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Ryan Dahle

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About Ryan Dahle

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  1. Sure, you can always ascribe Joseph Smith's ability to extraordinary human capacity. But how many people have been able to do the types of things he did? I don't know how Pearl Curran produced her literature, but it certainly didn't seem to be at all normal. Same thing with Peek. There are probably only a handful of people who have ever been able to do anything like what Joseph Smith did with producing the Book of Mormon, and I think in each case there are important differences. For instance, no one remarked on Joseph's extraordinary memory or literary abilities until after he published the Book of Mormon. If there were rumors of savant-like intelligence all along, or indications that his brain had some abnormalities that gave him special gifts/limitations, that would be one thing. But we don't have any reports of the young prodigious Joseph Smith. In fact, those around him found him to be rather uneducated and unrefined, even if he did have a good deal of native intelligence. If you have to place Joseph Smith in a very rare category of individuals to explain his production of the Book of Mormon, and then minimize the important differences between him and those other individuals, then I think that definitely provides good cause to believe that a miracle really might have taken place, just as he claimed. Not absolute proof, but a good reason to believe and to seek for spiritual confirmation.
  2. Saunders' testimony is that he was a student of Oliver Cowdery from 1827 to 1830, so he would have been around during the translation. The important takeaway here, as Welch acknowledges, is that it isn't correct to say that Joseph and Oliver weren't working with manuscripts. Welch is arguing that manuscripts were present but were not related to the translation. How he would know that is anyone's guess. Ummm... no. Welch's argument appears to be that Saunders was in the home of Joseph Smith Sr. (in Palmyra), and that he saw Oliver there working there (surrounded by books and manuscripts), and just assumed that Oliver was preparing drafts of the Book of Mormon (which probably only occurred to Saunders later in life after disputations over the BofM's authorship were in full swing). Oliver didn't teach students in Harmony or Fayette, where the translation took place. He had already finished the school term in Palmyra before he left for Harmony in the spring of 1829. And I don't think he ever went back to teach in Palmyra. So Saunders was almost certainly discussing his observation of Oliver while Oliver was still in the Smith home in Palmyra, before Oliver had even met Joseph (before April 5, 1829).
  3. What do you think of the really late associate of Gilbert, Lorenzo Saunders account? 1887 so long after, but he was 17 or 18y/o at the time and a student of Oliver. "I was frequently at the house of Joseph Smith from 1827 to 1830. That I saw Oliver Cowdery writing, I suppose the "Book of Mormon" with books and manuscript laying on the table before him; that I went to school to said Oliver Cowdery and knew him well."  The footnote information is quite important, I think:
  4. Yeah, I get that. I said the use of the Bible in the Book of Mormon translation would raise eyebrows. When it comes to the JST, the use of the Bible would of course be natural. And I agree that the Clarke's commentary raises eyebrows. However, considering how little we know about the JST production process, the assumption that such a commentary wasn't used isn't nearly as reliable as the assumption that a Bible wasn't used in the BofM traslation (for reasons stated in my last post). I don't see this as really affecting the issue. Yes there are reasons we don't have as much documented evidence for the production of the JST as for the BofM. But the point is that you simply can't make equivalent absence-of-evidence arguments when the two situations are drastically different in regard to what evidences are available in the first place, despite what is causing the disparity in available evidence. I think Elizabeth Ann Whitmer's description of what took place gives us a fairly good clue as to how accessible the translation was for others in the house to witness it: 112. Elizabeth Whitmer Cowdery, as recorded by William E. McLellin (1870) Moreover, I think the problem with assuming that Joseph had this type of memory is that it is very rare. I don't personally know anyone that could rattle off 12 consecutive chapters of Isaiah, at least not without a ton of time spent trying to memorize it. Then you have the diversity of allusions/quotations to both OT and NT. And then, under your theory, you have to account for all the other things Joseph needs to keep track of. I think this line from Robert A. Rees is relevant: Similarly, there is a difference between having a good memory, and then being able to memorize 12 consecutive chapters of Isaiah. I suspect Joseph could have committed something like that to memory, if he spent enough time at it, but for the vast majority of people, this type of memorization takes a lot of time and effort. Ever seen someone get ready for a play? It takes constant rehearsals, usually audibly, for the words to stick in our minds. Think of all the things Joseph would have needed to remember and keep track of in the text, while at the same time dictating it in a way that is coherent and really brilliant. The battles, the geographical details, the source texts, the different voices of characters, the EModE, the migrations, the chronology, the narrative details, the characters and locations, the development of doctrines, the apostate movments, etc. I can honestly say that I don't know a single person alive today that I think could do something like this. There are brilliant authors like Tolkien and Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson who have created massive, consistent worlds, but I don't think any of them could have dictated their masterpieces in one take without relying on notes or references. So you have to assume both unusually brilliant creativity and an exceptional memory, and then assume Joseph had a combination of these abilities in a way that is really unprecedented, especially for 23 year old farmer with limited education. I'm not sure why people think that this naturalistic explanation is even remotely plausible. It isn't.
