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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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1 hour ago, Robert J Anderson said:

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.

What "spiritual witness" are you talking about?

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On 8/15/2020 at 7:50 AM, gav said:

 

Wow, so these are your sources for:

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

Hi gav, which Egyptologist thinks Joseph could translate Egyptian?  Are you saying Gee and Muhlestein think Joseph got right that which we know he got wrong?  I brought this up because, as the Church essay suggests:

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We do know some things about the translation process. The word translation typically assumes an expert knowledge of multiple languages. Joseph Smith claimed no expertise in any language. He readily acknowledged that he was one of the “weak things of the world,” called to speak words sent “from heaven.”1 Speaking of the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Lord said, “You cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.”2 The same principle can be applied to the book of Abraham. The Lord did not require Joseph Smith to have knowledge of Egyptian. By the gift and power of God, Joseph received knowledge about the life and teachings of Abraham.

and

Quote

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments.27 Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.

Some say it's possible that the BoA could have been on the lost fragments, but that is debatable at the very least, and it appears many would argue that it's not really possible anyway, seeing as the fragments would likely not have enough space for it, and many signs point to the notion that the material that was supposedly translated is extant.  

But if Joseph could translate Egyptian, claimed expertise in languages, and the Church is wrong to claim otherwise, then perhaps we'd all like to know that.  How would you know?  WHat can you inform the Church with?  

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20 hours 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?

I agree.

For me that IS the real question and answer.

Scripture is what you accept as God inspired, its sources are irrelevant.

Edited by mfbukowski
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1 hour ago, mfbukowski said:

I agree.

For me that IS the real question and answer.

Scripture is what you accept as God inspired, its sources are irrelevant.

That's the conclusion that I came to after researching the issue.  The spirit spoke to me and regardless of a lack of good evidence or if there is good evidence, the spirit is the same and that should be enough.

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4 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Hi gav, which Egyptologist thinks Joseph could translate Egyptian?  Are you saying Gee and Muhlestein think Joseph got right that which we know he got wrong?  I brought this up because, as the Church essay suggests:

and

Some say it's possible that the BoA could have been on the lost fragments, but that is debatable at the very least, and it appears many would argue that it's not really possible anyway, seeing as the fragments would likely not have enough space for it, and many signs point to the notion that the material that was supposedly translated is extant.  

But if Joseph could translate Egyptian, claimed expertise in languages, and the Church is wrong to claim otherwise, then perhaps we'd all like to know that.  How would you know?  WHat can you inform the Church with?  

Are you endowed? If so learn some hieroglyphics or just get a dictionary and then do your own translation of this. Tell me then that everyone agrees that Joseph Smith was clueless when it came to ancient languages.

https://archive.org/details/papyrusofanirepr03budg/page/n13/mode/2up

https://archive.org/details/papyrusofanirepr03budg/page/n15/mode/2up

These are from one of the most extensive and complete representations of this type of scroll. We know portions of that type of scroll were found with the mummies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JSP_Papyri_Fragment_IIIb_IIIa.jpg#/media/File:JSP_Papyri_Fragment_IIIb_IIIa.jpg

No expert with an axe to grind is necessary then and you can discover the truth of the matter for yourself... No apologist required either.

Then all the other so called "discrepancies" in the facsimiles etc. will fall into place.

 

Edited by gav
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6 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Seriously?  Haven't you taken Moroni's challenge?

Yes.  But not about the Book of Abraham.

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13 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

So, do you believe the Book of Abraham is the word of God?

Yes.

13 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

If so, how so?

Derivatively.  Through extrapolation and inference.

Thanks,

-Smac

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 The same FB friend said "f you look closely at the two "hands" it's clear that the bottom one is a hand. For over a thousand years hands were consistently drawn with fingers the same length--the ends of the fingertips making a straight line. The upper "hand" is clearly not an Egyptian rendering of a hand, it is a wing tip. If you look closely you can see two "speckles" on it like the speckles on the ba-bird."

 

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28 minutes ago, aussieguy55 said:

 The same FB friend said "f you look closely at the two "hands" it's clear that the bottom one is a hand. For over a thousand years hands were consistently drawn with fingers the same length--the ends of the fingertips making a straight line. The upper "hand" is clearly not an Egyptian rendering of a hand, it is a wing tip. If you look closely you can see two "speckles" on it like the speckles on the ba-bird."

 

Not singling out your specific comment but it just illustrates the minute speckled detail and lengths gone to.

