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Terryl Givens Interview of Dr. Kerry Muhlestein


smac97

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3 minutes ago, pogi said:

If they don’t like calling Joseph’s process a “translation”, do they suggest a better word to use?

Yes.  They discuss this at about the 8:00 mark.  The word they both think may be better is "transmission."

Thanks,

-Smac

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Givens rehearsal of 1913 responses to egytological attacks is more interesting than Muhlstein's soup of catalyst/missing long scroll.  We have Joseph's handwriting on a draft of the GAEL, this is a pretty closed issue.

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9 minutes ago, blueglass said:

Givens rehearsal of 1913 responses to egytological attacks is more interesting than Muhlstein's soup of catalyst/missing long scroll. 

I think it's interesting that you disparage Muhlestein's perspective.  He seems to be keeping all options on the table, as we are not sure which one is correct.  

So for you, having an open mind on such things is . . . bad?

9 minutes ago, blueglass said:

We have Joseph's handwriting on a draft of the GAEL, this is a pretty closed issue.

Really?  What is the "issue," and what is "closed" about it?

Also, what are your thoughts about Muhlestein's 2016 article, "Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Introduction to the Historiography of their Acquisitions, Translations, and Interpretations" (particularly the "Issues of Translation" section, which addresses the GAEL)?

Thanks,

-Smac

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Sounded and looked to me like were mainly focused on trying to understand what Joseph was thinking and where he got his ideas that inspired his writings, rather than talking about how they know or how others can know whether or not what Joseph wrote is true.

They did say something about the Book of Abraham functioning as a catalyst to build faith, with God to confirm whether or not something is true, but they weren't really focused on talking about that.  

I think it would have helped more if they had talked about their own experiences of writing something they know God inspired them to write, analyzing their own thought processes as they wrote what they wrote.  That's how I think of it and God has helped me to see it that way.

 

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4 hours ago, pogi said:

If they don’t like calling Joseph’s process a “translation”, do they suggest a better word to use?

 

4 hours ago, smac97 said:

Yes.  They discuss this at about the 8:00 mark.  The word they both think may be better is "transmission."................

The 1828 Webster's Dictionary has that as a meaning of "translation," and so does the OED.

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3 hours ago, blueglass said:

Givens rehearsal of 1913 responses to egytological attacks is more interesting than Muhlstein's soup of catalyst/missing long scroll.  We have Joseph's handwriting on a draft of the GAEL, this is a pretty closed issue.

Muhlestein does seem open to the catalyst notion, even though he doesn't use the word.  However, careful analysis of the entire matter makes it clear that it is not at all a closed issue, as I point out in my “Brief Assessment of the LDS Book of Abraham,” version 10 online March 21, 2019, online at https://www.scribd.com/document/118810727/A-Brief-Assessment-of-the-LDS-Book-of-Abraham .

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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

...........................

Also, what are your thoughts about Muhlestein's 2016 article, "Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Introduction to the Historiography of their Acquisitions, Translations, and Interpretations" (particularly the "Issues of Translation" section, which addresses the GAEL)?.......................

By the way, I first wrote my "Brief Assessment of the LDS Book of Abraham,” back in December 2012, after putting the whole of it here on MDDB, so I am not following Muhlestein in using the word "assessment."  He may be following me.  :pirate:

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3 hours ago, Ahab said:

..........................

I think it would have helped more if they had talked about their own experiences of writing something they know God inspired them to write, analyzing their own thought processes as they wrote what they wrote.  That's how I think of it and God has helped me to see it that way.

That would be particularly interesting in view of the masterful way in which Givens writes, almost as though he is inspired.

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5 hours ago, smac97 said:

.........

2. ................ "Facsimile 1" glyph in the BoA, and that there is an assumption that the hieroglyphics on either side of the glyph "is what Joseph Smith was translating from."  We can now translate these hieroglyphics, and they say nothing about ........... the text found in the BoA.  M states that if this assumption is correct, then it can be legitimate grounds for calling into question Joseph Smith's ability as a translator.  M further states that there are all sorts of ways to test that assumption, and that it is "fairly demonstrable that it's not a safe assumption, and even that it's an incorrect assumption."

