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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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22 hours ago, Analytics said:

The problem with this is the context. Ritner already called for a substantive, civil, scholarly discourse, but Muhlestein refuses to engage with him in any such thing. Instead of actually engaging any of Ritner's points, Muhlestein wastes time, Ink, and integrity by insinuating that Ritner is unmeasured, unscholarly, impatient, and uncivil. The fact is Gee and Muhlestein have always been unwilling to actually have a scholarly discourse about the Book of Abraham with Ritner, and Muhlestein's article is really nothing more than an excuse to continue not engaging. It is disingenuous. 

I don't believe Ritner is capable of a substantive, civil scholarly discourse, since he will never change his mind, and as I said, to me, it's clear he has no respect for LDS Scholars, I perceive he holds them in contempt.  Just the fact that he went to John Dehlin and RFM to air his differences suggests that.  It's not neutral ground, and imo, Robert Ritner, is NOT neutral on this, he's just as passionate against, as the LDS scholars are passionate for. 

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1 hour ago, alter idem said:

Imo, it's because you've already made up your mind on the subject...and so has RFM and Robert Ritner.  The way I see it, Robert Ritner has never given the Book of Abraham any real consideration, because to him, it is a fraud and he has no respect for anyone who might think otherwise.

That's not what hes said and shown.  Why do you think this about him?  He put in tons of work researching the topic.  That clearly suggests he gave it due consideration.  Are you aware of the extensive research hes poured into it?  

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20 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

That's not what hes said and shown.  Why do you think this about him?  He put in tons of work researching the topic.  That clearly suggests he gave it due consideration.  Are you aware of the extensive research hes poured into it?  

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University of Chicago Egyptologist Robert K. Ritner concluded in 2014 that the source of the Book of Abraham "is the 'Breathing Permit of Hôr,' misunderstood and mistranslated by Joseph Smith."[2] He later said the Book of Abraham is now "confirmed as a perhaps well-meaning, but erroneous invention by Joseph Smith," and "despite its inauthenticity as a genuine historical narrative, the Book of Abraham remains a valuable witness to early American religious history and to the recourse to ancient texts as sources of modern religious faith and speculation."[2]

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

 

Just because he's made this a topic of research doesn't mean he gave it 'due consideration'.  I believe he's spent his efforts to prove it false.  My own opinion, but this is why I think it's a waste of time for any LDS scholars who believe in the claims of the church regarding the Book of Abraham, to bother debating him, especially if it involves RFM and Dehlin.  Ritner's conclusions in the quote, I believe, were his initial opinions on the BofA, and he spent his research efforts attempting to prove them correct. I seriously doubt he ever gave it a thought it could be anything else.  You are free to disagree.

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8 minutes ago, alter idem said:

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

 

Just because he's made this a topic of research doesn't mean he gave it 'due consideration'.  I believe he's spent his efforts to prove it false.  My own opinion, but this is why I think it's a waste of time for any LDS scholars who believe in the claims of the church regarding the Book of Abraham, to bother debating him, especially if it involves RFM and Dehlin.  Ritner's conclusions in the quote, I believe, were his initial opinions on the BofA, and he spent his research efforts attempting to prove them correct. I seriously doubt he ever gave it a thought it could be anything else.  You are free to disagree.

Well, if you go that route we could accuse Kerry/John of proving it to be true. :)

I don't even get why anybody is trying to prove it was literal when the church's essay says different.

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Ritner is an deservedly renowned Egyptologist, very capable in his field. It's the field in question that is the problem. Scholastic Egyptology, like most fields of academic study, focuses on creating a normative framework based on collected data. This framework forms the way we look at the subject matter.  In other words, it's about analyzing the data and using it to create a coherent mental picture. This involves figuring out the predictable rules and regularities which make things make sense. Once we determine the rules, we judge things by those rules. This is a useful and honestly indispensable practice but it does leave a certain blind spot when is comes to anomaly. 

Ritner is approaching the Joseph Smith Papyri in terms of rules, precedents, and regularities in Egyptology. He's trying to situate the Joseph Smith papyri in a conventional Egyptological framework. He interprets things as approximations of what they would have meant to Egyptian cultic priests. Everything must yield an interpretation within the Egyptian cultic system. His preferred approach is normative, looking at the papyri and judging them as though they were normal Egyptian papyri. His interpretations are quite orthodox and respectable in this regard. 

But the papyri are not normal Egyptian papyri. Per Kerry Muhlestein, "It seems logically inconsistent to dictate that one unknown part of the papyrus must conform to known drawings when other known parts of the papyrus clearly do not." Besides, even if they didn't have observable anomalies, the Joseph Smith Papyri passed from the conventional to the anomalous when they became involved in sacred translation. The conventional explanation for these papyri is not definitive unless the papyri are viewed as nothing more than basic Egyptian ritual papyri. Such an approach, however, ignores the present anomalies and the complicating factor of sacred translation and the question of whose interpretations count. I find it an unsatisfactory approach and thus Ritner's persistent opposition to the Church is not troubling to me. It misses the point. 

