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

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Back and Forth with the Book of Abraham: Fascinating Circular Footnotes

One of the things I love about blogging and writing occasional articles for The Interpreter, Meridian Magazine or other places is the ability to get rapid feedback from those with different perspectives and other sources of information. The back and forth in dialog with others is so valuable to me. Sometimes it's painful, of course, but the pain can lead to healthy correction and growth.

Speaking of pain and correction, you may know I made the painful choice to criticize some aspects of a generally fabulous production, 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), hereafter JSPRT4. Unfortunately, some apparent gaps in scholarship and bias in the commentary, footnotes, and numerous subtle editorial decisions motivated me to speak out. I'm grateful to at least have a response from the JSP Project team, written not by the volume editors but by respected leaders from the JSP Project and the Church History Department, Matthew Grow and Matthew Godfrey, who kindly assure us of the high standards and careful scholarship and review that was involved in producing this Church-funded and highly visible volume.

Since the JSP response was not prepared by the volume's editors who are most familiar with its intricate details, it is not reasonable to expect Matt Grow and Matthew Godfrey to dig into my lengthy critique and give substantial responses to the many technical issues I have raised, nor to spend time answering new questions about their written reply (though multiple questions in the comments section at The Interpreter suggest that some of us are hoping someone from the JSP team will be able to drop by and reply). But in any case, the publication of their response and my rejoinder have led to some vigorous dialog in at comment sections of the relevant articles at The Interpreter and elsewhere, for which I am also quite grateful, even those that sharply criticize my approach. The discussion in several forums has been helpful to me and forced me to review some of my own assumptions and to reread some sources. Some of what I've encountered may be helpful to others interested in the origins of the Book of Abraham and its relationship to the unexplained Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and I'll share more on this later. Unfortunately, some new considerations underscore my deepening concerns about JSPRT4.

Most of the specific problems I have  raised about JSPRT4 were not addressed in the JSP team's response, understandably so. But one important issue Grow and Godfrey addressed was my complaint about bias in the volume regarding the timing of the creation of the translation of the Book of Abraham. A number of LDS scholars and writers point to evidence that much if not nearly all of the translation was done in Kirtland, probably by the end of 1835, but JSPRT4 favors the view that most of it came from the Nauvoo era. In response to my complaint about the one-sided way this is handled in JSPRT4, Grow and Godfrey give this assuring statement:
For instance, we believe the evidence suggests that Joseph Smith translated portions of the Book of Abraham in Kirtland and then later in Nauvoo, while Gee asserts that all of the translation occurred in Kirtland. However, contrary to the assertions of both Lindsay and Gee that a particular perspective was “assumed” and those of others were “ignored,” we carefully weighed many perspectives before making such decisions — and we qualify our explanations in terms of their probability. It has been a rich and rewarding process to see the training and expertise of multiple fields come together to produce this complex and valuable resource.
This was reassuring. There is no doubt that good scholarship characterizes much of JSPRT4, and I was glad to here that this particular issue and other controversial issues were discussed and that Grow and Godfrey feel that careful, thoughtful scholarship went into the JSP Project's decision to favor a particular timeline and other issues that seem contrary to the position taken by some other LDS writers. With that assurance fresh in my mind, another issue raised by comments at The Interpreter drove me to look again at JSPRT4's "Historical Introduction" to the Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language (GAEL). Given Grow and Godfrey's description of the careful scholarship that went into the position taken there, I was interested in better understanding the scholarship behind a position that previously struck me as just based on sloppy assumptions.

Circular Footnotes?

On the second page of the "Historical Introduction" for the GAEL, p. 113 in JSPRT4, there are a couple of lines that I had previously marked as just being "an assumption" with a big question mark next to it. Tonight I also noticed I had scrawled a note there saying "bad footnote" but didn't recall what had bothered me about it. I didn't dig into it for my review.  That was a mistake on my part. I should have dug a little deeper to better appreciate the scholarship on a noteworthy issue.

