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"Problematic Apologetics": Bokovoy Reviews Callister's "A Case for the Book of Mormon".

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Clark writes:

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Right and one of my objections comes down to saying the above is unavoidable. While assumptions about audience shape what an author writes, the author has at best imperfect knowledge of their audience. Throw in the composite author issue and things get unavoidably complex.

This just isn't true Clark. Authors have no control over who actually reads what they write, but they have absolute control over the hypothetical audience that they are writing for. Authors always write to some audience, even if the audience that they write for and to bears no resemblance to the real audience that eventually reads the material. I do go over this in that essay. The degree to which a real audience understands the text as intended by its author is to some extent the degree to which that audience resembles the hypothetical audience that the author is writing to. I write this:

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Rabinowitz distinguishes between four different audiences that exist conceptually for an author writing a text. He labels them 1) the actual audience, 2) the authorial audience, 3) the narrative audience (sometimes called the “implied audience of the text”), and 4) the ideal narrative audience.8 Rabinowitz’s actual audience is the only real audience of the group — that [Page 53]is, it is the only audience that actually exists and reads the text — and in fact, the only audience “over which the author has no guaranteed control.”9

The author doesn't actually write to the real audience over which he has no control. At the same time, the question of composite authorship is not as meaningful as you suggest in this discussion. Why? Because we don't have the text as-it-was, we only have the text-as-it-is. And the meaning of the text can change dramatically as it goes through a complex history, but, we don't have the text in the form in which it starts (we can only speculate about this). When we deal with reader-response, we don't deal with the text in terms of how the reader is responding to the earlier forms of the text because the reader doesn't encounter them. We can discuss how the later editors/redactors/contributors function both as readers and as authors, but in the end the text that we have is the text that we encounter. We don't have to understand the complexity of the history of a text (and a textual tradition) to find meaning in a text. And in fact, it is likely that a person who believes that they understand the complexity of the textual tradition will read a text much differently than someone who has no clue. But, unless the author of a text was writing to someone who understands the complexity of the textual tradition, our understanding of that textual tradition doesn't necessarily make us better at reading the text and coming to the meaning intended by the final author(s) of the text.

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Well there's a lot of Isaiah in there particularly in 2 Nephi. There we have expansions in the Isaiah texts quoted. We can interpret those as a variant underlying text Nephi has access to, a pesher by Nephi, or even pesher or midrash like changes during the translation to English. (And since I think the English text is typically a paraphrase of the underlying text I think that unavoidable)

This is certainly true in places. The problem is that in 2 Nephi 26-27, where Nephi is quoting Isaiah, he also quotes Nephi. Here is 2 Nephi 26:14 -15 -

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But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men. After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.

This isn't Isaiah's prophecy, it is Nephi's prophecy. But in verse 15, we get Isaiah 29, right (starting with that bit from 29:3-4a)? We can reconstruct this from two sources - Isaiah 29 and 1 Nephi 13:34-25. And while a lot of this comes from Isaiah, we progress through the prophecy given to Nephi in 1 Nephi 13.

the Lord God shall bring these things forth (2 Nephi 26:14)

I will bring forth unto them (1 Nephi 13:34)

After my seed and the seed of my brethren shall have dwindled in unbelief (2 Nephi 26:15)

after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren (1 Nephi 13:35)

and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles (2 Nephi 26:15)

and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles (1 Nephi 13:34)

They shall write the things which shall be done among them (2 Nephi 26:17)

they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them (1 Nephi 13:35)

And so on.  This isn't to say that Nephi isn't using a different version of Isaiah (something I think is inevitable - it gets corrected to the KJV in translation because it has to become meaningful in translation - something I discussed at the FAIRMormon conference a few years ago). What I am saying is that Nephi employs Isaiah as a way of interpreting his own prophecy. And in doing so, he recontextualizes the events that Isaiah describes into a context that no one in Jerusalem at the time that Isaiah 29 was written would have ever considered. This means that it isn't a traditional pesher, or a midrash.

And this is why I disagree with your comment here:

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Well one can accept that claim without accepting the basis for why you are making that claim. I think Nephi's audience is ignorant for sure. They're largely unable to read Isaiah and get anything out of it. I don't think that entails Nephi cannibalize the text for a deeply acontextual use. (Again here going by Nephi's own purported hermeneutic training and not making a claim of whether that entails Isaiah(s) held to the same hermeneutic processes)

Nephi is more than willing to tell us (and I do think it is unusual in a way) about what he intends to convey in his text. We have very, very few ancient sources that explicitly describe the appropriation of texts in the way that Nephi does. And it seems to me that Nephi is giving us examples of this sort of thing in his text, not just talking about it.

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That just seems unsupportable although I fully agree it is a typical assumption of contemporary scholars in the field - particularly more secular ones. At best one could argue that there's no unambiguous prophecy in the Old Testament suggesting that any portrayal of such is a result of textual modification. They would then make an argument from silence after saying that.

Clearly, this is colored by expectations (which isn't a bad thing). The challenge is that for any specific reader, the text isn't ambiguous at all. Isaiah was wildly popular, we have plenty of interpretations of Isaiah, all of which change as the contextualization changes (as the reader changes). So our argument that there's no unambiguous prophecy in the Old Testament is only a reflection of the interpretive history of the text spread across many different communities. This doesn't mean that Isaiah wrote ambiguously. What it means is that the audience becomes partners with the author in terms of forming meaning. And just as the author writes to a hypothetical idealized audience, so to, audiences read with assumptions about a hypothetical, idealized author.

