff. Thanks Rob!

Matt said...

As a clarification: The JSP did not add the one upside-down image to the errata page as a result of John Gee's review. It has been noted n the errata for many months, since soon after the volume's release. The JSP has never been reluctant to admit errors; we do so as quickly as errors are identified.

K. R. Rasmussen said...

Hey Jeff, are you still watching these comments? If so, I have some thoughts on your spelling argument for manuscripts A&B that I wouldn't mind sharing with you.

Jeff Lindsay said...

K.R., yes, I'm watching though work keeps me from monitoring very often. But I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can share here or send me at note at jeff at jeff lindsay d0t com.