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Kevin Graham

Book of Abraham

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Hi Provis,

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I've already addressed the question of Parrish's punctuation:

You'll notice that Parrish provides fairly good punctuation. Does that mean that Parrish was copying from an existing manuscript rather than transcribing from dictation? Absolutely not. We can be certain of this because Williams (in ms. 1a, which was transcribed simultaneously with ms. 1b) often uses different punctuation than Parrish. In other words, Williams and Parrish's punctuation is each scribe's unique, individual contribution to transcribing oral dictation, not copying written text.

Please at least have the courtesy of reading my posts before sharing your ad hoc hypotheses.

I linked to the ZLMB thread here.

Ciao,

Brent

http://mormonscripturestudies.com

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The quicker route to the ZLMB thread about the KEP is here.

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Wow this discussion really took off again. I will read through the threads I missed and write up some comments tomorrow.

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Wow this discussion really took off again. I will read through the threads I missed and write up some comments tomorrow.

Kevin,

I mentioned (in a post much earlier in the thread) that I had sent you a PM late last night. I am quite anxious to know whether or not you received it, and if not, I would like to forward it to another location where you can receive it.

I posed to you a number of questions in the thread today which have, in some respects, been answered. I suppose I will leave it to you to discern which of my questions remain to be answered.

Yes, the thread did "take off" this afternoon. I hope you will give due consideration to the various arguments that have been made, and I look forward to your responses.

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Sorry, but I haven't received anything yet. My PM box is slammed full, and I think the email registered by FAIR is an outdated one. I receive emails at [email protected]

OK, off to bed.

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Brent:

QUOTE (exegete @ 11 May 2006, 02:36 PM)

You'll notice that Parrish provides fairly good punctuation. Does that mean that Parrish was copying from an existing manuscript rather than transcribing from dictation? Absolutely not. We can be certain of this because Williams (in ms. 1a, which was transcribed simultaneously with ms. 1b) often uses different punctuation than Parrish. In other words, Williams and Parrish's punctuation is each scribe's unique, individual contribution to transcribing oral dictation, not copying written text.

Your "Absolutely not." assertion is clearly your opinion. Of that we never have had any doubt. But it is clearly not the only possible explanation for what we see in the KEP, and hardly a definitive one, except in your mind.

Also, after examining the portion of the text whose image you posted on the ZLMB site, I again note that the punctuation corresponds in almost every respect to that of the published text. The variances are not substantial enough, in my estimation, to easily dismiss the notion that each of the "scribes" was actually copying a previously-produced text, rather than taking dictation. Indeed, Williams also manifests a fluid and obviously uninterrupted writing hand that would seem to belie, rather than confirm the notion of a writer taking dictation.

I am also mystified by the fact that you seem to allude to the fact that the scribes, in several cases, have written passages that one or both the others had written. Why would this be the case if they are simply "taking turns" transcribing the dictation? The existence of overlapping passages of text implies multiple scribes taking down the same dictation. What precedent is there for this in the context of a private dictation session? Furthermore, why does the transcription cease a few verses into only the second chapter? (I know this question has been posed before, but I am interested in hearing your explanation.) Where is the rest of the "translated" text, and why was it not recorded in the same manuscripts with which they started? They certainly didn't run out of paper.

Finally, although my reply is to exegete's post, I invite others to offer their answers to these questions as well. This is, obviously, not a private exchange between Brent and me.

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Hi Provis,

Let me repeat: Williams' BoAbr ms. 1a and Parrish's ms. 1b were simultaneously transcribed from an oral dictation, not from a written document

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Brent,

Your logic suffers from a fatal flaw. The alterations you cite could have as easily been made by both scribes as a correction after the fact of copying a common text as they could have as a correction made during the course of a dictation. We have only your assertion to inform us that they were "simultaneously transcribed from an oral dictation."

As Bill Hamblin so aptly noted in his critique of your standard modus operandi, you "consistently attack what [you] see as the weakest arguments ... [while] the strongest analysis and evidence ... remain unanswered."

As so it is in this case. Your example is an anomaly in terms of the entirety of the manuscripts. Otherwise the text shows a remarkable consistency to the published BoA, with few if any emendations whatsoever.

