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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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On 9/18/2020 at 12:31 PM, Nofear said:

If some ancient Egyptian were to make on about Abraham what are they to do? The language was highly ritualistic and not exactly flexible in the way we are used to. Any hypothetical facismile about Abraham would likely reuse, appropriate, and re-purpose the standard "script". Part of the difficulty in claiming that Abraham is not possible in the facsimiles is that even if he was, would we be able to recognize it? And part of the difficulty in claiming that Abraham is in this one exception is that, how would one persuade that it is an exception?

If you would like to read some examples of the narrative possibilities of the Egyptian language (in English translation) I suggest the following collection of Egyptian literature:

https://ia802907.us.archive.org/1/items/TheLiteratureOfAncientEgyptKellySimpsonBySamySalah/The Literature of Ancient Egypt - Kelly Simpson By Samy Salah.pdf

Take a look at the Story of Sinuhe, for example. The original is written in Middle Egyptian, the language in use in Egypt during what most consider to be the time of Abraham.

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On 9/18/2020 at 6:47 AM, stemelbow said:

I think that's kind of what Ritner is thinking.  The research has been done and the apologists seem intent on mischaracterizing what has been settled and what has not.  So Ritner's desire to have a conversation seems far more appropriate and far more useful.  

It seems everyone agrees, though, that Joseph didn't know how to translate Egyptian.  The apologist position seems to be that the English story happened to magically (God caused the words to appear in his mind or something)  plop into his head.  So it appears if it's shown without question that there was absolutely no Abraham story on the papyrus, even the missing stuff, somehow, it wouldn't matter.  That's why it seems Muhlestein is intent on suggesting the BoA is not based on Egyptology in any way.  If Muhlestein is correct in that, then what would be the point of him teaming up with Ritner, like Muhlestein an Egyptologist, to write a book about the BoA?  To finalize that statement?  The book would be absolutely useless if Muhlestein is correct.  What an odd venture he proposes.  

I think this is a great point and should end the Ritner/Muhlestein conversation.  The book would be over in a few pages or sentences.  Ritner would say the BofA and the papyri have nothing to do with each other and Muhlestein would then chime in that the BofA has nothing to do with Egyptology, the end.  So, why did Muhlestein propose the book in the first place if he believes in the catalyst theory?  Why not just acknowledge the points made by one of the preeminent Egyptologists and then pivot to spirituality taking precedence over history?  It would have been less confusing.

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On 9/15/2020 at 2:23 PM, Robert J Anderson said:

The problem I see with the book proposal is that it will take perhaps years to do and people want answers today. 

That's not a problem with "the book proposal."  That's a problem with the subjective and unreasonable expectations of "people {who} want answers today."

Meanwhile, there are extensive amounts of information available today, at this very moment, for people who are interested in the subject.  Pearl of Great Price Central is a great resource (though far from the only one).

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Maybe the answers are already given in some other place but they need to be given again. 

Also, "the answers" often require time and effort to study and understand.  Some folks lack the patience or willingness to meaningfully pursue such things, and instead - as you put it - "want answers today."

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At present, it doesn't look good that Dr. Muhlestein doesn't want to engage immediately, showing point by point where Dr. Ritner is wrong or where Dr. Ritner is not giving the entire story, etc. 

I think that is an inaccurate and unfair characterization.  Dr. Muhlestein does "want to engage," and is willing to explore the parameters of that engagement.  Dr. Ritner is presently precluded from such an effort due to health issues.

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RFM boorishly challenged Dr. Muhlestein to come on his show and not at least giving answers in perhaps a friendly podcast seems to give the wrong impression about Dr. Muhlestein and his position.

Which was likely the objective of the boorish challenge.

RFM is a sideshow.  A distraction.  It has no role to play in a meaningful, substantive, civil, scholarly exchange between Dr. Muhlestein and Dr. Ritner.

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Also, I don't think online debates are necessarily cheesy. 

But they often are, particularly when the subject matter is technical, complex, not well-understood by the lay audience, etc.

