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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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Currently Robert Ritner, Renowned Egyptologist, is in the midst of a multi part interview with John Dehlin and Radio Free Mormon.  Two parts are done and another 1 or 2 are proposed and should be published in the next day or so.  The moderators here seem to dislike such links so you will need to find on your own unless someone assures me they are safe to share.

Prof. Ritner goes through in parts one and two every facet of the Book of Abraham Story and then they slow way down and go meticulously through Facsimile 1 and 2  and 3 (some of this will be further covered in part 3 and maybe 4)

Three things happen that make this series a a important part of the BOA conversation.
1.) He goes through and compares all of the Mormon/Joseph Smith assertions regarding the facsimiles and a deep discussion regarding their accuracy is discussed with perhaps two vague kinda hits and about 200 misses with the Egyptological background given to explain each in detail

2.) They go through the proposed "evidence" given by apologists and completely decimate it giving the Egyptological evidence to help contextualize the assertions with the data.

3.) They go through whether John Gee, Kerry Muhlestein are being intellectually honest and Ritner shows on numerous occasions that these two are not being intellectually honest as they present the data.

Radio Free Mormon and Bill Reel did a multi part series on the Book of Abraham as well which I think covers the issue well for an entry level dive into why the BOA is a rabbit hole of problems.  Again not sharing here as it seems not welcome to do so.

Now to my point

One of the big pieces of data to come of of the conversation is that each facsimile was its own separate document unrelated and entirely disconnected from the others.  They each were with their own mummy and that only in the 1800's did the purchaser Michael Chandler or someone slightly before or after (AKA Joseph Smith) grouped the documents together and treated them as interconnected.  To the degree that each document is missing parts and pieces of the drawing on the facsimiles and that Joseph Smith in re-creating those partial drawing to complete them borrows from the other drawing images that simply don't belong on the document they are added to.  Bill Reel on his Social Media this morning said it this way

"It is as if you took a Walmart receipt and a Burger King Receipt and claimed they came from the same document (and an unrelated document at that such as a manual for building a bicycle especially in light of Joseph Smith using characters of one to fill in missing parts of the other and getting them wrong)"

QUESTION: The interview generally and this point specifically seems to completely decimate the Book of Abraham as an ancient Document.  If Ritner is right about 20% of what he says there are serious issues with an ancient interpretation that make such essentially absurd.  How can we then still arrive at an ancient document when so many mental hurdles must be overcome?

And the catalyst theory while still viable has the position needing to retreat so far to allow for the evidence and data so as to be indistinguishable from a fraud.  And if a faithful interpretation is indistinguishable from a fraud, why not just skip the mental gymnastics and just go with the most rational conclusion that it is just fictional psedupigripha created as a deception?  (Because that conclusion requires no mental gymnastics)

Edited by The Unclean Deacon
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This should be interesting!

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What stood out for me was Ritner's discussion of Fac 1 and how it was restored incorrectly. He shows case of similar pictures where the person on the couch is holding his penis with a bird above and the standing figure has a jackal head. The "slave' in Fac 3 had his Jackal nose chiseled out. What would have have happen if the Fac 1 was removed without loss and revealed the "priest" with a Jackal head?

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The way we arrive at the BoM's historicity and JS's translation of the Bible, and the way we arrive at the Council of the Fifty, and the way we arrive at the different accounts of the First Vision, and the way we arrive at the blacks not getting the PH for a long time, and the way we arrive at the polygamy/bigamy that was lived and on and on.....

We go by the spirit and listen to that. That's all you've got, IMO.

Edited by Tacenda
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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

Why not trust my case to the objectivity and omniscience of the prosecution?   What could possibly go wrong?

FWIW,

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

surely you have something of substance to explain where Ritner is incorrect and/or goes too far?  otherwise the jury is going to side with the prosecution.  Their argument is pretty tight.

Edited by The Unclean Deacon
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Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, Kevin Christensen said:

On my bookshelves, several books, journals, and articles written by very well informed people (including some who have personally studied Egyptology), a few videos, all discussing various aspects of the story and implications of the existence of the Book of Abraham.  (Nibley, Gee, Haglud, Muhlstein, Tvedtnes, Barney, Ostler, Rhodes, Robert F. Smith, Kevin Barney offering a fresh approach, Stephen Ricks, Steve Smoot, Schryver, etc.) Plus I have several decades or experience with people who confidently assure me that as far as the claims of Joseph Smith go, "There is nothing to see here. Move along."  In response to such charges, I have consistently found that good things happen if I 1) keep my eyes open, 2) give things time, and 3) re-examine my own assumptions now and then.  The alternative is 1) Not explore, 2) Insist on final answers now, and 3) Never examine my own assumptions.  I have learned that nothing good emerges from the second alternative.