The controversial statements on p. 113 point to the alleged importance of the GAEL to Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and the GAEL's use in the production of the Book of Abraham during the Nauvoo era:
JS and his associates retained the volume and later used it several times in 1842 and 1843.19 This volume was used extensively when JS and his associates published Facsimile 2 and its accompanying explanation in March 1842.20
Though the GAEL project, whatever its purpose, was dropped at an early stage in Kirtland and was purely a Kirtland product, as Blake Ostler noted in an important comment here and at The Interpreter, it is possible that it was still of value in Nauvoo, but it is a controversial opinion and not established fact to simply state that it was "used extensively" in the preparation of comments for Facsimile 2, which is suggested by JSPRT4 to be a product of the Nauvoo era rather than having been largely done in Kirtland. These controversial issues (the use of the GAEL to produce the translation of text or comments on Facsimiles and the dating of the bulk of the work on Facs. 2 to the Nauvoo era) are among many issues where the editors of JSPRT4 favor a controversial position shared by some of our critics and disputed by some leading LDS scholars without adequately alerting the reader that a genuine controversy exists. I find that to be sloppy scholarship, however unintended the apparent bias was (and I believe it was unintended). But as I once again read page 113, it was obvious that I should now dig into the footnotes, given the assurance of the careful scholarship that may have gone into this decision to back a particular position contra Gee and some other LDS scholars.

Here are the footnotes in question as found on pp. 184-5:
19. One source claims that JS misidentified a Greek psalter as a dictionary of Egyptian hieroglyphics in 1842. In spring 1842, a minister named Henry Caswall arrived in Nauvoo, Illinois, incognito, "in order to test the scholarship of the prophet." Caswall, who published an account in a popular anti-Mormon pamphlet that year, wrote that he brought a Greek psalter from roughly the thirteenth century to JS and pretended ignorance of its content and age. According to Caswall, JS called it "a dictionary of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics." The Latter-day Saints published a rebuttal to Caswall's pamphlet, stating that JS had not examined the psalter and observing that Caswall's words and actions did not become is position as a minister. (Caswall, City of the Mormons, 5, 35-36, italics in original; "Reward of Merit," Times and Seasons, 15 Oct. 1843, 43:364-365.)

20. See Historical Introduction to Explanation of Facsimile 2, ca. 15 Mar. 1842, p. 276 herein. 
Footnote 19, the source for the scholarly conclusion that  Joseph Smith "used it [the GAEL] several times in 1842 and 1843," was a reference to an anti-Mormon publication quoting a hostile and admittedly deceptive source that was rebutted by the Church. Wait, seriously? Now I recall what I thought when I first saw this: there must be a typesetting error because the footnote seems so non-sequitur, and I didn't want to nitpick over a mere typographical error. But on rereading, I can see the tenuous connection, the mention of a dictionary. Still, at best, if Caswall were being completely accurate and Joseph did call some Greek psalms "a dictionary of the Egyptian Hieroglyphics," how does that tell us anything about Joseph's ongoing use of the GAEL in Nauvoo? "Bad footnote" indeed! (And why do hostile sources seem to be relied on for some critical issues when relevant sources from LDS scholars are so often neglected?)

If readers were to see Caswall's actual words in context, the words criticized by the Church in 1843, his lack of reliability would have been even more clear. Those words are cited and discussed on the FAIRMormon page about this "Greek psalter" incident:
He [Joseph Smith] has a downcast look, and possesses none of that open and straightforward expression which generally characterizes an honest man. His language is uncouth and ungrammatical, indicating very confused notions respecting syntactical concords. When an ancient Greek manuscript of the Psalms was exhibited to him as a test of his scholarship, he boldly pronounced it to be a "Dictionary of Egyptian Hieroglyphics." Pointing to the capital letters at the commencement of each verse, he said, "Them figures is Egyptian hieroglyphics, and them which follows is the interpretation of the hieroglyphics, written in the reformed Egyptian language. Them characters is like the letters that was engraved on the golden plates."
Here is what we learn from FAIRMormon on this issue:
It was claimed by Henry Caswall that an ancient text of Greek psalms (a "psalter") was misidentified by Joseph Smith as a containing "reformed Egyptian" hieroglyphics.

