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Chris Smith

A Challenge From John Gee

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All I can say is wow! Good essay. I knew I should have majored in something other than Sociology. :P

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I said:

Let us (for the sake of argument, and because it is probably true, given that he has a PhD from a reputable university) concede the point that John Gee no doubt wishes to make with his ever-lengthening list of questions:

**He is technically qualified in the discipline of Egyptology**

There - now that is done!

Of course, as John Gee would be the first to concede (no?), being technically qualified in a subject does not mean that one's opinions are always correct and beyond question, does it? After all, there are (are there not?) some Egyptologists who have strong disagreements with other Egyptologists about significant questions, and they cannot all be right at once. So John Gee could be very well qualified technically, and also very wrong - about (for example) the papyri relating to the 'Book of Abraham' question.

But how are us ignoramuses to judge whether John Gee is right or not? I suppose we might look to see if there are any other Egyptologists who have written about these papyri, and who have in doing so expressed an opinion on the views that Gee generally supports.

Are there any such Egyptologists? What is their view of John Gee's work?

On which Orpheus observed, quoting my question "But how are us ignoramuses to judge whether John Gee is right or not?"

By having similiar knowlege and experience in the topic you are taking on when the goal is to insult a Mormon expert. Stop wasting our time with strawman questions. The problem with what has been happening to stop discussion has been said lots of time by more than one of us. If you can't comprehend that much then you need to go back to your other board.

In reply, may I say:

a) I do not have any 'other board'.

b) I have not insulted anybody, nor do I approve of insulting other people in the course of discussing an intellectual issue.

c) A 'strawman' question would be (would it not?) one addressed to a deliberately caricatured or weakened version of John Gee's position. I don't see that I have done that.

And as for wasting time - quite the reverse. What I am doing is, in effect, suggesting that we 'cut to the chase'. No-one here denies that John Gee is a technically qualified Egyptologist (I don't think anyone has ever seriously denied that). It is also clear that no non-LDS Egyptologist is ever going to get involved on this board in discussions of the 'Book of Abraham' produced by Joseph Smith (the reasons for that may belong in another thread one day). Also, it seems that John Gee himself is declining to talk about any of the queries raised on this board about his views on the 'Book of Abraham', on the grounds (presumably) that none of us has established our credentials as an Egyptologist to his satisfaction. Impasse.

So what next for us groundlings? I don't suppose the moderators will shut down all discussion of the 'Book of Abraham' in future, so what can we do to decide whether John Gee's views on related question are right or wrong? As pointed out above his undoubted Egyptological technical qualifications give no guarantee that his opinion on any disputed Egyptological question (such as the Joseph Smith papyri) will be correct. What we need is, surely, some indication of the views of other Egyptologists on John Gee's position on the Joseph Smith papyri. Have such views been published anywhere? And if so what was the nature of the views expressed? An answer to that question would hardly be a waste of time, and it is hardly insulting to ask it, surely?

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If a person uses a picture taken from a 16th century European

book on witchcraft and writes that it is rather part of an ancient

Chinese manuscript or a WWII propaganda poster and writes

that it is rather an American Civil War poster, I don

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Has anyone answered the questions yet?

In the questions is an implied argument. We have responded to that. The next question is: can Gee answer directly the charges he is indirectly trying to silence?

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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.

So we have to get a PhD or its equivalent to comment or criticize anything you say on the Book of Abraham of Joseph Smith papyri? But does that mean we can't offer criticisms (or our analysis of them)offered by other egyptologists? If not then you are simply stating that to make any informed decisions on the Book of Abraham one has to become an egyptologist and cannot rely on the knowledge of experts offered on the subject. I was going to read your book about the BoA but apparently I shouldn't bother until I've learned how to read ancient Egyptian-I wouldn't be able to come to any useful conclusions until then.

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This board clearly needs to be eliminated there are far to many who besides clearly lacking a PhD, Masters or heaven forbid a bachelor's who feel inclined to give their opinions on matters which they could not possibly be informed. For example:

1. There are numerous people who feel they can interpret the Bible relying solely on the translations offered by other 'experts' while almost none of these posters can read one iota of Hebrew or Greek.