It's a good thing your fan base is comprised of those who never question your methodologies nor critically examine the evidence you cite.

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Hi Provis,

You're mistaken. You wrote:

Your logic suffers from a fatal flaw. The alterations you cite could have as easily been made by both scribes as a correction after the fact of copying a common text as they could have as a correction made during the course of a dictation.

No, the third emendation couldn't

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At the very least, W. W. Phelps is providing what appears to be remarkably sophisticated punctuation in what is alleged to be (by the critics and others) a transcription of the spoken word. Indeed, the text is altogether too perfect to be the result of a scribe writing words while a speaker haltingly "interprets" ancient symbols. That is my point. I have yet to hear a persuasive rebuttal. At this point, I would say Brent is obfuscating and stalling because he hasn't yet developed his "counter-apologetic" to the argument. But I'm sure he'll be back in a while with some stunningly abstruse explanation.

It seems that JS could have easily dictated entire thoughts that W.W. Phelps would have transcribed with sophisticated punctuation. I don't know that it is necessarily true that JS would have "haltingly" interpreted the symbols. This would be more the case if the number of symbols per English word or letter were roughly equivalent but that doesn't appear to be the case when one looks at the KEP. One symbol represented an entire idea or set of ideas. You would expect better punctuation out of the scribes (especially when you're paying them $15/month!) :P

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Brent:

Capisci?

Si. Ora capisco bene.

Although in my earlier weariness I permitted you to almost sneak by another classic Metcalfe maneuver. But I'm seeing things clearer now.

In the first place, this portion of the text you've extracted for our perusal has nothing to do with the argument we've been pursuing.

Where exactly in the Book of Abraham do we read: "Sign of the fifth degree ... "?

And if you're extracting from the "first" page of a translation, then why (pray tell) are we beginning in the 4th verse?

And where is the Egyptian symbol that corresponds to this passage? If you're suggesting that it is the symbols to the left, well then perhaps you can explain why those symbols are NOT the same in both documents and why neither of them correspond to the symbol adjacent to identical text in Ms. #2.

And, I might ask, where (in any of this) do you successfully link Joseph Smith to the process? You tell us there is a dictation going on. But there is no evidence of that, save your assertion. Is there anything that would lead us to believe that this explanation answers to the evidence? No, to the contrary, the only document in the KEP with Joseph's name attached bears no evidence whatsoever of any process of "translation" going on. Something's happening here, to be sure, but what it is no one can say with ANY degree of certainty.

Except you, of course. And, once again, you're compromising good exegetical methodology in order achieve your underlying purpose. This is exactly what Hamblin has shown so often in his reviews of your clumsy attacks on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. You have your fans, to be sure, but they aren't critical of the evidence you provide them, nor of your consistently defective methodologies. They are little more than the sycophants we see hovering about you on this message board. They serve your purpose by giving the illusion of legitimacy to your arguments. But your arguments consistently avoid the points made by those who oppose your conclusions.

We cannot accept your exegesis of the KEP as anything more than a speculative endeavor designed to serve your continuing objective of discrediting Joseph Smith and his work. Of course, ANY exegesis of the KEP is probably doomed to failure, considering the mystifying nature of the beast. But your methodologies are more doomed than others because of the presuppositions you bring to the game. Therefore we will continue to look for others to propose a superior alternative. As one who has finally had a chance to examine decent reproductions of the documents, I am more certain than ever that they inform us very little (if at all) about whatever process was used to produce the Book of Abraham.

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thus the alteration had to have been made in unison at the time of the transcription. Such a scenario is best explained by two scribes simultaneously transcribing from an oral dictation, not from a written text.

I agree.

I've carefully read these manuscripts and everything seems to suggest that they were written as Joseph Smith dictated. Why deny the obvious? Add up all the examples that show it was by dictation and you have a strong case to show this was in fact how it happened. On the other hand, only denial after denial supports the opposing argument. This seems to be the constant theme of this whole KEP argument. I grow tired of LDS apologetic denials.

