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David Bokovoy

Internal Evidences For The BofA

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David Bokovoy:

For me, the fact that Joseph Smith seems to have believed that he was receiving a literal translation of the papyri from God, when God appears to have simply used the Egyptian documents to provide his Prophet and Church with important spiritual insights, in no way diminishes the scriptural value of the Book of Abraham.

I still accept the Bible as an inspired scriptural text even though Israelite authors used the Assyrian Vassal Treaties of Esarhaddon to produce the book of Deuteronomy and an Israelite scribe used the Babylonian Laws of Hammurabi to create Exodus 20:23-23:19.

These biblical scribes even claimed that their literary creations were the very words of Moses himself, when in reality, the authors simply produced an inspired form of pseudepigraphy.

Oh how could you POSSIBLY forget the Canaanite/Ugaritic influence of the.....ahem (DRUMROLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) ***COUNCIL OF THE GODS****?!? :P

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David Bokovoy:

Oh how could you POSSIBLY forget the Canaanite/Ugaritic influence of the.....ahem (DRUMROLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) ***COUNCIL OF THE GODS****?!? :P

Hummm! A Canaanite council of the gods? Very interesting!

I certainly hope the Backyard Professor will be around this summer for the FAIR Conference!

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Hi David,

I do believe that the BofA is inspired, and as I have attempted to illustrate through several pages of posts now, I believe that the book features some striking parallels with ancient biblical tradition. In my mind, these parallels provide important evidence for Josephâ??s inspiration.

However "inspired" is defined, JS may have been under its influence. JS possessed a number of traits that worked to his favor here: a lack of theological training, a preference for literal interpretation, a belief that the Bible had been tampered with, an extreme biblical primitivism (or the assumption that the more ancient the better), a need to be innovative and prove his charisma to his followers, and a mischievous delight in challenging traditional interpretations. JS had a no fault system. If you find similarities, that becomes evidence for his inspiration. If not, then it's new revelation. If similar but different, then it's a restoration of a corrupted transmission.

What would "evidence for Joseph's inspiration" look like? Does an uncanny and intuitive interpretation of OT concepts prove JS was inspired (by God)? I think not.

Is the ancient belief in a divine council superior to monotheism? Is the former the true doctrine corrupted by monotheism? Or is the divine council a false myth corrected by monotheism? Your assumption is that JS picked up on a true belief, only because it's the most ancient.

But, really, how similar is JS's concept of pre-moral spirit organizing gods to the ancient Semitic pantheon of gods? That mortals might join in that council is not the same as JS's teaching, which was tied to a belief humans existed before birth as spirits. The concepts might be similar, but they are imbedded in different cultures, derive from different assumptions, and serve different functions.

While you and I agree that the BofA itself is not an ancient document. Our perspectives differ in that I maintain that the BofA is a 19th century book of scripture produced via divine revelation given to an American Prophet of God living in Kirtland Ohio.

That is a matter of faith that I cannot dispute. (But it was Kirtland and Nauvoo.)

As you know, I really do appreciate your contributions to Mormons studies. I had a nice conversation with Richard Bushman several weeks ago concerning your biography.

His podcast was interesting.

One of my concerns with your approach, however, is your claim to know Josephâ??s precise thoughts concerning issues such as this. I feel that there is actually quite a bit more real evidence to suggest that Joseph believed that he had received inspiration from God and was producing a literal translation of the papyri than there exists to support a theory concerning Joseph acting as a pious fraud.

Of course, I don't claim to know JS's "precise thoughts" any more than you do. But we both have ideas about where his information came from. I think the evidence shows that JS wasn't literally translating the papyri--that's the only real evidence. What he thought he was doing is your conjecture. But it's unavoidable if one wants to discuss motive and meaning. If JS thought he was translating the papyri, but was really receiving an independent revelation, then why does his translation twice refer to facsimile #1? Why did he give interpretations to the facsimiles that comport with his revelation/translation? It seems to me that the catalyst theory has serious problems. That's why I think pious fraud makes more sense. That doesn't necessarily mean that the BOM is uninspired. Isn't it possible that a "true" prophet, if there is such a thing, use fiction to teach spiritual "truth"? Could he be sincere about the truth he discovers by study and by faith, but willing to use deception to promote it? Despite my naturalistic tendency, I'm quite happy to move the discussion into an area of ambiguity.

