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maklelan

Dittography in the Abraham Translation Manuscripts

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Not specifically, I'm wondering if you're getting your ideas from him, coaching or otherwise.

Brent has argued in the past for the lack of precedent for such a long dittograph. The rest of my 4 point refutation of your homoioteleuton theory was inspired more by Bart Ehrman et al. Those points still stand since:

1) Your examples of long omissions resulting from homoioteleuton are irrelevant to this debate; i.e., it's much easier to skip a long section of text than duplicate it.

2) A few examples of literate scribes (of texts not exhibiting the dittographs of which you speak) don't mean much. There were plenty of illiterate scribes to go around.

3) The position of each "Haran" on your alleged parent text is not a "nonsensical" issue. You must show that they were positioned in such a way that the scribe or dictator would naturally have returned to the 5th previous "Haran" and not the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 6th previous "Haran".

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I am suggesting that Andrew may be forwarding Brent's ideas though.

If you want to know what Brent's ideas are, they're right here: (posted with Brent's permission)

boabr-handout_online_22Aug10.doc

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BTW, let me just say that the homoioautomatons can't see the truth because "their harts are turn[ed]" away from the evidence to worship the god of dittography. :P

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Mortal Man writes:

2) A few examples of literate scribes (of texts not exhibiting the dittographs of which you speak) don't mean much. There were plenty of illiterate scribes to go around.
Would you please provide the evidence on which this statement is based? I am genuinely curious. My argument against this point that you raised had nothing to do with dittographs, and instead had to deal with textual issues that can only come from someone who is actually reading the text (and 'correcting' it as they go). The whole basis, for example, of the notion of lectio difficilior potior which Chris Smith has raised viz-a-viz the KEP at its core recognizes literate and not illiterate scribes.

Also, while I am making a comment, I would still be interested in your perspective on what I see as a misreading in the text dealing with the "god like unto that of Pharaoh".

As far as Brent's ideas go, I was content with your earlier comment.

Ben M.

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If you want to know what Brent's ideas are, they're right here: (posted with Brent's permission)

Of course, this document sheds no light on the question of dittography in Ab2. What it does do is illustrate, quite eloquently, that Metcalfe excels at the lowest levels of textual criticism, and yet, as the focus draws back to higher levels, his presuppositions overwhelm his capacity to see the evidence for what it is.

Give him a passage to transcribe, and you can rely on the results. But when it comes to correlating all of that detailed information into an integral whole, it quickly becomes apparent that he's out of his league.

I had an interesting conversation with Royal Skousen this past weekend. You see, we've known for quite a while that virtually all of the emendations in Ab2 and Ab3 (Metcalfe's BA1a and BA1b) are secondary; they were made after all of the underlying text was copied from its parent source. For a long time, that seemed to be a problematic conclusion to foist on people, since it meant that the scribes had to have written, verbatim, passages like the following:

... I sought for the appointment whereunto unto the Priesthood ...

... which manner of figures was called by the Egyptians, Chaldeans, Rahleenos ...

... and this because their hearts are turn they have turned their hearts away ...

... and also Noah his father, for in his days, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth ...

It is natural to think that no scribe would do such a thing--reproduce what amounted to nonsensical phrases into the copy he was making of a manuscript. But, as it turns out, that is precisely what scribes DID do!

In my conversation with Professor Skousen, he told me about all kinds of examples from the printer's manuscript (P) of the Book of Mormon where Oliver Cowdery copied, verbatim, obvious errors (such as those I've listed above from the Abraham manuscripts). Nonsensical stuff--just like the sentences above. And then, after the entire copy had been made, Cowdery went back through the manuscript and edited the thing, often correcting the errors in the original manuscript at the same time!

Well, needless to say, this was quite the news! Although I did not doubt the analysis that had produced the conclusion that the emendations in the Ab2/Ab3 manuscripts were secondary, finally I had confirmation of the common practice of copying manuscripts exactly as they appear, and then editing them later.

Especially in the case of Joseph Smith dictations do we see this kind of thing. As has been widely reported, the BoM original manuscript contained virtually no editing whatsoever! No punctuation. No paragraph breaks. It was essentially a single long sentence that ran on for hundreds of pages, with all kinds of nonsensical stuff left uncorrected. And when the printer's manuscript was created, it was reproduced as more or less an exact copy of the original. Only when the copy was completed did Cowdery then go back and correct all of the errors.