 

This whole facsimile thing strikes me as straining at gnats and ignoring camels. There is so much more to the Book of Abraham than its facsimiles, of infinitely more worth, but boatloads of ink are spilled around the  facsimiles and comparatively little regarding the doctrine etc. It is in the doctrine etc. that confirmation of the truth of the contents of the book of Abraham and its true worth and beauty lie and that a true understanding of the purpose and context of the facsimiles emerges.

There is so much missing or that we don't know or that may never be known with absolute certainty regarding the facsimiles but they receive the majority of the focus. No wonder this is turning into an eternal debate when all people have to do is follow the Saviour's recipe

Quote

 

Mathew 7:7-8

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

 

If this process is iterated often enough it becomes second nature and child's play to discern when something is true or a fraud almost with one glance. 

Some things, I think, are purposely obscured and obfuscated specifically so that we have to exercise spiritual muscles to build spiritual stamina... the purpose of our lives, no?

 

Edited by gav
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21 hours ago, gav said:

Are you endowed? If so learn some hieroglyphics or just get a dictionary and then do your own translation of this. Tell me then that everyone agrees that Joseph Smith was clueless when it came to ancient languages.

https://archive.org/details/papyrusofanirepr03budg/page/n13/mode/2up

https://archive.org/details/papyrusofanirepr03budg/page/n15/mode/2up

These are from one of the most extensive and complete representations of this type of scroll. We know portions of that type of scroll were found with the mummies.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:JSP_Papyri_Fragment_IIIb_IIIa.jpg#/media/File:JSP_Papyri_Fragment_IIIb_IIIa.jpg

No expert with an axe to grind is necessary then and you can discover the truth of the matter for yourself... No apologist required either.

Then all the other so called "discrepancies" in the facsimiles etc. will fall into place.

 

Sure I got endowed.  I don't know if that qualified me to be expert in Egyptian any more than Ritner nor Gee.  It's their disagreement, not mine.  I can only stand on the sidelines unless I actually put in the amount of hours they have in learning it.  I don't think cursory efforts into it are going to produce the types of results of the knowledge they have.  

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On 8/6/2020 at 11:38 PM, Robert F. Smith said:

That is nonsense and clearly misstates the facts, as you can discover by reading my own assessment:  https://www.scribd.com/document/118810727/A-Brief-Assessment-of-the-LDS-Book-of-Abraham .

 

 

 

Robert,

The link does not seem to be working.  I would like to read this.  Could you re-upload it?

Thanks,

-Smac

Edit: Never mind.  Got it to work.  Thx.

Edited by smac97
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On 8/18/2020 at 2:41 AM, aussieguy55 said:

 The same FB friend said "f you look closely at the two "hands" it's clear that the bottom one is a hand. For over a thousand years hands were consistently drawn with fingers the same length--the ends of the fingertips making a straight line. The upper "hand" is clearly not an Egyptian rendering of a hand, it is a wing tip. If you look closely you can see two "speckles" on it like the speckles on the ba-bird."

 

Which thousand year period? Egypt's history sprawls over more than a thousand years. 

Note that there are non-Mormon Egyptologists who disagree with your FB friend: see Lanny Bell:

Quote

Let me state clearly at the outset my conviction that the questionable traces above the head of the Osiris figure are actually the remains of his right hand; in other words, Joseph Smith was correct in his understanding of the drawing at this point. Ashment 1979, pp. 36, 41 (Illustration 13), is very balanced in his analysis of the problem, presenting compelling arguments for reading two hands; Gee 1992, p. 102 and n. 25, refers to Michael Lyon in describing the "thumb stroke" of the upper (right) hand; cf. Gee 2000, pp. 37-38; and Rhodes 2002, p. 19, concludes: "... a careful comparison of the traces with the hand below as well as the tip of the bird's wing to the right makes it quite clear that it is the other hand of the deceased." 

-Lanny Bell, "The Ancient Egyptian 'Books of Breathing,' the Mormon 'Book of Abraham,' and the Development of Egyptology in America," Egypt and Beyond: Essays Presented to Leonard H. Lesko upon his Retirement from the Wilbour Chair of Egyptology at Brown University June 2005, (ed. Stephen E. Thompson), Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies, Brown University, 2008, p. 28.

 

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On 8/14/2020 at 5:34 PM, aussieguy55 said:

One response Ritner received " You look like a bitter fool hanging out with two clowns".  