There is no other evidence of Caswall's claim save his anti-Mormon work. That Caswall took no steps in Nauvoo to get Joseph on record is fatally suspicious, since this was the entire reason he claimed to be there. He is also clearly attempting to make Joseph Smith appear uncouth and ignorant, having him say "them plates" and "them characters", when this contrasts markedly with other known examples of Joseph's speaking and writing style at the time. [1] Furthermore, Joseph was familiar enough with Greek to recognize Greek characters, and so is unlikely to have mistaken them for an unknown language—even if we believe Joseph was attempting to deceive Caswall, it seems unlikely he would fail to recognize the characters of a language he had studied.

Those who tell this story rarely provide the source details for the tale, and do not inform their readers about John Taylor's witness regarding Caswall's later dishonesty....
There is much more pointing to Caswall's dishonesty, his hostile intent, his contradictions of aspects his story elsewhere, making his statement an utterly ridiculous and hostile source to turn to for such an important point that footnote 19 supposedly supports. But again, even if Caswall were utterly accurate and honest in his account, at best it tells us that Joseph mistook some Greek writing for an Egyptian dictionary. It tells us absolutely nothing about Joseph's use of the GAEL. Am I missing something? There may be ways to better support their argument, but as printed, footnote 19 is a disaster that suggests at least a minor glitch in the scholarship. That happens occasionally with many good scholars and is the kind of thing that can readily be fixed with an errata page. There is an errata page for JSPRT4, but this bad footnote is not included, nor are any of the problems I have pointed out addressed there. I look forward to seeing what interesting finds were perhaps meant to be cited in footnote 19.

Footnote 19 arguably deals with a minor issue. Much more important is footnote 20, telling us that the GAEL "was used extensively when JS and his associates published Facsimile 2 and its accompanying explanation in March 1842." As the editors imply elsewhere in JSPRT4, they are suggesting that the GAEL served as a source for at least some content in the Book of Abraham, rather than the position of multiple LDS scholars that the GAEL is much more likely to have been derived from the existing translation. This is a crucial issue that deserves the utmost caution and careful scholarship. And if the scholarly process described by Grow and Godfrey were used for this and other controversial issues, one would expect the supporting documentation to be impressive. As noted above, the supporting scholarship cited in footnote 20 points to another section of JSPRT4 at page 276. Fair enough. So let's dig in.

Here's the relevant text on p. 276:
No evidence indicates that JS studied any of the hieroglyphics from the hypocephalus in his 1835 effort to understand the Egyptian language. However, the explanation of Facsimile 2 is clearly related to that effort, since some of the entries in this document borrow heavily from the Grammar and Alphabet volume.97
There it is, a footnote that should finally justify the scholarly conclusion that the GAEL is the source for some of the explanations of Facsimile 2 since Facsimile 2's comments "borrow heavily" from the GAEL and not the other way around. At this point, I didn't recall having paid much attention to this statement and its footnote, and in light of Grow and Godrey's assurances, I was now keenly curious to see what new finds were hidden there to justify the controversial statements on p. 113 and 276.

Now here's the important and instructive footnote 97 from page 292, the one that gives support to critically important statements made on p. 276, which in turn is the source for a similar critically important statement made on p. 113:
97. See Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian Language, ca. July--ca. Nov. 1835, p. 113 herein. 
Or, if I may be so bold as to paraphrase:
97. To see the support for our controversial statement on page 276 that is cited as the support for our similar controversial statement on page 113, please read our original controversial statement on page 113 and see its footnote which will refer you to page 276 and its footnote 97 (i.e., this footnote). And so on.
Circular footnotes! Fascinating, but somehow not as convincing as I was expecting. I am sure that something more than self-referential fantasy was intended here.

