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Mortal Man

Scribes and Scrolls

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The following scenario represents my views on what could have happened based on the historical and textual evidence regarding the BoA translation. It is a work in progress. I reserve the right to modify it as I labor on the Egyptian manuscripts, in company with Brothers Brent Metcalfe and Chris Smith, and as the principles of translation as understood by Joseph Smith and his scribes are unfolded to our understanding.1

(Brown=Joseph Smith's journal for Nov. 1835):

[url="http://beta.josephsmithpapers.org/paperDetails/journal-1835

Williams_Parrish_Parallels.doc

boabr-handout_online_22Aug10.doc

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Funny, isn't it, how none of the historical references ever make any mention of exactly what was being "translated" at any given time. Oh, well ... don't let that get in the way of your speculations. If anything, it makes it easier for you to propose just about any interpretation you'd like.

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Funny, isn't it, how none of the historical references ever make any mention of exactly what was being "translated" at any given time.

July 19: "The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients." (History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.17, p.238)

September 30: "This afternoon I labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with Brothers Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham and the ancients unfolded to our understanding, the particulars of which will appear hereafter." (History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.21, p.286)

November 17:

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July 19: "The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients." (History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.17, p.238)

September 30: "This afternoon I labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with Brothers Oliver Cowdery and W. W. Phelps, and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham and the ancients unfolded to our understanding, the particulars of which will appear hereafter." (History of the Church, Vol.2, Ch.21, p.286)

November 17:

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First, some comments on Chris Smith's paper (unless otherwise identified, block quotes are from Chris's paper):

Phelps did not relate the circumstances under which the

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An additional observation to Ben's comments above:

The GAEL (which, with some very minor late additions by Warren Parrish) is entirely in Phelps's hand. Furthermore, in almost every instance where there are variants between the transliterations of the "sounds" for the characters in the EA documents (and there are several), it is Phelps's transliteration that is given preference in the GAEL. Indeed, the many variants between the three EA documents tend not to support a dictation model (as Metcalfe and Smith would have us believe) but rather support the dominant role of Phelps in the creation of the Egyptian Alphabet, and often attest instances of visual copying from one manuscript to another. If any dictation was involved, it was most certainly not Smith doing the speaking, but rather Phelps. In fact, I am preparing a detailed study that promises to demonstrate that it was Phelps who originally selected most or all of the characters for use in the EA, and that Smith's and Cowdery's EA document characters (with some exceptions) were based on those of Phelps (sometimes Cowdery appears to have copied from Smith, rather than from Phelps--thus indicating a distinct order of production: Phelps==>Smith==>Cowdery).

Incidentally, as I mentioned in my FAIR conference presentation, I have provided sequential index numbers for each of the characters assigned "sounds" and "explanations." The characters are numbered according to their order of appearance in the Egyptian Alphabet documents (EA). I will shortly start a thread in this forum listing the characters along with their index numbers for future reference by all.

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Indeed, the many variants between the three EA documents tend not to support a dictation model (as Metcalfe and Smith would have us believe) but rather support the dominant role of Phelps in the creation of the Egyptian Alphabet, and often attest instances of visual copying from one manuscript to another. If any dictation was involved, it was most certainly not Smith doing the speaking, but rather Phelps. In fact, I am preparing a detailed study that promises to demonstrate that it was Phelps who originally selected most or all of the characters for use in the EA, and that Smith's and Cowdery's EA document characters (with some exceptions) were based on those of Phelps (sometimes Cowdery appears to have copied from Smith, rather than from Phelps--thus indicating a distinct order of production: Phelps==>Smith==>Cowdery).

In your FAIR conference presentation, you announced that the six "pure language" characters from Phelps' May 1835 letter to his wife were reused in the July 1835 Egyptian Alphabet documents.

ScreenHunter_02Sep071928.gif

Do you happen to recall the date when you made this remarkable discovery?

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Here is that misreading of the text again ... why do any of the figures have to "look like pharaoh" (unless you accept Brent's unnecessary emendation of the text).

Come now Benjamin, can you honestly tell me you don't see any resemblance between the two?

Imsety-1.jpg

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Come now Benjamin, can you honestly tell me you don't see any resemblance between the two?

Imsety-1.jpg

What I am questioning isn't the resemblance, its why you think that resemblance has any significance. The Book of Abraham never uses a phrase "looks like" or "resembles" - that whole question of looking like, or resembling, is an issue that Brent raised, which is based on a misreading of the text. He then suggests that his misreading should be better understood as a necessary emendation of the text, since the text clearly doesn't say what the author intended ... that is why this is an issue for me. Your argument has as its basis a fundamental disagreement with the way that I read the text. Since your argument is based on a misreading (or a proposed emendation - take your pick), I want you to first justify the basic assumptions that lead you to ask the question. And it wouldn't hurt if you tackled the other questions I have been raising either.