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This paper which I given permission to share has examples of hypocephalus similar  to that of Fac 2.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xoKNOA7zhO5jPKdztEjzc-1IH2y6eBlG/view

I have  given access to anyone clicking on this url.  Page 275 discusses figure 7 which is Nehebkau.Has Kerry ever dealt with these section of fac 2?  This figure has legs and in one example displays a penis. 

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58 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

Ritner is an deservedly renowned Egyptologist, very capable in his field. It's the field in question that is the problem. Scholastic Egyptology, like most fields of academic study, focuses on creating a normative framework based on collected data. This framework forms the way we look at the subject matter.  In other words, it's about analyzing the data and using it to create a coherent mental picture. This involves figuring out the predictable rules and regularities which make things make sense. Once we determine the rules, we judge things by those rules. This is a useful and honestly indispensable practice but it does leave a certain blind spot when is comes to anomaly. 

Ritner is approaching the Joseph Smith Papyri in terms of rules, precedents, and regularities in Egyptology. He's trying to situate the Joseph Smith papyri in a conventional Egyptological framework. He interprets things as approximations of what they would have meant to Egyptian cultic priests. Everything must yield an interpretation within the Egyptian cultic system. His preferred approach is normative, looking at the papyri and judging them as though they were normal Egyptian papyri. His interpretations are quite orthodox and respectable in this regard. 

But the papyri are not normal Egyptian papyri. Per Kerry Muhlestein, "It seems logically inconsistent to dictate that one unknown part of the papyrus must conform to known drawings when other known parts of the papyrus clearly do not." Besides, even if they didn't have observable anomalies, the Joseph Smith Papyri passed from the conventional to the anomalous when they became involved in sacred translation. The conventional explanation for these papyri is not definitive unless the papyri are viewed as nothing more than basic Egyptian ritual papyri. Such an approach, however, ignores the present anomalies and the complicating factor of sacred translation and the question of whose interpretations count. I find it an unsatisfactory approach and thus Ritner's persistent opposition to the Church is not troubling to me. It misses the point. 

Since Muhlestein suggests there is uniqueness to this particular set of papyrus you think that means any portion, or part might also be?  Like Anubis being turned into a human slave?  Seems like an odd theory though--"odds are the papyri that upon circumstance made it to Joseph Smith, are so unique they break nearly all or any particular rules os Egyptology, therefore normal Egyptological cant possibly tell us much about these unique items."  Problem is, of course, Muhlestein might simply be exaggerating this point, and its sufficiently vague enough it might not really be true as it pertains to the extent of Ritner's evaluation and research.  

I do believe this is precisely the type of apologetics Ritner objects to as it pertains to the BoA.  It's an attempt to suggest, it seems, all scholarly rules should be abandoned because, well, we believe so.  

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Muhlestein wrote the following:

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Further, in the same podcast it was pointed out that there are a number of unique features about this particular drawing (not all of which the guest or host pointed out). It seems logically inconsistent to dictate that one unknown part of the papyrus must conform to known drawings when other known parts of the papyrus clearly do not. In fact, a good scholarly treatment of this vignette should admit that there are enough unusual things about it that we cannot honestly claim that we fully understand what is going on with it.

This is misleading. The text of the Papyrus of Hor is a standard-issue Book of Breathing, and there is nothing unusual about it. The vignette that became Facsimile 1 is unusual among Egyptian papyri, but only slightly. Embalming scenes from Books of Breathing are usually somewhat different from this particular vignette, but a scene where a person lies on or gets up from a lion-headed bed would always signify a scene of embalming or resurrection. Moreover, Ritner thinks the scene in the Papyrus of Hor may be copied from a temple relief, and temples from the same time period as the Papyrus of Hor contain scenes that closely match the vignette. While it may be true that "we cannot honestly claim that we fully understand what is going on with it", for the most part the drawing is well understood.

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Thus he interprets these papyri in line with conventional Egyptology, which highlights the perspectives of the rulers and cultic priests, since theirs are the records that provide most of our context. However, I see no reason why the Book of Abraham would be aimed at such individuals. Therefore I don't think that Ritner's Egyptological interpretation is the only possible interpretation for these papyri...so his declarations that the book is a fraud appear to me to be unjustified overreaches based on an overly narrow range of acceptable interpretations.