  5. I'm not really all that familiar with the production of the JST. As far as I know, there aren't a lot of accounts that describe the details of its production. Perhaps there aren't any that really get into it other than journal entries that describe the participants accomplishing the task in vague terms. Also, to my knowledge we don't have any statements that Joseph wasn't using any reference materials to help facilitate his inspired revision/commentary/expansion of the Bible. In contrast, we have Emma, who acted as scribe and witnessed the translation take place at various stages, say that Joseph wasn't using any reference materials. And then we have dozens of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd hand accounts that intimately discuss the BofM translation, but never mention anything about a Bible. There is good reason to think that Martin and Oliver and the Whitmers were all still somewhat uncertain about Joseph's ability during the translation process. We have Martin switching out the seer stone. We have Oliver asking for further confirmation about the truthfulness of Joseph's work, which led to D&C 6. I think that Joseph's use of a Bible during the translation process of the BofM would likely have raised eyebrows in a way that it never would have for the JST. They were completely different types of translation projects. Joseph would have needed a Bible on many occasions in the BofM translation. 1 Nephi, lots of 2 Nephi, Mosiah, and lots in 3 Nephi. I highly doubt that him frequently using the Bible to translate large sections of the BofM wouldn't have elicited comments and questions about the process. I think these are the scribes (a few are only likely, but not certain): •Martin Harris •Oliver Cowdery •David Whitmer •Emma Smith •John Whitmer •Samuel Smith •Christian Whitmer •Rueben Hale And these are some of the other known observers to the translation: •Peter Whitmer Sr. •Mary Whitmer •Catherine Whitmer •Peter Whitmer Jr. •Elizabeth Ann Whitmer •Michael Morse •Sarah Hellor Conrad •Isaac Hale •Joseph Knight Sr. I have a hard time thinking that none of these individuals would have mentioned anything to anyone if Joseph were using a Bible to aid his translation of the BofM. And then we have the manuscript evidence that champatsch had mentioned, which you didn't address. So I think you are comparing apples to oranges. An absence of evidence for the use of commentary in the JST isn't at all the same thing as an absence of evidence for the use of a Bible in the translation of the BofM.
  6. Exactly. I don't see any reason to quibble about the term. It serves its intended purpose just fine. It's not a term I would use in teaching a Sunday school lesson at Church, but it works very well to communicate about extraordinary phenomena with those who don't share my particular religious beliefs.
  7. Not supernatural. Everything is natural. Every natural event may not be understood. I'm not sure why we shouldn't use the term supernatural. Orthodox Latter-day Saints would usually use the term "miracle" but that implies divine intervention. Those who don't share our assumptions naturally want a word that doesn't have such theological connotations. So they use supernatural. It leaves the door open for them to entertain other possibilities. Aliens, devil, and other out of the ordinary phenomenon. In both contexts, the words basically refer to something unexplainable by typical natural laws. The term "miracle," for instance, wouldn't mean anything if the miraculous phenomenon didn't transcend the natural order of the cosmos (at least as typically discerned by humans). I get that Latter-day Saints have a nuanced understanding of matter and that we accept that all miracles are actually in accordance with higher, currently unknown laws, but why insist on this nuance when most people who use the term "supernatural" could easily, and most likely do, feel the same way about "supernatural" phenomena. In each case, I think everyone would agree that the phenomenon is probably explainable, but simply that it defies our current understanding of natural laws.
  8. I agree. When both Old Testament and New Testament intertextuality is considered, it is extremely unlikely that this aspect of the text was due to Joseph. Those who assume Joseph had a Bible during the translation and that he consulted it during the dictation process, go against the statements from the witnesses that say he didn't. It's always a possibility that he did use a Bible, and it can't be proven one way or another, but I think the historical evidence strongly favors the absence of any reference materials. We have over 200 historical documents that discuss the translation, and not one of them ever discusses Joseph opening up the Bible to help facilitate the translation (at least not that I am aware of): https://archive.bookofmormoncentral.org/sites/default/files/archive-files/pdf/welch/2016-04-11/welch_the_miraculous_translation_of_the_book_of_mormon_opening_the_heavens.pdf If that is the case (no reference materials during the translation), then the many lengthy quotations of Isaiah and other Old and New Testament texts (such as Matthew) add to the already substantial amount of intertextual relationships scattered throughout. These words just aren't coming from Joseph. Someone can always assume Joseph had an absolutely astounding memory and that he voraciously studied the Bible before the translation, but I think such assumptions don't have any historical merit. Even if he did have such a memory, those who argue that he is making up this text have to assume that he has either memorized the entire text before each sessions or that he is creatively weaving in hundreds of biblical allusions and quotations while at the same time keeping track of other complexities, which are many (geography, chronology, prophecies, characters, doctrines, battles, migrations, flashback sequences, etc). See https://bookofmormoncentral.org/blog/watch-evidence-of-the-book-of-mormon-internal-complexity
  9. Ryan Dahle