Ben M.

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In your FAIR conference presentation, you announced that the six "pure language" characters from Phelps' May 1835 letter to his wife were reused in the July 1835 Egyptian Alphabet documents.

ScreenHunter_02Sep071928.gif

Do you happen to recall the date when you made this remarkable discovery?

No, I don't.

For that matter, I doubt I was the first one to recognize the relationship of the one to the other. I was just the first one to recognize the significance of the relationship.

Incidentally, Metcalfe's analysis of the Onitxx/Onitah question is demonstrably incorrect, and rather than being (as you and others apparently believe) evidence for dictation, the variants in question serve to confirm that Ab2(Williams) and Ab3(Parrish) are visual copies of one or more parent documents. You should really be careful about shilling for him when it comes to things about which you know little yourself.

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Ben,

I won't respond to most of your post, since I'm already swamped with homework and I don't have time to split hairs. But I do want to mention just a few points.

First of all, Hyrum owned a copy of Antiquities. It is not necessary for Oliver to have brought a copy back in November. We have diary entries that clearly place the bulk, if not the totality, of the GAEL prior to November. I'm thinking especially of the dating of the "astronomy" portion (the "second part" of the GAEL) to October. This likely represents an end-date for the project.

Secondly, you claimed that I misused the text-critical rule lectio dificilior potior. You wrote, "The notion of lectio difficilior potior hinges on the notion that a literate scribe would change the wording of a text to make it more understandable. Simply removing an unnecessary heading (as is the case here) involves an omission to the text (or an inclusion if we were to suppose reliance in the other direction) not a modification caused by a more difficult reading." You appear to have misunderstood the argument. The problem with the heading at the top of the second page is not that it is "unnecessary". The problem is that it comes in the middle of a section. The "second part first degree" began near the bottom of page 1. To put the redundant title "first degree Second part" at the top of page 2 is confusing, because it makes it seem as though we're starting a new section, when in fact we are simply continuing the same section from the previous page. Cowdery's title clarifies that this is merely a continuation of the previous section, whereas Phelps leaves off the redundant title altogether. Your appeal to lectio brevior is well taken, but of course Cowdery and Smith are unlikely to have both independently modified a Phelpsian exemplar in the same way (by putting titles at the top of every page). It seems more likely that either Smith or Cowdery set the pattern here, and Phelps merely omitted it. In any event, I can respect if you don't find my argument persuasive. But I don't think it's true that I misapplied the rule.

And finally, I'd like to respond to your claim that the "specimen" is not likely to have been Smith's work because it appears in a private letter by Phelps and is based on the pre-existing "sample". I am convinced that the copy in Phelps's letter was not the only copy-- and probably not the original-- since they obviously had a copy of this sequence of characters at hand when they created the EA. So, the fact that this appears in a private letter is irrelevant. More importantly, Phelps specifically says in the letter, "I shall give you whatever new thing comes to hand for you know I always love to gratify \you/ with choice things from the Lord." This contextualizes the specimen as a "choice thing from the Lord" that has "come to hand" and been included in the letter for Sally's edification. And finally, the dependence of the specimen on the sample is really irrelevant to the question of whether Joseph was involved in its production. The specimen introduces new material, including the characters and the entry for "earth". At the very least, it is a systematic reworking of the earlier material from the sample. The sounds are also spelled differently than in the sample, which suggests that perhaps they have been freshly dictated for this document rather than visually copied.

I agree that the characters are assigned different meanings in the EA, but in my opinion that is to be expected if Egyptian was not considered identical to the pure language. IMO, Joseph thought of Egyptian as related to the pure language, but corrupted. He never treated the two as direct equivalents.

Peace,

-Chris

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Chris writes:

First of all, Hyrum owned a copy of Antiquities. It is not necessary for Oliver to have brought a copy back in November. We have diary entries that clearly place the bulk, if not the totality, of the GAEL prior to November. I'm thinking especially of the dating of the "astronomy" portion (the "second part" of the GAEL) to October. This likely represents an end-date for the project.
Of course he did. But then, I wasn't commenting so much on your paper in that note, but on Andrew's chronology. There isn't any need to connect an adjustment as he does with Oliver's trip to New York.
At the very least, it is a systematic reworking of the earlier material from the sample. The sounds are also spelled differently than in the sample, which suggests that perhaps they have been freshly dictated for this document rather than visually copied.
While I disagree with you on several points in your comments, this is pure speculation on your part - as is the idea that Joseph Smith was responsible for attaching the characters to the text in the sample.