Now, John Gee will insist that the best person to translate Egyptian is a credited Egyptologist - properly trained by the arts taught in the university. So, how about we lay these things before the feet of experts, especially the ink issue? Is that too much to ask? If so, it appears to me that LDS apologists have something to hide. I don't trust Gee or Nibley because they hide the goods and think we should trust them simply for who they are and what they say.

Paul O

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I have not seen this debate on the BoA before and would like to thank all participants. All of your comments have been valuable to me.

Josh

**edited to reduce cheerleading**

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I for one am waiting for a rebuttle of Provis...agree or disagree, it's a valid point. If you can't and still have a different conclusion--fine! Just say that. On that note, everyone try not to offfend someone off this thread (I find it particularly interesting). But with that said, let's skip the cheerleading.

PacMan

p.s. I just noticed Provis's post was from 2 am...I forgot some people sleep, and am sure a post is coming.

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Paul Osborne:

I've carefully read these manuscripts and everything seems to suggest that they were written as Joseph Smith dictated. Why deny the obvious? Add up all the examples that show it was by dictation and you have a strong case to show this was in fact how it happened. On the other hand, only denial after denial supports the opposing argument. This seems to be the constant theme of this whole KEP argument. I grow tired of LDS apologetic denials.

Now that I've had occasion to closely examine the portions of Ms#2 that we've seen, that manuscript alone has convinced me that this was anything but a dictation! Your assertion that it is obvious entirely eludes me. There are so many things that object to such an explanation!

1. Each of the manuscripts shows no signs whatsoever of hesitance or pauses. Each is written in a fluid, free-flowing hand which seems inconsistent with the necessarily halting manner of a dictation purporting to be a

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You can't really believe that this is a fair or reasonable approach, can you?

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gtaggart:

Frankly, there are some very good LDS scholars at BYU and elsewhere who appear a bit naive when they venture on to the apologetic battlefield. Of course, Nibley, Peterson, and Hamblin, among others, don't fall in that group. They may get things wrong now and again, but they are (or were, in Nibley's case) always aware of the issues and the combatants. That's probably because apologetics runs (or ran) in their blood. Not everyone, including many scholars, is built that way.

I have grown especially fond of Hamblin's work. Apparently, so has Metcalfe. :P

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gtaggart

I initially asked: "Who said there were two different sets of photos in the first place (outside Brent's personal collection that is), let alone two sets that were "under different conditions, using different cameras, different film, and different lighting"?

== I did, based on the difference between the photos in Gee's book and Brent's photos.

OK, I think I see what you're saying now. However, the photos used in Gee's book were taken for the purpose of his book. It wasn't a preexisting set that Gee used to make his analysis. Gee still had access to the original copies, from which his 'two ink' theory was derived. Compared to the beautiful photographs of the JS papyri, Gee shows us some truly crap photos of the KEP. And this, I now recall, is what made me question the integrity of the presentation. It was as if these were deliberately crappy so the reader couldn't really tell whether or not his two ink argument held water. I mean why is it that all six photos have either a reddish or greenish tint to them, yet the JS papyri are extremely vivid and clear?

== In what way is my speculation worse than your speculative assertions of dishonesty based on knowing of just Metcalfe's photos and without knowing exactly what Gee was looking at and how it compares with what Metcalfe has?

My so-called "speculation" is a simple deduction of the facts. It is based on the fact that his argument holds not a drop of water, and in subsequent opportunities to explain himself, he refused to do so. I see some people trying to make excuses for him, assuming it was an honest mistake based on bad photos, bad lighting, or what not. But these attempts to vindicate him are based on more speculations that also do not add up. It assumes Gee had personal access to the JS papyri, but not the KEP, and that even if he did have access to the KEP, he developed an ink analysis without the proper lighting - which, even if true, would also throw a shadow on his credibility.

== Let me be clear: There are a whole raft of reasons for getting something wrong. Only one of them involves dishonesty.

I mean, sure. I suppose if I try hard enough I could come up with some wild speculative theory on how Gee made an honest mistake. I mean perhaps some people invaded his home the night he was writing the final draft and hypnotized him (perhaps the Signature Book Club). Maybe someone kidnapped his kid and threatened him into making such a ridiculous argument. Given the endless list of "possibilities," I suppose that technically, no, I do not know for a hard cold fact that Gee was intentionlly dishonest. But, in light of what we do know, I think it is the most likely scenario.