Not a scholarly response, and I wouldn't call Ritner a fool, but he does seem to carry a certain bitterness and my opinion of Dehlin and RFM is in the same ballpark as that of the quoted commentator. 

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From Book of Mormon Central:

Quote

Last month, on July 15, 2020, Book of Mormon Central published a blog post highlighting resources on the Book of Abraham made available through BMC’s Pearl of Great Price Central research initiative.

Recently, one of the project’s volunteer research consultants and peer reviewers, Egyptologist John Gee, sat down with BMC to give his thoughts on the Pearl of Great Price Central initiative and on Book of Abraham research more generally. Gee, who received a PhD in Egyptology from Yale University and is currently the William Gay Research Professor in the department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at Brigham Young University, has contributed widely to Book of Abraham studies. Much of his research can be accessed for free on the Book of Abraham bibliography prepared by Pearl of Great Price Central.

“We have needed for some time a centralized repository of the major arguments about the Book of Abraham and the things that support its historical authenticity,” Gee said in the interview. “Pearl of Great Price Central has provided a nice repository for those articles and arguments and tries to provide them in a way that’s accessible to [the] general public.”

Check out the full interview below.

 

38 minutes, but quite worthwhile.  

I wish more people knew about Pearl of Great Price Central, which Gee addresses above:

Interviewer: What can be frustrating about trying to find answers to these questions or problems {people are encountering about the Book of Abraham}?

Gee: I think there are a couple of reasons why people get frustrated in finding answers.  The first one is identified in D&C 123, the don't know where to find it.  So we have needed for some time a centralized repository of the major arguments about the Book of Abraham and the things that support its historical authenticity and show that it is what it claims to be.  Pearl of Great Price Central has provided a nice repository for those articles and arguments.  It tries to provide them in a way that's accessible to the general public.  I had ten years of graduate training in Egyptology, and you shouldn't need that to necessarily be able to follow the arguments.  And with Pearl of Great Price Central you don't have to. 

Thanks,

-Smac

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7 hours ago, smac97 said:

From Book of Mormon Central:

38 minutes, but quite worthwhile.  

I wish more people knew about Pearl of Great Price Central, which Gee addresses above:

Interviewer: What can be frustrating about trying to find answers to these questions or problems {people are encountering about the Book of Abraham}?

Gee: I think there are a couple of reasons why people get frustrated in finding answers.  The first one is identified in D&C 123, the don't know where to find it.  So we have needed for some time a centralized repository of the major arguments about the Book of Abraham and the things that support its historical authenticity and show that it is what it claims to be.  Pearl of Great Price Central has provided a nice repository for those articles and arguments.  It tries to provide them in a way that's accessible to the general public.  I had ten years of graduate training in Egyptology, and you shouldn't need that to necessarily be able to follow the arguments.  And with Pearl of Great Price Central you don't have to. 

Thanks,

-Smac

I need to finish the video but curious if he came clean, as RFM mentions below:

Radio Free Mormon: 193: John Gee Comes Clean!

In a stunning reversal of events, John Gee publicly announces he no longer believes a long-touted evidence for the Book of Abraham is valid!  This raises the question, how long has John Gee known this, and why has he been the major proponent of this evidence for decades?  After a thorough examination of the evidence, RFM concludes we have to be cautious about taking at face value anything John Gee says about the Book of Abraham.

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54 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I need to finish the video but curious if he came clean, as RFM mentions below:

Radio Free Mormon: 193: John Gee Comes Clean!

In a stunning reversal of events, John Gee publicly announces he no longer believes a long-touted evidence for the Book of Abraham is valid!  This raises the question, how long has John Gee known this, and why has he been the major proponent of this evidence for decades?  After a thorough examination of the evidence, RFM concludes we have to be cautious about taking at face value anything John Gee says about the Book of Abraham.

Which evidence, exactly, is this?

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4 hours ago, OGHoosier said:

Which evidence, exactly, is this?

And I want to read a direct quote, no paraphrases. 
 

And let’s just assume for a moment that RFM is right and something caused Gee to change his mind....

Now the criticism has changed...now Gee didn’t change his mind quick enough and/or he has been hiding the truth for years.

Edited by Calm
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3 minutes ago, Calm said:

And I want to read a direct quote, no paraphrases. 
 

And let’s just assume that RFM is right and something caused Gee to change his mind. Now the criticism has changed...now Gee didn’t change his mind quick enough and/or he has been hiding the truth for years.