    The State of Mormon Apologetics

    My speculation was somewhat along these lines several years ago, as well, when the data first started coming out. I thought that Tyndale was most likely responsible, probably with a translation committee or something. But I think the problem is that we are far from being able to make any of these types of judgments. If such beings were involved in the translation, there is no particular way that we would could make a good argument for it. There are just too many unknown variables about divine beings and languages on the other side of the veil. There are also too many unknowns about the translations goals of whoever translated the text. We can make some inferences about what things the translator(s) may have intended to accomplish, but it is all pretty speculative at this point. About all we can really say is that Joseph very likely wasn't responsible for the English wording of the text, and yet that it is entirely possible that a divine being or groups of beings could be responsible. To me, the text doesn't seem like it would fit the native linguistic patterns of an single English speaker from any specific time period.
  10. Ryan Dahle

    The State of Mormon Apologetics

    Just for the record, the reason I have kept at this is because I wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something important in my thinking about these issues. Thanks for letting me pester you about it.
  11. Ryan Dahle

    The State of Mormon Apologetics

    I think that's a much more defensible position. However it has rather big implications depending upon the nature of those layers. Ultimately that was the point I was originally raising. People are drawing inferences from these structures that aren't warranted by the arguments they're making for them. Your argument is just going in circles. Again, all you are saying is that being wrong in the assumption about a tight translation could make it so that a Hebraism might not shown up in the translation. And in that case we would have to look to other explanations for its presence. And I'm saying that I have already looked at the other possible explanations for their presence, and these explanations' lack of believability is what is driving me to accept the tight translation in the first place, even though it is an uncertain assumption. And then you say that my my reasons for rejecting these other explanations would need to be fleshed out to be convincing to an audience who isn't disposed to agree with them. Which is fine, and has been a running (and stated) assumption of mine all along. The real debate lies elsewhere. If my fleshed out arguments are good enough, then I will be justified in relying upon the uncertain assumptions about the tightness of the translation. If they aren't good, then I wouldn't be logically justified in doing so. [Late edit: It should also be noted that all competing arguments about the alleged Hebraisms in the Book of Mormon rely on a number of uncertain necessary assumptions, as virtually all complex arguments do. And it is the nature of necessary assumptions that if they are wrong, then the conclusions that they support are wrong. The way I have constructed my argument is not circular, and so the assumption about the tightness of the translation is logically valid, even though unproven. This means that its relative likelihood of being true can only be decided once the broader competing arguments concerning the presence of Hebraisms in the text, with ALL of THEIR respective uncertain (yet necessary) attendant assumptions, have been compared and evaluated. Which is how I have understood the argument all along. You and jkw were trying to disqualify the evidence for Hebraisms, at the outset, because of its reliance upon a necessary (although unproven) assumption about the translation. My whole point is to show how this evidence can't be categorically disqualified in the way you initially thought. It is not a circular argument. If this is conceded, then by all means we can move on to other topics, such as possible methods of determining tightness and looseness that don't rely upon outside data, such as my argument does.]
  12. Ryan Dahle