In fairness, this could have just been an unfortunate mistake and the detailed scholarship behind the conclusion was accidentally left out through typographical errors or some other unintended glitch, but in any case, it points to an obvious defect in JSPRT4 that demands some kind of correction, even if the apparent bias and unfounded assumptions related to these issues have profound scholarly support with evidence that was carefully considered by many scholars. Another entry on the errata page might be in order.

Of course, given the severity of some of the problems pervasive errors in JSPRT4 that tend to align with the views of critics but without adequate scholarship to support those views and often without a fair recognition that a controversy even exists, I recently have begun to feel that there is a need to provide much more than simply a list of revised footnotes. Now that JSPRT4 is being cited by some outside sources to create the impression that the Church has taken a stance on some controversies such as long scroll vs. short scroll (as mentioned in one of the comments at The Interpreter), there is a need for added clarity. Did the Church really decide to endorse the particular viewpoints on various controversies woven into JSPRT4, choosing to overturn the positions of Gee, Muhlenstein, Nibley, and others, or was it not even noticed that such positions were subtly being taken? I think the Church was focused on the deliverables of getting the documents and the transcriptions published, without noticing the problems woven into the many hidden assumptions in this volume. The assurances of good scholarship are welcome, but those assurances don't seem to align with the details I see in the text when it comes to some specific of the most important and often hidden controversies. I may be wrong and wrong-headed on this, so feel free to point out what I am missing or where I am being unfair. And yes, I confess that I get all sorts of things wrong in my own publications. Sometimes my blunders are so bad that major revisions or retractions are needed. Let me know if this is another case. Meanwhile, though, I remain somewhat troubled over the Church's JSP publication on the Book of Abraham, and hope that the more serious problems that have been pointed out in JSPRT4 can be addressed and resolved more fully in the future in some way.

I welcome your views. 





12 comments:

Blake said...
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Blake said...
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Blake said...

Excellent comment Jeff. Here is where the real rub lies. The real issue as I see it is whether the GAEL was used to prepare Fac. #2 or whether the comments on Fac. #2 were earlier and the basis for the GAEL. Is there any reliable evidence that those preparing Fac. #2 (such as Reuben Hedlock) even had access to the GAEL in Nauvoo? It seems to me that the JPP editors assume without basis that amy similarity between Fac. #2 and the GAEL meant that the GAEL was the source of Fac. #2. But that is a position that needs more than an assumption to support it. It seems to me that the GAEL is not the source of the Book of Abraham in any sense and was not consulted in the actual preparation of the facsimiles. The sloppy circular footnotes seem to be a subterfuge to me for a lack of evidence where a position had already been taken by Hauglid. Maybe I am wrong - but that appears to be the best explanation. PS I deleted to prior posts to corrrect typo errors.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Thanks, Blake. While I may disagree with some of the personal opinions of the co-editors, I still consider them to be reputable, capable scholars who would never intentionally use circular footnotes to prop up a controversial position or for any other purpose. It has to be, at least I truly hope it is, a glitch. There is another part of the book that cites Joseph mentioning the Alphabet while in Nauvoo that could have been used as partial (and probably inadequate) support for footnote 19, and perhaps that was intended but some simple accident in the editing gave us the puzzling footnote 19, and perhaps the fascinating circular footnotes for footnote 20.

