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Chris Smith

A Challenge From John Gee

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I presume this post was made in response to my recent comments on Gee's interpretation of Gustavus Seyffath's comments about the papyrus in the St. Louis Museum. I don't have to know how to transliterate hieratic in order to understand Seyffarth's statement (which was written in English). If Gee would like to respond to some of the historical arguments I have advanced, I would love to interact with him on that subject. His post here, though, is like sending Royal Skousen a copy of the Anthon transcript and telling him his text-critical judgments on the BoM manuscripts are worthless until he can transliterate and translate the transcript. That obviously isn't required and is only minimally relevant to the kind of work Skousen is engaging in. As for translating and restoring the papyri, I will leave those problems to persons like Ritner and Thompson who have the credentials to make such judgments.

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I don't suppose Dr. Gee will be engaging anyone about his methodology on the board...?

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are we mice in an experiment we don't know about; would the answers be used for data for a paper. I remember coming to a conclusion that all the work we did with rats in my psychology classes were data for a paper our pychology professor was going to publish. I never asked him, too afraid. He could get mad quickly.

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are we mice in an experiment we don't know about; would the answers be used for data for a paper. I remember coming to a conclusion that all the work we did with rats in my psychology classes were data for a paper our pychology professor was going to publish. I never asked him, too afraid. He could get mad quickly.

No we are not part of a paper or experiment.

Chaos

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No we are not part of a paper or experiment.

Chaos

If you do make a submission, though, Dr. Gee might give you an F and you will have to re-take the course.

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What a nice challenge.

Of course, I think we are entitled to a direct answer to the criticisms raised here, esp. by Califoriania kid.

I think it quite likely that there are plenty of people (often mentioned here- Ritner etc) who could rise to Dr. Gee's challenge and yet have the same criticisms of Dr. Gee's writings anyway. So, one is left wondering about the point of the challenge.

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So, one is left wondering about the point of the challenge.

The point? To question the competence of a critic and put off engaging that person's specific criticism.

:P Just a guess.

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The point is self-evident and I don't think there is one poster here who doesn't see what it is. Put up or shut up as the saying goes. It is time to stop blustering and start some serious analysis for those who think their opinion about obscure academic topics should make a difference to anybody. Apparently, a few bluffs have been called. Step up to the plate or get out of the debate. Calling trained scholars liars isn't a substitute for the real thing on this board.

PS California Kid - go ahead and email Dr. Gee with your remarks and let us know the response.

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With regard to transliterating Egyptian (or its hieratic offspring) with Roman letters, or translating Egyptian (or its hieratic offspring) into English, I'd absolutely have to rely on lexicons.

I have no doubt that Dr. Gee has the requisite skill set to do both quite well.

That skill set is obviously relevant at least to issues of translation, and much more beside, I'm sure. I think it should be equally obvious, however, that that skill set is not necessarily necessary for parsing sets of historical data. Of course, it would depend completely on the aspect of investigation in which one is involved.

I demonstrate my knowledge and proficiency on a regular basis, but I never see the critics on the message boards at these events and thus see no demonstration of knowledge or proficiency from them.

I suppose my own experience is different if only because I do participate on message boards and read them quite regularly.

So I am willing for the next month to conduct a little test of the basic Egyptological skills needed for an intelligent discussion of the Joseph Smith Papyri.

But, of course, even such "basic Egyptological skills" are wholly unnecessary to the process of intelligently discussing many aspects of JSP, the import of which may be, for example, historical rather than translational in nature.

Now, personally, I'm merely a spectator in such discussions, but I'd love to see Dr. Gee to interact with other MADB participants, both sympathetic and unsympathetic. I realize he may have little personal interest in doing so (and little time in which to do it). Still, that would be far more interesting than the proposed "test" --a "test" the results of which appear irrelevant to some of the questions raised recently here on MADB.

Best.

CKS

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But, of course, even such "basic Egyptological skills" are wholly unnecessary to the process of intelligently discussing many aspects of JSP, the import of which may be, for example, historical rather than translational in nature.

I think it is up to the experts to decide what skills are necessary, don't you? Until the critics who do have the expertise to engage in this test make a public declaration that their knowledge is not necessary for what they do I don't think anyone else saying so is convincing. Maybe you missed this description of those who resort to name calling instead of knowledge:

They remind me of something Nibley wrote long ago: "As if to prove that they have no

intention of pursuing serious investigations, these people have conspicuously neglected to prepare themselves for any but the most localized research; they are like a man setting out to explore a

wonderful cavern without bothering to equip himself with either lights or ropes. We respect our local Gelehrten for the knowledge and proficiency which they have demonstrated to the world, but when they go

out of bounds and attack the Church with specious learning they invite legitimate censure. They are like dentists who insist on performing delicate brain surgery, because that is more interesting than filling

teeth. Nice for them--but what about their patients?"

