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Anoter Chapter In The Seyffarth Chronicles


Chris Smith

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I have been reading The Story of the Book of Abraham: Mummies, Manuscripts, and Mormonism, by H. Donl Peterson. Peterson's posthumously published book is an important contribution to the study of the history of the BoA. Nevertheless, it has its flaws. In one notable example on page 212, it adds to the confusion surrounding a statement made by Gustavus Seyffarth, reported in the 1859 St. Louis Museum catalog. Says Peterson,

212The 1859 catalog of the St. Louis Museum quotes Seyffarth as saying, "The papyrus roll is not a record, but an invocation to the Deity Osiris . . . and a picture of the attendant spirits, intro ducing the dead to the Judge, Osiris." 16 Dr. Seyffarth may have been looking at two fragments now known as IIIA, Court of Osiris (on the throne), or perhaps Facsimile 3 in the Book of Abraham, or some other fragment presently unknown.

If Peterson's name were "Tanner", and he were an anti-Mormon writer, the use of ellipses would earn him a scathing review in the pages of FROB. Even moreso, since the information he has omitted provides crucial context and disallows the obfuscation in which he engages in the following sentence.

Here is the full entry from the Museum Catalog:

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

I have bolded the portion that is omitted by Dr. Peterson's ellipses. It informs us that the document Professor Seyffarth viewed contained the name of the deceased, Horus, and so cannot have been the "two fragments now known as IIIA, Court of Osiris (on the throne)," as Dr. Peterson suggests. (Those two fragments are in the possession of the Church anyway, and so would not have been part of the now-destroyed St. Louis Museum collection.) Rather, it must have been the vignette known among Mormons as Facsimile 3. In other words, Dr. Peterson suggests that the roll Seyffarth says was "not a record, but an invocation to the Deity Osirus" might have been the Book of Dead roll rather than the Book of Breathings roll (from which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated Abraham's record). If he were correct, then the Seyffarth statement would afford no evidence against the Missing Papyrus Theory (MPT). Unfortunately for the MPT, he is patently incorrect, as the missing portion of the Seyffarth quote informs us.

Despite my objection to his treatment of this quotation, I bear Dr. Peterson no ill will, and sincerely hope that he is resting well in a blissful paradise. My condolences to the family.

-CK

EDIT: perhaps the moderators could correct the misspelling in my thread title?

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If Peterson's name were "Tanner", and he were an anti-Mormon writer, the use of ellipses would earn him a scathing review in the pages of FROB.

Very possibly.

Of course, he would probably have been taken to task on it even if his name were Peterson -- no relation, by the way -- and he were a pro-Mormon writer. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but we've given many negative reviews to books written by believing Latter-day Saints. You do us an injustice to insinuate otherwise.

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Very possibly.

Of course, he would probably have been taken to task on it even if his name were Peterson -- no relation, by the way -- and he were a pro-Mormon writer. Perhaps you haven't noticed, but we've given many negative reviews to books written by believing Latter-day Saints. You do us an injustice to insinuate otherwise.

I didn't insinuate that all the FARMS reviews of pro-Mormon books are positive. What I insinuated is that FARMS writers have a different standard for pro-Mormon books than for books written by critics.

I stand by my insinuation.

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Dr. Gee did review it, and he made no mention of the use of ellipses to omit important historical information. Perhaps he wouldn't have been indifferent to it if it had been brought to his attention, but unlike his review of Larson's book, he doesn't seem to have gone looking for such errors.

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I didn't insinuate that all the FARMS reviews of pro-Mormon books are positive. What I insinuated is that FARMS writers have a different standard for pro-Mormon books than for books written by critics.

I stand by my insinuation.

Maybe a more charitable reviewer would have noticed that Peterson source for the Seyffarth quote was Stanley Kimball's Winter 1983 Dialogue article, "New Light on Old Egyptian: Mormon Mummies 1848-71," page 74. And guess what: the elipises are in Kimball's article. No wonder Peterson made the suggestion he did.

Now, maybe the FARMS Review could have taken him to task for not going to the original source or for less than perfect scholarship, but intentional obfuscation? I don't think so.

I wouldn't stand so close to that insinuation if I were you Chris. Makes you look less than you are.

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1.

Ah. I forgot that, among the hundreds of books we've reviewed, we reviewed that one eleven years ago. Oh well. I guess the secret's out: I'm fallible.

In any event, it's very possible that Professor Gee had not noticed the problem to which you point. He has, as you are probably aware, been rather rough on other books that he's reviewed by believers about the Book of Abraham. Contrary to claims by certain critics, we don't endorse bad books simply because they support Mormonism.

2.