Obviously we can't read the author of Isaiah's mind.

Ben McGuire

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6 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

What do you mean? 

I mean a couple of things. We can discuss English language usage in terms of its earliest usage (and Skousen does). We can go through the OED and look at what documentation exists for a specific kind of usage first appearing. But, what is much more difficult is looking for the latest usage. Skousen points to all of this EME in the Book of Mormon, but the problem is that we don't really care about when it first shows up, but rather, whether or not it would be understood at the time the Book of Mormon was published. It is much more difficult to put a date on when a usage would no longer be understood by English language speakers and readers. So the idea that EME appears in the Book of Mormon does not convince me in any way that the Book of Mormon text (or portions of it) originate in a time frame earlier than the 1828-1830 translation period. (This is another issue I bring up in my FAIR presentation on the translation of the Book of Mormon). So when we talk about the EME in the Book of Mormon, much of that EME still exists in ME. And even more would have still existed within the awareness of readers in 1830. And so we can talk about when specific words and usages enter the English language, but we usually cannot talk with any certainty about when they leave.

My belief is that the Book of Mormon in translation uses archaic language as a rhetorical style, as a way of making the text as a whole mean something different. As I noted:

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The point though is that it is also quite possible to see the Book of Mormon’s lack of fluent style as a deliberate part of creating the modern text of the Book of Mormon as a communicative act. In contrast to Carmack’s view, this approach suggests that the archaic language isn’t intended to convey a text written in Early Modern English, but rather, that it is intended to incorporate what might be labeled “translationese”. Part of its impact is created when we understand the text as a translation of ancient work, and so this becomes part of the rhetorical strategy of the text in translation. The fluency that Venuti values has been given up to an extent to keep the text from sounding too original, and to help its audience identify the text as scripture.

Ben

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38 minutes ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

In contrast to Carmack’s view, this approach suggests that the archaic language isn’t intended to convey a text written in Early Modern English, but rather, that it is intended to incorporate what might be labeled “translationese”

To my knowledge, Carmack has never stated or implied that the rhetorical purpose of the archaic language is merely to convey a text written in Early Modern English. He does a lot of research that simply doesn't address the issue of the text's potential rhetorical purposes, but that shouldn't be confused with an assertion that the purpose of the archaic language is merely to be categorized as EModE. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

We can go through the OED and look at what documentation exists for a specific kind of usage first appearing. But, what is much more difficult is looking for the latest usage. Skousen points to all of this EME in the Book of Mormon, but the problem is that we don't really care about when it first shows up, but rather, whether or not it would be understood at the time the Book of Mormon was published.

Identifying the earliest usage of words or phrases has essentially the same constraints and limitations as identifying obsolescence. 

The issue isn't merely about dating the text, but whether or not the nature of the text can help reliably identify the medium of its production--i.e. whether it was produced by Joseph Smith or was revealed to him (or, under some theories, somehow naturally transmitted to him or discovered by him). Obviously, being able to identify the agent(s) responsible (or at least those not responsible) for producing the English text will potentially influence interpretations of its meaning and the rhetorical purposes of its words and phrases.

 

 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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6 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

This just isn't true Clark. Authors have no control over who actually reads what they write, but they have absolute control over the hypothetical audience that they are writing for. Authors always write to some audience, even if the audience that they write for and to bears no resemblance to the real audience that eventually reads the material. I do go over this in that essay. The degree to which a real audience understands the text as intended by its author is to some extent the degree to which that audience resembles the hypothetical audience that the author is writing to.

I suspect we are talking past one an other slightly here.  The hypothetical audience is the author's creation in a certain sense. However it is supposed to represent actual audiences the author is writing to. Further the very notion of a single unitary hypothetical audience is problematic for multiple authored works. (Which hypothetical audience - how do the authors communicate this audience to each other, etc.) Even beyond that in a very real sense any text worked on over time is a multiple authored work since the author isn't the same person at two times and may have different hypothetical audiences. 

The whole point of writing as communication is to do something in the reader/hearer. The only way to do that successfully is to manipulate shared symbols to produce the desired response. While it's fine to talk about a hypothetical audience the problem is much more about the attempts of the author to do something to the real audience. The hypothetical audience (to the degree we should say there is one) is an intermediary means to an end. The inescapable problem though is that no hypothesis will accurately represent the real audience the author is attempting to reach. Partially due to diversity but partially also due to the limits of the author's knowledge, skill and fallibilism. 

The problems compound beyond that however I don't think we necessarily need to go into that. Anyway, I think on these points we're mostly in agreement although I suspect I see far more pitfalls here than you do.

The reason I think that we can't escape the "debate over meaning and how texts acquire meaning, and who owns that meaning" is because to talk about meaning is to precisely take up those topics. We ridicule what I call naive hermeneutics (roughly what gets called literalism and fundamentalism) because they take the text at face value. Their commonsense interpretation from their everyday ways of reading dominates the text. We recognize how problematic that is. However to avoid the debate over how texts acquire meaning is to make the same mistake (IMO) just in a slightly more sophisticated fashion. We bring assumptions to the text that the author and likely even their immediate audience don't share.