This is, of course, an extremely enlightening bit of information. It permits us, for the first time, to understand the reasons behind the kinds of things we see in the KEP Abraham manuscripts.

The bottom line? Metcalfe's transcriptions can, generally speaking, be relied upon (although I have identified a few errors in them, some of which I brought to his attention and he has since corrected). But raise the level of analysis any further than the low level of transcription, and big problems emerge. The Metcalfe stemma of manuscript production is, to put it bluntly, profoundly flawed, and is merely a reflection of the interpretation he wants to impose on the manuscripts--an interpretation that is demonstrably incorrect.

The correct order of production is reflected in Brian Hauglid's new naming convention for the various manuscripts:

Ab1 (KEPA 1) -- Abr. 1:1-3 (1835); Folio 1a, lines 1-21 of Ab4; scribe: W. W. Phelps

Ab2 (KEPA 2) -- Abr. 1:4-2:6 (1835); scribe: Frederick G. Williams

Ab3 (KEPA 3) -- Abr. 1:4-2:2 (1835); scribe: Warren Parrish

Ab4 (KEPA 1) -- Abr. 1:4-2:18 (1835); scribe: Warren Parrish

Ab5 (KEPA 4) -- Abr. 1:1-2:18 (1842); scribe: Willard Richards

Ab5(a) (KEPA 4) -- Facsimile 1 explanation (1842); Folio 2b of Ab5; scribe: Willard Richards

Ab6 (KEPA 5) -- Facsimile 2 explanation (1842); scribe: Willard Richards

Ab7 (KEPA 4) -- Abr. 3:18b-26a (1842); scribe: Willard Richards

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Brent has argued in the past for the lack of precedent for such a long dittograph.

This doesn't answer my question. Are you borrowing your argument from Brent, yes or no?

The rest of my 4 point refutation of your homoioteleuton theory was inspired more by Bart Ehrman et al.

I don't think you understand Bart Ehrman very well.

Those points still stand since:

1) Your examples of long omissions resulting from homoioteleuton are irrelevant to this debate; i.e., it's much easier to skip a long section of text than duplicate it.

It's easier, but not much easier. Based on my personal experiences with each, I don't believe haplography tends to be any longer than dittography, on average. I'm also not convinced that you or Brent really knows enough about dittography to proclaim that this one is too long. I have shown, appealing to only one biblical manuscript, that the following claim is a completely inaccurate assumption:

Dittographs arising from homoioteleutons involve one or two lines at most.

I've only looked at one manuscript so far, but I know for a fact that it will not take much longer to prove that this next statement is also a completely inaccurate assumption:

There is nothing anywhere approaching 108 words spanning 13 lines of text.

If you intend to defend your argument any further you bring something more than pure assumption defended by naked assertion.

2) A few examples of literate scribes (of texts not exhibiting the dittographs of which you speak) don't mean much. There were plenty of illiterate scribes to go around.

No there weren't. There may have been the occasional illiterate scribe, but their texts are incoherent. Dittography and haplography are common enough among perfectly literate scribes of antiquity and the modern period. Your argument is a total non-starter. Your assertion that "most of the early New Testament scribes were illiterate" is absolutely and unquestionably false. I pointed this out already and here you simply reassert it without argument. If you wish to pretend this point still stands, then support it.

3) The position of each "Haran" on your alleged parent text is not a "nonsensical" issue. You must show that they were positioned in such a way that the scribe or dictator would naturally have returned to the 5th previous "Haran" and not the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 6th previous "Haran".

It just had to be the first occurrence from the top of the page, the first from the top of the page that ended a line, the only one that ended a line, or the first or only one that ended a paragraph (if there were breaks at all), as it does in Williams' manuscript.

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maklelan:

It just had to be the first occurrence from the top of the page, the first from the top of the page that ended a line, the only one that ended a line, or the first or only one that ended a paragraph (if there were breaks at all), as it does in Williams' manuscript.

Quite so. In fact, dittography facilitated by homoioteleuton is understandably more influenced by the placement of the second half of the "same ending." The telling aspect of the homoioteleuton in question is that the instance of "Haran" that terminated the paragraph that was repeated appeared all alone on the last line of the manuscript at the point in time when Williams returned to the document to resume his copying:

HaranHomoioteleuton2.jpg

And the instance of "Haran" in the parent text was presumably something similar to what we see here: the ending of a section or paragraph, thereby isolating it for easy visual acquisition.