While every issue I've raised so far has been met with little more than a mere blanket statement that my complaints have been carefully reviewed and there was nothing of substance, with no changes required, or more recently with the assurance that I'm the one misunderstanding things, perhaps the glaring errors in these footnotes should be so clear -- even to those who ardently agree with the personal opinions of the authors that permeate the volume -- that some correction will be made on the errata page, and preferably with a statement explaining how the JSP Team through careful review of all the data reached the controversial conclusions that the explanations of Facs. 2 were not only created in Nauvoo, contra Gee and others, but also were derived from the GAEL, contra many LDS writers, and that the data was so clear and self-evident that it did not require the normal scholarly treatment of recognizing the contrary views. Given that the GAEL is obviously incomplete and ends in Kirtland, its ongoing use for translation work in Nauvoo, without further entries or development taking place in Nauvoo, raises significant barriers for that theory, apart from its fundamental lack of evidence (apart from self-referential footnotes, which, as stated, I believe to be a glitch -- but where's the missing meat?). This demands more of a response than we have received and more than simply a revised footnote showing what was intended or what arguments can now be mounted after pointing out this flaw. Yes, I want to see what can be offered for a revised footnote, but I'd really like to know what process led to this conclusion? Did it follow the careful discussion and consensus based on solid evidence, or was it (as it may well be) a quiet editorial decision whose impact and whose footnote glitch were not detected in the review process? Hoping to learn more.

There are few controversies regarding the KEP more critical that this: do they give us a window into how Joseph translated the Book of Abraham, acting at least in some cases as the source for the translation, or are they a byproduct (e.g., a human byproduct) of the revealed translation (or a combination of both)? This is a critical and controversial area, and issues like footnote 20 giving us self-referential support is a critical one for the integrity and scholarship of this volume when it comes to the issue of Book of Abraham origins. I think these footnotes represent unintended glitches where something was left out, and I would welcome assurances and a replacement with more meaningful footnotes so we can consider what was intended to be presented as support. But if the support is vacuous, then there needs to be a recognition that the volume has taken a controversial side on a critical issue without due cause. And if so, it's then fair to reconsider whether other hidden controversies in JSPRT4 could likewise have fallen prey to similar unintentional bias.

Ryan said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I am appreciative of the fact that you caught some idiosyncrasy in your first read-through, which lead to the more detailed discovery and explanation as herein provided; a fortuitous markup, indeed.

I am certainly no scholar, but the concerns I have for Hauglid's very apparent bias as discernible in the JSPRT4 knows no bounds. We have detractors aplenty waiting outside the faith, but when sloppy editorialship or blatant bias comes from within and from the center of the publication, then I get very upset. AND, from what I can tell from the reports which I have read, I have very good reason to be upset.

Now Jeff, you may be kind enough to not point fingers and make accusations, but I have to tell you that from my armchair quarterbacking position as a lay member, serious errors of judgment and/or probable potential obfuscation of relevant counter-points by LDS apologists and others in the JSPRT4 by Hauglid, make for some very serious suspicions on my part regarding his apparent bias against LDS apologetics. I just don't know how else to wag the dog than to come to the conclusion that Hauglid was fatally biased based upon the evidence herein and heretofore presented by both you and John Gee.

JoePeaceman said...

Great post Jeff. I agree that more should be done, including "...a recognition that the volume has taken a controversial side on a critical issue without due cause."

I support giving big hugs of inclusion to Critics (including those who encourage bigotry and distract from genuine scholarship). However, when the scholarship of Chris Smith, Robert Ritner, Dan Vogel (mentor), etc. lacks credibility, takes a backseat to bias, or contradicts evidence provided by other scholars, then the legitimate evidence from faithful scholars should, at the very least, be equally presented and respected.

I also agree that the editors are doing an excellent job, and the NHPRC endorsement adds importance, but I know that seeking respect from the conforming scholarly community (including the pompous learned) will impede an open-minded search for truth. It’s fine on a personal level. We all make mistakes, even Nibley, Gee, etc, but the JSPP are seen as having General Authority approval (although it’s likely that only scholarly freedoms have the stamp). And, sadly, closing our minds and conforming to critical thinking (not to mention personal attacks on former friends) will probably limit involvement in the exciting breakthroughs currently in process. That’s not the legacy I would hope for. On the bright side, since these references are generally in agreement with Critics, we haven’t had a lot of criticisms from them :). If anything overly supportive of the Church of Jesus Christ were referenced that way, it’d be national news.