    The State of Mormon Apologetics

    The issue isn't really circularity it all. The problem is that you are still isolating the issue in a way that makes it look circular. All you are really saying is that uncertain assumptions in an argument lessen its persuasiveness. That's it. And I agree. However, essentially ALL arguments rely on uncertain but necessary assumptions, and therefore ALL arguments can be made to seem circular in the way you are thinking. For instance, let's say I come home from work today and find the fridge full of food. I would naturally assume my wife went shopping today because she does virtually all the shopping for our family (probably 99.9%). However I can't prove that she is the one who went shopping. Even though it is unlikely, it could have been someone else, like my mother, who very infrequently picks up groceries for us. Furthermore, let's say that I knew my wife had an all day appointment, but I couldn't remember whether the appointment was today or tomorrow. I know that if the appointment was today, she wouldn't have had time to shop, so I very reasonably assume that the appointment was tomorrow. By your rationale, this type of reasoning is woefully circular, and therefore not very persuasive. It is true that the fridge full of food can only count as evidence that my wife went shopping, if indeed she didn't have the all day appointment today. And it is true that the only evidence that she didn't have an all day appointment today is that the fridge is full of food. You would say this is unpersuasive, circular, ad hoc reasoning. Hopefully you can see why this isn't so. The choice to assume that the appointment wasn't today is driven by the fact that my wife probably shops for our family 99.9% of the time. Thus there is a 99.9% chance that the food in the fridge is from her and only a 50% chance that the appointment was scheduled tomorrow instead of today. Naturally, I let the high likelihood of my wife being the shopper dictate what day I think the appointment was scheduled. This is almost exactly the same set up as the translation issue. I will try to state it as analogous as possible to the above example. When I open up the Book of Mormon (fridge) and find it is stocked full of Hebraisms (food), I assume this is a reflection of the literary features in the source text because I don't see Joseph Smith or anyone else in the 19th century being capable of collectively creating them (just like I don't find it likely that anyone, other than my wife, would be responsible for stocking our fridge with food). However, I can't prove that these Hebraisms were on the source text. They could be due to accident or imitation (just like the food in the fridge could have been placed there by my mother, who very infrequently shops for us). However, in order for the Hebraisms to be in the source text, their translation would have needed to be fairly tight, rather than loose, to preserve them. (Similarly, in order for my wife to have gone shopping today, the all-day appointment would have needed to be scheduled for tomorrow instead of today.) I assume that the translation is tight, because I think it is highly likely, in the first place, that the presence of the Hebraisms is due to their being on the source text. (Similarly, I assumed the all-day appointment was the next day, because I knew it was highly likely, in the first place, that the presence of the food in our fridge was due to my wife shopping today.) Now we can certainly debate what counts as a legitimate Hebraism and whether or not it is unlikely that Joseph or someone else could have produced the alleged Hebraisms in the text. I get that. And I have thought a lot about that. But once it is determined (as I have done) that the Hebraisms in the text are legitimate and that it is unlikely that Joseph or someone else in the 19th century could have imitated them, or that they were produced by chance, then this determination naturally guides the assumptions about whether this aspect of the text was a loose or tight translation (just as the high likelihood that my wife was responsible for putting food in the fridge guided the assumption about when my wife's all-day appointment was