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I think it is up to the experts to decide what skills are necessary, don't you? Until the critics who do have the expertise to engage in this test make a public declaration that their knowledge is not necessary for what they do I don't think anyone else saying so is convincing. Maybe you missed this description of those who resort to name calling instead of knowledge:

I asked this in another thread, but I don't understand why it's necessary to read Egyptian to discuss the Book of Abraham. It's been my understanding that there's general agreement among everyone as to the translation of the Egyptian text. The interesting questions are not what the Egyptian says but how Joseph Smith arrived at an alternative translation.

Anyway, I don't know much about this subject, so I'll leave it to the experts.

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I think it is up to the experts to decide what skills are necessary, don't you?

Generally? Yes, I think so. Not necessarily, though. With regard to issues surrounding JSP that may be translation-independent in nature and scope, the ability to translate Egyptian to English would not be necessary.

Best.

CK "Not a Name Caller" Salmon

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I asked this in another thread, but I don't understand why it's necessary to read Egyptian to discuss the Book of Abraham. It's been my understanding that there's general agreement among everyone as to the translation of the Egyptian text. The interesting questions are not what the Egyptian says but how Joseph Smith arrived at an alternative translation.

Anyway, I don't know much about this subject, so I'll leave it to the experts.

Hi John--

In fairness, Gee specified JSP, rather than BoA. But I agree that as one moves toward discussions about the resultant English text, the ability translate Egyptian to English becomes absolutely unnecessary. According to some of the more sophisticated LDS apologetic responses here on MADB (I'm thinking of some things Bokovoy has written, for example), Joseph Smith himself would have spectacularly failed the proposed test.

Best.

CKS

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Hi John--

In fairness, Gee specified JSP, rather than BoA. But I agree that as one moves toward discussions about the resultant English text, the ability translate Egyptian to English becomes absolutely unnecessary. According to some of the more sophisticated LDS apologetic responses here on MADB (I'm thinking of some things Bokovoy has written, for example), Joseph Smith himself would have spectacularly failed the proposed test.

Best.

CKS

My mistake. Sorry. But your understanding mirrors my own.

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The problem with lack of training is that such may prevent an individual from being aware of the interrelationships and other subtle implications of various areas of the discipline, how they influence each other etc.

I see this a lot in the use of statistics. There are some who think that 'raw data' is somehow appropriate for use even if the rest of the study is problematic, but often this isn't so due to the theory, assumptions, methodological practices, etc. colouring how the data was collected, even how it is defined which may be different than what the untrained individual understands it to be.

Demonstrating a certain level of knowledge in a area demonstrates as well a likely familiarity with how things are approached in a discipline, the particular jargon and other things that may cause confusion when discussions occur between an expert and someone unaware of these aspects.

It seems to me that familiarity with not only the arguments, but with the general nature of what it being argued about (and how it may be typical or atypical, etc.) is important to this discussion. This test seems to me to be a good way to evaluate one's breadth of knowledge in this area so that then particular issues can be addressed assuming a common background.

I can certainly understand Dr. Gee's desire to make an effective use of his time and save trouble by requiring a certain level of expertise before opening the dialogue.

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Nothing is more revealing than a demand that countermos know their topic before engaging it. What is being asked here is standard, run of the mill stuff....and look at the responses. How exquisite the irony coming from a group who claim to be more knowledgable than "apologists" by mere fact of not being Mormon if nothing else.

Pretty poor showing is all I can say. And let us know how far you get in a college course about ancient texts with these excuses. If you ever take one. :P

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Nothing is more revealing than a demand that countermos know their topic before engaging it. What is being asked here is standard, run of the mill stuff....and look at the responses. How exquisite the irony coming from a group who claim to be more knowledgable than "apologists" by mere fact of not being Mormon if nothing else.

Pretty poor showing is all I can say. And let us know how far you get in a college course about ancient texts with these excuses. If you ever take one. :P

I've taken advanced exegesis courses in both Hebrew and Koine Greek at the Masters level. I don't need those skill sets to discuss issues the import of which are not translational in nature. Does it help? Sure. Necessary? No.

Although, I should say, I'm glad to provide you the opportunity to luxuriate in the exquisiteness of the irony you perceive. At least I'm good for something.

CKS

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I've taken advanced exegesis courses in both Hebrew and Koine Greek at the Masters level. I don't need those skill sets to discuss issues the import of which are not translational in nature. Does it help? Sure. Necessary? No.

So you would be just as satisfied with a professor teaching the NT who didn't know a lick of Greek...after all, one can talk about elements that aren't "translational" and just skip the words in the text you are talking about.....wow.

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So you would be just as satisfied with a professor teaching the NT who didn't know a lick of Greek...after all, one can talk about elements that aren't "translational" and just skip the words in the text you are talking about.....wow.

This is apples and astronauts, Juliann. I would fully expect professors of NT to be able to translate at least Koine Greek. And discussing non-translational aspects of NT does not require that one be able to translate Greek.

I would not necessarily expect MB critics of the missing scroll hypothesis to be able to translate Egyptian. And discussing non-translational aspects of JSP/BoA does not require that one be able to translate Egyptian.

Or, to specify a bit of your analogy, perhaps CK is an Associate Professor of Missing Scroll somewhere?

