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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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Who thought the "dove" had legs  Fig 7.

See Hypocephalus Louvre N 3527 Musee du Louvre /C.Decamps   and Turin cat. no.2321 Musei Antichita Egizie di Torino   in Some Reflections on the funerary equipment of Paiuhor  -Tamas Mekis

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7 hours ago, CA Steve said:

Hi Robert.

If Joseph Smith knew how to translate Egyptian (I know you are not claiming that), the question isn't how did he get a few of the fac explanations right (or close as I see it), the question is why did he get so many of them wrong? facsimile #3 is especially troubling due to the actual text explanations right over the characters.

The simple explanations for the ones he got right is he got information from 19th century sources and maybe a lucky guess or two. For example, we know that Chandler toured with the artifacts for a couple of years in the east before bringing the remaining 4 mummies, 2 scrolls and a few random pieces of paypri to Kirtland.  What did Chandler learn from showing the collection to educated observers in the East and how much of that did he share with Smith? 

Also in the Ritner podcast we learn where Joseph got the crocodile god explanation in figure 9 from facsimile #1.  Now that we know from Dr Wayment's work about Joseph's familiarity with Clarke's commentary it is easy to see where that came from.

 

Clarke Commentary on Exodus 1:11

Additionally there was  nearly 7 years between the time Joseph received the artifacts in 1835 and when he translated the facsimiles in Nauvoo in 1842. What was he able to learn about them in that period?

The question is, what correct explanations did Joseph provide that were not already understood by 1842? Because you have to eliminate possible 19th century sources before moving on to other possibilities.

Here's another possible explanation for the identification of the crocodile with the god, Pharaoh (fig. 9, facs. 1):

Consider the “of” in “the idolatrous God of Pharaoh” to be an epexegetical genitive, meaning that Pharaoh IS the God depicted in fig. 9.  This is the way the “of” in the explanations of figures 5-8 is to be understood, as the nouns given are taken as the names of the gods.  The identification of Pharaoh as both a god, and as a crocodile, occurs in Ezekiel 29:3:

 3 Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.

Adam Clarke’s commentary on this passage equates the “great dragon” of the KJV with the Nile crocodile, and his chapter introduction notes that the Egyptian Pharaoh considered himself a god:

Introduction

This and the three following chapters foretell the conquest of Egypt by Nebuchadnezzar, which he accomplished in the twenty-seventh year of Jehoiachin's captivity. The same event is foretold by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 46:13, etc. The prophecy opens with God's charging the king of Egypt (Pharaoh-hophra) with the same extravagant pride and profanity which were in the preceding chapter laid to the charge of the prince of Tyre. He appears, like him, to have affected Divine honors; and boasted so much of the strength of his kingdom, that, as an ancient historian (Herodotus) tells us, he impiously declared that God himself could not dispossess him. Wherefore the prophet, with great majesty, addresses him under the image of one of those crocodiles or monsters which inhabited that river, of whose riches and revenue he vaunted; and assures him that, with as much ease as a fisherman drags the fish he has hooked, God would drag him and his people into captivity, and that their carcasses should fall a prey to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of heaven, Ezekiel 29:1-7.

Verse 3

The great dragon - התנים hattannim should here be translated crocodile, as that is a real animal, and numerous in the Nile; whereas the dragon is wholly fabulous. The original signifies any large animal.

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ezekiel-29.html

 

Recent research has made it clear that Joseph Smith was familiar with Adam Clarke’s commentary (http://jur.byu.edu/?p=21296).

So the identification of the crocodile as the god Pharaoh need not be indicative of any familiarity with ancient Egyptian religious practices outside of what can be gleaned from the Old Testament and available commentaries.

 

 

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3 hours ago, stemelbow said:

I think everyone largely agrees, Joseph couldn't translate Egyptian.

CFR

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18 hours ago, The Unclean Deacon said:

a good egyptologists would need to have some credibility in his own arena, John Doesn't.  Can you name one non-mormon egytologist who holds Gee up in his field as credible.  Only believing Mormons who are interested in religious apologetics take such a view.  By this standard, David Misagviage is brilliant.  Ken Ham is brilliant.  By this standard Kirby Heybourne is a brilliant actor.   To create labels in such a vacuum is illogical and deeply flawed and misses the mark way more than it hits.

You enjoy casting aspersions, even when you have no idea what you are saying, and even though you know it to be counterfactual.  There's a word for that.

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10 hours ago, Rivers said:

The Facsimile explanations.

The KEP

 

8 hours ago, sunstoned said:

Don't forget the church essays. 

Wow, so these are your sources for:

13 hours ago, gav said:
16 hours ago, stemelbow said:

I think everyone largely agrees, Joseph couldn't translate Egyptian.