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Scholars debate all the time or put forth their positions in online forums.  The presidential debates coming up in a few weeks will certainly be broadcast online in addition to television and radio.  While these perhaps might be cheesy, given who is participating, they are important regarding the upcoming vote in November.

Joe Rogan interviews tons of varied guests and these online shows aren't cheesy per se.  Just because it is online doesn't necessarily make the program unprofessional or unacademic.  Books aren't the only medium.

Dr. Muhlestein and Dr. Gee have published quite a bit online.  It's readily available for free.  Both have, IIRC, been actively involved in the development of Pearl of Great Price Central.  

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

…the subject matter is technical, complex, not well-understood by the lay audience, etc.

From an Egyptological perspective, the central questions are not complex and are not difficult to explain to a lay audience. The papyri are Egyptian funerary papyri and say exactly what you'd expect from Egyptian funerary papyri. Multiple other copies of the same text as Papyrus Joseph Smith 1 have been discovered, read, and studied. Muhlestein tries to obfuscate this point by pointing to loose similarities between some of the elements of the Egyptian text and some of the elements of the Book of Abraham, but the text in the papyri never mentions Abraham or relates any part of the narrative in the book. Despite the contortions Muhlestein and others go through to relate the facsimiles to Joseph Smith's explanations of them, kings do not wear the cow-horn headdress, Hebrew patriarchs who wander into Egypt do not wear the crown of Osiris, "Oliblish" and "Enish-go-on-dosh" are not Egyptian words, and decorative flower stands do not represent "Abraham in Egypt". And the missing scroll theory doesn't fly, because the Book of Abraham itself refers to the facsimiles, thus tying itself to the extant papyrus.

Now, one can argue for the catalyst theory, the belief that the papyri aren't related to the book but inspired Joseph Smith to write the book. One can argue for the claims by the likes of Quinton Barney, that, for some inscrutable reason, Jews devised a totally novel use of hieroglyphs and encoded the text of the Book of Abraham into the papyri in such a way as to make them indistinguishable from a copy of the Book of Breathings.

But one cannot argue either of those claims on Egyptological grounds, because for that you need positive evidence. There is no way of proving the catalyst theory. To posit a weird reworking of Egyptian writing systems to encode Jewish texts, you would need evidence that somebody somewhere actually did that, and there is none. The simplest explanation is that Smith came across Egyptian papyri, connected them with one of the handful of biblical figures who lived in Egypt, and made stuff up based on the papyri without understanding what he was looking at. And, I repeat, one can argue for a different explanation, but such claims do not meet the standards of proof required in Egyptology. Gee and Muhlestein's job, where the Book of Abraham is concerned, is to create the illusion that the validity of the Book of Abraham is still an open question in Egyptology, one where experts can disagree over highly technical questions. It's not.

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4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

From an Egyptological perspective, the central questions are not complex and are not difficult to explain to a lay audience.

With respect, I disagree with this approach.  I think "the central questions" are quite complex, and many of them cannot be competently addressed from a solely "Egyptological perspective."

First, the matter of "assumptions" must be addressed.  See Kerry Muhlestein's remarks here:

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At the outset, it is important to note that most of the arguments about the validity of the Book of Abraham have centered on the issue of authority. The earliest attacks on the Book of Abraham (discussed below) focused on appeals to the scholastic authority of academic scholars. Similarly, much of the defense of the Book of Abraham by Latter-day Saints has been based on the academic authority of believing scholars. I have argued that personal revelation is also an authentic, valid avenue of learning. Some have noted that many LDS Egyptologists put forth what appear to be convincing arguments but some readers later come to perceive that their credibility or authority is somewhat doubtful because non LDS Egyptologists who have written about the subject have disagreed with their point of view. It seems to have gone unnoticed that the vast majority of Egyptologists have said nothing at all about this matter. A very small minority has taken any kind of position regarding the Joseph Smith papyri controversy. Of those who have, it is certainly not their primary research concern, so they have typically put very little time into investigating these issues and the associated details. Thus it is important to note that LDS Egyptologists have spent more time studying the Egyptological issues associated with the Book of Abraham than any non-LDS Egyptologists, though this does not necessarily mean they are correct about everything they write. It is even more important to note that all scholars who say something about this topic are heavily influenced by their original point of view. Understanding the different points of view of these sources of authority is an important part of the epistemological process — the process of learning about the historiography of the study of the Book of Abraham. We can understand the history of the conversation best when we first understand the base assumptions made by all who have been involved in this dialogue.