I recognize that Rabinowitz thinks the author writes only to the hypothetical audience and not the real audience. However I'd first deny that the hypothetical audience is fully within the author's control or that it's stable in any normal fashion. Further I'd again say that the audience the author is writing to can't be this hypothetical. The hypothetical is itself an idealization just as removed from the author as the real audience is. All of these are just idealizations which the author only has mediated access to. Further the mediation is itself not fully under the author's control.

6 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

The author doesn't actually write to the real audience over which he has no control. At the same time, the question of composite authorship is not as meaningful as you suggest in this discussion. Why? Because we don't have the text as-it-was, we only have the text-as-it-is. And the meaning of the text can change dramatically as it goes through a complex history, but, we don't have the text in the form in which it starts (we can only speculate about this). When we deal with reader-response, we don't deal with the text in terms of how the reader is responding to the earlier forms of the text because the reader doesn't encounter them. We can discuss how the later editors/redactors/contributors function both as readers and as authors, but in the end the text that we have is the text that we encounter. We don't have to understand the complexity of the history of a text (and a textual tradition) to find meaning in a text. And in fact, it is likely that a person who believes that they understand the complexity of the textual tradition will read a text much differently than someone who has no clue. But, unless the author of a text was writing to someone who understands the complexity of the textual tradition, our understanding of that textual tradition doesn't necessarily make us better at reading the text and coming to the meaning intended by the final author(s) of the text.

But there is no "text-as-it-is." To have a text is already to have interpreted the signs on the page, the sounds in the air, or so forth. What we have is a hermeneutic circle where we're constantly creating new texts that have their origins in some other text. Put an other way there never is a "text-as-it-is" only "texts-as-they-were" that are already separated from us. 

I know that sounds a bit complex. More or less what I'm trying to say is that there is no present text (text-as-it-is). All there are are "as-it-was" that we can only imperfectly approach. To approach a text is always to approach it in a historical past separated from our current context. Even for the author revising their work. They don't remember the original hypothetical audience when they return to their text. They don't remember all their aims with the text. 

Ultimately there is no text with full meaning. All we have are symbols that are constantly being interpreted with a hope that it represents these earlier texts. The case of Isaiah with it's complex history, missing contexts, mysterious authors, and transfigurations through time isn't unusual. That's the nature of all texts. Isaiah perhaps just illustrates the case better than say our words here on this forum.

This is a philosophical point, but I think it a very important one with very practical implications in how we read.

6 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

The problem is that in 2 Nephi 26-27, where Nephi is quoting Isaiah, he also quotes Nephi. Here is 2 Nephi 26:14 -15

 I understand that. I just don't understand why you assume that Nephi isn't using his prophecy to explain Isaiah rather than using Isaiah to prooftext his prophecy. That's the difference between interpretive expansion and prooftext I was getting at. Certainly I agree it can be read as a prooftext. I don't think it need necessarily be read that way and I'd argue it's not the most natural way of reading it.

I'll write more on this and your other points tomorrow as I think this is a great example but it's almost midnight and I'm supposed to go climbing early in the morning.

 

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12 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

.............................The nature of Moses' religion is a mystery. The place of the bronze snake is something scholars simply don't agree upon with a wide range of interpretations given. It seems clear the underlying texts and narratives have been heavily redacted and edited to fit what post-exilic priests wanted to defend. My guess is that Moses' type of Judaism was radically different in many ways from what we have in the Hellenistic period.

Given that, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out the symbols of Mosaic religion were fairly different and perhaps more full. Certainly that's what the Book of Mormon portrays. Is Moses' rod more akin to the Rod of Asclepius? Or the Sumerian Ningishzida? Or is it tied more to Apophis or some localized syncretic form of Egyptian-Canaanite religion? Hard to know.  It's hard to make the type/anti-type type of analysis without having that knowledge (IMO). I rather like the idea that it was tied to Apophis with evil's origin being tied to Ra's birth. That in turn seems to have a bit of an echo of our own cosmology of the war in heaven. We know that at least some rites involved creating an effigy of Apophis to ward him off. It could be that the raising of the serpent was symbolic more akin to a scape goat originally and that the serpent, rather than being a type of Christ directly represented Christ's conquest of the scape goat.  It's a repetition in a way of the battle of chaos or YHWH over the Leviathan.

One can certainly get caught up in both Canaanite and Egyptian cosmologies and there was no Judaism at all at that early date.  But the crucial point to be made is that Moses carries an Egyptian name, as do many of his fellow Hebrews; the Tabernacle in the desert is an Egyptian-style tent, and much of the paraphernalia is Egyptian, and is described with Egyptian technical terms; moreover, Book of Mormon theology is filled with straightforward Egyptianisms, and this matches clues in the book of Exodus similarly based on Egyptian theology.  Indeed, the Bronze Plates go whole hog in being engraved in Egyptian.

12 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

Later, as the texts get redacted the origins get lost so the symbols get transfigured. 

But who knows. This to me points directly at the problem of the semiotics. We don't even know what the pre-exilic texts were and we know the texts were being transformed by the Deuteronomist and Priestly traditions......................

And that is what Margaret Barker is getting at.  Whatever language was spoken by Moses (aside from his native Egyptian) would have more in common with Ugaritic than with Classical Hebrew.  King David would not have understood Moses any better than say King James I would have understood the English of Beowulf.