Finally, I suspect that the pure language was not viewed as the Adamic language, or as the Egyptian language at all, but rather something to be constructed. This is a notion which does occur in unrelated (non-LDS) material that is contemporary with these events. Some time ago, I posted some comments to that effect. I will repeat it here so you don't have to go searching:

For as it is evident to us from the testimony of the gospel, that all the corruptions and abuses of the fall must undergo an entire reformation, (at least so far as respects the people of God,) before the final resotration can be complete; so it appears perfectly reasonable and consistent with Divine Revelation, that the corrupt abuses of human language, which have been increasing in the earth for thousands of years, should be reformed before the true followers of Christ can enjoy a pure language. "Then will I turn to the people a pure language that they may call upon the name of the Lord to serve him with one consent." Zeph 3.9.

This reformation of language will doubtless will be a gradual and progressive work; and it seems right and proper that it should commence with a reformation of the Alphabet, as that is the foundation of written language. (Barton, M. H., Something New, Comprising A New and Perfect Alphabet, [boton: 1833])

This is reasonably in line with Oliver's remarks in the Evening & Morning Star in 1832 in his three part article on the 'Prophecy of Zephaniah'. Certainly this seems to be the basic notion behind the development of the language of Deseret - and would fit into the idea of the early LDS of trying to hasten the Second Coming.

Ben M.

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While I disagree with you on several points in your comments, this is pure speculation on your part - as is the idea that Joseph Smith was responsible for attaching the characters to the text in the sample.

You're welcome to disagree, but I do hope you won't persist in terming "speculation" what is really "inference".

Finally, I suspect that the pure language was not viewed as the Adamic language, or as the Egyptian language at all, but rather something to be constructed. This is a notion which does occur in unrelated (non-LDS) material that is contemporary with these events. Some time ago, I posted some comments to that effect. I will repeat it here so you don't have to go searching:

This is reasonably in line with Oliver's remarks in the Evening & Morning Star in 1832 in his three part article on the 'Prophecy of Zephaniah'. Certainly this seems to be the basic notion behind the development of the language of Deseret - and would fit into the idea of the early LDS of trying to hasten the Second Coming.

I agree with you that a conception along those lines is behind the Deseret Alphabet. However, that does not seem to be the operative conception for Joseph Smith or the sample/specimen.

First of all, note that in the specimen we are told that this is the pure language, not merely a pure language as in the book extract you quoted. And although the sample uses no article at all, its rhetorical structure assumes that "pure language" is reified and existent. Take for example the first question, "What is the name of God in pure Language?" The question assumes that the pure name of God-- not a pure name of God-- is already existent and has only to be revealed.

Secondly, there is other evidence outside of these documents that indicates that Joseph conceived of pure language as original or Adamic language. Brigham Young reported, "He [Joseph] called upon me to pray; in my prayer I spoke in tongues. As soon as we arose from our knees, the brethren flocked around him, and asked his opinion concerning the gift of tongues that was upon me. He told them it was the pure Adamic language. Some said to him they expected he would condemn the gift Brother Brigham had, but he said, 'No, it is of God'" (Millenial Star, vol. xxv p. 439; see also "In Memoriam," Contributor 3:5, February 1882 and Edward Partridge, "Dear Friends and Neighbors," Messenger and Advocate 1:4, January 1835). Ezra Booth reported in 1831 that Zomar, according to Smith, was "the original word for Zion." (Zomar shows up with the same meaning in the EAG.) Moses 6:5-6 reports that "the language of Adam" was "pure and undefiled," and was "given unto as many as called upon God to write by the spirit of inspiration." Those who are convinced that W. W. Phelps authored these documents may be interested to learn that he conceived of the pure language in much the same way Joseph did. "As to the meaning of words," he wrote, "we are sensible, many contradictions in terms exist, and will till wickedness is destroyed, and the Pure Language returned." Here we again have affixed the definite article, and the pure language is conceived as something that will "return".

I could go on, but suffice to say that any assertion that "pure language" meant something other than "original" or "Adamic" language in the sample and specimen faces an uphill battle. The same goes for "Egyptian". Besides being the most natural and obvious reading, the hypothesis that "Egyptian language" in the KEP refers to the language spoken anciently by Egyptians is bolstered by comments from Joseph and his scribes. Referring to words from the "astronomy" material in the GAEL, the Facsimile 2 explanation places these words on the lips of "the Egyptians". For example, "this earth... is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh." Similarly, W. W. Phelps famously wrote, "... Were I an Egyptian, I would exclaim Jah-oh-eh, Enish-go-on-dosh, Flo-ees-Flos-is-is; [O the earth! the power of attraction, and the moon passing between her and the sun.] ..." (Times & Seasons Vol. 4, p. 373).

Quite frankly, the pure-language-is-not-Adamic-language and Egyptian-is-not-Egyptian theories appear to be non-starters.