I've listened to several hours of Dehlin talking to experts, and have had a few exchanges with him over the years.  Frankly, what that experience has taught me is not to trust him as either un-biased or particularly well-informed. He strikes me as all-to-Trump-like to take seriously on intellectual issues.  For instance, if you go back and look at his Mormon Stories interview with Michael Coe, you might still see in the comments where he deleted my posts about various bits of misinformation (for example, I pointed out that the Book of Mormon did not mention brass helmets or iron arrowheads, so that undermined Dehlin's and Coe's claims that a lack of evidence for those things disproved the Book of Mormon), and he left the comments of a few posters who threatened to destroy my reputation for daring to show up.  My exposing his ignorance on a few points led him to censor me, despite his claims to want free and open discussion.  Outrageous threats pointed at me, however, was just peachy. And while he swallowed everything Coe said, not matter how ill-informed, during he Brant Gardner interview, he protests contantly.  (But, but, but...)  My listening to his interview with William D. Russell led me to follow up reading, and eventually an essay in The FARMS Review 22/2 on how Russell's 1982 Sunstone essay on Book of Mormon historicity managed to be wrong about everything.  So I'm very skeptical about Dehlin, and have significant basis for that skepticism.

As far as Ritner goes, I know who he is, and have read some of what he says in other venues.  I expect this interview will get hashed out over time, and as my own time and interests permit, I will assess the emerging pro and con. 

I'm not particularly scandalized by the discussion of the way that some of the facsimilies have had controversial reconstructions, (for instance, some random characters added to the rim of #2 willy nilly to make a complete picture for publication), since I've been aware of that sort of thing since Ashment and Nibley began serious discussion that issue in Sunstone decades ago.  I expect that I would be very surprised if there is any serious discussion of the things that I personally find most interesting about the Book of Abraham and the Facsimilies and the bits of papyrus we have.  For instance, I think of Nibley in Faith of An Observer, walking through the Temple at Dendarah, and showing scenes akin to all three facsimiles, a sacrifice, a tour of the heavens, and then coronation.  And I think of the first English translation of the Apocalypse of Abraham appearing in the Improvement Era, and the passages so reminscent of our Book of Abraham discussing pre-existence. And links between the Testament of Abraham and the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  And the notion of Kolob compared to passages in Hamlet's Mill, on archaic astronomy, and the importance in that scheme of the Precession of the Equinoxes. So Nibley in a 1980 paper on the Facsimilies noted this:

That sort of thing, I think it pretty cool, if you know anything about the Precession and Archaic astronomy and the Book of Abraham. 

And Robert F. Smith will likely come link his essay on the topic of the Book of Abraham historicity, which is far more learned and powerful than anything I can put forward.

 I make some claim to being a fairly well informed lay member, but not an expert on that particular topic, so I'm not about to try to settle everything here.  I'm just saying, that personally, I'm confident that there is more to see and say on the topic than I am likely to get from Dehlin and and Ritner.  So I will let all of that emerge over time, as people who are more expert than I weigh in over time.

FWIW

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

But Ritner is informed and It is Ritner's expert commentary I am pointing to.  The argument and evidence has zilch to do with Dehlin.  Ritner annihilates the very info you share above as solving the problem.  I think you are speaking as one who trusts your experts and seem unwilling to give the actual expert in the room a listen.  Nibley was a amateur in this arena and Gee, Muhlstein, and others  are shown to be definitively misrepresenting the apologetics.

Edited by The Unclean Deacon
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2 hours ago, aussieguy55 said:

What stood out for me was Ritner's discussion of Fac 1 and how it was restored incorrectly. He shows case of similar pictures where the person on the couch is holding his penis with a bird above and the standing figure has a jackal head. The "slave' in Fac 3 had his Jackal nose chiseled out. What would have have happen if the Fac 1 was removed without loss and revealed the "priest" with a Jackal head?

Does Ritner discuss the various issues with the bird vs the hand that Fair mentions at https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Abraham/Joseph_Smith_Papyri/Facsimiles/Facsimile_1#Question:_Does_Book_of_Abraham_Facsimile_1_show_a_hand.2C_or_does_it_show_the_wing_of_a_second_bird.3F

Does Ritner discuss all the strange differences between the Fac 1 and other known couches that Fair mentions at https://www.fairmormon.org/answers/Book_of_Abraham/Joseph_Smith_Papyri/Facsimiles/Facsimile_1#Question:_Is_Joseph_Smith_papyri_Facsimile_1_common_and_similar_to_other_such_scenes.3F

I don't see how Fac 1 could have the person on the couch holding his penis when he is clothed.  All the other similar couch scenes that I've seen (which admittedly aren't very many) have the person naked.