Everything concerning the divine council excites me.

What I meant was how could you be excited about the parallels between JS's version and the ancient concept.

I really donâ??t know perfectly well that Josephâ??s views concerning the council of gods was a direct outgrowth of his Hebrew lessons and his erroneous belief that Elohim should always be translated as a plural. No doubt, Josephâ??s Hebrew lessons contributed to the development of his views, but I really canâ??t say that his Hebrew lessons provided the impetus for his theology.

I know causal explanations are difficult under any circumstance, but this situation seems pretty straightforward to me, especially since there are other signs of Hebrew influence in the BOA.

Nonetheless, it really doesnâ??t matter to me what precise natural means originally sparked Josephâ??s revelations concerning this doctrine. What matters to me is that I believe that the Prophetâ??s views are correct and that they provide an impressive link with much of what we now know to be true concerning biblical views.

I don't see it.

Of course there are differences. Iâ??m interested in understanding both the similarities and distinctions. I suppose that my enthusiasm has not dampened, and in fact remains quite dry, in view of the very real fact that I still see far more hits for the Prophet than I do misses.

In fact, itâ??s really not even close.

What does it mean to get a hit? It reminds of psychics who count their vague and highly generalized predictions as hits. If they really had a gift, it would be dead on.

P.S. If you haven't yet, you should really get hold of the Neil Young release!

I really liked his "Prairie Wind," especially the song "When God Made Me."

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Hello Dan,

Thanks for the thought provoking questions. I'll try to work up a response in the near future.

I really liked his "Prairie Wind," especially the song "When God Made Me."

No doubt you would enjoy the concert version "Heart of Gold"! Prairie Wind was wonderful! At first, I was quite disappointed with the follow-up, "Living With War." But as of late, my disdain for certain political leaders and their decisions has increased my appreciation for the album.

Take care,

--David

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Have you ever considered the names of the stars in the Zodiac tell the gospel story? They preach to every man of every generation, but few hear. Extremely few hear.

Yet in this oldest witness of God, who named the stars for a reason, there is no mention of Kolob or any heavenly councel to rule the earth or any earth in the universe.

You would do well to consider that as you ponder Joseph's books.

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Not only is the Backyard Professor going to be to the FAIR conference, but THIS TIME, we are going to have a REAL podcast interview you and me..........yep, comb yer hair my friend, yer goin on podcast..... :P

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Not only is the Backyard Professor going to be to the FAIR conference, but THIS TIME, we are going to have a REAL podcast interview you and me..........yep, comb yer hair my friend, yer goin on podcast..... :P

Thanks for the head's up! I'll make sure to comb them before hand.

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JS had a no fault system. If you find similarities, that becomes evidence for his inspiration. If not, then it's new revelation. If similar but different, then it's a restoration of a corrupted transmission.

Very good point. No possibility is left out. A perfect intellectual trap for people with active pattern seeking apologetic minds who subconsciously just want it to be true for whatever reason.

It's a petri dish for confirmation bias.

See Shermer's famous Scientific American article "Why smart people believe weird things"

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Thanks for the head's up! I'll make sure to comb them before hand.

Both of them? :P

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HEY! That was MY line...... but then again, yer wrong man....... David has ***THREE*** hairs..... I counted em last time I interviewed him...... :P

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David .....Oh for Pete sakes young man! HOW can you possibly have 29 views on yer blog, but no entries? Come on man, fess up! Get thine hiney over there-eth and posteth upeth a stormeth..........

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For me, the fact that Joseph Smith seems to have believed that he was receiving a literal translation of the papyri from God, when God appears to have simply used the Egyptian documents to provide his Prophet and Church with important spiritual insights, in no way diminishes the scriptural value of the Book of Abraham.

:P

Imagine if JS had not been killed and completed a translation of the Kinderhook plates, you might be saying...

"For me, the fact that Joseph Smith seems to have believed that he was receiving a literal translation, when God appears to have simply used the Kinderhook plates to provide his Prophet and Church with important spiritual insights, in no way diminishes their scriptural value."