2. There are numerous people who feel they can make comments on the historicity of the Book of Mormon and I happen to know for a fact that not one of them knows reformed Egyptian, most can't read Aztec or Mayan hieroglyphs, and virtually none have PhD's specializing in Mesoamerican history.

3. Of course there are others asserting they can make informed opinions on the Joseph Smith papyri who rely on biased agenda-driven non-LDS egyptologists to provided translations and other egyptologic insights and then having the gall to share their ill-informed conclusions based on such information.

Clearly anyone who feels to make criticisms or comments while being so uneducated should not be allowed to participate in intelligent discussions-therefore we should all be banned.

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Clearly anyone who feels to make criticisms or comments while being so uneducated should not be allowed to participate in intelligent discussions-therefore we should all be banned.

I don't believe this challenge has anything to do with anyone on the board being banned or not being intelligent enough to have discussions about the topics here. The challenge has to do with lay persons with very little background calling scholars with years behind them and their credentials into question without reserve. We have the privilege of having access to people that work in a lot of the fields we discuss, throwing away years of scholarly work at a wave of a hand just because you do not agree is also not allowed for good reason. This is one of the reasons why we expect our posters to back up their assertions.

=Dunamis

p.s. Has anyone taken on the challenge yet?

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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.

Where can I read the argument you brought up?

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When Dr. Gee was a student at the University of Chicago, he was a student of Egyptologist Robert Ritner. Dr. Ritner has taken a lot of flack on this board since he wrote an article in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies. David Bokovoy has been one of the major critics.

From the thread "By His Own Biased Hand: Robert Ritner on the BofA" (This can also be found in David's blog.)

Though I welcome the insights offered by Ritner in his article, I do not appreciate the biased tone Ritner employed throughout his assessment. Unfortunately, Ritnerâ??s bias against the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renders the article non-scholarly. His essay is unbecoming the Journal of Near Eastern Studies.

From the thread "Robert Ritner's article on the BofA: A major blemish for JNES"

I find it inconceivable that Robert Ritner, a trained professional, would choose to affiliate himself with a work and an organization that demonstrates such a clear lack of understanding regarding the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East.

David did invite Ritner to participate:

Since I posted a few highly critical comments of your affiliation with the Institute for Religious Research, I was encouraged to send you an email inviting you to respond. While I doubt that you would be interested in so doing, here is the link:

To my knowledge, Dr. Ritner has never posted here. But ask yourselves how it would have looked if Ritner had come here, and rather than address David's charge of bias and the characterization of Ritner's article as "non-scholarly" and "embarassing to the JNES", what if Ritner instead devised an Egyptology test for David and stated that anyone who couldn't pass it was incompetent and irrelevant. Wouldn't that seem like he was just avoiding the potentially legitimate issues David has raised? How many of you LDS would have screamed smokescreen!!!

Hmmmm?

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I don't believe this challenge has anything to do with anyone on the board being banned or not being intelligent enough to have discussions about the topics here. The challenge has to do with lay persons with very little background calling scholars with years behind them and their credentials into question without reserve. We have the privilege of having access to people that work in a lot of the fields we discuss, throwing away years of scholarly work at a wave of a hand just because you do not agree is also not allowed for good reason. This is one of the reasons why we expect our posters to back up their assertions.

=Dunamis

p.s. Has anyone taken on the challenge yet?

I didn't really mean to insinuate anyone should be banned I simply took issue with Mr. Gee's statement:

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. I do not participate on these message boards and

rarely even look at them. I will pose the questions through you, the

moderators, requesting that you pin them for a month.

This statement seems to suggest that anyone without his credentials should not be allowed to be engaged in intelligent discussion on The Joseph Smith papyri. I agree with you Dunamis that no one should attack the credentials of someone simply because they disagree-criticisms and comments should I think address the topics and not the person. I am grateful for those, like Mr. Gee, who are willing to contribute their insights from remarkable amount of research and study-but I simply don't feel that anyone, great credentials or not, should decide a criteria for whether someone has anything intelligent to say on a specific topic.