Towards that end, we must acknowledge that when it comes to Joseph Smith’s ability to translate, a student of the issue truly has only two choices: that Joseph Smith could translate by the gift of God or that he could not. There really is not a middle ground. 
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I believe all parties agree that Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian via conventional methods. To go beyond this original agreement, all involved make a faith-based choice. It is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to impose a false sense of objectivity on the nature of this choice. Believing that Joseph Smith could translate with the help of God is a faith-based choice, one made based on a belief that cannot be proved. Believing it is impossible for Joseph Smith (or anyone else) to translate with the help of God is also a faith-based choice, one based on a belief that cannot be proved. Yet this choice colors the way we see everything else in regard to the Book of Abraham.

Assumptions about Joseph Smith are principally matters of faith and religious belief, or lack thereof.  Such assumptions are outside the parameters of a purely "Egyptological perspective."

Muhlestein goes on to explain, rather persuasively IMO, that the Book of Mormon requires a multi-disciplinary approach:

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In regard to researchers, the story of the Book of Abraham spans many disciplines, and hence requires scholarship from many fields. Whereas there are some Egyptological aspects of the discussions surrounding the Book of Abraham, they are not the only pertinent ones, and may actually be some of the less important elements. Thus it is important to have Egyptologists discuss those issues, but it is equally if not more important to delve into issues regarding nineteenth century history, the history of ancient manuscripts, the history of modern manuscripts, semiotics, and issues of faith. Accordingly, scholarship regarding the Book of Abraham involves input from those who have training and experience in all of these fields. Hugh Nibley, an early leading scholar in Book of Abraham studies, articulated this point some time ago:

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Consider for a moment the scope and complexity of the materials with which the student must cope if he would undertake a serious study of the Book of Abraham’s authenticity. At the very least he must be thoroughly familiar with (1) the texts of the “Joseph Smith Papyri” identified as belonging to the Book of the Dead, (2) the content and nature of mysterious “Sen-sen” fragment, (3) the so-called “Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar” attributed to Joseph Smith, (4) statements by and about Joseph Smith concerning the nature of the Book of Abraham and its origin, (5) the original document of Facsimile 1 with its accompanying hieroglyphic inscriptions, (6) the text of the Book of Abraham itself in its various editions, (7) the three facsimiles as reproduced in various editions of the Pearl of Great Price, (8) Joseph Smith’s explanation of the facsimiles, (9) the large and growing literature of ancient traditions and legends about Abraham in Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Greek, Slavonic, etc., and (10) the studies and opinions of modern scholars on all aspects of the Book of Abraham.

More recently, LDS Egyptologist John Gee, speaking at a meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt, additionally remarked,

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If you decide you want to enter the debate {on the JSP and Book of Abraham}, you ought to do some real homework. There is a large bibliography, and there are dozens of theories to master, not to mention a large body of evidence. … You have to pay attention to what Latter-day Saints say about the papyri. It is they who have traced the history of the papyri, dug up what information is known about Antonio Lebolo, identified Joseph Smith Papyri X–XI as a Book of Breathings, and done much basic work on hypocephali, and they are the people who have access to the original documents. They know their own history much better than others do.

Unfortunately, many who have waded into the debate surrounding the JSP and the Book of Abraham, especially non-specialists writing in popular venues, have not paid close heed to these warnings from Nibley and Gee, with the predictable result that their writings often suffer from many methodological and factual errors.

I think these are some pretty solid and important points that merit attention and emphasis.