I'll have to take a listen. I was wondering the same thing. Just thought some of you finished the video that Smac shared above of Gee, and already knew or could confirm what RFM said. But sounds like RFM is jumping to conclusions possibly.

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So far I have located three sources for John Gee speaking of Olishem/Ulisum:

1. Pearl of Great Price Central article: The Plain of Olishem

This article was apparently reviewed/vetted/edited by Gee (if not written).  I quoted it at length in the my preceding quote, so I won't do so again here.

2. John Gee and Stephen D. Ricks, “Historical Plausibility: The Historicity of the Book of Abraham as a Case Study,” in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 63–98.

Here is the treatment of Olishem in this article:

Quote

The philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn asks us to note “what scientists never do when confronted by even severe and prolonged anomalies. Though they may begin to lose faith and then to consider alternatives, they do not renounce the paradigm that has led them into crisis. They do not, that is, treat anomalies as counter-instances,” [14] though this is exactly what the critics of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham would have us do. In practice, then, a historical document is accepted as historically accurate until proven otherwise.
...
Specificity

In the Book of Abraham, unlike in ancient fictional works, but as in Sinuhe, “there is no ‘once upon a time’ element, no anonymity about main characters, no vagueness about locations, and no fantasies or magic marvels.” [82] Specific geographical locations on the way to Egypt are named: Potiphar’s Hill (Abr. 1:10, 20), the plain of Olishem (1:10), the land of Ur of Chaldea (1:20; 2:4, 15), Haran (2:4–6, 15), Jershon (2:17–18), Shechem (2:18), Bethel (2:20), and Hai (2:20). All of these places are outside of Egypt, and if no Egyptian place names are mentioned that can be checked with Egyptian documents, it is because Abraham never arrives in Egypt in the published Book of Abraham.
...
Onomastics
There must be a plausible use of personal names, that is, names of men, gods, and places that fit the area and period of time. Some of these names suggest a linguistic and cultural melting pot, [84] but it is better to concentrate on those names that are attested in the proper time and place. [85] That there are few written documents from the region at the time of Abraham means that we must usually cast our net wider to include examples from other periods and areas. [86]
...
The name Olishem in the phrase “the plain of Olishem” (Abr. 1:10) has received much comment, though generally in footnotes. [112] A Rim-Sin (2254–2218 B.C.) inscription mentions a town Ú-li-ši-imki or Ú-li-šé-emki [113] in connection with Ebla: [114] “He (Nergal) bestowed upon him {Naram-Sin} the Amanus too, the Cedar Mountain, and the Upper Sea, and, by the weapon of Dagan, exalter of his kingship, Naram-Sin, the mighty, defeated Armanum and Ebla. Then, from the hither face of the Euphrates, he smote the river(-bank) as far as Ulisum, as well as the people whom Dagan had for the first time bestowed upon him, and they bear for him the burden of Ilaba his god. The Amanus too, the Cedar Mountain, he conquered completely.” [115] The name also perhaps appears either as Irissymn [116] or 3wšamm [117] in Twelfth-Dynasty execration texts (ca. 1991–1783 B.C.) from Egypt. If this is the same place, its presence in the contemporary execration texts is an indication that it lay in the Egyptian sphere of influence during the Middle Kingdom.

Because there is little material from the proper time and place, [118] a negative result in onomastic evidence says nothing. That any evidence at all appears is a positive indication.

Footnotes 112 and 113 add some additional detail.

It is also noteworthy that the italicized abstract at the beginning of this article states (emphasis added) :

Quote

In attempting to prove the historicity of any document or event, historians should use primary sources. For the historian of the ancient world, however, these sources are often both rare and obscure. By comparing a text with other texts and archaeological material from the same time and place, a historian can propose the historical plausibility of a document when its authenticity is not certain. In order to establish the Book of Abraham as a historically authentic ancient document, one must consider many elements, including: setting; the presence and nature of Egyptian influence in Abraham’s place and time, including governmental, social, and religious institutions; and the presence of comparable personal and place names in the ancient Near East of Abraham’s day. Yet even under the best of circumstances, historical plausibility establishes probability, not proof.

Contrast this with RFM telling us that Gee has presented Olishem as "a proof, or potential proof, of the Book of Abraham."

RFM seems to be playing fast and loose in his portrayal of Gee's scholarly assessment.  Quelle surprise.

3. Gee, John (2013) "Has Olishem Been Discovered?," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol. 22 : No. 2 , Article 10.