HaranHomoioteleuton1.jpg

It is the nature of this particular homoioteleuton that so definitively establishes this repeated paragraph as a conclusive case of dittography, and, as such, points unquestionably to the existence of a parent text from which Williams was making this copy.

I look forward to Metcalfe's eventual attempt to explain this locus. If the arguments (such as they are) put forth by Mortal Man are representative of the Metcalfe explanation, then I think he'd be better served by sticking to his original unsupported assertion:

"When I spoke with Brian [Hauglid] at FAIR 2006 he was clear that he didn't know what to make of Williams' replication. I do, and I plan on discussing the redundant text in a forth coming publication. In the interim, rest assured that Williams' redundancy would not be considered a dittograph by anyone who understands even the rudiments of textual criticism."

Brent Metcalfe to Kevin Graham, as cited here, emphasis added.

Edited to clarify one point ...

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Would you please provide the evidence on which this statement is based? I am genuinely curious. My argument against this point that you raised had nothing to do with dittographs, and instead had to deal with textual issues that can only come from someone who is actually reading the text (and 'correcting' it as they go). The whole basis, for example, of the notion of lectio difficilior potior which Chris Smith has raised viz-a-viz the KEP at its core recognizes literate and not illiterate scribes.

Mass literacy is a product of the Industrial Revolution. The most educated societies in the ancient world; e.g., Athens at the height of the classical period in the fifth century B.C., rarely had literacy rates higher than 10-15%.[1] Literacy in the Roman Empire during the first Christian centuries was significantly lower.[2]

In the first three centuries A.D., the simple ability to sign your name qualified you to be an official scribe. In 184 A.D., the local prefect of Ptolemais Hormou complained to the village clerk, Petaus, about another scribe, Ischyrion, whom the villagers felt could not fulfill his obligations because he was

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Also, while I am making a comment, I would still be interested in your perspective on what I see as a misreading in the text dealing with the "god like unto that of Pharaoh".

Who's misreading are you referring to? This issue was discussed over here.

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This doesn't answer my question. Are you borrowing your argument from Brent, yes or no?

No, I am not owned, controlled by, speak for, or serve as minion to Brent Lee Metcalfe. All of the research and opinions I provide on this site are the sole responsibility of myself and should not be interpreted as official statements of Metcalfe doctrine, belief, or practice.

I've only looked at one manuscript so far, but I know for a fact that it will not take much longer to prove that this next statement is also a completely inaccurate assumption:

Brent (who is not, in fact, pulling my strings at this very moment) and I eagerly look forward to your future unveiling of these massive undiscovered dittographs, which surely must be lurking in the texts somewhere.

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Brent (who is not, in fact, pulling my strings at this very moment) and I eagerly look forward to your future unveiling of these massive undiscovered dittographs, which surely must be lurking in the texts somewhere.

Whether Dan ultimately succeeds in locating specimens of large dittographs, I am eagerly looking forward to an anti-dittograph argument based in the notion that there is an inherent limitation to its size.

There's not of course. The idea that dittography is only "valid" if the homoioteleuton is in "close proximity" is an unwarranted innovation on an otherwise fundamental definition. If Metcalfe wants to attempt to amend the definition of dittography, I will curiously observe the reception of his proposition among text-critics worldwide. No doubt his well-deserved stature among them will "grease the tracks" of getting the proposed amendment added to text-criticism primers of the finest universities. I wouldn't even be surprised were they to dub it the "Metcalfe Modification" in his honor.

No, I am not owned, controlled by, speak for, or serve as minion to Brent Lee Metcalfe. All of the research and opinions I provide on this site are the sole responsibility of myself and should not be interpreted as official statements of Metcalfe doctrine, belief, or practice.

And yet you haven't done anything but parrot "the master," thus evincing the reality that, call it what you will, your actions stamp you as, effectively, a Metcalfe Minion.

I have now observed, over the course of the past four years since I first described the elements of this dittograph, a series of people dutifully echoing the idea that once a dittograph becomes too long it can no longer be considered a dittograph. Beginning with Dan Vogel, the minionization has spread with alacrity--previously disposed Metcalfe acolytes attesting the most pronounced susceptibility to its virus-like effects.

However, what is most interesting is that Metcalfe has never actually, to my knowledge, made the argument himself. His unquestioned authority in the field of textual criticism must preclude any such necessity on his part.