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I just noticed that Dartagan (Kevin Graham) is growling again that I entered this discussion and I think I am working off the ignorance of the audience here. This is laughable. Sad and laughable. I re-read Hamblin's discussion of Joseph Smith and the Kabbalah, (See here - http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=review&id=229) and Kevin Graham is whistling inthe dark with his argument that there is a possibility of Smith having and using the Zohar. If that's Kevin's stance, I want to see it demonstrated. Leave Lance Owen out of it though, he has been shown to be wrong, dead absolutely wrong. Hamblin has mastered this argument, and it seems critics still won't come up to date. For the argument to presume that the Prophet even had a chance at using the Kabbalah, and for the Council of the Gods to boot (?!) is to show the desperation of the critics argument against the Council of the Gods in the Book of Abraham. Hamblin deals with the Times and Seasons quote, the Niebauer evidence, and everything else that is relevant to the argument Graham has so incorrectly adapted. It's too bad too, Kevin used to have such good abilities to present good arguments, and now he falls for this type of inanity for argument and evidence.

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HEY! That was MY line...... but then again, yer wrong man....... David has ***THREE*** hairs..... I counted em last time I interviewed him...... :P

One had split ends...look again.

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:P

Imagine if JS had not been killed and completed a translation of the Kinderhook plates, you might be saying...

"For me, the fact that Joseph Smith seems to have believed that he was receiving a literal translation, when God appears to have simply used the Kinderhook plates to provide his Prophet and Church with important spiritual insights, in no way diminishes their scriptural value."

When Balaam and Amos can used spontaneous prognastication by talking to asses, looking at baskets of fruit (Amos chapter8), looking at the tents of Israel (Numbers 24), etc. and still be considered prophets why shouldn't Joseph?

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Kerry, familiarity with the Zohar is not necessary. My view is that JS deduced the plurality of gods from reading Gen 1:1 in Hebrew.

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I'm sorry, I've read the Kabbalah and can't find one place where it claims there are multiple gods. In fact, several commentators have made the case that the Kabbalah is a strictly monotheistic text... and how would JS get the divine council concept from that again...?

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:P

Imagine if JS had not been killed and completed a translation of the Kinderhook plates, you might be saying...

"For me, the fact that Joseph Smith seems to have believed that he was receiving a literal translation, when God appears to have simply used the Kinderhook plates to provide his Prophet and Church with important spiritual insights, in no way diminishes their scriptural value."

There's no might be about it. I have said so on this very board.

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When Balaam and Amos can used spontaneous prognastication by talking to asses, looking at baskets of fruit (Amos chapter8), looking at the tents of Israel (Numbers 24), etc. and still be considered prophets why shouldn't Joseph?

Yes, exactly. Doesn't that tell you anything about the reliability of the Old Testament? Contrary to strengthening your argument in defense of Joseph Smith, bringing this stuff up just reminds us all of how much mythology there is in the Old Testament. Just because someone wrote something down a few thousand years ago, it doesn't make it true. Israel's mythology is still that - mythology, and no special pleading can differentiate it from the mythologies of any other culture or people.

EnemyAce, you do realize, don't you, that thanks to catalyst theory, the apologists have created a system whereby Joseph Smith could have "translated" a jelly donut into LDS scripture, and the apologists would be combing the recipe for "bulls-eyes"?

Take the petty attacks to the board that values them. ~ Mods

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Hello Dan,

However "inspired" is defined, JS may have been under its influence. JS possessed a number of traits that worked to his favor here: a lack of theological training, a preference for literal interpretation, a belief that the Bible had been tampered with, an extreme biblical primitivism (or the assumption that the more ancient the better), a need to be innovative and prove his charisma to his followers, and a mischievous delight in challenging traditional interpretations.

I donâ??t object to this description.

JS had a no fault system. If you find similarities, that becomes evidence for his inspiration. If not, then it's new revelation. If similar but different, then it's a restoration of a corrupted transmission.

This is precisely correct. Which is why I believe that there does not exist a compelling intellectual reason for anyone to discount the fact that Joseph Smith may have been a true prophet of God.

What would "evidence for Joseph's inspiration" look like? Does an uncanny and intuitive interpretation of OT concepts prove JS was inspired (by God)? I think not.

Of course not. I have never claimed, nor will I ever claim that evidences such as Josephâ??s description of the Divine Council of deities, Book of Mormon Hebraisms, etc. prove that Joseph Smith was an inspired Prophet of God. They don't.