This is a brief article, with only two pages of text.  Here's the abstract (emphasis added) :

Quote

News reports from 2013 identify the site of Oylum Höyük with both the city of Abraham and the ancient city of Ulišum. The latter has been identified with the Olishem of Abraham 1:10. While the preliminary reports are encouraging, the evidence upon which the archaeologists base their identifications has not yet been published. So while there is nothing against the proposed identifications, they are not proven either.

Again, contrast this with RFM telling us that Gee has presented Olishem as "a proof, or potential proof, of the Book of Abraham."

Here's a comment from the editor (emphasis added) : 

Quote

FROM THE EDITOR:

Over the years, some LDS scholars, including yours truly, and a few non-LDS scholars have proposed that the “Ur of the Chaldees," of Abraham is to be located in the northern Levant, not southern Mesopotamia. There is as of today no decisive evidence, though, that would force this conclusion. But then, neither is there for the southern candidate. Therefore, whenever new assertions are made, no matter how weak, I have thought our readers may find these claims of interest. John Gee presents here one of the latest assertions, tenuous and no doubt premature though it may be, and explains how it fits into the northern Levant model for Ur of the Chaldees.

Again, contrast this with RFM telling us that Gee has presented Olishem as "a proof, or potential proof, of the Book of Abraham."

Here are some excerpts from the article (emphases added) :

Quote

O n 16 August 2013, a report appeared in the Turkish news service Anadolu Agency in which Turkish archaeologists claim to have discovered the city of Abraham near Kilis in Turkey.1 The news report claims that “new archaeological excavations have revealed traces of Prophet Abraham’s stay in the vicinity, as well as a treasure from Alexander the Great.”2  The report cites as its authority Atilla Engin, an associate professor in the Archaeology Department of Cumhuriyet University. The report does not note that Professor Engin and his dig are associated with the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut and the University of Liverpool in England3 nor that excavations have been proceeding for over twenty years. Professor Engin is reported to have said that “according to a papyrus document from the Iron Age, a lost city which we have found in the region is where the Prophet Abraham lived. It will make great contributions to the region and the country’s tourism.”4

The press release continues: “In terms of its size, the Oylum tumulus is one of the largest in Turkey, but more importantly, we are here because it was a significant kingdom in the Bronze Age. Cuneiform documents and seal stamps of Hittite kings obtained during three excavation seasons prove to us that this area was the center of a kingdom. We think that this place is the ancient city of Ullis. Documents from 3,000 B.C. show that this city was very important.  But of course we need more documents and findings to prove it. We are still working on it.”5  “The name of Ullis is mentioned in ancient Akat documents. It matches with the name mentioned in Hittite documents. In the papyrus documents, this city is said to be the city where the Prophet Abraham had lived. In the Ullis plain, there is a center, which is related to a name, Abraam, but this center was sought in the eastern Mediterranean. We have reached important information about it, too.”6  All this tantalizing information surfaces from a press report. We examine the report’s conclusions in light of other available information.

The news report has apparently been translated from Turkish, though not necessarily into the most felicitous English. For example, the “Akat documents” seem to be Akkadian documents. An inscription of the Akkadian ruler Naram-Sin says that he conquered Ebla and “Ulišim.” The latter name is often normalized to a hypothetical Neo-Assyrian nominative: Ulišu (or Ulishu), which, through further modification, must be the Ullis mentioned in the report.

The site in question, Oylum Höyük, is located just a few miles east of the city of Kilis. Oylum (which is the name of the modern town around the tell) is about thirty-five miles north of Aleppo and only two miles from the border between Syria and Turkey. The site has been more or less continually occupied from Chalcolithic times to the present.
...
Oylum Höyük is the largest site in the Kilis plain and clearly dominated the whole plain in the Middle Bronze Age. The site would explain the wording in the Book of Abraham that “Potiphar’s Hill [was] at the head of the plain of Olishem” (Abraham 1:10).  Olishem (phonetically similar to Ulišum) is mentioned in this scripture only because the whole plains took their name from the city; apparently Ur was located in the plains, but the text never says that Abraham was at Olishem. Nothing precludes this site from being Abraham’s Olishem, but nothing requires it to be either. Ur should be in the same plain and about five to twenty miles from Olishem.

We have two pieces of inscriptional evidence for Ulišum. The earliest comes from a record of conquests of Naram-Sin, who was a ruler in Babylon during the Akkadian period (2254–2218 bc), where Ulišum is listed as being in the general area of Ebla and near the Mediterranean Sea.27 The second is in execration texts from Egypt during the reigns of Sesostris I28 and Sesostris III.29
...
Scholars dated the papyrus mentioned in the news article to the Iron Age, which puts it much later than Abraham. Without archaeological context or content of the papyrus to judge, it is difficult to know what to make of the claim.