He has, instead, merely raised his finger and thereby initiated some kind of Jedi mind trick on his minions who then make the argument for him. It is a fascinating phenomenon, and one that warrants further study in the future.

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No, I am not owned, controlled by, speak for, or serve as minion to Brent Lee Metcalfe. All of the research and opinions I provide on this site are the sole responsibility of myself and should not be interpreted as official statements of Metcalfe doctrine, belief, or practice.

I didn't ask you that. Again, I'm just asking if you're borrowing these ideas from Brent. No need for expounding. You're either taking the ideas from stuff that Brent has said or you arrived at these conclusions through your own independent research.

Brent (who is not, in fact, pulling my strings at this very moment) and I eagerly look forward to your future unveiling of these massive undiscovered dittographs, which surely must be lurking in the texts somewhere.

And I eagerly look forward to any evidence whatsoever that undermines the conclusion that this is homoioteleuton.

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Mass literacy is a product of the Industrial Revolution. The most educated societies in the ancient world; e.g., Athens at the height of the classical period in the fifth century B.C., rarely had literacy rates higher than 10-15%.[1]

What does the fifth century BCE have to do with NT manuscripts? On page 228 of the book you cite here (without page numbers, by the way), it says that the literacy rate of women in Late Antiquity (when most NT manuscripts were written) remained at an extremely low level, "not likely to have risen much above 10-15%." The scribal class, of course, was the most literate of all.

Literacy in the Roman Empire during the first Christian centuries was significantly lower.[2]

Of course, the average literacy rate has no bearing whatsoever on the literacy of the scribal class.

In the first three centuries A.D., the simple ability to sign your name qualified you to be an official scribe.
In 184 A.D., the local prefect of Ptolemais Hormou complained to the village clerk, Petaus, about another scribe, Ischyrion, whom the villagers felt could not fulfill his obligations because he was

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Mortal Man writes:

Mass literacy is a product of the Industrial Revolution.....
Nothing in here supports your assertion though. This is completely irrelevant to the point you were trying to make - unless you are suggestion (contra the manuscript evidence) that the scribes who produced the manuscripts could not read because most of the population could not read. But I see the Maklelan has already made this observation.

To the contrary, I point out that early New Testament manuscripts provide hundreds and hundreds of examples of changes made to the texts that could only be the result of a scribe who could read the text. So, your point still hasn't been made.

Ben M.

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Who's misreading are you referring to? This issue was discussed over here.

Yes, but, in that thread, you say absolutely nothing about the apparent misreading of the English text of the Book of Mormon.

I did note, however, that you did provide this comment:

Lectio brevior (Latin for "shorter reading") is one of the key principles in textual criticism, especially biblical textual criticism. The principle is based on the widely accepted view that scribes showed more tendency to embellish and harmonise by additions and inclusions than by deletions. Hence, when comparing two or more manuscripts of the same text, the shorter readings are more likely to be closer to the original.
I suppose that you think this was the work of illiterate scribes right?

But back to the point at hand, Brent did say this:

My point is fairly simple: "god of Pharaoh" (Abr. 1:6, 17) is not grammatically equivalent to "god like unto that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt" (Abr. 1:13) yet this is precisely what the text seems to imply, thus posing an exegetical problem for any interpretation of these pericopae.

But this is nonsensical. To quote Plato (from Phaedrus): "It is the same with written words: they seem to talk to you as though, they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything about what they say, they go on telling you just the same thing for ever." Texts simply don't imply things at all. We only can talk about implications as we interpret them.

What Brent is really saying is that he believes that the author intended one thing and then wrote something else entirely. Now, short of a statement from the author that he intended something different than what he wrote (which he doesn't have), his assertion is rather meaningless. He wants to talk about what he thinks the text is supposed to relay to us, not what it actually relays to us. This is essentially a misreading of the text. He interprets the texts as providing a statement that he admits the text clearly does not give.

The point of this is quite simple. Despite all the posturing in that thread - Brent seems to be saying that the text ought to say what we expect it to say - and that it means what we expect it to say (even when it doesn't actually say just that). This is a rather ludicrous basis for textual interpretation. Particularly since Brent himself is starting from a contested interpretation - and in doing what he is doing, he is trying to make negative evidence - evidence against his understanding of the text - into positive evidence - that is evidence for his reading of the text. And at the very best, this is merely circular argumentation. Its much more likely that Brent is deliberately misreading the text and then trying to justify that misreading with an explanation that doesn't actually justify the misreading. He hasn't had a reasonable explanation for this in the nearly ten years since I asked him about it the first time.