== Why the rush to do so in this case?

What makes you think I rushed? I was conversing with Gee while I was writing that M201 article, "The Case for the Missing Papyri." He was kind enough to help me out with things when I had concerns. But the minute I emailed him about Brent's photos, and asked him how he came to the "two ink" conclusion, well, let's just say I never heard from him again. And at least a year had passed before I made an initial assertion that Gee's credibility was in danger.

And for the record, the primary message here is not that Gee is dishonorable. The point is that LDS apologetics is currently without any effect explanations regarding the Papyri's apparent relationship to the BoA, and it is a miserable situation to be in. Our focus should be placed on this issue so talented aplogists can develop newer apologetics, but an effort should be made to have the KEP accesible for all. Blindly accepting whatever Gee and Nibley say has proved detrimental and I simply will not do it anymore.

Provis

Thanks for the email Provis. I am in the middle of moving into our new home that is under its last week of construction, so it will probably be another couple of weeks after we're settled in, that I will be able to sit down and allow my brain to marinate back into the BoA apologetic.

== Why do you say "so another scribe to (sic) take over"? It was my understand from detailed descriptions of the manuscripts that each is of similar content.

Manuscript # 1 was 10 pages and contained Book of Abraham, 1:1-2:18 but it was in the handwriting of both W. W. Phelps and Warren Parrish. I am sure you are right about the other manuscripts. I need to refresh my memory on alot of ths stuff, and I will in the weeks to come.

== Question 2: What other indications lead you to believe that the process "went slowly"?

It was just a guess, and I could be wrong. The multiple scribes being affiliated with this project was what gave me that impression. That, and the fact that the papers were kept safe and secure; also underneath were some 200+ blank pages, which tells me the project intended to be much longer than it was.

== I would not have made that observation based on the photographs I have seen in the past few days. To the contrary, the text in the right hand columns appears to have been written in an extremely fluid fashion, with very few evidences of ink pooling where the scribe would have freshened his pen after a period of pause. Do you not agree?

Yes, the printers manuscript for the Book of Mormon, which is what the first BoM was printed from, contained numerous errors. But that was with Oliver Cowdery, who was no writing expert, and wasn't involved as a scribe in these BoA manuscripts. I believe it was Phelps who was a former newspaper editor.

You are thinking the same thoughts I had years ago. I own Skousen's work on the Book of Mormon manuscripts, and I intended to compare and contrast this translaton manuscript with the KEP to see if there were any similarities or differences. I remember talking to Ben on the phone about this. But I decided to wait until Brent releases his book before doing so, since it doesn't look like the Church will be offering photos of the KEP anytime soon.

== Question 3: At this period of time (when the KEP were being produced) is there any contemporary evidence that any of the individuals in question had been recently or were currently serviing Joseph Smith in the capacity of "scribe"? To my knowledge, neither Cowdery, Phelphs, nor Parrish had served as scribes to Joseph for a considerable time preceeding this period. Perhaps I am mistaken in this respect and someone will correct me. But I think not.

Yes, they were his scribes, as even John Gee admitted on page 21 in his A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri:

The KEP were

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As a post script, I find it very interesting indeed that Metcalfe is so careful to post only selected excerpts from the photos he has. If he has the entire manuscript photographed, why doesn't he allow the rest of us to see it? I suspect that he his hiding something, too. Something that he feels could be turned into a strong apologetic if he were to put it at our disposal.

I wouldn't necessarily attribute ulterior motives. However, anyone who has been around the countermopologetic scene for long has observed that the rallying cry of "the church hides its documents!" has almost ceased since a poster reminded Metcalfe that he was doing the same thing. :P

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== I wouldn't necessarily attribute ulterior motives. However, anyone who has been around the countermopologetic scene for long has observed that the rallying cry of "the church hides its documents!" has almost ceased since a poster reminded Metcalfe that he was doing the same thing.