CFR

Just another unsupported overstatement belonging to an extended family of overstatements!😞😞😞

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20 hours ago, Steve Thompson said:

So the identification of the crocodile as the god Pharaoh need not be indicative of any familiarity with ancient Egyptian religious practices outside of what can be gleaned from the Old Testament and available commentaries.

Thanks Steve.

Your informed participation here is greatly appreciated.

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23 hours ago, Robert F. Smith said:

I don't know how one eliminates the possibility of 19th century or other sources.

I agree it is a difficult task but if you acknowledge you don't know how it can be done than you should also see that claims to know what JS could and could not have known are pure speculation. If we cannot eliminate the 19th century influences than we cannot claim we know what JS could not of known.

I finally received my copy of Producing Ancient Scripture: Joseph Smith's Translation Projects in the Development of Mormon Christianity yesterday. 

I hope to read it and maybe start a thread or two on it in which I hope you will participate. I may jump right to Matt Grey's chapter just because that interests me the most.

 

 

 

 

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18 hours ago, gav said:

CFR

Egyptologist Theodule Deveria concluded that Smith's explanation was "rambling nonsense".

Egyptologist James H. Breasted said "very clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization."

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_appraisal_of_the_Book_of_Abraham

M.

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1 hour ago, CA Steve said:

I agree it is a difficult task but if you acknowledge you don't know how it can be done than you should also see that claims to know what JS could and could not have known are pure speculation. If we cannot eliminate the 19th century influences than we cannot claim we know what JS could not of known................................

You misunderstood my response, Steve:  The reason why I don't know how one can eliminate the possibility of 19th century sources is simply because that is impossible.  Critical historical study is not subject to pure speculation.  It is always controlled by facts, and the interpretation of facts.  One cannot just "make it up."  That is irresponsible and unprofessional.

Scholars must look at and evaluate a vast array of sources.  They must necessarily find themselves in conversation with other scholars, who may have very different interpretations of the data.  In the course of time, a very few interpretations may become those most favored by the scholarly community.  Non-scholars make the common mistake of thinking in a very narrow and synchronic (static) interpretative framework.  The scholarly process, on the other hand, is necessarily diachronic, dynamic, and communal.  Apologetics and polemics are not welcome.

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On 8/14/2020 at 3:03 PM, stemelbow said:

I think everyone largely agrees, Joseph couldn't translate Egyptian. I'm glad, personally, I"m not int he mindset of seeing people as greater and lesser than each other.  What a tragic view religion brings, in truth.  

Religion has nothing to do with it.  In fact, religion, my religion in particular, teaches that all human beings have infinite, intrinsic value as sons and daughters of God, so, in that sense, no one is "greater" or "lesser" than anyone else.  That said, whatever you do, or have done, for a living, I'm absolutely certain that you're much better at it than I am, so, in that sense, you're "greater" than I am, and I have no problem conceding that.  Anyone who has worked harder, studied more, acquired more knowledge and experience, and so on, than I have in a particular discipline should be expected to be better at it (or "greater," at it, to put it in the terms of this discussion) than one who hasn't.

Edited by Kenngo1969
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A FB friend who tells me she has done some studied in the languages sent me examples of hypocephalus  which has great similarity to Fac 2 especially figures 5 6 & 7. What looks like the head of a bird is actually the top of the body of a snake with legs. In the attached example both the snake and the seated figure have a penis displayed.

 

2005-mar-11 472.jpg

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34 minutes ago, aussieguy55 said:

A FB friend who tells me she has done some studied in the languages sent me examples of hypocephalus  which has great similarity to Fac 2 especially figures 5 6 & 7. What looks like the head of a bird is actually the top of the body of a snake with legs. In the attached example both the snake and the seated figure have a penis displayed.

 

2005-mar-11 472.jpg

That is a cool picture.  I'm not sure what that has to do with Facsimile 2, though.  Unless you are trying to say that Reuben Hedlock messed up there and that it really should have looked like that?  I'm not sure that is a viable answer since Hedlock did a pretty good job in most of his copying (compare Facsimile 1 with the original).

In http://www.magicgatebg.com/Books/Joseph Smith Hypocephalus.pdf, Dr. Rhodes notes (starting at bottom of page 11)

Quote

Before the god is what appears to be a bird presenting him with a Wedjat-eye, the symbol of all good gifts.76 In other hypocephali it can also be an ape, a snake, or a hawk-headed snake that is presenting the eye. This figure represents Nehebka, a snake god and one of the judges of the dead in the 125th chapter of the Book of the Dead.77 Nehebka was considered to be a provider of life and nourishment78and as such was often shown presenting a pair of jars or a Wedjat-eye. As for the bird found in Facsimile 2, this could symbolize the Ba or soul (which the Egyptians often represented as a bird) presenting the Wedjat-eye to the seated god.