scheduled). That's like saying if my wife's appointment was scheduled for today, then the food in the fridge wouldn't have an evidentiary power regarding who placed it there. You have the reasoning backwards. It's the high likelihood that my wife was responsible for the food being in the fridge, in the first place, that is guiding my assumption about whether or not her appointment was scheduled for today or tomorrow. Likewise, it is the high likelihood that the Hebraisms are in the source text in the first place (based on evidence that is independent of the tight/loose issue), that is guiding my assumptions about whether this aspect of the text was tightly or loosely translated. Having a tight translation may be a necessary assumption for the Hebraisms to have been derived from the source text, but it is not the assumption that is driving my belief that the Hebraisms are in the source text. Likewise, assuming that my wife's appointment was scheduled for tomorrow is a necessary assumption to accept that she went shopping today, but it is obviously not the assumption that is driving my belief that she went shopping today. The evidence comes from the fact that she shops for our family 99.9% of the time. Stated another way, my uncertainty about when my wife's all-day appointment was scheduled wasn't enough to deter me from believing she was responsible for the food in the fridge. Likewise, my uncertainty about the nature of the translation (loose or tight) in any given situation in the text, isn't enough to deter me from accepting the high likelihood that the Hebraisms were from the source text, based on the evidence that is at my disposal. I get that there are all sorts of possibilities like this. In this case, the Hebraism still isn't the product of Joseph Smith or some other 19th century individual. And, really, it is still a product of a Hebrew speaker in the source text. The Book of Mormon has many layers of text and so I assume that the Hebraisms are typically from one of those layers, even if it isn't the layer we might initially think. Here is another possibility. Suppose that the source text was highly ideogrammatic and hardly at all phonetic. Then, let's say that during the translation process, the original intent of the authors, along with all the rhetorical and structural flourishes they would have used, was unpackaged as if they had been writing in a less compact script all along. In this case, the translation would be both loose and tight: loose in regard to the relationship between the English and the ideograms, but tight in regard to the English and the original intent of the authors. I don't think this is likely, but it is not impossible. These uncertainties, hardly matter though, when it comes to the overall value of Hebraisms as apologetic evidence. My underlying rationale is that these Hebraisms, when viewed collectively, are highly unlikely to be due to any combination of chance, literary genius, or scholarship from any 19th century individual or group of individuals. This is partly due to the nature of the Hebraisms themselves and the evidences that I have that most people in the 19th century couldn't have produced them, and also because of the historical data about the method and circumstances of the translation. These beliefs lead me to assume that something about the source text (and perhaps I should amend all of my previous statements to include all the crazy possibilities of a divinely revealed translation) is responsible for these features. I assume they came through a tight translation from a short hand phonetic source text, because that seems most plausible to me. But I'm certainly open to other options. Either way, it doesn't really take away the reasons I have for discounting their presence being due to Joseph or some other 19th century author or authors. It is my ruling out of all other unlikely options that leads me to trust that the Hebraisms are most likely due to the text's claimed ancient authors, even though that also leads me to assume the translation (at least in relation to this textual data) was most likely tight--an assumption that although uncertain, is perfectly plausible and reasonable to make.
  13. Ryan Dahle