But, in the end, it was his response and not yours. You claim to be thinking about this for yourself, perhaps you would explain why your question in this thread doesn't represent a misreading of the English text of the Book of Abraham - a reading that, as Brent noted, "is not grammatically equivalent to" god of pharaoh. And part of this explanation needs to be a reasonable argument as to why the meaning of the text as it stands isn't actually intelligible - since if the text can be read the way it was written, the bar becomes pretty high to justify emending it to something else.

Ben M.

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And yet you haven't done anything but parrot "the master," thus evincing the reality that, call it what you will, your actions stamp you as, effectively, a Metcalfe Minion.

Wow William, I'm impressed! First you discovered the EAG cipher and now you've uncovered the secret meaning of my initials. You are truly a master cryptologist. -- MM

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That the early Christians were the dregs of society is a common view with some evidence to support it, but it has been challenged in recent historical reconstructions such as Rodney Stark's Rise of Christianity.

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That the early Christians were the dregs of society is a common view with some evidence to support it, but it has been challenged in recent historical reconstructions such as Rodney Stark's Rise of Christianity.

The apologists of the early second century CE helped bring Christianity into the realm of the intellectual and social elite, and that's what made its real rise possible, but just like most younger missions today, the gospel was most easily spread among the less affluent. I'm interested in Stark's position, but I'm also interested in seeing if MM can support his claim that most NT scribes were illiterate with something that actually addresses NT scribes.

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I wanted to add one more observation. Maklelan noted the 33 word dittograph in John 6 in MS W (covering 3 verses). There is a 20 word dittograph in Exodus 14:10 in the second edition of the 1611 KJV Bible (if you look it up, it will be quite obvious where the dittograph occurred in that edition). The thing about arguing the nature of dittographs is that the smaller the size, the more controversial the suggestion. there are frequent arguments about dittographs that are a couple of letters long. When we get to 20 words in a King James text, there is no argument - it is simply assumed that it is a dittograph. When we see 33 words in W covering three verses in John 6, there is no question that it is a dittograph. This is the basis for Maklelan's suggestion that this is a textbook example of a dittograph in the BoA MSS. The longer the example, the less interesting it becomes from a perspective of text criticism. It isn't interesting because it is so obviously an error. The only long instances that are of interest are those that occur at a locus where other issues arise. The only difference (and admittedly it is a difference) is the absence of a parent text. If we had a parent text, it wouldn't be questioned either. But this is only partly true. None of the other copies of this same material duplicate that section. It would seem that this is clearly an error. The only argument the critics have to put forward to suggest that this wasn't a dittograph is to suggest that it was duplicated intentionally. But this seems to be far from the simplest explanation that it is merely a repetition that occurred by accident - there seems to be no obvious purpose to this duplication, and since it only occurs in this way in this one MSS, in this place, the argument for intention becomes more difficult.

Ben M.

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The first text in Codex VII of the Nag Hammadi corpus is a work titled The Paraphrase of Shem. On page 46 of that work, there is a dittograph spanning 11 lines (approximately 60 words). Lines 10-20 are repeated in lines 20-29.

Obviously this isn't 108 words yet, but I think its only a matter of time ...

Ben M.

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The first text in Codex VII of the Nag Hammadi corpus is a work titled The Paraphrase of Seth. On page 46 of that work, there is a dittograph spanning 11 lines (approximately 60 words). Lines 10-20 are repeated in lines 20-29.

Obviously this isn't 108 words yet, but I think its only a matter of time ...

Are there any margin notes or corrections in that text, which indicate the scribe could read what he was copying?

If you can find a 108 word dittograph from one of the monks or other professional scribes after the 4th century AD, then you'll be in business.

BTW, when I say "scribe" I refer simply to anyone who made a copy of a text for whatever purpose (e.g., custom orders), not necessarily someone who served in an official capacity.

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Are there any margin notes or corrections in that text, which indicate the scribe could read what he was copying?

If you can find a 108 word dittograph from one of the monks or other professional scribes after the 4th century AD, then you'll be in business.

BTW, when I say "scribe" I refer simply to anyone who made a copy of a text for whatever purpose (e.g., custom orders), not necessarily someone who served in an official capacity.

I am curious what I am supposed to take this to mean.