3. ............ his explanations of the facsimiles.  G asks whether this is a more "intractable as a problem," and M responds that it is "in some ways," but that "it depends on what your assumptions are."  M goes on to say that Joseph "explains things about the facsimiles," and that he "doesn't actually claim to translate the glyphs," but that he "says he knows what they are about."  G then asks M if he (M) is "putting a lot of weight on the differentiation between 'translation' and 'explanation,'" and M responds "for the facsimiles, yes."  M proceeds to state that "there is not much text in most of them," but that the limited amount of text in Facsimile 2 which Joseph Smith said was "about these things," and that if we translate them today, "they are really similar to what he said they're about."  .............

Joseph's explanations are frequently on target, but Muhlestein actually gets it wrong in suggesting that the illustrations (pictures) are to be read differently than the hieroglyphs.  Egyptologists read them both.  Otherwise, M is correct here.

5 hours ago, smac97 said:

4. M also states (speaking, I think, of modern Egyptological interpretations of the glyphs/hieroglyphics) that "I'm not even sure if that is the question we should be asking," since we don't know if Joseph was actually trying to tell us how "an average ancient Egyptian would have seen it" (that is, how they would have construed the glyphs), or if he (Joseph) was telling us "how a Jew would have re-interpreted it," since "they certainly did re-interpret Egyptian things," .............."we are typically basing our questions and research on assumptions, often without looking carefully at what those assumptions are."

5. G asks M if he would reject the proposition that we have "evidence that definitively establishes that Joseph Smith failed as a translator of Egyptian," and M says "Yes, I would reject that."

This is a  major point, but Givens seems not to notice.  The date of the papyri does not even come up in the discussion.

5 hours ago, smac97 said:

6. ......................."  He goes on to summarize eyewitness accounts that Joseph "was working on the long roll" in his possession.  M states that this indicates that "Joseph at least thinks he's translating from the papyrus that he had," .........................

7. G suggests that "the problems and challenges of the Book of Abraham present us with an opportunity to re-examine what we thought we knew about the nature of translation, what 'translation' means, how it operates in the case of {Joseph Smith}."  M concurs.  G also states that "this isn't a kind of last ditch effort to salvage a crumbling paradigm, as much as it forces us to re-examine what we thought we knew from the very beginning, and got wrong."  He goes on to suggest that "it doesn't really ring true" to call what Joseph did re: the Book of Mormon as "a translation."  M concurs with these sentiments, and also cites the "parchment of John" (referring, I think, to D&C 7).  M itemizes all of these (the BoA, the BoM, the JST, and the "parchment of John"), saying that "none of those would fit what we traditionally think of as 'translation.'"...............................

But what would we substitute for it?  Whatever they come up with needs to take account of the work of Royal Skousen and Stanford Carmack.

5 hours ago, smac97 said:

So far, G and M haven't really covered any "new ground" for me.  ......................

True, and that is somewhat disappointing.

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28 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

That would be particularly interesting in view of the masterful way in which Givens writes, almost as though he is inspired.

Yes, I think so too.  Lots of people write as they are inspired to write by the Holy Spirit.  To understand how Joseph Smith did it I think we can all use our own experiences of how we do it and think that Joseph did it in much the same way that we do.

Being a prophet of God isn't that hard.  All it takes is revelation from God of some sort, usually inspiration if not visions or dreams, and then talking about what God has revealed to us in the way that he did it.

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For those nearby, Givens, along with Hauglid, will be speaking tomorrow night from 5:30-7:30 Sept 26, 2019 on a related subject, their new book The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism's Most Controversial Scripture at Benchmark Books in SLC. Seating is limited and they are asking for people to RSVP on Facebook.

See Benchmark Books Website, scroll down a little from the top and on the right is a link to where one can RSVP.

Edited by CA Steve
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5 hours ago, smac97 said:
5 hours ago, pogi said:

If they don’t like calling Joseph’s process a “translation”, do they suggest a better word to use?

Yes.  They discuss this at about the 8:00 mark.  The word they both think may be better is "transmission."

"Divination" through the facility of the Urim&Thummim (whether it be by interpreters, seer stone, or highly trained mental/spiritual discipline).  All scriptures that JS pondered and "transcribed" onto paper.  By the gift and power of God, not by personal knowledge of Egyptian script (reformed or whatever).

It matters very little to me what remaining fragments correspond to the Book of Abraham.  However, it would be awesome if another mummy was found with rolls of papyri.  Could it be the Lord used extraordinary measures to preserve the set that was found in the Lebolo/Chandler mummies?  The only way it was preserved being stashed within the cloth?  The fumes of embalming fluid drove away destructive insects?