    The State of Mormon Apologetics

    Well, I don't think it is entirely clear what Joseph thought of the density of meaning in various Egyptian scripts/illustrations. Inferences can be drawn from the KEP and the ideas of those associated with the project, but it is all pretty speculative. I'm fine if the text has lots of looseness in this way. I think I said as much. So far, though, we can't make a good case for looseness beyond intertextual relationships, which although extensive in one sense (probably well over a 1,000 instances have been discovered in OT and NT), still only make up a small part of the text. And OT quotations/paraphrases/allusions could be largely due to to the brass plates, so assuming looseness in those situations is more questionable. I think long quotations (like Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi) probably have both loose and tight aspects. I think the deutero-Isaiah debate is inconclusive. My idea that the text was fairly tight is just a baseline assumption, built on intuition and limited sets of data. I fully recognize that, and am willing to change it if more data comes along. I'm not sure how this matters, though. My theory can accommodate plenty of looseness. So I'm not sure what the problem is. Other than NT phrases that are very likely to be loose, we don't know. It could be either loose or tight or some combination of both. Again, I'm not sure how this matters, though. I think there is a fundamental strain of logic you are missing. Let's go back to the opposing theory from a few posts ago. Let's say someone chooses to think that Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon. They can't prove, using independent evidence (outside the BofM) that Joseph was a genius, nor can they prove that he was involved in clandestine scholarship. And let's say, again just for the sake of argument, that the sophisticated/ancient features in the text are too good to be the product of mere chance. So the individual is torn between these two options, not sure if Joseph's innate brilliance or clandestine scholarship is a better explanation for any given piece of textual data. (I know this is an unrealistically exclusive dichotomy, but just roll with it for the sake of analogous argument). So, let's say that this hypothetical individual prefers to think that the impressive features of the text are mostly due to Joseph's innate genius and creativity. However, when the individual finds 19th century historical/literary sources that he thinks Joseph drew from, then he suspects that part of the text was likely derived from Joseph's clandestine scholarship. Both options are possible and he simply chooses the one that makes the best sense in any given situation. In a lot of cases, he simply can't decide. (Which is obviously like the tight vs. loose issue of translation, we are discussing.) It seems by your logic, though, you would tell this individual that he has to determine, at the outset, that Joseph certainly had access to a specific source in order for him to see the historical source as evidence for derivation. (By analogy, you are assuming that apologetic arguments, like stylometric analysis or the proposals for Hebraisms, have to determine at the outset that the translation was literal enough for their analysis to work). If neither can prove, at the outset, that the founding assumption is correct, then you inappropriately make it look like a circular argument. You would say that the only reason the historical content seems to confirm the critic's theory about the BofM being derived from 19th texts is that he assumed at the outset that Joseph was researching such things. Likewise, you would say that the only reason Hebraisms seems to confirm the BofM's claims to Hebrew origins is that the apologists assume, from the outset, that these same structures were on the source text and were preserved in translation. Ad hoc, circular reasoning, conclusions tampering with premises, etc. However, your concern doesn't at all seem to be valid in either case. Let's say that the individual discovered a 19th century text, written before the BofM, that blows Solomon Spaulding's manuscript, and View of the Hebrews, and every other proposal for derivation out of the water. It is somewhat different from the Book of Mormon, but has all of the main pieces--prophets with the same names, the Savior coming to America, almost the exact same stories, set in the same setting, etc. The parallels are so numerous and specific in so many ways that it is virtually impossible to discount a connection between the texts. However, by your reasoning, this type of evidence wouldn't count for much because we wouldn't know at the outset whether or not Joseph Smith even had access to this text. What should seem obvious, though, is that very good evidences can help us determine which of our starting assumptions about the text is most likely valid. In this case, the individual would most likely see the correlations between the BofM and this other hypothetical text as being derivative rather than the product of innate creativity. I think we all would have to admit that this would be a pretty decent argument, even if you couldn't find out how Joseph Smith had access to this text, and even if other historical evidence might seem to contradict the notion that he did have access to it. Obviously no such text exists and it is not a scenario that I think is remotely likely to transpire. But I think it shows the flaw in your insistence that the loose/tight nature of the translation needs to be determined before any other arguments can reliably build upon either option. Although not as compelling as the example cited above, I think the Book of Mormon's collective Hebraisms are evidence that it is authentically ancient and written by authors trained in the Hebrew literary tradition. I don't know how the text was translated, but I assume, in at least the case of some types of Hebraisms, the translation needed to be somewhat tight for these features to be preserved. I can't prove it, just like the other hypothetical individual wasn't able to prove that Joseph had access to the hypothetical text, but in each case the evidence is good enough that it actual helps confirm which of the two plausible starting premises is most likely to be true. Of course, you may not agree with me about the strength of the Hebraisms, but that is not the issue. I don't care about whether or not we can determine, at the outset, if the text was tight or loose in any given situation. All that matters is that these are both very plausible options. I don't think that Hebraisms or stylometry are undermined as evidences merely because of uncertainty about which of the two plausible assumptions about the translation is correct in relation to their relevant data sets. Would it make the arguments for Hebraisms and Stylometry stronger if we could prove, at the outset, that the translation was tight enough for each of their data sets to be on the source text? Sure it would, just like it would help out the hypothetical argument above if it could be proven that Joseph certainly had access to or used the hypothetical text. Yet not having these assumptions locked in with certainty doesn't by any means destroy any of these arguments. Nor does it render them circular. It only renders them somewhat less certain. And I'm ok with that. I understood that lack of certainty all along.
  14. Ryan Dahle