Look at it from an Egyptologist's perspective: The papyri employ very familiar and long-standing ancient Egyptian religious iconography: the lion-bed, the canopic jars, the crocodile, and even the "palace wall" pattern at the bottom of the vignette. These are Egyptian images, or at least adaptations of Egyptian religious imagery, as surely as an image containing a crucifix labeled "INRI" is either a Christian image or an adaptation of explicitly Christian iconography. People from one culture don't generally copy whole scenes from another culture, relabel the figures, and use them as illustrations of entirely different scenes from their own sacred texts. Given Judaism's revulsion toward gods other than Yahweh, Hebrew/Jews would have been especially unlikely to do that with images that included ancient Egyptian deities. And nobody can find an instance in which they did so. So at what point did the scene get relabeled as the attempted sacrifice of Abraham? For an Egyptologist, or any other non-Mormon with the relevant background knowledge of the ancient world, the answer is obvious.

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1 hour ago, Scribe said:

People from one culture don't generally copy whole scenes from another culture, relabel the figures, and use them as illustrations of entirely different scenes from their own sacred texts. Given Judaism's revulsion toward gods other than Yahweh, Hebrew/Jews would have been especially unlikely to do that with images that included ancient Egyptian deities. And nobody can find an instance in which they did so.

This is false. This exact phenomenon, in fact, has been documented. 

Per Kevin Barney, discussing his paper entitled "The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources":

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 If the text came into the care of an Egyptian-Jew in the Greco-Roman era (and I fancifully labeled this hypothetical scribe J-Red, for “Jewish Redactor”), he may have adopted or adapted Egyptian vignettes as illustrations of the Abraham story contained in the text.  This may sound fanciful at first, but I then went on to show several examples from that time and place where this is exactly what happened.  For instance, in the Testament of Abraham, the vignette accompanying chapter 125 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead is reimagined in Semitic terms.  Osiris sitting on the throne of judgment becomes Abel; the Egyptian gods become Semitic angels; the scribe Thoth becomes the biblical Enoch.  So I posited as a possibility that, “As the vignette for chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead is to the Testament of Abraham, so are the Facsimiles to the Book of Abraham.”

Another example I gave from this same time period was the Demotic Story of Setna, which is adapted into Jewish lore with seven rabbinic splinter stories, and ultimately finds its way into the Gospel of Luke as the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  In that Gospel account, Abraham is used as a Jewish substitute for the Egyptian Osiris, just as we see in Facsimiles 1 and 3.  So it was common for Jews living in Egypt around the turn of the era to adopt or adapt Egyptian iconography to their own purposes as illustrations of their own stories.

Barney goes on to discuss how he views the idea of Jewish redaction of the vignettes as possible, as well as the idea that Joseph Smith redacted them in genuine Hebraic scriptural tradition. I view either explanation as acceptable. 

"Jewish revulsion towards Gods other than Yahweh" is highly exaggerated by the priestly compilers of the Hebrew Bible. Even within the Bible you can see the children of Israel worshipping other gods all the time; it's basically the whole point of Kings and Chronicles. Baal and Asherah were worshipped in Israelite high places and even in the temple. The Jews in Egypt had their own temple in Elephantine which was in communion, if you will, with Jerusalem. The picture is quite different than what the Old Testament lets on. 

1 hour ago, Scribe said:

This is misleading. The text of the Papyrus of Hor is a standard-issue Book of Breathing, and there is nothing unusual about it. The vignette that became Facsimile 1 is unusual among Egyptian papyri, but only slightly. Embalming scenes from Books of Breathing are usually somewhat different from this particular vignette, but a scene where a person lies on or gets up from a lion-headed bed would always signify a scene of embalming or resurrection. Moreover, Ritner thinks the scene in the Papyrus of Hor may be copied from a temple relief, and temples from the same time period as the Papyrus of Hor contain scenes that closely match the vignette. While it may be true that "we cannot honestly claim that we fully understand what is going on with it", for the most part the drawing is well understood.

This is also not quite accurate. See Quinten Barney on Facsimile 3, which was part of the Papyrus of Hor; it's got some unusual abnormalities to contend with. Facsimile 1, as well. If a different redactor is in play and the vignette has been re-appropriated, then precedents kind of cease to matter, since the whole game has changed. 

That's the whole problem, as I said before. Ritner goes after it as a mainstream Egyptologist; when, unsurprisingly, his interpretations are different from that of a redactor, the case is apparently closed and the book is false. I say, not so fast. 

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17 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

This exact phenomenon, in fact, has been documented.

No, it has not. The parallels that Barney cites are textual. They are not ancient Egyptian religious vignettes relabeled to tell a completely different story. And the textual parallels are pretty general; the only characteristically Egyptian image in either one is the "weighing" of souls in the Testament of Abraham.

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20 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

I really want to be sympathetic to your view of the Book of Abraham.  I'm a believer, but I feel a particular sense of outrage with the way apologia is being done. 