12 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

I also fully agree. Jesus is in a tricky spot. Of course we don't know how much the veil of forgetfulness had thinned for him. (One can make compelling arguments either way) If there actually were prophecies of him that had been distorted, how should he react? Is he doing illegitimate proof text? Or is he more using texts in a legalistic fashion that's completely acceptable within his tradition. This gets at the point of the open text I raised with Ben. It's not even clear the scholars are asking the same questions or engaging in the same types of hermeneutics here as Jesus is.

Not only do we not have the pre-Classical Semitic texts (oral) known to Moses, we likewise do not have any original texts from Jesus himself, or his disciples.  What we have instead are reminiscences made long after the fact, combined with lists of Sayings (Logia) which were combined into holy narratives used by worshippers in a Hellenistic Church environment.  The same kind of lore was created and maintained by the rabbis, beginning with Hillel & Shammai, and was not codified until at least the 2nd century A.D.  We are confronted by the very same difficulties in trying to figure out who Muhammad was and what he in fact said or did.  We cannot even establish with any accuracy the actual content of the original Qur'an.

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5 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

To my knowledge, Carmack has never stated or implied that the rhetorical purpose of the archaic language is merely to convey a text written in Early Modern English. He does a lot of research that simply doesn't address the issue of the text's potential rhetorical purposes, but that shouldn't be confused with an assertion that the purpose of the archaic language is merely to be categorized as EModE. 

This is an important recognition, and it means that we must not spend valuable time searching for meaning in a 19th century context.  There is simply no point to it.  EModE is not a "translationese" style which one would or could adopt in the 19th century.  No one had that capacity.

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11 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

To my knowledge, Carmack has never stated or implied that the rhetorical purpose of the archaic language is merely to convey a text written in Early Modern English. He does a lot of research that simply doesn't address the issue of the text's potential rhetorical purposes, but that shouldn't be confused with an assertion that the purpose of the archaic language is merely to be categorized as EModE.  

You can read my presentation here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/conference/august-2016/book-mormon-communicative-act

I was, at the time, referring to Carmack's essay here:

http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/joseph-smith-read-the-words/#more-8037

Carmack wrote:

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The linguistic fingerprint of the Book of Mormon, in hundreds of different ways, is Early Modern English. Smith himself — out of a presumed idiosyncratic, quasi-biblical style — would not have translated and could not have translated the text into the form of the earliest text. Had his own language often found its way into the wording of the earliest text, its form would be very different from what we encounter.

And:

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A large amount of textual evidence — and the foregoing discussion contains only a sliver of it — tells us that Joseph Smith did receive and read a revealed Early Modern English text. Understandably, he may not have been fully aware of it.

I agree that Carmack has never implied that there is a rhetorical purpose at all to the archaic language of the text. Some of my concluding remarks go like this:

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I want to point out something which I think should be obvious here – this deliberate use of archaic language can be understood in many different ways. It can be understood both in the context of a tight and loose model of dictation. And it can be understood with a wide range of potential translators. What this framework does is help us articulate what role in our communicative act is responsible for the features we see in the text.

There is (at least in the context of what I am saying in this thread) this problem with the idea of audiences reading texts. If the Book of Mormon was produced for an audience, what does the use of EME tell us about the audience that the Book of Mormon is intended for?

Ben McGuire

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11 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Identifying the earliest usage of words or phrases has essentially the same constraints and limitations as identifying obsolescence.  

No, it doesn't. Part of the reason for this is that we can, from the record, identify much easier when something new enters the language. Often, we can pinpoint with some degree of certainty when something changes. The challenge is that a change in usage doesn't eliminate the record of past usage, or its meaning in popular understanding, which doesn't go away immediately, even if it becomes progressively less and less common in contemporary usage. Things do change more quickly when there is a strong shift in meaning, or the shift comes with a surge in frequency. Words like chauvinism for example, which changed dramatically in the mid 1970s is one example that I like - or perhaps we could go back to the 18th century poet who wrote: "The great creator raised his plastic arm." Where we might need now to consult a historical dictionary to understand its meaning. But, while we can identify a first usage in the written record as a starting point for a term or form, the last usage does not indicate that obsolescence has occurred. It not just about usage, but about how well it's understood. And inevitably we can find outliers for different usages in written material published long after the usage moves from current to archaic. The fact that we have the usage of archaic language as a rhetorical device makes this idea of obsolescence even more difficult to narrow down. So no, I don't agree that identifying first uses and obsolescence share the same constraints and limitations. Further - and this is also important in this discussion - there are many usages in EME that are identical to the same uses in ME. These are features of the English language that haven't become obsolete yet. So our distinction between ME and EME is one of parts, not of wholesale replacement.

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The issue isn't merely about dating the text, but whether or not the nature of the text can help reliably identify the medium of its production--i.e. whether it was produced by Joseph Smith or was revealed to him (or, under some theories, somehow naturally transmitted to him or discovered by him). Obviously, being able to identify the agent(s) responsible (or at least those not responsible) for producing the English text will potentially influence interpretations of its meaning and the rhetorical purposes of its words and phrases.

And as my presentation that I link to above points out, the approach that has been taken by Skousen and Carmack seems to put the proverbial cart before the horse.