CKS

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I would not necessarily expect MB critics of the missing scroll hypothesis to be able to translate Egyptian. And discussing non-translational aspects of JSP/BoA does not require that one be able to translate Egyptian.

I wouldn't expect that either. But that isn't what happens on message boards. What we have been treated to is a shameful exhibition of slander, mockery and just plain meanness. Maybe if a discussion ever got on its feet it would be different. So let the mockers and savagers present their credentials and get on with it. It's not an unreasonable request.

BTW...what aspects of a graduate course on the NT do you think would not require knowledge of Greek? Now I'm really curious.

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I think people are missing the point (and opportunity) of the challenge, at least to my mind.

First, he states, "I am regularly vilified as incompetent by people who in some cases have not attended college, and usually masquerade behind pseudonyms. Yet, when I read their responses, I wonder about the competence of these critics." This is a valid point-- if you are going to challenge his competence (read: an expert) you should at least show that you have the requisite skills to actually challenge said competence. So far, no one has taken this challenge up.

Secondly, he states, "So I am willing for the next month to conduct a little test of the basic Egyptological skills needed for an intelligent discussion of the Joseph Smith Papyri." It would seem that this would prove a boon to critics of John Gee since, by default, if you prove your competence you will have undermined his general point. Furthermore, some very “intelligent discussion” may actually come from it. Again—no one seems to have taken this challenge up.

One, last thing I do not believe what is at issue here is whether a layman should be able to discuss, criticize or delve into these questions; but rather, whether a layman has the standing to make declarations of fact concerning the scholarship, intelligence and competence of an professional without having the necessary skill-set to pass such a judgment. Unfortunately, this happens all too often on this board.

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The problem with lack of training is that such may prevent an individual from being aware of the interrelationships and other subtle implications of various areas of the discipline, how they influence each other etc.

I see this a lot in the use of statistics. There are some who think that 'raw data' is somehow appropriate for use even if the rest of the study is problematic, but often this isn't so due to the theory, assumptions, methodological practices, etc. colouring how the data was collected, even how it is defined which may be different than what the untrained individual understands it to be.

Demonstrating a certain level of knowledge in a area demonstrates as well a likely familiarity with how things are approached in a discipline, the particular jargon and other things that may cause confusion when discussions occur between an expert and someone unaware of these aspects.

It seems to me that familiarity with not only the arguments, but with the general nature of what it being argued about (and how it may be typical or atypical, etc.) is important to this discussion. This test seems to me to be a good way to evaluate one's breadth of knowledge in this area so that then particular issues can be addressed assuming a common background.

I can certainly understand Dr. Gee's desire to make an effective use of his time and save trouble by requiring a certain level of expertise before opening the dialogue.

From karl61

I'm way out my league: I could likely find Egypt on a map but that's it.

But I will say this: for over a decade I was in investigator and wrote likely a thousand reports to judges regarding famlies and things going on inside the home. The court was Dependency Court in Calif or child abuse cases. One of things that I saw was lawyers coming in that knew family law but nothing about the the law that was addressed in the court. Even though they went to law school and passed the bar they really did a dis service by taking the case as a private attorney instead of having the family take a court appointed counselor who knew the judge and knew dependency law. There were certain cases just as important as miranda, that you needed to know. It was clear that they were lost when things started. The best lawyers were the ones that sat in the court room each day, who had been there for years. A lot of the time it's the same facts but a different face. They know how the judge is going to rule on these facts. But then each court was different. One judge might sustain one petition where another one might just dismiss it and say the Department didn't meet the burdon of proof. my thoughts.

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On another thread I had inquired about Dr. Gees' schedule for publication of a follow-on to his book A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri. In the introduction to that book, published in 2000, Dr. Gee said that he is "currently preparing a larger study that will provide a fuller discussion" (of the Papyri issues) "with references."

I'm looking forward very much to reading the study/book when it is released.

I assume Dr. Gee is monitoring this thread and so perhaps could provide us a status report.

Thank you.

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BTW...what aspects of a graduate course on the NT do you think would not require knowledge of Greek? Now I'm really curious.

Hi Juliann--

I didn't intend to suggest that there were any aspects of an NT graduate course that would not reasonably require knowledge of Greek, so I'm not sure how to answer.

I wrote:

And discussing non-translational aspects of NT does not require that one be able to translate Greek.

In the same way that non-translators of Greek can intelligently discuss non-translational aspects of NT, non-translators of Egyptian can intelligently discuss non-translational aspects of JSP/BoA. (I wouldn't presume to invoke a Greek translational test before I deigned to read, consider, or discuss comments about some non-translational aspect of NT by non-translators of Greek here. But, perhaps I have the luxury of that laxity as I don't hold a terminal degree in the Greek language. I don't consider myself credentialed enough to be dismissive, I suppose.)

My point was that your analogy's removal to the classrooms of higher education was inappropriate to the situation "on the ground" here at MADB (specifically with regard to a discussion of the missing scroll hypothesis).

CKS

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