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

The papyri are Egyptian funerary papyri and say exactly what you'd expect from Egyptian funerary papyri. Multiple other copies of the same text as Papyrus Joseph Smith 1 have been discovered, read, and studied. Muhlestein tries to obfuscate this point by pointing to loose similarities between some of the elements of the Egyptian text and some of the elements of the Book of Abraham, but the text in the papyri never mentions Abraham or relates any part of the narrative in the book.

You are only proving Muhlestein's point.  By way of example, you are speaking of "the text in the papyri" as if we have the entirety of it.  You are assuming that which has yet to be demonstrated.  You are assuming that which is very much in dispute.  You are then drawing broad conclusions based on those unsubstantiated (and quite possibly incorrect) assumptions.

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

Despite the contortions Muhlestein and others go through to relate the facsimiles to Joseph Smith's explanations of them, kings do not wear the cow-horn headdress, Hebrew patriarchs who wander into Egypt do not wear the crown of Osiris, "Oliblish" and "Enish-go-on-dosh" are not Egyptian words, and decorative flower stands do not represent "Abraham in Egypt". And the missing scroll theory doesn't fly, because the Book of Abraham itself refers to the facsimiles, thus tying itself to the extant papyrus.

You aren't engaging the substance of what Muhlestein and others have said about these subjects.  You are just derisively dismissing them in an unsubstantiated and a priori kind of way.

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

Now, one can argue for the catalyst theory, the belief that the papyri aren't related to the book but inspired Joseph Smith to write the book. One can argue for the claims by the likes of Quinton Barney, that, for some inscrutable reason, Jews devised a totally novel use of hieroglyphs and encoded the text of the Book of Abraham into the papyri in such a way as to make them indistinguishable from a copy of the Book of Breathings.

But one cannot argue either of those claims on Egyptological grounds, because for that you need positive evidence.

And you need "positive evidence" to make broad conclusions about what "the text in the papyri" says, and yet you don't have it.

Funny, that.

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

There is no way of proving the catalyst theory. To posit a weird reworking of Egyptian writing systems to encode Jewish texts, you would need evidence that somebody somewhere actually did that, and there is none.

I really question this assertion.  Like, a lot.  See, e.g., these remarks by Kevin Barney:

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So, I wondered, what if Abraham composed his text in, say, Akkadian written on clay tablets, which would make more sense for a Semite in the Middle Bronze Age than brush and ink on papyrus?  And what if the vignettes underlying the Facsimiles had a separate provenance than the text itself?  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.  Now, in my published paper I did not go this far explicitly, but let me make the point here that if it was acceptable for Jews to adopt or adapt Egyptian iconography to their own purposes, making Abraham a Semitic substitute for Osiris, why would it not be acceptable for Joseph Smith to do the very same thing himself?

And here:

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Specifically, we will suggest that the facsimiles may not have been drawn by Abraham’s hand but may have been Egyptian religious vignettes that were adopted or adapted by an Egyptian-Jewish redactor as illustrations of the Book of Abraham. We will illustrate general processes of Jewish adaptation of Egyptian sources and then describe in detail three specific examples from the Greco-Roman period (the same period when the Joseph Smith Papyri were produced) that each relates in some way to Abraham. We will suggest that such Jewish adaptation of Egyptian sources was common during this time period and would explain the adaptation of the facsimiles to illustrate the Book of Abraham, which may have come under this redactor’s care as part of the ancient transmission of the text.
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Another example of Egyptian material being refracted through a Semitic lens is provided by the story of the rich man and Lazarus, which is recounted in Luke 16:19—31:
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In his important study of this passage, Hugo Gressmann suggested that Luke’s account was based on a popular Jewish version, perhaps written in Hebrew, of an Egyptian story. Neither the Egyptian original nor the Jewish version of that original has survived; nevertheless, their existence can be inferred from other documents that do exist. The popular Jewish version can be deduced from seven late rabbinic splinters; these texts almost certainly do not derive directly from the Gospel of Luke. The Egyptian original is hypothesized based on the Demotic story of Setna, described below. To analogize the relationship among these texts in genealogical terms, the Egyptian original is like a grandfather, and the popular Jewish version a father, to the account in Luke. The story of Setna is a kind of uncle to the Lucan account, and the seven rabbinic splinters are nieces and nephews of sorts.
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The Demotic story of Setna is known from a single papyrus manuscript in the British Museum (Pap. DCIV).
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Once again we are able to see how the Egyptian story has been transformed in Semitic dress. The angels of the Lucan account appear to be an instrumentality substituted for Horus (or the falcon of Horus).  The “bosom of Abraham” represents Amnte, the Egyptian abode of the dead. And, most remarkably, Abraham is a Jewish substitute for the pagan god Osiris—just as is the case in Facsimiles 1 and 3. 