Ben McGuire

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6 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

This is an important recognition, and it means that we must not spend valuable time searching for meaning in a 19th century context.  There is simply no point to it.  EModE is not a "translationese" style which one would or could adopt in the 19th century.  No one had that capacity.

I essentially agree. I would just clarify that it is the particular combination of EModE features, with their relative usage rates, in the rapidly dictated Book of Mormon text that preclude it from having been produced by Joseph Smith or any of his associates. I agree with Benjamin that EModE certainly was used by various 19th centuries authors for rhetorical purposes. I just think the evidence conclusively rules out the Book of Mormon as being a 19th century human production. 

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Clark writes:

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I recognize that Rabinowitz thinks the author writes only to the hypothetical audience and not the real audience. However I'd first deny that the hypothetical audience is fully within the author's control or that it's stable in any normal fashion. Further I'd again say that the audience the author is writing to can't be this hypothetical. The hypothetical is itself an idealization just as removed from the author as the real audience is. All of these are just idealizations which the author only has mediated access to. Further the mediation is itself not fully under the author's control.

I can agree generally with this (at least to the point that I don't think we need to keep beating the nail with the hammer).

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 Even beyond that in a very real sense any text worked on over time is a multiple authored work since the author isn't the same person at two times and may have different hypothetical audiences. 

I want to focus for a moment just on that last part. Unless a text has multiple authors working together at the same time, it isn't a multiple authored work in any practical sense. This is a view of a textual history which presupposes a complex work that has an editorial and redactive history. But that describes a series of texts which changes over time - it doesn't describe the text that is being read. The topic of the unity of Isaiah (or its disunity if you will) doesn't change the fact that we can read Isaiah with the expectation that it was written by a single author perhaps at a single point in time (and many people read it this way). I expect that if we were to look at a historical Nephi, he would have read Isaiah in this fashion (as a single author). We (as the audience) usually don't have access to the hypothetical audience that an author had in mind - this is more true when we are dealing with ancient history, and not really true at all when we are dealing with personal correspondence addressed to us personally. Regardless of the complexity of its sources, each new version of a text is authored at a certain point in time with certain understandings and expectations (which as you note don't have to resemble the expectations and understandings of the sources on which it is built). When we have real multiple authors of a text - when a text comes about not through editing and redaction, we fully expect that there is some communication and dialogue between the participants. This doesn't happen with these historical processes where the present author doesn't engage the original author - he only engages the text and constructs a hypothetical author. As Davidson notes in his essay "The Third Man":

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Writing deviates startlingly from the original triangle. The object directly observed by both reader and writer is the text. It is produced by the writer, but in the case of literature the text is alienated from its creator by the lapse in time between when it is made and when it is read; the interaction between perceiving creatures that is the foundation of communication is lost. Plato marks the gulf between talking to a person and reading his words:

 "That's the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly analogous to painting. The painter's products stand before us as though they were alive: but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence. 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."

It's true that generally neither the text nor its author can respond to the reader. The interaction is of another sort. The text, unlike most objects, has meaning, and its meaning is the product of the interplay between the intentions of the writer to be understood in a certain way and the interpretation put on the writer's words by the reader. For the most part this interplay is, and is meant to be, routine, in the sense that the writer knows pretty well how he or she is apt to be understood, and the typical reader knows pretty' well how the writer intended to be understood. This is not always the case.

The idea that authors change is something that I believe (and discuss in that essay). In fact, in that essay, I argue that Nephi uses four narrative beginnings, one at the end of his writing - which functions as an invitation for us to re-read his writing with a new set of expectations. And as I describe Nephi's change over his lifetime:

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In the end, Nephi’s writings go from being “the record which I make [that] is true” to “the words which I have written in weakness.”

And then:

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But there is no "text-as-it-is." To have a text is already to have interpreted the signs on the page, the sounds in the air, or so forth. What we have is a hermeneutic circle where we're constantly creating new texts that have their origins in some other text. Put an other way there never is a "text-as-it-is" only "texts-as-they-were" that are already separated from us. 

Perhaps I should describe it as the "text-that-is-read" then. I think we are talking past each other. When you call Isaiah a complex work with multiple authors, you cannot easily say that Part A was written by author A, and Part B was written by author B, and so on. What we have is a fully formed text, not a text of parts. As Walter Bruggemann liked to point out, this is one of the challenges of textual criticism (from David and his Theologian

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Our study of chap. 18 is evidence of the way in which attention to literary strategy in the narrative advances our theological understanding of the text. Unless we stay with the internal coherence and intentionality of the text, the various fragments and elements fall apart, as they have with many efforts in conventional historical criticism. When the text falls apart methodologically, we face only interesting factual questions and literary fragments; we likely will miss the hidden cunning that the narrative invites us to ponder. The chapter as it now stands requires that we look for a cunning that is more powerful and inescapable than analytic fragmentation suggests.

If we want to reduce the issue to one of simple intertextuality, then of course, there are no texts that aren't already a patchwork of many different authors and sources. But when we read Isaiah, if our objective is to identify the different authors and their points of view, we are no longer reading Isaiah, we are reading a series of hypothetical documents, none of which actually look like the text that we have in front of us. This is what I mean when I speak of the "text-that-is-read". It is not a text that has multiple authors even if the author that is responsible for it took much or even most of his material from historical sources. I hope that this makes sense to you.