There are few things about which I feel "outrage," and fewer still feel "a particular sense of outrage."

Members of the Church using their training and resources to speak intelligently about some aspects of the Restored Gospel falls well outside either category.

20 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

I never used to feel that outrage, but several years ago I was invited to a study group to review John Sorenson's book, and my outrage started to build then.   Apologia has a function, but not to state outright lies and misrepresentation of the facts and scientific method.

I don't think anyone is doing that.

20 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

There has been no "scholarly" support of which I'm aware that supports Gee and Muhlstein.

There is no evidentiary support for the Book of Abraham?  None?  

20 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

If I'm wrong perhaps you can point me to such.  "Scholarly" should mean a peer reviewed publication in an academic publication. 

That seems rather ideosyncratic, bordering on ad hoc.

"Scholarly" actually means

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adjective

of, like, or befitting a scholar:scholarly habits.
having the qualities of a scholar:a scholarly person.
concerned with academic learning and research.

adverb

like a scholar.

"Academic publications" are not the end-all of scholarship.

20 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

Why do they insist upon publishing their findings in non-scholarly journals?

We'd have to ask them.  Both seem to actively publish in the field.

20 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

Further, it isn't legitimate to engage in discourse because the critic is being impolite. 

I think you meant to say "it isn't legitimate to {decline to} engage in discourse because the critic is being impolite.  Is that correct?

I think it is.  Or it can be.  The coarsening of communications is a widespread problem.  It's not just in politics.  Academia has substantial problems with it.  And online forums are some of the worst.

But more to the point, Muhlestein isn't refusing to "engage in discourse."  

20 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

I've read Coe's Breaking the Maya Code, and he had lots of problems and issues with his colleagues.  He was quite insulting.  Yet, he and they published their counter positions in academic peer-reviewed journals.  Perhaps you could point me to Gee and Mulstein work in a university-sponsored publication other than FARMS Review.

So scholarship only counts if it's published in a "university-sponsored publication other than FARMS Review?"

Sounds mighty ad hoc.

Thanks,

-Smac

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Smac, I think you engage in sophistry to support an unjustifiable position, and you seize upon very minor errors to discredit.

Has any academic at any university in an academic publication ever concluded that Joseph Smith could translate Egyptian?  No.

Have Gee and Muhlestein ever published their conclusions about the Book of Abraham in a peer reviewed journal?  No.  Imagine.  A lifetime of academic pursuit and unwilling to engage in customary academic discussion. 

Have Gee or Muhlestein ever participated in a roundtable academic discussion of the Book of Abraham with unbelievers? I'm not sure but I'd say no. 

The value of the Book of Abraham is not found in the cursed arm of the flesh.   And that is Gee and Muhlestein.  These folks do more to blind and confuse people, and be paid to do it, than outright critics. They (and Sorenson) create a superstructure made of clay and bamboo to support what is stainless steel.  When the superstructure of man's knowledge crumbles, the confused suppose the clay and bamboo is the gospel and they stumble. 

Are these findings of Gee, Muhlestein and Sorenson ever discussed in books and sermons of General Authorities under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? No.

Edited by Bob Crockett
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2 hours ago, Bob Crockett said:

Smac, I think you engage in sophistry to support an unjustifiable position, and you seize upon very minor errors to discredit.

With respect, I disagree.

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Has any academic at any university in an academic publication ever concluded that Joseph Smith could translate Egyptian?  No.

Has any academic at any university in an academic publication ever concluded that Moses parted the waters by the power of God?

Has any academic at any university in an academic publication ever concluded that Elijah was literally taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire?

Has any academic at any university in an academic publication ever concluded that Jesus Christ arose bodily from death and later ascended into heaven?

Are academic institutions really in the business of trying to settle religious truth claims?  Are they situated to competently accomplish such an objective?

What's next?  Are you going to fault Jack Welch for publishing his "Legal Perspectives on the Slaying of Laban" in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies?  Is he not a scholar because he didn't have it published in the Duke Law Journal or some other bar journal or law review?  

And so what if the article was published in the JBMS?  How is that a problem?  How does that preclude scholarly critique and analysis from other experts in the field?  It's still published to the world.

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Have Gee and Muhlestein ever published their conclusions about the Book of Abraham in a peer reviewed journal?  No.  Imagine.  A lifetime of academic pursuit and unwilling to engage in customary academic discussion. 

I don't think that is a fair characterization.  Both have published amply about the Book of Abraham.

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Have Gee or Muhlestein ever participated in a roundtable academic discussion of the Book of Abraham with unbelievers? I'm not sure but I'd say no. 

How many of these "roundtable academic discussion{s}" have taken place?  Where?  When?

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The value of the Book of Abraham is not found in the cursed arm of the flesh.   And that is Gee and Muhlestein. 