Excellent catch, gtaggart.

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Indeed, Gregory. It seems you are correct: it was Stanley Kimball, not H. Donl Peterson, who originated this little bit of obfuscation. Thank you for the correction; I must admit that this omission struck me as very uncharacteristic of Dr. Peterson's work.

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There's a parallel thread to this one on another board. Much of the substance is the same, but there are several additional posts there that don't (and couldn't) appear here, and the resulting differences between the two threads are instructive.

We're missing so very much by lacking certain individuals and types of individuals here! Vulgarity, insults, gratuitous personal attacks . . . What good is serious conversation without them?

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Long and irrelevant personal insult deleted.

Watch it, JNclone.

But cutting to the chase:

CK

I have bolded the portion that is omitted by Dr. Peterson's ellipses. It informs us that the document Professor Seyffarth viewed contained the name of the deceased, Horus, and so cannot have been the "two fragments now known as IIIA, Court of Osiris (on the throne)," as Dr. Peterson suggests. (Those two fragments are in the possession of the Church anyway, and so would not have been part of the now-destroyed St. Louis Museum collection.) Rather, it must have been the vignette known among Mormons as Facsimile 3. In other words, Dr. Peterson suggests that the roll Seyffarth says was "not a record, but an invocation to the Deity Osirus" might have been the Book of Dead roll rather than the Book of Breathings roll (from which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated Abraham's record). If he were correct, then the Seyffarth statement would afford no evidence against the Missing Papyrus Theory (MPT). Unfortunately for the MPT, he is patently incorrect, as the missing portion of the Seyffarth quote informs us.

So to this extent the Missing Papyrus explanation of the startling incongruity between the Book of Abraham and what Egyptologists read in the Joseph Smith papyri is LESS plausible than before.

That makes the other explanations more plausible, and they appear to be either:

1. Joseph Smith made it all up.

2. God decided for some unaccountable reason to pass the BoA to JS's mind while allowing him to believe he was translating from papyri which bore no relation to it.

On another thread I pointed out that there were grounds for believing that JS wanted people to think he knew the ancient Egyptian language, since he appears to have published (in Times and Seasons and elsewhere) alleged Egyptian phrases in transliteration and gave English equivalents for them. However my impression that these bore no resemblance to any known Egyptian was confirmed by my consultation of a professional Egyptologist at a reputable university. Mindful of the fact that opinions on such subjects may differ, I suggested that it was open to anyone else to find another professional Egyptologist to say JS's strange phrases might actually be Egyptian. But no direct answer was forthcoming.

See: http://www.mormonapologetics.org/index.php...c=25580&hl=

So for the moment I can only conclude that the facts in the last paragraph strengthen the case for (1) as the explanation for the BoA, and that every bit of evidence against the missing papyrus theory makes the case stronger. Of course new facts may be discovered in time. But that seems to be the present state of the question.

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Mods:

Long and irrelevant personal insult deleted.

Watch it, JNclone.

I submit to your ruling as in honour bound by the rules of the board. You can judge what is irrelevant, and what is not, what is an insult, and what is not. No sweat.

But LONG? I quoted the previous post, which seemed to me to be off-topic, and added about two sentences of my own. Perhaps we have a different idea about what is long. But ... OK even there. It was long if you say it was long.

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Hi CK,

Perhaps you should send this to the publishers/editors of the book (or maybe even Donl Peterson). I'm sure they'd be open to correcting this omission in later editions (if there is a later edition printed).

Donl Peterson didn't "omit" anything. His source for the quote in question did and with apparently no ulterior motive since the source (Stanley Kimball, some 12 years before Peterson's book) wasn't trying to suggest what Peterson suggested in his book. (See my post above.)

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Donl Peterson didn't "omit" anything. His source for the quote in question did and with apparently no ulterior motive since the source (Stanley Kimball, some 12 years before Peterson's book) wasn't trying to suggest what Peterson suggested in his book. (See my post above.)

I saw your previous post, and I apologize if my post alluded to trying to implicate and/or place blame for the "omission.â? Nonetheless, there is an omission from the "primary" source that appears to undermine the conclusions Donl Peterson was trying to draw and Iâ??d think the publishers/editors (although mainly the author, who unfortunately has passed on) would want to know about this for any future reprints of the publication.