So, it isn't that odd for different things to be seen in front of the god Min (who is the sitting one).

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19 hours ago, Maureen said:

Egyptologist Theodule Deveria concluded that Smith's explanation was "rambling nonsense".

Egyptologist James H. Breasted said "very clearly demonstrates that he was totally unacquainted with the significance of these documents and absolutely ignorant of the simplest facts of Egyptian writing and civilization."

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_appraisal_of_the_Book_of_Abraham

M.

"Totally unacquainted" doesn't seem to account for Joseph Smith's seemingly correct (or at least plausible) interpretations and narrative elements, such as

  • A) the crocodile in Facs. 1 ("The idolatrous god of Pharaoh")
  • B) the earth in its four quarters in Facs. 2;
  • C) "God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power" (Facs. 2, item 7) (which Ritner apparently acknowledges, then dismisses as an "easy guess");
  • D) Pharaoh honoring Abraham while he (Abraham) teaches Pharaoh astronomy (see Facs. 3);
  • E) "Shinehah" (Abraham 3:13);

and so on.

A nice (and entertaining) summary of approaches to the BOA:

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 hours ago, smac97 said:

"Totally unacquainted" doesn't seem to account for Joseph Smith's seemingly correct (or at least plausible) interpretations and narrative elements, such as

  • A) the crocodile in Facs. 1 ("The idolatrous god of Pharaoh")
  • B) the earth in its four quarters in Facs. 2;
  • C) "God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power" (Facs. 2, item 7) (which Ritner apparently acknowledges, then dismisses as an "easy guess");
  • D) Pharaoh honoring Abraham while he (Abraham) teaches Pharaoh astronomy (see Facs. 3);
  • E) "Shinehah" (Abraham 3:13);

and so on.

A nice (and entertaining) summary of approaches to the BOA:

Thanks,

-Smac

What if the brethren de-cannonized the book of abraham one day, agreeing with the Community of Christ that it is speculative fiction?  Would you still believe?

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1 hour ago, Robert J Anderson said:

What if the brethren de-cannonized the book of abraham one day, agreeing with the Community of Christ that it is speculative fiction?  Would you still believe?

Sure. But it's one heck of a moot point. 

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1 hour ago, Robert J Anderson said:

What if the brethren de-cannonized the book of abraham one day, agreeing with the Community of Christ that it is speculative fiction?  Would you still believe?

What if I told you that Ritner had been caught red-handed telling demonstrable lies about two different Mormon documents? Would you still believe him?

Edited by mgy401
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31 minutes ago, mgy401 said:

What if I told you that Ritner had been caught red-handed telling demonstrable lies about two different Mormon documents? Would you still believe him?

I would seriously question Ritner's findings, keeping in mind that just because someone lies in one area doesn't necessarily mean that they lied in another area.  However, suspicions would be raised and I would need other scholars to support Ritner's claims in areas where there wasn't yet proof that he lied.  Lies in one area should make one question where else the person has lied.

My point is that to me it looks like the book of abraham translation problems are pretty serious and show that Joseph Smith didn't "translate" any of the papyri.  However, I still believe as I had a spiritual conversion, and so, I remain.  I'm just not tied to history as it is messy and not the rosy retelling as the church wants to portray, but not as evil or fraudulent as some non-believers want to portray either. 

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1 hour ago, OGHoosier said:

Sure. But it's one heck of a moot point. 

It's not moot, but still debatable and at the heart of remaining.  Messy history can lead one out if one is only rooted on the history.  I think one needs to look at these issues with an eye on what would happen if what the critics claim were true.  Would I still remain?  Does this or that historical issue change the spiritual confirmation I had?

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10 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

It's not moot, but still debatable and at the heart of remaining.  Messy history can lead one out if one is only rooted on the history.  I think one needs to look at these issues with an eye on what would happen if what the critics claim were true.  Would I still remain?  Does this or that historical issue change the spiritual confirmation I had?

These are fair questions for a theoretical exercise, I suppose. 

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2 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

What if the brethren de-cannonized the book of abraham one day, agreeing with the Community of Christ that it is speculative fiction?  Would you still believe?

I'm not really into speculative "what if" scenarios.

I think I've said this before, but the Book of Abraham is very much "downstream" from the Book of Mormon.

Thanks,

-Smac

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33 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I'm not really into speculative "what if" scenarios.

I think I've said this before, but the Book of Abraham is very much "downstream" from the Book of Mormon.

Thanks,

-Smac

I think you would still find a way to continue belief if the brethren de-cannonized the book of abraham.  I think your spiritual witness is or should be strong enough to withstand any change in direction.  But that is merely my guess obviously.

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