I was even more concerned about all of this after reading the context of Brian’s FB comments. My mind was open when I started watching Dan’s videos but, after many thoughtful days, I concluded that Dan is intentionally misleading. Yet, I wouldn’t even refer to Chris Smith, Dan, or Packham as “abhorrent.”

However, last night, I watched about half of Brian and Robin discussing JSP R&T4 at Benchmark Books. I watched up to Robin asking what we can learn about Joseph as a translator from Fac. 2, and him assuming Joseph is guessing (for me, if we assume “we” means Joseph, then Joseph shows miraculous knowledge that the woman could represent the king, and her untranslated name was above (not paragraphs). The other figures are also symbols “represented” by characters or “as written”). It seems they're trying to understand (as the rest of us) but have missed a couple of critical points.

Robin tells us that we can’t have false information impede members understanding about Joseph as a translator (and “that’s probably about as apologetic as I’ll get”). Brian reminds us to keep our minds open, and believes that JSPR&T4 may cause some paradigm shifts.

JoePeaceman said...
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JoePeaceman said...

With that in mind, there are SEVERAL IMPORTANT QUESTIONS that the Church History Department should be asking for us “lay members” and “serious students.”
Examples:
1- Can we be faithful members (and faith encouraging) and still believe that: Joseph was guessing; or that the BofA translation was similar to the JST; or, even, that the BofA is made up?
I think so. I’ve wondered in times past if these were true, and I think of myself as faithful.

2- Can we still be great scholars without unapologetically dismissing friends and coworkers who defend the Church; and without affiliating with, supporting, agreeing with, etc. those who attack or malign the Church of Jesus Christ with misleading information (for example: presuming; spinning; leaving out details; zooming in on YouTube (thus distracting from important evidence); and so on (and on) in attempts to paint current Leaders, Joseph Smith, Nibley, Gee, Muhlestein, etc. as deceptive charlatans)?
It appears the answer to that is “yes.”

3-HOWEVER, if paradigm shifting ideas agreeing with critics are included in the JSP editorial comments, and faithful “apologists” or defenders have provided evidence that those ideas are misleading, do the editors have an obligation to provide a little more? e.g. as Jeff requests "...a recognition that the volume has taken a controversial side on a critical issue without due cause?"

Examples of paradigm shifting issues:
As Jeff mentioned, the JSP editors reference the Critic Chris Smith, who works with Dan Vogel, Ritner, certain hate groups and etc. Some don't know he reportedly moved to Utah to study “Mormons” in their natural habitat and have his paparazzi follow him to FAIR conferences to record reactions, ;) etc. and his “kind” arguments against us sometimes include logic similar to: “I lied as an evangelical, and therefore Mormon leaders are clearly always lying (but (kindly) can’t help themselves) and followers are thus raised to lie, and when John Gee says something I disagree with, we should all dismiss it as a lie…”, and so on.
And, even though Chris—apparently borrowing from 19thC anti-Mormon sources—teaches that Joseph Smith was a fraud motivated by sex and greed and that the Smith’s were a “petty crime family”, etc., he is still treated as a legitimate scholar by the JSPP editors. That’s fine, but "serious students" and "lay members" should be aware that his claims that Abr. 1:1-3 are dependent on the GAEL are rooted in anti-Mormonism" AND have been shown to be false by Jeff, etc. (Chris is referenced in the JSP as primary support for the idea that at least part of the BofA was created from the GAEL), although the historical record and faithful “apologists” have provided solid evidence that Chris is wrong.

In addition, through conversations with you (Jeff Lindsay), Dan Vogel (who has clearly influenced Chris Smith and reportedly Brian Hauglid) has changed his stance on Abr. 1:1-3. One thing I respect about Dan is that he isn’t afraid to at least discuss with abhorrent Mormons, and he argued for weeks against Jeff, and, seeing some evidence, finally appears to have realized that he should agree that Abr. 1:1-3 came first. Dan also agrees that the Valuable Discovery and other documents came before the EA and GAEL, and that the EA and GAEL were created “to” these preceding documents. It doesn’t make sense that Joseph would translate the BofM, etc.