So let me get this straight. The Church hiding its own documents is the "same thing" as Brent hiding the Church's documents? :P

Brent has shown the internet world something at least, which is more than I can say for the Church. And we also have to remember that Brent is waiting for his book to be published. Most of us who want to buy the book, want to do so because it contains these color photos of the KEP. But if he gives us everything freely online, it could damage his sales. And before everyone freaks out and says "Oh so it is about the money," you have to remember that Brent paid a pretty penny for these photos to begin with.

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And where is the Egyptian symbol that corresponds to this passage? If you're suggesting that it is the symbols to the left, well then perhaps you can explain why those symbols are NOT the same in both documents and why neither of them correspond to the symbol adjacent to identical text in Ms. #2.

The symbol from Williams ms. 1a looks like a horizontal line at the base with two vertical lines going up from it at the middle and the right end of the bottom line with a dot to the right of this. The second vertical bar is longer than the middle vertical line.

The symbol from Parrish's ms. 1b appears to be the same but with a possible second horizontal line going right a bit from the top of the middle vertical line.

The symbol from ms. 2 which is next to Parrish's script is identical to the symbol he wrote in ms. 1b.

Where do you find that they are different?

You tell us there is a dictation going on. But there is no evidence of that, save your assertion.

I think that the comparison of ms. 1a with ms. 1b offers compelling evidence that dictation was occuring due to the way "whereunto" was corrected into "unto" by both scribes. What other explanation can you offer as to why the corrected word is not above the correction as might take place if the corrections were made at a latter date, rather than immediately following the change in the dictation?

And, I might ask, where (in any of this) do you successfully link Joseph Smith to the process?

I believe that the question of dictation was established in the preceeding point. That being said, if someone were dictating, who is the most likely dictator? :P

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Kevin:

I should note also that even if it turns out that these papers do not represent translation attempts, and were in fact part of some type of "Egyptian Grammar and Alphabet" project, this remains just as problematic for the LDS apologetc position because the Egyptian characters are still corresponding to the English text for a reason. Of all the papyri Joseph Smith had in his possession, these characters come from the papyrus that, according to the traditional LDS stance, had absolutely nothing to do with the BoA text. So how do we explain the affiliation of six men, including Joseph Smith, with this project of sorts?

I have what I believe are good reasons to disagree with your argument in this respect. I won't bother getting into it at the moment, because I'm still trying to get down on paper the various ramifications of the explanation. But I consider Nibley's argument that these men could simply NOT have believed that a single Egyptian character could represent over 100 English words (not once, but repeatedly!) to be a valid observation.

I really wish we had a full set of high quality photos of the manuscripts. I have now become convinced that there is a strong apologetic just waiting on the release of such photos.

My ideas on this topic are evolving rapidly in consequence of the discussions we've had. And, as I have indicated in other posts, the more I examine the KEP, the more I am convinced that they do not represent an attempt at translation. And my concern with "waiting for Metcalfe's book" in order to get a glimpse of the manuscripts is that I know very well that Brent is cognizant enough of the possible apologetic angles, that he will be careful to not expose anything from the manuscripts that would tend to weaken his own arguments. I don't like being at his mercy to obtain un-edited copies of the contents of the KEP.

I have been exchanging e-mails with Gee regarding some of my observations, but I'm not convinced that he is grasping the significance of the argument that, if the translation was completed prior to the production of the KEP, then the KEP represent something far different than what the critics claim they do. And I suppose that is my only objective at this point: to establish that the KEP mean something other than what Brent would like to convince everyone that they mean. Did they believe that the translation emanated from the Book of Breathings and were attempting to retrofit the text to what they felt was its origin in order to understand the meaning of the Egyptian? I don't know. But I think it is clear they are not the production of an attempt to translate, although it remains to be discovered and articulated what they do, in fact, represent.

I would like to invite you to once again review at least the middle portion of Nibley's analysis in The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. I readily dismiss his attempt to establish an argument for questioning the motives of Phelps, Parrish, et al., but I think he makes cogent observations about the relationship (or lack thereof) between the A&G and the other manuscripts; the various properties of Mss.#2 and #3, and that there is really nothing but conjecture to indicate that Joseph Smith was necessarily involved in what Phelps, Parrish, and Williams were attempting to achieve.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again for your gracious acknowledgment of the receipt of my e-mail.

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I really wish we had a full set of high quality photos of the manuscripts.

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