    The State of Mormon Apologetics

    Not sure. And I'm not sure if the issue is that really they're biased and manipulating the data or that you're completely misunderstanding them and using their study to make assertions they never would. If you read my blog post I linked earlier, then you would understand what I mean. If you don't understand it, then you probably are not equipped to talk about stylometry studies and what they mean to BOM authenticity. Well, let's just say that I don't agree with your conclusions in your blog post. I have read extensively about stylometry and its role in BofM studies. And I'm not really representing the conclusion of the published stylometric studies (Larsen, Hilton, Fields, et al.). I'm reaching my own conclusions based on their data. My conclusions deal with the assumptions about the translation, which is essential to the significance of their research, but which they don't discuss in their papers.
  15. Ryan Dahle

    The State of Mormon Apologetics

    I'm guessing you are talking about a structural "paraphrase or emulation" such as chiasmus. First of all, I assume that Joseph Smith wasn't responsible for the English phrasing of the text and that it was divinely revealed to him because of (1) prevasive, systematic EModE combined with (2) the historical evidence suggesting that the text came through Joseph Smith in the manner described by the witnesses, which are both reinforced by a number of other assumptions/arguments that are too broad for this particular discussion. So any "emulation," in my theory, would come from a divine translator or translators. I don't think there is any way to prove that whoever translated it didn't just insert Hebrew structures that weren't in the source texts. This just seems like an unnecessary option, though, when the text itself claims it was written by ancient prophets trained in the Hebrew literary tradition. So, with my starting assumptions in place, I can reasonably assume that any given structure in the text is likely one of the following: A. A coincidence (non-evidence for translation) B. A creation by a divine translator (logically necessitates loose translation) C. A preserved structure from the source text (logically necessitates fairly tight/consistent translation, at least as far as structure goes) Because we find so many parallelisms in the text that match up with Hebrew-style parallelisms, I typically don't see them as coincidences, even though I'm open that some of them certainly could be and probably are. It's just not my default assumption, especially for very elegant, sophisticated, lengthy structures. So most of the time, I discount option A. As explained above, I don't think option B is very likely. And so I assume option C most of the time, which logically requires some degree of tightness in the translation. Once again, I think it is obvious that my preference for option C is linked to a chain of assumptions that from the outset already ruled out other competing possibilities, such as the possibility that Joseph was responsible for these structures, or Sidney Rigdon, or some other 19th century author, or a 16th century author like JarMan thinks (even though I have't delineated my rationale for rejecting his theory). Well, if a translation strays too far, too often from what the original authors intended, then pretty soon the resulting text is nothing at all like the original. I assume that God wanted us to have a fairly accurate understanding of what the original authors intended to say, but that he frequently allowed for some loose adjustments so that we could understand it in our day and language, and also be able to connect it to the Bible. I think that (generally speaking) most translations are more tight than loose, and that looseness is preferred mostly for idiomatic expressions. In this case, we also have looseness as a possibility for the additional translation goal of connecting the text more intimately with the Bible. Is there some reason you can think of for why we should assume a fairly loose, rather than a fairly tight translation at the outset? I allow for lots of looseness, and in lots of situations I don't think there is evidence either way, so I would be open to both should any evidence arise. I'm not sure how following the evidence in each case is a weak argument. This isn't a purely statistical problem and so, in my understanding, the null hypothesis is simply the process of ruling out competing explanations as being likely or preferable. In that case, as I explained above, I have fairly developed reasons for rejecting competing explanations (at least those I am familiar with) that attempt to explain the presence of the structural phenomena in the text. I also have developed reasons for rejecting competing explanations about stylometry as well.
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