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2 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

but Muhlestein actually gets it wrong in suggesting that the illustrations (pictures) are to be read differently than the hieroglyphs

Are you going off the summary offered or what Muhlestein says himself?  I assume Smac got most things correct, but he may have missed nuances (not listened yet to see, but that is pretty typical of those summarizing in my experience, even good ones).

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1 hour ago, longview said:

However, it would be awesome if another mummy was found with rolls of papyri.  Could it be the Lord used extraordinary measures to preserve the set that was found in the Lebolo/Chandler mummies? 

Are you saying no other mummies are currently known to have been found with rolls of papyri?  If not, could you please explain your point.

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20 minutes ago, cinepro said:

TELEMMGLPICT000153498272_trans_NvBQzQNjv

The irony here is that this photo of a sound structure is obviously photoshopped to try to make it look like it is in serious trouble and weak attempts are being made to save it, and it is about to collapse!  But that depiction is completely fake!   Is that really what you're trying to tell us? :) 

 

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37 minutes ago, Calm said:

Are you saying no other mummies are currently known to have been found with rolls of papyri?  If not, could you please explain your point.

I have read of other mummies with book of breathings and other short pieces.  I am referring to whole rolls with much more substantive contents.

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3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

Joseph's explanations are frequently on target, but Muhlestein actually gets it wrong in suggesting that the illustrations (pictures) are to be read differently than the hieroglyphs.  Egyptologists read them both.

Would glyphs (images/illustrations) be more open to interpetation than hieroglyphs?  

3 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:
Quote

So far, G and M haven't really covered any "new ground" for me.  ......................

True, and that is somewhat disappointing.

It seems like they were trying to assess, and describe for others, where we are now.  I appreciate that, as I think the vast majority of the Saints have not systematically studied the Book of Abraham, particularly as to issues arising from a 21-century Egyptological/skeptical point of view.

I've read a fair amount of Gee's and Muhlestein's writings on the BoA.  I've read FAIR's materials.  I've followed a number of online debates on the subject (IIRC, this board or its predecessor had a pretty good one where Brent Metcalfe showed up and provided some interesting comments about various BoA-related issues).  I've read a large number of critical articles on the subject as well.  But I have not really been systematic about this stuff.  There are still several basic treatments that I have yet to read and re-read.

Thanks,

-Smac

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16 minutes ago, InCognitus said:

The irony here is that this photo of a sound structure is obviously photoshopped to try to make it look like it is in serious trouble and weak attempts are being made to save it, and it is about to collapse!  But that depiction is completely fake!   Is that really what you're trying to tell us? :) 

Actually, no, the picture is not photoshopped.  It is an image of a building in Taiwan that fell over partially during an earthquake in 2018.  Here's a link to the news item that includes the above photo.

My response to Cinepro's posted photo was a bit different.  Givens seems to be a well-respected fellow.  He's thoughtful.  Erudite.  An excellent writer.  He suggested, and Muhlestein concurred, that "this isn't a kind of last ditch effort to salvage a crumbling paradigm, as much as it forces us to re-examine what we thought we knew from the very beginning, and got wrong."

As Cinepro apparently feels differently, I hope he comes back and provides more input than a drive-by potshot.

Thanks,

-Smac

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8 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Actually, no, the picture is not photoshopped.  It is an image of a building in Taiwan that fell over partially during an earthquake in 2018.  Here's a link to the news item that includes the above photo.

Wow, it must have a deep foundation for it to be able to tilt like that without falling over.  That's impressive.

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9 hours ago, smac97 said:

Here:

A summary:

1. Givens ("G") asks Muhlestein ("M") about "what is at stake in the controversy about the Book of Abraham."  M posits, correctly, that some things we argue about are not very important, and some are.  The important bit is whether Joseph Smith was an inspired translator, which can affect the assessment of Joseph Smith as a prophet.

2. G asks M about the "most compelling arguments against" Joseph as a translator.  M posits, again correctly, that Joseph Smith had two long scrolls of papyri and fragments, that all but 11 fragments were destroyed in the Chicago Fire, that one of the fragments contains most of "Facsimile 1" glyph in the BoA, and that there is an assumption that the hieroglyphics on either side of the glyph "is what Joseph Smith was translating from."  We can now translate these hieroglyphics, and they say nothing about Abraham or the text found in the BoA.  M states that if this assumption is correct, then it can be legitimate grounds for calling into question Joseph Smith's ability as a translator.  M further states that there are all sorts of ways to test that assumption, and that it is "fairly demonstrable that it's not a safe assumption, and even that it's an incorrect assumption."