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I know that sounds a bit complex. More or less what I'm trying to say is that there is no present text (text-as-it-is). All there are are "as-it-was" that we can only imperfectly approach. To approach a text is always to approach it in a historical past separated from our current context. Even for the author revising their work. They don't remember the original hypothetical audience when they return to their text. They don't remember all their aims with the text. 

I agree with you completely here.

Ben McGuire

 

Edited by Benjamin McGuire
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1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

I was at the conference when you presented your essay, and quite enjoyed it. I similarly have respect and appreciation for your research on other various topics.

1 hour ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

There is (at least in the context of what I am saying in this thread) this problem with the idea of audiences reading texts. If the Book of Mormon was produced for an audience, what does the use of EME tell us about the audience that the Book of Mormon is intended for?

I agree that is a valid and important question. What I'm suggesting is that there is a relationship between identifying the translator(s) of a text and trying to determine the rhetorical purpose of the style of its translation. Knowing who/what did or did not produce the English text potentially gives us other clues and data to refine any assessment of rhetorical purpose. 

To clarify, I'm not saying that proposals of rhetorical purpose are meaningless or somehow invalid if the agent(s) that produced the text can't be identified. They are just more nebulous. 

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Robert writes:

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This is an important recognition, and it means that we must not spend valuable time searching for meaning in a 19th century context.  There is simply no point to it.  EModE is not a "translationese" style which one would or could adopt in the 19th century.  No one had that capacity.

Ryan responds with:

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I essentially agree. I would just clarify that it is the particular combination of EModE features, with their relative usage rates, in the rapidly dictated Book of Mormon text that preclude it from having been produced by Joseph Smith or any of his associates. I agree with Benjamin that EModE certainly was used by various 19th centuries authors for rhetorical purposes. I just think the evidence conclusively rules out the Book of Mormon as being a 19th century human production. 

I don't agree with Robert's conclusion here (really any of it). But on the assumption that he is right, it also makes no sense to me. After all, if the language is different enough that (as Carmack has argued) " The linguistic fingerprint of the Book of Mormon, in hundreds of different ways, is Early Modern English. Smith himself — out of a presumed idiosyncratic, quasi-biblical style — would not have translated and could not have translated the text into the form of the earliest text. Had his own language often found its way into the wording of the earliest text, its form would be very different from what we encounter." If this is true, then it means that the Book of Mormon is not a good, or a fluid translation, and it means that its first readers were not terribly competent readers. So what are we to make of a text that is lousy translation - and not just a lousy translation but one that would progressively become more and more difficult for its readers to understand? What is the purpose of this obsolete language in the text?

One of the biggest problems that I have with much of these discussions is what Ryan does here. He tries to turn the issue towards the question of authenticity. I commented on this in my FairMormon presentation:

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The final complication I want to mention is the question of authenticity. Most often, our analysis of translation (and translation related issues) isn’t meant to describe the process of translation itself, but to try and move that process into the realm of proof of authenticity. In the statement above, Carmack suggests that we should view Joseph as a translator in name only. In fact, Carmack goes on to suggest that Joseph couldn’t have translated the text. And this becomes proof of authenticity. It makes for a strange proof of authenticity when we talk of a translation by arguing that we have no idea who the translator was, or how they did their job.

Ben McGuire

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

No, it doesn't. Part of the reason for this is that we can, from the record, identify much easier when something new enters the language. Often, we can pinpoint with some degree of certainty when something changes. The challenge is that a change in usage doesn't eliminate the record of past usage, or its meaning in popular understanding, which doesn't go away immediately, even if it becomes progressively less and less common in contemporary usage. Things do change more quickly when there is a strong shift in meaning, or the shift comes with a surge in frequency. Words like chauvinism for example, which changed dramatically in the mid 1970s is one example that I like - or perhaps we could go back to the 18th century poet who wrote: "The great creator raised his plastic arm." Where we might need now to consult a historical dictionary to understand its meaning. But, while we can identify a first usage in the written record as a starting point for a term or form, the last usage does not indicate that obsolescence has occurred. It not just about usage, but about how well it's understood. And inevitably we can find outliers for different usages in written material published long after the usage moves from current to archaic. The fact that we have the usage of archaic language as a rhetorical device makes this idea of obsolescence even more difficult to narrow down. So no, I don't agree that identifying first uses and obsolescence share the same constraints and limitations. Further - and this is also important in this discussion - there are many usages in EME that are identical to the same uses in ME. These are features of the English language that haven't become obsolete yet. So our distinction between ME and EME is one of parts, not of wholesale replacement.

People usually invoke arguments about oral preservation and intentional dialectal choices between formal/informal usage to argue for the limitations of accurately identifying obsolescence. Yet these factors apply to the first textual attestations of a usage as well as to their apparent last attestations. I grant that a large amount of usage in the past textual record, even if it is in the distant past, makes it somewhat more likely to be picked up and used in later times. However, it should also be noted that earlier time periods have less overall textual data to search through and therefore it would be easier for significant amounts of a usage to predate the first attested usage, and yet go undetected in the textual record. 

It should also be noted that diachronic shifts in meaning and rates of usage face the same essential constraints (intentional or unintentional oral preservation, absent textual preservation) throughout the textual record and aren't limited to a usage's apparent periods of origin and obsolescence. They are ever-present possibilities.  