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1 hour ago, webbles said:

I don't see how Fac 1 could have the person on the couch holding his penis when he is clothed.  All the other similar couch scenes that I've seen (which admittedly aren't very many) have the person naked.

he is clothed while holding his penis

boa-facsimile-1-actual.jpg

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4 minutes ago, The Unclean Deacon said:

he is clothed while holding his penis

boa-facsimile-1-actual.jpg

Is that a reconstruction of JSP Facsimile 1 or a separate instance put forward by Ritner?

Edited by OGHoosier
Clarification
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Ritner said he was not given  access to the papyri when he asked. Klaus Baer said on his Dialogue paper  that there were no fibers in the glue where the there are penciled in drawings. 

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I really enjoyed the podcast.  I haven’t listed to the second one yet, but from the first one, it is very apparent that Joseph’s translation is very incorrect, and that LDS Egyptologists know it and seek to mislead the public.

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57 minutes ago, aussieguy55 said:

Ritner said he was not given  access to the papyri when he asked. Klaus Baer said on his Dialogue paper  that there were no fibers in the glue where the there are penciled in drawings. 

I can't speak about Ritner's case. All I can say is, tough. Clearly it hasn't imperiled his work.

As for Baer's observation, I don't think it's particularly incriminating. Correct me if I"m wrong, but that just means that the lacunae were already missing when the papyri were glued to the backing. That's not really incriminating. They could have flaked off in the intervening period between their transfer from Chandler to Smith and their backing on paper. In fact, it makes sense, as the deterioration of the papyri would provide an excellent motivation for putting them on backing paper. 

 

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47 minutes ago, 2BizE said:

I really enjoyed the podcast.  I haven’t listed to the second one yet, but from the first one, it is very apparent that Joseph’s translation is very incorrect, and that LDS Egyptologists know it and seek to mislead the public.

The charity floweth from your judgement as milk and honey in Eden. 

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 If I as handling a fragile document I would paint the paper on which I was going to place the document on with the glue. We don't know for sure if he saw it with head of  Anubis. He however copied the head of the reclining figure. The way he treated the head of the "slave" in Fac 3 makes me wonder how he would have treated the standing figure if when the papyri was removed with head intact with a jackal head.

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4 hours ago, The Unclean Deacon said:

he is clothed while holding his penis

boa-facsimile-1-actual.jpg

That is an guess of what Fasc 1 might look like.  So that is just as accurate as the one that is in the scriptures.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Lion_couch_scenes_featuring_Anubis has some actual examples.  Most of them have the person mummified so they aren't similar to Fasc 1.  A few do have a phallus but they also have the person entirely naked.  So that isn't similar to Fasc 1.

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Hmm.  So we have all of the papyri from which the Book of Abraham was translated, eh?  Huh.  :huh:  Who knew? :unknw:  Why hasn't this discovery been publicized much more widely?

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13 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

This recently published article may be salient when it comes to identifying what type of scene facsimile 1 may plausibly represent:

https://www.pearlofgreatpricecentral.org/facsimile-1-as-a-sacrifice-scene/

I know one thing people are feeling due to the criticisms of Ritner and Hauglid, is can we even trust Gee with some of this stuff?  One would have to wonder if Ritner saw this if he'd think Gee is again being deceptive.  Additionally I don't see how the explanation suggests "a connection between sacrifice or sacred violence and scenes of the embalming and resurrection of the deceased".

At one point Ritner gets pretty adamant that such connections are completely absurd.  He repeats a few times that Gee knows better.  

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On 8/5/2020 at 7:50 PM, The Unclean Deacon said:

surely you have something of substance to explain where Ritner is incorrect and/or goes too far?  otherwise the jury is going to side with the prosecution.  Their argument is pretty tight.

From what I have watched so far, these sessions are pretty good for a laugh, not pretty tight.

Historical records and archaeology naturally have areas of great factual density and detail interspersed by often far larger gaps. There is plenty in these fields that is not an exact empirical science for precisely these reasons. No one in the fields of history or archaeology can claim that all that will ever be discovered on a matter has been discovered and no further details can ever emerge. This is particularly true the further back in time we go.

Ritner discusses matters for which there are the equivalent of a single page of a newspaper from way back when... Plenty detail for the stories covered on that page, but some stories are truncated since the other pages are missing. Also the rest of the newspaper is completely absent and then there are yet other stories that were never covered on that day or ever... To assert or imply that all that can be known on the matters being discussed is laughable.

Some may say this would be an "Abraham of the Gaps" type argument but I am not the one asserting that all that can be know is known. The burden for this proof resides with Ritner... We are looking at a smattering of document and engravings that cover periods of thousands of years and we know symbolic representation are often co-opted or shift over time, especially over this amount of time.

Just look at the EmodE discussion thread as an example of how rapidly word usage grammar etc. drifts within languages. 

Edited by gav
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