If indeed tablets in Hittite from the site identify it as Ullis, then it is probably the Ulišum that Naram Sin attacked and is a likely candidate for Olishem.  If Oylum Höyük is Olishem, then Ur of the Chaldees should be one of the dozens of Middle Bronze II sites in the Kilis plain. We await further discoveries and publications. At present, given the many uncertainties, we can regard this identification as promising but not proven.

Again, contrast this with RFM telling us that Gee has presented Olishem as "a proof, or potential proof, of the Book of Abraham."

4. Stephen O. Smoot, “‘In the Land of the Chaldeans’: The Search for Abraham’s Homeland Revisited,” BYU Studies Quarterly 56, no. 3 (2017): 7–37.

Though not authored by Gee, I thought I'd throw this article in since it cites the foregoing articles (#2 and #3), and also provides some additional interesting information:

Quote

More recently the Sumerologist Christopher Woods insists that a southern location for Abraham’s Ur “poses grave difficulties for the account given in the Book of Abraham, as there is no evidence whatsoever for the cults of the purported Egyptian gods described in the narrative or for established Egyptian practices more generally in the city.”120

This lack of connection appears highly problematic for the historicity of the Book of Abraham if Tell el-Muqayyar is in fact Abraham’s Ur. Accordingly, Latter-day Saint scholars who accept a high degree of historicity for the Book of Abraham have followed Gordon in arguing for a northern Ur.121 Besides many of the factors explored above that appear to put Abraham in the north, a northern Ur is especially attractive to many Latter-day Saints if for no other reason than there is evidence for Egyptian contact with the northern Levant during the time of Abraham.122

But besides nullifying a potential problem for the Book of Abraham’s historicity, a northern Ur would appear to converge with some of the geographical details unique to the text. For instance, the Book of Abraham identifies a certain “plain of Olishem” (Abr. 1:10) as being in the vicinity of Abraham’s Ur. This specific detail has captured the attention of Latter-day Saint scholars, since there is a very high likelihood that Olishem has been identified.123 Even Woods acknowledges the possibility that the Book of Abraham’s Olishem could be identified with the Ulišum mentioned in an inscription of the Akkadian king Naram-Sin (c. 2261–2224 BC), even if he is quick to dismiss such as little more than a lucky guess on Joseph Smith’s part.124 A southern Ur, however, would effectively negate the weight of this evidence for the Book of Abraham’s historicity. Abraham 1 clearly places Olishem near Abraham’s Ur, not the hundreds of miles away that it would be if Abraham’s Ur was Tell el-Muqayyar. It is therefore understandable why many Mormon scholars keen on upholding the historicity of the Book of Abraham would focus their attention northward and appeal to archaeological and inscriptional evidence over the source critical methods favored by others who would place Ur in the south.125

I think it sort of noteworthy that Woods, a contributor to Ritner's 2013 commentary about the Book of Abraham (see Christopher Woods, “The Practice of Egyptian Religion at ‘Ur of the Chaldees’?” in The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition, ed. Robert K. Ritner (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2013), 73), apparently "acknowledges the possibility that the Book of Abraham’s Olishem could be identified with the Ulišum mentioned in an inscription of the Akkadian king Naram-Sin," but then dismisses it - per Smoot's paraphrase - as "little more than a lucky guess on Joseph Smith's part."

In any event, Smoot does characterize this in enthusiastic terms: "For instance, the Book of Abraham identifies a certain “plain of Olishem” (Abr. 1:10) as being in the vicinity of Abraham’s Ur. This specific detail has captured the attention of Latter-day Saint scholars, since there is a very high likelihood that Olishem has been identified."

I'm not sufficiently informed to render an opinion as to whether "very high likelihood" is overstating things.  But if so, that's Smoot's assessment, not necessarily Gee's.

Thanks,

-Smac

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Joseph Smith may have relied on his God given intuition to asses this document in a time of turmoil, and got it partially wrong, because Prophets do make mistakes as the Bible indicated.l say partially wrong because two Civilizations in conflict, would interpret each other’s inaugural ceremony of a leader, not as an act of blessing but as an act of evil, as did Joseph Smith the Hebrew, in his interpretation  of this Egyptian document. 

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