I canâ??t imagine any LDS scholar making the claim that such evidence proves Josephâ??s legitimacy. Weâ??re simply not that naive. Unfortunately, however, far too many critics try desperately to suggest that there is no evidence to support Josephâ??s claims.

Is the former the true doctrine corrupted by monotheism? Or is the divine council a false myth corrected by monotheism? Your assumption is that JS picked up on a true belief, only because it's the most ancient.

Not at all. My assumption is that Joseph Smith picked up on a true belief because of spiritual evidences that fit outside the parameters of this discussion. All Iâ??m claiming is that there is evidence to support this assumption. I believe that the evidence is quite compelling, but I admit that I canâ??t help but view the evidence through the lenses of a believer.

But, really, how similar is JS's concept of pre-moral spirit organizing gods to the ancient Semitic pantheon of gods?

Admittedly, there isnâ??t a lot of evidence from the ancient Near East to specifically support the LDS doctrine of pre-mortal humans participating in a divine council of gods. However, this statement needs to be tempered by the realization that there is some evidence for the perspective.

That mortals might join in that council is not the same as JS's teaching, which was tied to a belief humans existed before birth as spirits. The concepts might be similar, but they are imbedded in different cultures, derive from different assumptions, and serve different functions.

I wouldnâ??t suggest otherwise. However, as I have pointed out before, though not as developed as the latter-day doctrine of preexistence, interestingly enough, the Old Testament does contain evidence that biblical Israel believed in a preexistent human soul.

At least two biblical texts seem to equate the underworld, i.e. "spirit world" with human origin. In a statement praising God as creator, the author of Psalm 139 declared: â??My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in the depths of the earthâ? (v. 15). Psalm 139:15 suggests the possibility for understanding Gen. 2:7 as a reference to the connection between the human spirit and the underworld.

This perspective certainly concords with the later Adamic curse: â??You shall eat bread until you return to the ground for out of it you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall returnâ? (Gen. 3:19). One could argue that this statement indicates that some Israelites believed that in the process of creation, deity literally extracted the human spirit from out of the underworld.

Indeed, it was the location from which the life-force was â??taken,â? for like the word 'rs â??earth,â? the term 'dmh, â??groundâ? often refers to Sheol, the abode of the dead (see Gen. 4:10; Numbers 16:30,32; 26:10; Deut. 11:6; Dan. 12:2; Isaiah 15:9).

Jehovah appears, at least in some sources, to have played an important role in this procedure. Genesis 4:1 should read, â??Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, â??I have created a man with Yahweh.â??â?

The questions presented to Job by Eliphaz concerning the primal human reflect the notion the first human existed prior to the creation of the earth:

"Were you born the first human?

Were you brought forth before the hills?

Do you listen in the council of Eloah?" (Job 15:7- 8 ).

As Dexter Callender has observed regarding these questions, â??the allusion to the primal human in Job does not give us explicit details concerning his incorporation into the sacred world; it is clear, however, that the idea is present in the reference that the primal human, â??listenedâ?? in the council of Godâ?; see Dexter E. Callender, Jr., Adam in Myth and History: Ancient Israelite Perspectives on the Primal Human (Eisenbrauns: Winona Lake, 2000): 212.

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Vogel comments:

JS had a no fault system. If you find similarities, that becomes evidence for his inspiration. If not, then it's new revelation. If similar but different, then it's a restoration of a corrupted transmission.

Tarski applauds

Very good point. No possibility is left out. A perfect intellectual trap for people with active pattern seeking apologetic minds who subconsciously just want it to be true for whatever reason.

It's a petri dish for confirmation bias.

Around 17 years ago, I noted that critics of Joseph Smith their own "no fault system." Anything similar from Joseph's environment (no matter how vague or remote) becomes a source. Anything different in Joseph's productions demonstrates his imagination and/or ignorance at work. Anything he gets right is a coincidence, or perhaps at best, evidence of "religious genius" or a secret cache of esoteric sources and fellow conspirators. Anything that seems wrong proves fraud and/or idiocy. And if something that had formerly seemed wrong and now has been validated, either the validation is ignored, or the inverted argument is simply swept under the rug.

There is a way around the dilemma, as I also pointed out at length in RBBM 7:2, but since that involves the risk of jumping off the Post Enlightenment Positivist Rameumpton, and the responsibility to give credit where credit is due, the critics seem not inclined to budge.