Let's review (since this seems to be a rather one-sided discussion). Originally you made these comments:

1) Most of the early New Testament scribes were illiterate; i.e., they couldn't read what they were copying; hence, the words were not in their heads as they went along. Williams, by comparison, was highly literate and processed the words into his memory.

I have categorically denied that this was the case. You have yet to provide any real evidence of your point of view. There is a secondary problem to this criticism, of course. Much of the literature on textual criticism doesn't deal with the Bible at all. A great deal of it is devoted to medieval texts (like Chaucer) and later authors like Shakespeare - any authors for which we have copies being made by hand work for this discussion. So, the point about New Testament scribes is only an issue if we limit the available evidence to that specific time period. But I certain am not (and we wouldn't expect - in trying to find comparisons with a modern scribal error to be restricted to such a narrow window). Now, I suppose you could argue that person responsible for the dittography in the second edition of the King James 1611 text was merely an illiterate typesetter. Or that many of the copyists of Chaucer were illiterate - but at some point, the argument breaks down completely.

2) Uncial script is far more susceptible to dittography than punctuated text with spaces between words and both upper and lower case letters.
Since the KJV 1611 second edition (in which a 20 word dittography occurs), and the Nag Hammadi texts (written in coptic) bypass this particular complaint, I am not sure that it is relevant at this point. W (the text with the 33 word duplication in John 6 that was mentioned earlier) certainly isn't written in Uncial script. So, the longest examples that have been provided are unaffected by this complaint.
3) Most biblical dittographs are single letters or single words. Dittographs arising from homoioteleutons typically involve one or two lines at most. There is nothing anywhere approaching 108 words spanning 13 lines of text.
To some extent this is true - most of them are quite short. However, I have now gone from single letters and single words to 11 lines, and approximately 60 words. This means that this argument is beginning to lose its significance.
4) Dittographs in the biblical texts are related to homoioteleutons by comparison with earlier/independent manuscripts, which actually show the similar endings in the parent texts. Since you don't have the Q manuscript, you can only speculate regarding the position of each "Haran" in that hypothetical document.
The Paraphrase of Shem was discovered in the Nag Hammadi texts, and wasn't previously known. However, that hasn't stopped everyone from assuming that the replication spanning 11 lines of text is in fact a dittograph. As I pointed out earlier, the length of the duplication merely makes the identity more certain, not less certain. And we can find a number of references to this identification. So, for example, this article in Novum Testamentum:

http://www.jstor.org/pss/1560042

Now, what you are suggesting is that this isn't anything at all like the KEP issue (which is quite possible). However, what I am arguing for at this point, is for Maklelan's position that this is a textbook example of dittography. The default explanation for the duplication of material in the Williams MSS ought to be a dittography. You can argue for a disagreement on other grounds, but I suspect that if I spend another couple of hours (and that's about all the time I have spent looking at this point) looking for more lengthy dittographs, I will find one that is at least as long as the 13 lines and 108 words that you claim is so unique that it can't possibly fall under the umbrella of being a dittograph.

What you are starting to suggest now is that I need to find such a mistake made by a professional scribe (who presumably didn't destroy the mistake and start over on that page ...) for it to somehow be at all useful in comparison? I think its becoming a moving target. And I think that you don't have much of a leg to stand on. The simplest explanation by far is that it is a simple copyist error. But that would presuppose, I guess, an earlier text - and that is a position that apparently you simply cannot agree to. Where is the evidence (beyond your speculations) that the duplication was intended for some specific purpose? The speculation you have made has to be considered a speculation only of intention since that intention was never carried out.

I am, of course, still interested in your defense of the misreading that I mentioned earlier (not Brent Metcalfe's defense of his misreading, but your defense of your misreading). And of course your demonstration of evidence showing that most New Testament scribes were illiterate.

Ben M.

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Are there any margin notes or corrections in that text, which indicate the scribe could read what he was copying?

If you can find a 108 word dittograph from one of the monks or other professional scribes after the 4th century AD, then you'll be in business.

BTW, when I say "scribe" I refer simply to anyone who made a copy of a text for whatever purpose (e.g., custom orders), not necessarily someone who served in an official capacity.