See also these remarks by Michael Rhodes (quoted by Jeff Lindsay) :

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For years the critics have also charged that the idea of stories about Abraham appearing in Egyptian documents was unfounded, and that scenes like Facsimile 1 could not possibly have anything to do with Abraham. There was simply no link in Egyptian writings between Abraham and the Egyptians, they contended.

These criticisms lost some of their force with the discovery of several ancient documents from Egypt, including several from the same time and place as Facsimile 1 (Thebes, about 2000 years ago), which increase the plausibility of Joseph Smith's comments on Facsimile 1. Michael Rhodes {Rhodes, 1992-a{ mentions two recently discovered ancient documents (pseudepigrapha) in particular, the Testament of Abraham and the Apocalypse of Abraham. These texts show a relationship between Abraham and the Egyptians, refuting the claim of modern critics that there is no evidence for such a relationship. According to Rhodes,

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"In the Testament of Abraham, Abraham is shown a vision of the Last Judgment that is unquestionably related to the judgment scene pictured in the 125th chapter of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, one of the major religious texts of the ancient Egyptians. One of the Joseph Smith Papyri is in fact a drawing of this judgment scene. "

See Testament of Abraham, recension A, 12-13, in {Charlesworth, 1983}.

 

...

Rhodes also writes that,

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"The Apocalypse of Abraham describes a vision Abraham saw while making a sacrifice to God. In this vision he is shown the plan of the universe, 'what is in the heavens, on the earth, in the sea, and in the abyss.' This is almost an exact translation of the Egyptian words in the left middle portion of Facsimile Number 2 of the book of Abraham (figures 9 and 10). He is shown 'the fullness of the whole world and its circle,' in a picture with two sides. This is a good description of the object depicted in Facsimile Number 2 (called a hypocephalus by Egyptologists). This document even describes the four animal-headed figures labeled number 6 in Facsimile Number 2 {Apocalypse of Abraham, p. 18}. The significance of these two ancient documents is that they are roughly contemporary with the hypocephalus and the other Egyptian documents purchased by Joseph Smith-and they relate the same things about Abraham that Joseph Smith revealed to us in the book of Abraham and in his explanation of the hypocephalus. "

These texts were not discovered until the turn of the century, long after Joseph Smith had been killed.

Other recently found ancient Egyptian texts contain references to Abraham, including an Egyptian lion couch scene like Facsimile Number 1. Several related examples are provided by John Gee {Gee, 1992}, and you can see one important example from the Leiden Papyrus I in the online version of the article at LDS.org and at RussellYAnderson.com ). These documents are not necessarily evidence that Abraham was known to the Egyptians of his time and may instead reflect much later Egyptian contact with Jews and Christians, but they do challenge several claims of our vocal critics.

See also Jonathan Moyer's "The Jewish Origin of the Book of Abraham," which starts as follows:

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This paper argues that the Book of Abraham is a work of Hellenistic age Judaism, originating in Egypt, among one of the numerous Jewish communities there. This paper shall demonstrate that the Book of Abraham presents numerous similarities to other Jewish writings of that time. This paper shall also offer a hypothetical reconstruction of the means whereby the Egyptian Jewish community crafted the Latter-day Saint Book of Abraham which process may be briefly summarized as a deliberate Jewish reinterpretation of Egyptian funerary facsimiles.