 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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15 hours ago, nealr said:

As I already said to the narrator, I never claimed were better qualified than Bokovoy on this issue. I'll also say again, not all our feedback was incorporated. I am not going to go into details about what we disagreed with, but I'd suggest not assuming you know what we did or did not tell him about Isaiah 29.

Honestly, at the end of the day, I really don't care if people think Elder Callister should have gotten feedback more better people than us or whatever. I was simply correcting the assertion that Elder Callister didn't have any scholars at all. If people really want to believe we are just apologetic hacks who weren't really qualified to give Elder Callister good advice, that's y'alls prerogative.

Narrator did put it better than I ddi, so I"m glad you responded.  I'm happy to see your responses and they are helpful.  Thanks.  

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20 hours ago, clarkgoble said:

 

Again we need to be careful in asking what type of hermeneutics are acceptable in reading the text. 

Beyond that though it's hard to see Smoot not having the necessary background here. At minimum he's a Hebrew reader familiar with the text. Even if he might not be familiar with the particular passages and their debate, he has the background to be able to look them up and critique Callister in terms of that. For the rest I'd assume they don't have the skill, although they may well have been critiquing other aspects of the text. Again I've not read Callister, but I assume he's doing more than just Isaiah exegesis.

Sounds fair.  I'm enjoying your discussion with Benjamin and Robert, by the way.  Thanks.  

Edited by stemelbow

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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

I essentially agree. I would just clarify that it is the particular combination of EModE features, with their relative usage rates, in the rapidly dictated Book of Mormon text that preclude it from having been produced by Joseph Smith or any of his associates. I agree with Benjamin that EModE certainly was used by various 19th centuries authors for rhetorical purposes. I just think the evidence conclusively rules out the Book of Mormon as being a 19th century human production. 

I would have to see what Stanford Carmack thinks about that McGuire notion, because I just don't see it.  Not at all.

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5 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

I would have to see what Stanford Carmack thinks about that McGuire notion, because I just don't see it.  Not at all.

I'm not sure exactly what you mean. What I'm saying is that there seems to be validity to the idea that some 19th century authors intentionally utilized archaic language for rhetorical purposes. That is likely why the genre of pseudo-biblical literature exists. Maybe you agree with that notion and are talking about something else. 

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15 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

I mean a couple of things. We can discuss English language usage in terms of its earliest usage (and Skousen does). We can go through the OED and look at what documentation exists for a specific kind of usage first appearing. But, what is much more difficult is looking for the latest usage. Skousen points to all of this EME in the Book of Mormon, but the problem is that we don't really care about when it first shows up, but rather, whether or not it would be understood at the time the Book of Mormon was published. It is much more difficult to put a date on when a usage would no longer be understood by English language speakers and readers. So the idea that EME appears in the Book of Mormon does not convince me in any way that the Book of Mormon text (or portions of it) originate in a time frame earlier than the 1828-1830 translation period. (This is another issue I bring up in my FAIR presentation on the translation of the Book of Mormon). So when we talk about the EME in the Book of Mormon, much of that EME still exists in ME. And even more would have still existed within the awareness of readers in 1830. And so we can talk about when specific words and usages enter the English language, but we usually cannot talk with any certainty about when they leave.

My belief is that the Book of Mormon in translation uses archaic language as a rhetorical style, as a way of making the text as a whole mean something different. As I noted:

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The final complication I want to mention is the question of authenticity. Most often, our analysis of translation (and translation related issues) isn’t meant to describe the process of translation itself, but to try and move that process into the realm of proof of authenticity. In the statement above, Carmack suggests that we should view Joseph as a translator in name only. In fact, Carmack goes on to suggest that Joseph couldn’t have translated the text. And this becomes proof of authenticity. It makes for a strange proof of authenticity when we talk of a translation by arguing that we have no idea who the translator was, or how they did their job.

Ben

This last makes no sense in light of Carmack's demonstration of the systematic nature of the EModE text.  No one in the 19th century was aware of that old style, and no one was capable of using it as a rhetorical vehicle.  The BofM would have to be unique in dredging that old systematic style up -- but from where?  It is much easier to believe that Joseph simply read the text from the surface of a stone.  That does not address where the English text actually came from, and that is unsettling, but that is our fate.  At least for now.

Edited by Robert F. Smith

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7 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

I'm not sure exactly what you mean. What I'm saying is that there seems to be validity to the idea that some 19th century authors intentionally utilized archaic language for rhetorical purposes. That is likely why the genre of pseudo-biblical literature exists. Maybe you agree with that notion and are talking about something else. 

That is only possible when the style being employed is actually known by someone who wishes to employ that style.  Using a kind of generalized KJV style, for example, was not only possible but was regularly employed by translators of early texts.  I can cite many.  Since the special features of EModE not used in the KJV show up in profusion in the BofM, one has to ask where they came from?  We cannot answer that question, because the systematic nature of that style was simply extinct.  One could not ape it without having a knowledge of it, or being a regular user of it, such as a scholarly writer in say 1540.  You and McGuire are simply on a wild goose chase there.

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Posted (edited)

A few comments.

McGuire is primarily interested in objects of inquiry that are different from what Skousen and Carmack are interested in.