If Ben and Dan are motivated to look for long dittographs, that's all fine and dandy with me. But, frankly, I'm convinced it doesn't matter a bit. In terms of the text-critical aspects of the Abraham manuscripts, there is probably no finding more conclusive than is the instance of dittography on page 4 of Ab2, with its entirely unambiguous attestation of homoioteleuton, as well as all of the other factors that I and others have cited over the course of the past four years. I heartily encourage anyone so inclined to publish an analysis that attempts to explain the dittograph as anything other than the obvious visual copying error that it is. No doubt the ex-mormon/anti-mormon crowd will receive such argumentation with open arms, but it won't get any traction among anyone else, especially people with an understanding of the principles and methodologies of textual criticism. (I'm actually looking forward to having someone float the "copy and paste" theory that Andrew mentioned earlier on this thread. That one at least has the virtue of being somewhat imaginative, albeit borderline comical.)

As far as I'm concerned, the argument for a visual copying error (dittography) is virtually unassailable, but largely irrelevant from an apologetic standpoint. The demonstrable dependency of the Alphabet & Grammar materials on a pre-existing text of the Book of Abraham indirectly proves that the heretofore so-called "translation manuscripts" are necessarily copies of a parent text. All the existence of the dittograph does is confirm what we already know, and thus demonstrate how the thesis of dependency serves to harmonize all of the textual and historical evidence. This is why I have termed the recognition of the dependency of the A&G on a pre-existing text of the BoA as "the essential element of understanding" when it comes to the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.

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However, that hasn't stopped everyone from assuming that the replication spanning 11 lines of text is in fact a dittograph.

I can't help it if "everyone" is intellectually lazy. Those who think like hammers see nothing but nails.

Lengthy duplications suggest that:

A) The scribe couldn't read what he was copying.

B) There was an interruption of some sort, which caused him to forget the words he just copied.

C) More than one person was involved in the transcription.

D) Some of the transcription may have been dictated.

As I pointed out earlier, the length of the duplication merely makes the identity more certain, not less certain.

Taking your point to its logical conclusion, we should assume then than the P manuscript of the BoM is one gigantic dittograph. Perhaps Oliver confused Moroni's "I" with Nephi's "I":

"I Nephi, having been born

...

I bid unto all, farewell."

The speculation you have made has to be considered a speculation only of intention since that intention was never carried out.

The cut-and-paste thing was only one of many speculations I've made in the past few weeks. I now consider that theory implausible, since the manuscript was written on the back.

The more I study this issue the more I'm inclined to adopt Chris' position of not jumping to conclusions.

I am, of course, still interested in your defense of the misreading that I mentioned earlier (not Brent Metcalfe's defense of his misreading, but your defense of your misreading).

I don't see that I misread anything.

And of course your demonstration of evidence showing that most New Testament scribes were illiterate.

Since we can't agree on the definition of "scribe" then let me slightly modify my position to the following:

"Most early Christians were illiterate by modern standards and many of those who transcribed texts in the first three centuries A.D. couldn't read what they were copying."

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If Ben and Dan are motivated to look for long dittographs, that's all fine and dandy with me. But, frankly, I'm convinced it doesn't matter a bit. In terms of the text-critical aspects of the Abraham manuscripts, there is probably no finding more conclusive than is the instance of dittography on page 4 of Ab2, with its entirely unambiguous attestation of homoioteleuton, as well as all of the other factors that I and others have cited over the course of the past four years. I heartily encourage anyone so inclined to publish an analysis that attempts to explain the dittograph as anything other than the obvious visual copying error that it is. No doubt the ex-mormon/anti-mormon crowd will receive such argumentation with open arms, but it won't get any traction among anyone else, especially people with an understanding of the principles and methodologies of textual criticism. (I'm actually looking forward to having someone float the "copy and paste" theory that Andrew mentioned earlier on this thread. That one at least has the virtue of being somewhat imaginative, albeit borderline comical.)

As far as I'm concerned, the argument for a visual copying error (dittography) is virtually unassailable, but largely irrelevant from an apologetic standpoint. The demonstrable dependency of the Alphabet & Grammar materials on a pre-existing text of the Book of Abraham indirectly proves that the heretofore so-called "translation manuscripts" are necessarily copies of a parent text. All the existence of the dittograph does is confirm what we already know, and thus demonstrate how the thesis of dependency serves to harmonize all of the textual and historical evidence. This is why I have termed the recognition of the dependency of the A&G on a pre-existing text of the BoA as "the essential element of understanding" when it comes to the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.

Dear William,

I had a long and pleasant phone conversation with Brent last Sunday in which your name came up. He and I both agree that you should publish your "conclusive" results as soon as possible, so that your name will be permanently and publicly attached to them.

Best Regards,

MM

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