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Peanut Gallery???-Somehow I'm not laughing. Forgive us unintelligent underlings for have the audacity to suggest that John Gee's challenge was inappropriate.

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Where can I read the argument you brought up?

Hi jason,

Just to set the stage a little before I link you to the argument, let me explain the issue:

The fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri that the Church currently has in its possession are funerary papyri that don't seem to have anything to do with Abraham. To address this problem, some Saints have formulated what is known as "the missing papyrus theory." The missing papyrus theory holds that the papyrus with the BoA on it found its way to the Chicago museum and burned up in the Great Chicago Fire. We know for sure that some of the Joseph Smith papyri were destroyed in that fire; the issue is whether the source of the Book of Abraham was among them. Now, before the JSP were transferred to the Chicago museum, they were housed in a St. Louis museum (which had acquired them in 1856). While they were in St. Louis, an Egyptologist named Gustavus Seyffarth viewed them. His comments on them found their way into a museum catalog and a newspaper article.

The catalog:

â??These mummies were obtained in the catacombs of Egypt, sixty feet below the surface of the earth, for the Antiquarian Society of Paris, forwarded to New York, and there purchased, in the year 1835, by Joe Smith, the Mormon Prophet, on account of the writings found in the chest of one of them, and which he pretended to translate, as stating them to belong to the family of the Pharoahsâ?? â?? but, according to Prof. Seyffarth, the papyrus roll is not a record, but an invocation to the Deity Osirus, in which occurs the name of the person, (Horus,) and a picture of the attendant spirits, introducing the dead to the Judge, Osirus [sic]. The body of one is that of a female, about forty â?? the other, that of a boy, about fourteen. They were kept by the Prophetâ??s mother until her death, when the heirs sold them, and shortly after, were purchased for the Museum.â?

The article:

It is said that these mummies were obtained in the catacombs of Egypt sixty feet below the surface of the earth, for the Antiquarian Society of Paris, and forwarded to New York, and there purchased by Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, in 1835; and that he used them in practicing his deceptions upon the people, pretending to translate the writings or hieroglyphics found in the chest of one of them, stating that they belonged to the family of Pharaoh. I suppose this great impostor, among other things equally glaring, confirmed his prophetic authority by alleging this papyrus roll to contain a commission to him from Pharaoh. By this, or some other mysterious power, he evidently holds in strange captivity many deluded people who groan to be delivered from bondage. Prof. Seyffarth says this writing contains an invocation to the Deity Osirus, in which occurs the name of the person, which is Horus.

St. Louis Christian Advocate - Sep 10, 1857

The extant Book of Breathings is missing about two columns of text, plus facsimile 3. So if the missing papyrus theory is true, we would expect the roll in the St. Louis museum to have contained the 2 BoB columns, facsimile 3, and the Book of Abraham. But since the extant Book of Breathings repeatedly mentions Osiris and Hor (aka Horus), the deceased man, the implications of Seyffarth's statement are obvious: the roll in the St. Louis Museum contained only the latter part of the Book of Breathings, including Facsimile 3. It did not contain an additional record of Abraham.

Gee avoids these implications by reverse-engineering Seyffarth's statement, focusing on the word "invocation". Gee has read an following article by Seyffarth in which Seyffarth translates "the beginning of the book of" (in another Book of Breathings) as "the book of hymns". This leads Seyffarth to think that the BoB he was studying at the time was a book of hymns to Osiris. Gee concludes that Seyffarth must have found the same phrase on the JSP and mistranslated it the same way, which is why he calls it an "invocation." Presumably, if the phrase "beginning of the book of" appeared on the roll in the museum it would mean that there was another text on the roll besides the BoB and that this additional text might have been the Book of Abraham.

You can read the Seyffarth article here: http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC0146...#PRA48-PA530,M1

Here is the relevant portion of Gee's article:

While the papyri were in the Saint Louis Museum, Gustavus Seyffarth, who was a rival to Jean-Fran

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CK still refuses to tell anyone how much of Seyffarth's work he has read. hmmmm

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CK still refuses to tell anyone how much of Seyffarth's work he has read. hmmmm

See the pinned thread.

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