I quite disagree.  Neither has ever claimed to be the source of "the value of the Book of Abraham."

There are plenty of well-educated Latter-day Saints who use their training, research, and native intellect to present scholarly assessments about various topics relating to the Restored Gospel.  None has claimed to be the source of "the value of" the Gospel.  

Gee and Muhlestein are doing what Elder Holland and other General Authorities, and the scriptures, have encouraged us to do.  See here:

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My testimony to you tonight is that the gospel is infallibly true and that a variety of infallible proofs supporting that assertion will continue to come until Jesus descends as the ultimate infallible truth of all. Our testimonies aren’t dependent on evidence—we still need that spiritual confirmation in the heart of which we have spoken—but not to seek for and not to acknowledge intellectual, documentable support for our belief when it is available is to needlessly limit an otherwise incomparably strong theological position and deny us a unique, persuasive vocabulary in the latter-day arena of religious investigation and sectarian debate. Thus armed with so much evidence of the kind we have celebrated here tonight, we ought to be more assertive than we sometimes are in defending our testimony of truth.

To that point I mention that while we were living and serving in England, I became fond of the writing of the English cleric Austin Farrer. Speaking of the contribution made by C. S. Lewis specifically and of Christian apologists generally, Farrer said: “Though argument does not create conviction, lack of it destroys belief. What seems to be proved may not be embraced; but what no one shows the ability to defend is quickly abandoned. Rational argument does not create belief, but it maintains a climate in which belief may flourish.”[10]
...
[10] Austin Farrer, “The Christian Apologist,” in Light on C.S. Lewis, ed. Jocelyn Gibb (1965), 26.

Thoughts?

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These folks do more to blind and confuse people, and be paid to do it, than outright critics. They (and Sorenson) create a superstructure made of clay and bamboo to support what is stainless steel.  When the superstructure of man's knowledge crumbles, the confused suppose the clay and bamboo is the gospel and they stumble. 

Are these findings of Gee, Muhlestein and Sorenson ever discussed in books and sermons of General Authorities under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? No.

I'm not sure you are correctly characterizing things here.  Consider these remarks from Kevin Christensen from August 2019:

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In Playing to an Audience, I quoted from a Fluhman editorial regarding the 2012 changes at Maxwell Institute:

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A couple of years ago, Maxwell Institute leaders asked me to advise them on the future of the Mormon Studies Review. They were interested in engaging more fully with the rising academic field of the same name, but wondered if the journal should even continue given the already crowded periodical field. My response was brief — well, brief for me — and would not have impressed any capitalists in the room. Don’t worry about the LDS audience, I said. Other journals have that covered. Speak instead to scholars, period.…

Spencer Fluhman, “On Audience and Voice in Mormon Studies Publishing,” Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship (blog), November 21, 2016, https://mi.byu.edu/intro-msr-v4/

Would Elder Maxwell urge LDS scholars to "Speak to the scholars, period..."?  Would he say, "Let other scholars stand as witnesses at all times and in all places.  They have that covered elsewhere.  We have our professional standing in the larger community to consider."

I responded (same link) :

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I can't help but contrast the above sentiment with these remarks by Elder Holland.  Some excerpts:

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First, although I accept sole responsibility for all inadequacies, limitations, errors, and missed opportuni-ties in this message, I am here with not only the blessing but also the rather explicit expectation of the officers of the university’s board of trustees, whose executive committee I currently chair. In that sense, I speak for all of your governing advisers—not just for myself.
...
Third, I am speaking only to the work of the Maxwell Institute tonight and not to the whole of BYU’s academic effort.

Very much a targeted talk, I think.  A bit more:

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But not all truths are of equal importance, and in using the disciple-scholar metaphor—that hyphenated noun Elder Maxwell left us as part of his marvelous linguistic legacy—the spiritual half of that union was always the more important. “Though I have spoken of the disciple-scholar,” he said, “in the end all the hyphenated words come off. We are finally disciples—men and women of Christ.”

And yet Spencer Fluhman was telling the Maxwell Institute "Don’t worry about the LDS audience."

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Whichever audience you address at any given moment, I note the advice of the review team who challenged the institute to “promulgate a [clear] statement of its commitment to engage in work that builds the Kingdom, to set the agenda according to their own objectives and not those of the academy, and to ensure that the dominant tone of their journals and books affirms core LDS values, as outlined in the foundational documents of BYU.”

Elder Holland: "I note the advice of the review team who challenged the institute to '...set the agenda according to their own objectives and not those of the academy.'"

Bro. Fluhman: "Don’t worry about the LDS audience, I said. Other journals have that covered. Speak instead to scholars, period.…"

Oi.