3. M goes on to raise a second argument against Joseph as a translator, which is his explanations of the facsimiles.  G asks whether this is a more "intractable as a problem," and M responds that it is "in some ways," but that "it depends on what your assumptions are."  M goes on to say that Joseph "explains things about the facsimiles," and that he "doesn't actually claim to translate the glyphs," but that he "says he knows what they are about."  G then asks M if he (M) is "putting a lot of weight on the differentiation between 'translation' and 'explanation,'" and M responds "for the facsimiles, yes."  M proceeds to state that "there is not much text in most of them," but that the limited amount of text in Facsimile 2 which Joseph Smith said was "about these things," and that if we translate them today, "they are really similar to what he said they're about."  However, M says, most of what Joseph gave is "an explanation of the meaning behind these [glyphs]."  M further states that "if you assume that Joseph Smith is giving us the same interpretation that an average ancient Egyptian would have given us, then that becomes problematic, although it shouldn't if we're more careful because we don't actually know what ancient Egyptians thought they meant, we only know what modern Egyptologists like myself think they meant."  M states that Joseph's explanations of the meaning of the glyphs "don't match up most of the time with how we would typically interpret those."  M also states, regarding the glyphs/facsimiles, that "if we look at them more carefully, we will see that, for at least Facsimile 1 and 3, there are some key differences," that these glyphs are "fairly unique," and that "I don't know that we can give a standard interpretation {of them}."

4. M also states (speaking, I think, of modern Egyptological interpretations of the glyphs/hieroglyphics) that "I'm not even sure if that is the question we should be asking," since we don't know if Joseph was actually trying to tell us how "an average ancient Egyptian would have seen it" (that is, how they would have construed the glyphs), or if he (Joseph) was telling us "how a Jew would have re-interpreted it," since "they certainly did re-interpret Egyptian things," or if he was telling us that "this is what we should get out of it," or if he was telling us that "there were a group of priests in Thebes who were taking Jewish things and intermixing {them} with Egyptian religion," and "is that how they {the priests in Thebes} would have interpreted it," or is it "some other thing he's telling us."  "In the end," M states, "we don't know," and that "we are typically basing our questions and research on assumptions, often without looking carefully at what those assumptions are."

5. G asks M if he would reject the proposition that we have "evidence that definitively establishes that Joseph Smith failed as a translator of Egyptian," and M says "Yes, I would reject that."

6. G asks M if there are "alternative ways of thinking about Joseph and his prophetic capacity that do not rely upon him being a successful translator of Egyptian," and M says "Yes," and that "there is a possibility that he's not giving us anything that's on the papyri at all."  He goes on to summarize eyewitness accounts that Joseph "was working on the long roll" in his possession.  M states that this indicates that "Joseph at least thinks he's translating from the papyrus that he had," but that it is possible that the papyrus, as he looked at it, opened him up to "inspiration and revelation, much the same way as we get the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, where he's looking at an English King James Version of the Bible, and suddenly it's opened up, and he's giving us things that aren't in there at all.  That could have happened with {the} papyri."

7. G suggests that "the problems and challenges of the Book of Abraham present us with an opportunity to re-examine what we thought we knew about the nature of translation, what 'translation' means, how it operates in the case of {Joseph Smith}."  M concurs.  G also states that "this isn't a kind of last ditch effort to salvage a crumbling paradigm, as much as it forces us to re-examine what we thought we knew from the very beginning, and got wrong."  He goes on to suggest that "it doesn't really ring true" to call what Joseph did re: the Book of Mormon as "a translation."  M concurs with these sentiments, and also cites the "parchment of John" (referring, I think, to D&C 7).  M itemizes all of these (the BoA, the BoM, the JST, and the "parchment of John"), saying that "none of those would fit what we traditionally think of as 'translation.'"

All of the above is just in the first 8 minutes of the interview, which is 24 minutes long.  Don't have time to finish summarizing, but will be listening to the rest and providing further summary.

So far, G and M haven't really covered any "new ground" for me.  However, it is refreshing to have all of these thoughts consolidated and summarized so clearly and succinctly.

Please give it a listen, then post your thoughts.

Thanks,

-Smac

Have not listened yet, but a yawner for me.

I had understood all that before I joined the church.  Uneducated folks do not translate Egyptian, supposedly "Reformed" or not.

Did Old Testament prophets or Peter James and John translate arcane and obscure languages?

Of course not. Were they prophets and received Revelation from God? Of course.!

I have never understood why it is even an issue.

 

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