Peace,

-Chris

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In your FAIR conference presentation, you announced that the six "pure language" characters from Phelps' May 1835 letter to his wife were reused in the July 1835 Egyptian Alphabet documents.

ScreenHunter_02Sep071928.gif

Do you happen to recall the date when you made this remarkable discovery?

No, I don't.

Well then, let

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What I am questioning isn't the resemblance, its why you think that resemblance has any significance.

Have you examined Brent's textual history? The resemblance is significant because Imsety is identified as Pharaoh and/or the god of Pharaoh and/or a god like unto that of Pharaoh in all three 1835 translation manuscripts. In only one of nine listings of the canopic jars is

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Incidentally, Metcalfe's analysis of the Onitxx/Onitah question is demonstrably incorrect, and rather than being (as you and others apparently believe) evidence for dictation, the variants in question serve to confirm that Ab2(Williams) and Ab3(Parrish) are visual copies of one or more parent documents.

It would be helpful to your fans, William, if you sometimes included an actual argument to go along with your majestic proclamations.

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It would be helpful to your fans, William, if you sometimes included an actual argument to go along with your majestic proclamations.

One man's "majestic proclamation" is another man's unadorned statement of fact.

At any rate, I like surprises.

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I was, as I recall, worried sick at the time that someone else would put two and two together and steal my thunder--hence my reluctance to engage in this particular conversation.

Is that why you posted the letter on Oct. 11 and elicited Chris for information regarding its ties to Joseph?

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Is that why you posted the letter on Oct. 11 and elicited Chris for information regarding its ties to Joseph?

No, that's why, after Wade Englund posted side-by-side images of the characters from the Phelps letter and the corresponding characters from the Phelps EA manuscript, that I promptly e-mailed Wade and begged him to delete his post and say no more on the topic for the time being. Wade graciously consented to do so. He is, however, to be commended for having noted the identical characters.

I have noted, however, that you have adopted the Metcalfe theory concerning my ongoing studies of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers: that I neither understand the material, nor have I ever formulated an original thought about any of it. Metcalfe (in the thread you linked above) repeatedly suggested (as he has many times in the past) that I have merely been someone else's proxy in all of this; that someone else has been "feeding" me material to float on trial on these message boards. Of course, he (Metcalfe) never actually specified who was "feeding" me this stuff, and now that it has become quite apparent that I have produced this material on my own, the tack has shifted to suggesting that I "plagiarized" it all from Metcalfe and Smith. Why, even the inimitable Dr. Scratch has suggested that I am the "unwitting pawn" of people in "high places" who are conspiring to provide the church membership with a fabricated explanation for the KEP. Is there no end to this cycle of conspiracy theories? Apparently not.

At any rate, I very much welcome the eventual publication (should it ever actually occur) of Metcalfe's "text-critical annotations" of the KEP. I also stand ready, whenever he consents, to participate with Metcalfe (or Ashment, or Smith) in a formal public debate of these things, although it has become quite apparent that no one besides me is willing to play for such high stakes.

In the meantime, I will proceed with my studies and the production of formal publications on the meaning and purpose of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. I have already published (in the form of my FAIR conference presentation, the view count of which has now exceeded 1000) more arguments and evidence vis-a-vis the KEP than all of the critics combined over the course of forty years, and I am content to let history be the judge of whose arguments and interpretations of the textual and historical evidence are best supported by the data.

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Chris Smith writes:

First of all, note that in the specimen we are told that this is the pure language, not merely a pure language as in the book extract you quoted. And although the sample uses no article at all, its rhetorical structure assumes that "pure language" is reified and existent. Take for example the first question, "What is the name of God in pure Language?" The question assumes that the pure name of God-- not a pure name of God-- is already existent and has only to be revealed.
So a couple of questions for you Chris -

1: Which came first in the specimen? The text, the characters, or were they both given concurrently?

2: Were the characters in the specimen presented as revelation?

Ben McGuire

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1: Which came first in the specimen? The text, the characters, or were they both given concurrently?

2: Were the characters in the specimen presented as revelation?

My guess would be concurrently and yes, but of course it's difficult to say anything definitive about its production without the original.

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My guess would be concurrently and yes, but of course it's difficult to say anything definitive about its production without the original.

I'm always amused by your selective ambivalence.

Of course, it is quite possible, given the appropriate elements of evidence, to reach definitive conclusions about a missing original. That's one of the fundamental purposes of textual criticism.

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Of course, it is quite possible, given the appropriate elements of evidence, to reach definitive conclusions about a missing original. That's one of the fundamental purposes of textual criticism.

Great. I look forward to your explanation of how text-criticism provides definitive answers to Ben's questions.

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