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Regarding that faith-filled scholarship of which Elder Maxwell speaks, may I note plainly one thing we expect you to do because it is central to your raison d’être. It is to undergird and inform the pledge Elder Maxwell made when he said of uncontested criticism, “No more slam dunks.”  We ask you as part of a larger game plan to always keep a scholarly hand fully in the face of those who oppose us. As a ne’er-do-well athlete of yesteryear, I was always told you played offense for the crowd, but you played defense for the coach. Your coaches will be very happy to have you play both superbly well.

This seems to speak a fundamental difference of opinion as to who is the Institute's primary target audience.

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About four years ago, at the university’s invitation, three outside scholars reviewed the circumstances the institute was then facing and wrote nineteen pages of observations. Some of what they said addressed the matter of apologetics broadly defined. 

Whatever else they had in mind, I thought it a marvelous understatement for them to have said, “There will be times when our faith will require an explicit defense.”  We want the Maxwell Institute and many others to contribute to that defense—with solid, reputable scholarship intended as much for everyday, garden-variety Latter-day Saints who want their faith bolstered, at least as much as it might be intended for disinterested academic colleagues across the country whose stated purpose will never be to “prove or disprove the truth claims of the Church.”

Helping to build "an explicit defense" through "reputable scholarship intended as much for everyday, garden-variety Latter-day Saints ... at least as much as ... for disinterested academic colleagues" seems rather incompatible with "{d}on’t worry about the LDS audience ... {o}ther journals have that covered" and "{s}peak instead to scholars, period.…"

It seems rather clear that Elder Holland is expecting what you seem to be denying: for faithful scholars to help create "an explicit defense" through "reputable scholarship intended as much for everyday, garden-variety Latter-day Saints."

That's not sophistry.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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18 hours ago, Scribe said:

No, it has not. The parallels that Barney cites are textual. They are not ancient Egyptian religious vignettes relabeled to tell a completely different story. And the textual parallels are pretty general; the only characteristically Egyptian image in either one is the "weighing" of souls in the Testament of Abraham.

So, in other words...Semitic authors adapting themes from Egyptian illustrations in their writing is irrelevant because their adaptations take the form of text as opposed to illustration? Between you and me our standards of evaluating these things are surely different, but in my opinion that seems like an overly narrow definition of the phenomenon of borrowing. Semitic-Egyptian borrowing in other genres weakens the argument from silence with respect to the genre of illustration. 

 

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1 hour ago, OGHoosier said:

So, in other words...Semitic authors adapting themes from Egyptian illustrations in their writing is irrelevant because their adaptations take the form of text as opposed to illustration? Between you and me our standards of evaluating these things are surely different, but in my opinion that seems like an overly narrow definition of the phenomenon of borrowing. Semitic-Egyptian borrowing in other genres weakens the argument from silence with respect to the genre of illustration.

Borrowing general imagery of judgment and punishment in the afterlife — concepts that cultures all across the Mediterranean had in common in Hellenistic and Roman times, although the details differed — is very different from taking an illustration of a characteristically Egyptian practice, with characteristically Egyptian gods, and using it as an illustration of a completely different story with a completely different context. People just don't do that, except perhaps as parody, which the Book of Abraham definitely isn't. What you're suggesting is a possibility that one can imagine, but it's not remotely probable. It fails Occam's Razor pretty spectacularly, before we even get beyond Facsimile 1 to the anachronisms in the Book of Abraham itself. If you believe in the Book of Abraham anyway, that's one thing, but Gee and Muhlestein keep acting as if the book is defensible by the standards of evidence found in their own discipline, when it's not.

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Kerry Muhlestein did a BOA presentation at the FAIR conference a few days ago.  Did anyone here have a chance to see it?

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On 8/29/2020 at 6:30 PM, OGHoosier said:

Since you brought up Anubis/Olimlah, here's Quinten Barney's thesis on Facsimile 3 compared with other throne scenes. Don't trust Muhlestein? See for yourself.

What do you want me to see?

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1) The wide variety of interpretations, theories, and unanswered questions relative to
Facsimile No. 3 stands as evidence of the need for further research and more careful
attention to be given to the Facsimile.


2) The translations that have been offered of the hieroglyphic text of Facsimile No. 3,
though useful, contain uncertainties and challenges that must be considered when determining how much weight one can reasonably place on them for a proper understanding of the Facsimile.

3) While there are certainly many minor or otherwise insignificant iconographic anomalies in Facsimile No. 3, there are also several great ones, including the issues 
that have been noted relating to Figure 6, who has traditionally been identified as 
Anubis by most Egyptologists. These anomalies call into question such 
interpretations.