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<snip>

Here is the full entry from the Museum Catalog:

I have bolded the portion that is omitted by Dr. Peterson's ellipses. It informs us that the document Professor Seyffarth viewed contained the name of the deceased, Horus, and so cannot have been the "two fragments now known as IIIA, Court of Osiris (on the throne)," as Dr. Peterson suggests. (Those two fragments are in the possession of the Church anyway, and so would not have been part of the now-destroyed St. Louis Museum collection.) Rather, it must have been the vignette known among Mormons as Facsimile 3. <snip>

CK (or anyone else for that matter), do we know for a fact that Horus's name does not appear on JSP IIIA? I've taken a quick look at my sources and haven't found anything but a brief description of the papyrus. Let me stress, that I'm not trying to support Br. Peterson's case here--he probably wouldn't have made the case had he had Seyffarth's complete quote in front of him. I'm just wondering. Thanks.

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Donl Peterson didn't "omit" anything. His source for the quote in question did and with apparently no ulterior motive since the source (Stanley Kimball, some 12 years before Peterson's book) wasn't trying to suggest what Peterson suggested in his book. (See my post above.)

Actually, it was. See two pages later in Kimball's article.

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Okay, so at this point--and as if it mattered--I'm interested in knowing where Kimball got his St. Louis Museum catalog quote. Is he quoting from the catalog or from James R. Clark, Walter L. Whipple, or Jay M. Todd, all of whom he praises on the first page of the Dialogue article?

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CK (or anyone else for that matter), do we know for a fact that Horus's name does not appear on JSP IIIA? I've taken a quick look at my sources and haven't found anything but a brief description of the papyrus. Let me stress, that I'm not trying to support Br. Peterson's case here--he probably wouldn't have made the case had he had Seyffarth's complete quote in front of him. I'm just wondering. Thanks.

It doesn't. It is the vignette for Book of the Dead 125, and bears the name of a woman named Noufianoub. The reason the Book of Breathings bears the name of Hor (or Horus, in Greek) is that it was made for him when he died to be his passport/guidebook to the afterlife. The Book of the Dead for Noufianoub was made to serve a similar purpose for a deceased woman named Noufianoub. We would not expect one person's name to appear on the other person's papyrus. And in any case, what Seyffarth describes-- an invocation to the deity Osiris in which appears the name of the person Hor-- is a very nice description of the Hor Book of Breathings (and very similar to the way Seyffarth described other Books of Breathings).

For the identification of IIIa-IIIb as the papyrus of Noufianoub, see Gee's Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, pp. 10-11.

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Okay, so at this point--and as if it mattered--I'm interested in knowing where Kimball got his St. Louis Museum catalog quote. Is he quoting from the catalog or from James R. Clark, Walter L. Whipple, or Jay M. Todd, all of whom he praises on the first page of the Dialogue article?

Jay Todd suggests the same possibility about Seyffarth having seen fragment IIIa-IIIb, and includes the same quote, but without the ellipses (see p. 148). This is where I initially assumed Donl Peterson had gotten it from, since he utilized Todd's book extensively.

Best,

-CK

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Okay, so at this point--and as if it mattered--I'm interested in knowing where Kimball got his St. Louis Museum catalog quote. Is he quoting from the catalog or from James R. Clark, Walter L. Whipple, or Jay M. Todd, all of whom he praises on the first page of the Dialogue article?

Well, it wasn't Walter L. Whipple's fault either. Writing in BYU Studies, he says (headings are mine for clarity),

Text:

According to Professor Seyffarth the papyrus fragment was part of â??an invocation to the Deity Osirusâ? with drawings of the attendant spirits presenting the dead person by the name of â??Horusâ? to be judged. 28

Footnote 28:

Catalogue, 1859, op. cit., p. 45. It is interesting to note that some have noted the name of "HOR" on three of the papyrus fragments recently given to the Church. This name corresponds with Seyffarth's "HORUS" and proves which fragments were sold to the St. Louis Museum. Possibly the fragment containing Facsimile No. 3 or other hieratic writings from the same roll were what Seyffarth was describing. BYU Studies 10:1 Autumn 1969

I can't find Clark's book or quote.

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It kind of looks like Kimball is the man responsible for the elipses, and given that BYU Studies and Deseret Book both published articles or books that contain the exact quote or a good paraphrase from the museum catalogue (and given that both Kimball and Peterson refer their readers to one or more of those books and articles), it's hard to argue that someone was intentionally obfuscating to protect the Church; however, I see a more benign explanation. At the bottom of the first page of Kimball's article in Dialogue, we have his biographical information--history professsor at Southern Illinois University and all that--and then this little sentence:

This paper was originally delivered at the 1982 Mormon History Association meeting in Ogden, Utah. The style of oral presentation has been preserved.

In oral presentations, verbal elipses are the norm, often for brevity's sake. At least they are when I talk. Maybe the elipses were an editorial decision on either Kimball's part for brevity's sake or on the part of the Dialogue editors to preserve the "style of oral presentation."

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