WHY is this important?...I'll pontificate later :)... luv ya all.

JoePeaceman said...

Once, again, sorry if the above was confusing, it confused me after a break, I think I'll post this on the Interpreter also....

Another EXAMPLE of an important scholarly JSPP STUMBLE:
As mentioned by you (Jeff), in spite of solid contrary evidence, the JSPP promotes the idea that the BofA (including facsimiles) is dependent on the EA/GAEL. Building on this unsound (evidently false) premise-A, critics argue: that there is no relevant missing papyri (contra eyewitnesses and scholars); that Robert has thus translated the source of the BofA and there’s nothing about Abraham; that JS was guessing or fabricating to deceive young girls, claim priesthood, and impress Phelps; and so on, and on.

I agree with Robin, that we can’t have false information impede members’ understanding about Joseph as a translator. Brian also reminds us to keep our minds open, and believes that JSPR&T4 may cause some paradigm shifts. I strongly support that also.

I had nothing to lose when I went into my BofA studies, and was excited about finding whatever truths I could. Thus, I could be more open and neutral than any critic (and, perhaps, most of the faithful). I leaned toward agreement with the unsound premise-A, and certainly agree that we should accept it: if given valid evidence. However, I found that no real evidence has been given. After months of studying, and discussing (with Jeff, Dan, etc.) I've concluded that premise-A is almost completely improbable. Jeff, you've not only provided some solid evidence that the twin manuscripts are based on a previously translated text, BUT also managed to help Dan begin a transformative journey towards more truth :). Dan dragged his feet for many weeks, but now agrees that “Of course the GAEL draws on Abr. 1:1-3...”
DAN is one of the most KNOWLEDGEABLE BofA critics, and he insists that the “Alphabets and Grammar ... mostly...don’t have anything to do with the BofA… [but deals with] the pure language and evolves into defining characters from the columns flanking Fac. 1. Again, while it deals with the Book of Breathings, it has nothing to do with JS’s translation of the BofA.”

This is important because, if a leading critic ( who has spent years poring over the JSP, papyri, etc. and has influenced Brian, Chris Smith, exmo, Robert, Brent, etc. etc.)...if he sees that the EA/GAEL “...has nothing to do with JS’s translation of the BofA” AND, if faithful scholars (e.g. Lindsay, Muhlestein, Gee, Nibley, etc.) agree, then JSP editors should be open to the idea that premise-A is false: the BofA (including facsimiles) is NOT dependent on the EA/GAEL.

Jeff Lindsay said...

Thanks for the useful observations, Joe!

Jeff Lindsay said...

Anon @7:42 PM, I think the evidence for serious bias is overwhelming, including Hauglid's own "coming out" statement on Facebook, but that does not mean that the bias was intentional. As one accepts a particular viewpoint on controversial issues for various reasons other than objective scholarship, it's tremendously difficult to eliminate the impact of that bias in one's work when that viewpoint may guide expectations and the way a problem is framed. Bias is hard to recognize, even among serious scholars, but it can be common and very natural -- and it may often be completely unintentional. I am biased in my viewpoints on the Book of Abraham as well, as almost every writer will be, so the important thing is not to become angry at opponents and assign malicious motives to the apparent bias, but to calmly explore the facts and determine if the author has made a serious error and then point that out.

There are serious and harmful errors in this volume, no matter now much some claim that it represents pure, unbiased scholarship. Given those errors, there's no need to point fingers and be angry, but to simply ask those in charge to consider proper ways to reverse or repair some of the damage. Some expanded entries on the errata page for this volume would be starting place. And maybe more attention to providing public seminars that walk back the improper positions taken and clarify the issues in light of academic review of the serious gaps in the volume on the Book of Abraham.