4) No exact parallels to Facsimile No. 3 could be found among any other copy of the Book of Breathings, nor in the various other mediums of Egyptian art from Ptolemaic 
Thebes. This may suggest that there is no identical scene currently extan

So, the conclusion is, since Ritner and Rhodes appeared to have some question marks that means it's possible it could be something other than they suggested?  Since anomalies have been mentioned, it's possible that attributing the figure as Anubis might be a mistake?  Since there are differences found, we don't really know very much?  So the overriding presumption here is that all the question marks might mean Abraham's story can be found in the Egyptian anyway?  Granted I didn't read the 100 pages.  Wasn't interesting enough.  I did a skim.  Not sure what exactly you are trying to say with this.  Perhaps you are saying, well it might not really be Anubis anyway, because there is uniqueness to this particular vignette?  Did Barney point to any Egyptian experts to suggest as much?  or is he simply saying, we don't really know, so it's possible Ritner and company are wrong anyway?  

Seems fairly odd that he didn't go to Ritner himself for input.  He seems comfortable concluding Ritner isn't sure without any statement from Ritner (at least from what I've seen) suggesting as much.  

On 8/29/2020 at 6:30 PM, OGHoosier said:

I do believe that if the papyri break enough rules, we should consider that perhaps they weren't meant to play by those rules. Furthermore, symbols have meaning in the eye of the beholder. Therefore an exposition of their meaning can only occur if you have the correct beholder in mind.  Your caricature is right - normal Egyptology can't possibly tell us much about the meaning of these unique items unless conventional Egyptian cultists were their intended audience. 

I don't really understand the presumptive nature of this position you are holding.  What audience are you talking about here?  

On 8/29/2020 at 6:30 PM, OGHoosier said:

I'll be honest, I know that Ritner objects, and it doesn't bother me. Ritner's training and trade is that of a conventional Egyptologist. Thus he interprets these papyri in line with conventional Egyptology, which highlights the perspectives of the rulers and cultic priests, since theirs are the records that provide most of our context. However, I see no reason why the Book of Abraham would be aimed at such individuals. Therefore I don't think that Ritner's Egyptological interpretation is the only possible interpretation for these papyri...so his declarations that the book is a fraud appear to me to be unjustified overreaches based on an overly narrow range of acceptable interpretations. 

Unfortunately, all too often, apologetics attempts to run right over the top of every single logical and scholarly rule in order to justify itself.    "We've found something fascinating about our scripture, because it's possible God did the unthinkable and has sent scholars in the wrong direction, distracted on their rules of scholarship and stuff.  Since its possible God has misled our scholars, we can say without reservation that our religion is possible and since possible that means it's probably true."  

I mean, whatever floats it for you, I suppose.  

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On 8/31/2020 at 8:01 AM, stemelbow said:

So, the conclusion is, since Ritner and Rhodes appeared to have some question marks that means it's possible it could be something other than they suggested?  Since anomalies have been mentioned, it's possible that attributing the figure as Anubis might be a mistake?  Since there are differences found, we don't really know very much?  So the overriding presumption here is that all the question marks might mean Abraham's story can be found in the Egyptian anyway?  Granted I didn't read the 100 pages.  Wasn't interesting enough.  I did a skim.  Not sure what exactly you are trying to say with this.  Perhaps you are saying, well it might not really be Anubis anyway, because there is uniqueness to this particular vignette?  Did Barney point to any Egyptian experts to suggest as much?  or is he simply saying, we don't really know, so it's possible Ritner and company are wrong anyway?  

Let's take this paragraph sentence by sentence.

On 8/31/2020 at 8:01 AM, stemelbow said:

So, the conclusion is, since Ritner and Rhodes appeared to have some question marks that means it's possible it could be something other than they suggested?

Yes. Bear in mind that Ritner, Rhodes, nor anybody else are actually ancient Egyptians, nor authors of these texts. That means that all we get are interpretations from the outside. Egyptologists can catalogue various symbols, catalogue their contexts, and thus figure out a general range of meaning for each one. That meaning, as best we can guess, is most likely going to represent a mainstream use of those symbols since it is drawn from a broad number of samples. This does not, however, mean that all possible meanings have been discovered by the scholars, or even can be. So, in conclusion, scholars can only give us a "most likely" interpretation of these things. It's always possible that it could be something other than they suggested. These are symbols we are talking about, not laws of nature. 

On 8/31/2020 at 8:01 AM, stemelbow said:

Since anomalies have been mentioned, it's possible that attributing the figure as Anubis might be a mistake?

Since there are big anomalies regarding Figure 6, yes. Precisely. 

On 8/31/2020 at 8:01 AM, stemelbow said:

Since there are differences found, we don't really know very much?  So the overriding presumption here is that all the question marks might mean Abraham's story can be found in the Egyptian anyway?

Not in the Breathing Permit, no. On another papyrus, whether or not Joseph Smith ever encountered it, yes. 