So it goes.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Around 17 years ago, I noted that critics of Joseph Smith their own "no fault system." Anything similar from Joseph's environment (no matter how vague or remote) becomes a source. Anything different in Joseph's productions demonstrates his imagination and/or ignorance at work. Anything he gets right is a coincidence, or perhaps at best, evidence of "religious genius" or a secret cache of esoteric sources and fellow conspirators. Anything that seems wrong proves fraud and/or idiocy. And if something that had formerly seemed wrong and now has been validated, either the validation is ignored, or the inverted argument is simply swept under the rug.

There is a way around the dilemma, as I also pointed out at length in RBBM 7:2, but since that involves the risk of jumping off the Post Enlightenment Positivist Rameumpton, and the responsibility to give credit where credit is due, the critics seem not inclined to budge.

So it goes.

Bumped to make sure that a few more posters are able to read Kevin's insighful perspective.

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Yes, exactly. Doesn't that tell you anything about the reliability of the Old Testament? Contrary to strengthening your argument in defense of Joseph Smith, bringing this stuff up just reminds us all of how much mythology there is in the Old Testament. Just because someone wrote something down a few thousand years ago, it doesn't make it true. Israel's mythology is still that - mythology, and no special pleading can differentiate it from the mythologies of any other culture or people.

EnemyAce, you do realize, don't you, that thanks to catalyst theory, the apologists have created a system whereby Joseph Smith could have "translated" a jelly donut into LDS scripture, and the apologists would be combing the recipe for "bulls-eyes"?

Take the petty attacks to the board that values them. ~ Mods

I suppose you can accept such an argument if you find nothing of value in the OT and judge it naught but mythologies. I have chosen to not do so and, in fact, found it a window into the past. Certainly, seeing JS as part of these ancient "mythologies" is certainly more realistic than a total denial of the whole. And honestly, if one cannot perceive the whole nature of the universe in a doughnut than he probably isn't a prophet after all. It is the spirit that such men are attuned with not the doughnut. Oooops, I guess that makes me an apologist as well. :P

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Around 17 years ago, I noted that critics of Joseph Smith their own "no fault system." Anything similar from Joseph's environment (no matter how vague or remote) becomes a source. Anything different in Joseph's productions demonstrates his imagination and/or ignorance at work. Anything he gets right is a coincidence, or perhaps at best, evidence of "religious genius" or a secret cache of esoteric sources and fellow conspirators. Anything that seems wrong proves fraud and/or idiocy. And if something that had formerly seemed wrong and now has been validated, either the validation is ignored, or the inverted argument is simply swept under the rug.

There is a way around the dilemma, as I also pointed out at length in RBBM 7:2, but since that involves the risk of jumping off the Post Enlightenment Positivist Rameumpton, and the responsibility to give credit where credit is due, the critics seem not inclined to budge.

So it goes.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

I see Kevin is up to his old tricks. Kevin, do you not know what a tu quoque ("you too") fallacy is? Your post-modernist deconstructionist tactics are only subtle ways to shift the burden of proof, the onerous of which rests squarely on the apologists, not the critics. Critics are therefore not obligated to prove the BOM is not history, which can't be done in absolute terms since it involves negative evidence. Parallels to JS's environment are therefore not counter-evidence in a definitive sense, but are offered only as plausible counter explanations, which is all the critics are obligated to do. It's up to the apologists to demonstrate the BOM is real history, and similar kinds of parallels won't do that. It's not enough to contextualize the BOM based on the assumption that it reflects ancient Near Eastern and Mesoamerican cultures, since that merely begs the question.

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And as I keep explaining, the game is not about "proof" one way or the other. As Kuhn explains at length, paradigms are neither verified, nor falsified (hence the "proof" card is not part of the game I have been playing for 18 years, but merely misdirection on your part). Paradigms are assessed according to a range of criteria which do not depend on any particular paradigm. This involves comparison of different paradigms and asking which is better. And that comparison inevitably involves value judgements. If you refuse to consider the believing paradigms on their own terms while making your comparisons, your judgement reflects ideology rather than the acceptance of the risk of considering acuracy of key predictions, comprehensiveness and coherence, simplicity and aesthetics, fruitfulness, and future promise.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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