Large-scale syntactic patterns in the Book of Mormon that are different from (pseudo)biblical and modern patterns and Joseph Smith's own patterns indicate that he didn't word the text. The verbal system is almost all early modern in character. The syntax supports the presence of dozens of items of obsolete lexical usage. The large majority of the non-persistent, archaic lexical usage is understandable in context. All the nonbiblical words that are used archaically were also used with other meanings in modern English and quite often in the text itself. Unfamiliar English words are confined to the biblical quotations.

OED def. 2 of the verb translate (today's default sense) doesn't work for either view of Book of Mormon translation, although def. 1 does, which is another primary sense of the term with similar time-depth. On the received view, Joseph didn't turn foreign words into English; he didn't even change English words into his own biblically influenced English. He took externally sourced thoughts and expressed those as he saw fit (with many exclusions). That is the revealed-ideas view — the received view — which is textually contra-indicated.

Earliest attestation is of interest in the case of late vocabulary. Latest attestation is of interest in the case of archaic vocabulary.

Edited by champatsch
All the words → All the nonbiblical words
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3 hours ago, Benjamin McGuire said:

I don't agree with Robert's conclusion here (really any of it). But on the assumption that he is right, it also makes no sense to me. After all, if the language is different enough that (as Carmack has argued) " The linguistic fingerprint of the Book of Mormon, in hundreds of different ways, is Early Modern English. Smith himself — out of a presumed idiosyncratic, quasi-biblical style — would not have translated and could not have translated the text into the form of the earliest text. Had his own language often found its way into the wording of the earliest text, its form would be very different from what we encounter." If this is true, then it means that the Book of Mormon is not a good, or a fluid translation, and it means that its first readers were not terribly competent readers. So what are we to make of a text that is lousy translation - and not just a lousy translation but one that would progressively become more and more difficult for its readers to understand? What is the purpose of this obsolete language in the text?

You seem to be conflating a text's readability in a certain time period with the likelihood that a specific author (Joseph Smith) produced it in that same time period. Carmack and Skousen obviously don't think their findings indicate that the text is "not good" or not "a fluid translation" or that it is "lousy." In fact, they have been impressed by the way the text draws upon archaic usages that would have been discernible (if not readily producible) by a 19th century audience. Skousen has talked about the text being massaged, meaning that its archaisms seem to have been carefully selected to not be incomprehensible for a 19th century audience. It employs many KJV usages better than other pseudobibilcal texts of the time, and yet it transcends them by consistently utilizing a suite of extrabiblical syntax, grammar, and lexis. I think it is a brilliant text in the way that it is both comprehensible to 19th/21st century audiences and yet distinctively archaic.

As for reaching definitive conclusions about the rhetorical purpose(s) of its archaic style, there are still too many unknowns. We can't be sure what process was used to produce the text or even who its primary audiences are. Whatever the answer is, I believe our collective thinking has usually been too narrow in scope. We need to think bigger. How long will the Book of Mormon be read in English? How will it be viewed in 500 years or 5,000 years? What will English be like in later periods (considering that its current grammatical prescriptions have afforded it a notable degree stabilization)? Is an English text utilized on the other side of the veil, and, if so, how does it correlate to its editions/translation on this side of the veil? When did it first become available to individuals on the other side of the veil? Etc. 

All I can say is that we may be too mortality-centric and pre-millennium-centric in our views about the English text. If some divine process produced it, we might do well to broaden our thinking about what factors may have influenced its rhetorical purposes.

Edited by Ryan Dahle

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1 hour ago, Robert F. Smith said:

That is only possible when the style being employed is actually known by someone who wishes to employ that style.  Using a kind of generalized KJV style, for example, was not only possible but was regularly employed by translators of early texts.  I can cite many.  Since the special features of EModE not used in the KJV show up in profusion in the BofM, one has to ask where they came from?  We cannot answer that question, because the systematic nature of that style was simply extinct.  One could not ape it without having a knowledge of it, or being a regular user of it, such as a scholarly writer in say 1540.  You and McGuire are simply on a wild goose chase there.

Obviously, based on my past talking points on this issue, I don't believe Joseph could have produced the text and therefore whatever rhetorical purposes its archaism may have had, it didn't come from him. I think you and I are just talking about different things, and are essentially in agreement.

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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On 6/19/2019 at 4:34 PM, nealr said:

Were you this concerned about Welch's particular expertise when you had him write the foreword of Bokovoy's book, Authoring the Old Testament?

No. Because we were asking him for a foreword, not criticisms or peer review.

On 6/19/2019 at 4:34 PM, nealr said:

but he's spent decades involved in the field at places like SBL

Yeah, and I've heard about some of those...

On 6/19/2019 at 4:34 PM, nealr said:

I'd think all that constitutes at least some sort of relevant "professional" experience, no? I am not saying Welch is better qualified than Bokovoy, but I would suggest you aren't really giving Welch enough credit.

I stand by what I said.

On 6/19/2019 at 4:10 PM, nealr said:

What does that have to do with anything? Did I say any of us were better qualified than Bokovoy on this issue? I was correcting Robert's mistaken assertion that Elder Callister did not have anyone look at it. That's it. I didn't say we were better than Bokovoy. I did not even say we disagreed with Bokovoy, though you seem to be assuming we did.

I stand by what I said: "this seems indicative of a lot of apologetic 'peer review' that largely involves passing something among friends and then publication regardless of whether or not criticisms are addressed."

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