On 8/31/2020 at 8:01 AM, stemelbow said:

Granted I didn't read the 100 pages.  Wasn't interesting enough.  I did a skim.  Not sure what exactly you are trying to say with this.  Perhaps you are saying, well it might not really be Anubis anyway, because there is uniqueness to this particular vignette?  Did Barney point to any Egyptian experts to suggest as much?  or is he simply saying, we don't really know, so it's possible Ritner and company are wrong anyway?  

This is unfortunate, I found the paper quite interesting. If you'd like, you can check Barney's included bibliography, where he cites many mainstream Egyptologists and their findings, including Robert Ritner. Unfortunately, I don't have time to list them. Also, since we're on the Anubis figure, he argues that there are anomalies with the greater vignette, yes, but also with the Anubis figure itself, which weaken identifications of the figure as Anubis. 

I don't quite know what you mean by "point to Egyptian experts". Barney did original research, citing other credible Egyptian experts. People are allowed to put forth original theses, you know. Not everything has to first have been said by someone else. Were it so, scholarship would grind to a halt and be broken in its own paradox. 

On 8/31/2020 at 8:01 AM, stemelbow said:

Seems fairly odd that he didn't go to Ritner himself for input.  He seems comfortable concluding Ritner isn't sure without any statement from Ritner (at least from what I've seen) suggesting as much.

He's critiquing the grounds upon which Ritner bases his certainty, not disputing what Ritner thinks about his own opinions. 

On 8/31/2020 at 8:01 AM, stemelbow said:

Unfortunately, all too often, apologetics attempts to run right over the top of every single logical and scholarly rule in order to justify itself.    "We've found something fascinating about our scripture, because it's possible God did the unthinkable and has sent scholars in the wrong direction, distracted on their rules of scholarship and stuff.  Since its possible God has misled our scholars, we can say without reservation that our religion is possible and since possible that means it's probably true."  

Unfortunately, all too often, critics attempt to run right over the top of sound philosophy regarding the scope, capabilities, and limitations of research and human knowledge. This often results in fetishization of a sense of certainty and authority, and a complementary intolerance for ambiguity. 

I mean, seriously: "because it's possible God did the unthinkable and has sent scholars in the wrong direction, distracted on their rules of scholarship and stuff."

Literally everything we have of scholarship has been dragged out of the ashes of past scholarship that has been burnt to the ground. The whole concept of ongoing research is built on the premise that scholars can be wrong! I'm going to presume that you know this and stop beating this particular dead horse. 

Also, define rules of scholarship. Let me guess: "peer review." When an apologetic statement is, actually, peer reviewed, the goalpost shifts: "peer-reviewed by non-Mormon experts." This seems to me like nothing more than rank ideological bigotry. What kind of free discourse can we conceivably claim if a person's opinions on a matter can be summarily dismissed based on his origins, life circumstances, or ideological opinions? That's why claims that "mUhLeStEiN aNd GeE aReN't ReAl EgYpToLoGiStS" merely convince me to regard the claimant as a bigot. Try these "rules of scholarship" on for size: intellectual humility, willingness to acknowledge the horizons of one's understanding, willingness to acknowledge the limitations of scholarship, and willingness to understand that all conclusions, including one's own, are held provisionally. Willingness to understand that not all explanations are or can be universal. Willingness to understand that institutional authority is not a trump card. 

Quote

Since its possible God has misled our scholars, we can say without reservation that our religion is possible and since possible that means it's probably true.

No need for God to do the misleading: if Barney is right, the scholars have done that themselves. Nevertheless, "by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls."  The august dignity of "the wise" is of little concern. Finally, you misrepresent me. Have I ever said possibility implied probability? No, but it confounds certainty. I'm okay with the absence of that; much of it is probably false certainty anyway. 

Edit: I forgot this part:

Quote

I don't really understand the presumptive nature of this position you are holding.  What audience are you talking about here?

I'm generally talking about the Semitic Adaptation Theory, which holds forth that Joseph Smith's translations represent how a Jewish redactor would have interpreted those symbols. It's basically that Semitic redactors adapted the facsimiles as illustrations of their own text - the Book of Abraham. Therefore, to declare the Egyptian sacerdotal interpretation of the scenes as a disproof of the Book is to commit a non sequitur - the Egyptian priest's interpretation is not exclusive, nor is it as important as the Semitic interpretation. Under SAT,  the facsimiles that Joseph received could have been included among Hor's possessions as an accompaniment to a Book of Abraham text, or they could simply be types, with Joseph receiving the rest by revelation. 

Edited by OGHoosier
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I wonder how many on this thread have watched the video of Ritner, JD, and RFM, or at least listened to the podcasts. I think there would be a lot less confusion if they had.  And to break down each point, I'd start a thread for each podcast to discuss, but can't because of being on "limited". 

 

 

Edited by Tacenda
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