He goes on to provide multiple examples in support of his thesis.

And then there is this article from Book of Mormon CentralDid Ancient Israelites Write in Egyptian? (Spoiler: They did.  A lot.)

And this article by Stephen D. Ricks: Jewish and Other Semitic Texts Written in Egyptian Characters

And this article on FAIR: Question: Would an Israelite use Egyptian?  (Answer: Yes, they would.)

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

The simplest explanation is that Smith came across Egyptian papyri, connected them with one of the handful of biblical figures who lived in Egypt, and made stuff up based on the papyri without understanding what he was looking at.

That would be a facile explanation, to be sure.  But it does not account for a lot of the data.

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

And, I repeat, one can argue for a different explanation, but such claims do not meet the standards of proof required in Egyptology.

All sorts of assumptions built into that.  See Muhlestein's remarks above.

4 minutes ago, Scribe said:

Gee and Muhlestein's job, where the Book of Abraham is concerned, is to create the illusion that the validity of the Book of Abraham is still an open question in Egyptology, one where experts can disagree over highly technical questions. It's not.

Sigh.  So you impute bad faith.  

Thanks for playing.

-Smac

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4 hours ago, smac97 said:

With respect, I disagree with this approach.  I think "the central questions" are quite complex, and many of them cannot be competently addressed from a solely "Egyptological perspective."

What questions are you talking about?  Did Joseph Smith give us a correct translation of the extant papyri?  Clearly no.  Does the Book of Abraham resemble any of the extant papyri? Again, clearly no.

These aren't complex questions no matter how many times you and other supposed apologists say they are.  All Dr. Ritner was saying is that Joseph Smith couldn't and didn't translate correctly the Egyptian papyri.  Perhaps we should just deal with it and focus on the spiritual?

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1 hour ago, Robert J Anderson said:

What questions are you talking about?  Did Joseph Smith give us a correct translation of the extant papyri?  Clearly no.  Does the Book of Abraham resemble any of the extant papyri? Again, clearly no.

These aren't complex questions no matter how many times you and other supposed apologists say they are.  All Dr. Ritner was saying is that Joseph Smith couldn't and didn't translate correctly the Egyptian papyri.  Perhaps we should just deal with it and focus on the spiritual?

Has any Egyptologist ever been given copies of the papyrus and asked to translate it with no knowledge of the whole Book of Abraham connection?  

It seems to me that, as some claim, if the papyrus does contain the words of Abraham written by his own hand, then any competent Egyptologist should be able to translate it and roughly come up with the text that is in the Pearl of Great Price. 

From all that I have read, that would never happen.  More likely their translation would be text similar to the common burial text found in multiple coffins.

If the text differs from the Book of Abraham, then the only debate is whether Joseph Smith made it up or was inspired by God.  What else is there to debate?

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12 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:
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With respect, I disagree with this approach.  I think "the central questions" are quite complex, and many of them cannot be competently addressed from a solely "Egyptological perspective."

What questions are you talking about? 

Sigh.  Our critics seldom listen to what we have to say, even when it's served up to them on a silver platter.

As Muhlestein put it:

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Whereas there are some Egyptological aspects of the discussions surrounding the Book of Abraham, they are not the only pertinent ones, and may actually be some of the less important elements. Thus it is important to have Egyptologists discuss those issues, but it is equally if not more important to delve into issues regarding nineteenth century history, the history of ancient manuscripts, the history of modern manuscripts, semiotics, and issues of faith.

As Nibley put it:

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Consider for a moment the scope and complexity of the materials with which the student must cope if he would undertake a serious study of the Book of Abraham’s authenticity. At the very least he must be thoroughly familiar with (1) the texts of the “Joseph Smith Papyri” identified as belonging to the Book of the Dead, (2) the content and nature of mysterious “Sen-sen” fragment, (3) the so-called “Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar” attributed to Joseph Smith, (4) statements by and about Joseph Smith concerning the nature of the Book of Abraham and its origin, (5) the original document of Facsimile 1 with its accompanying hieroglyphic inscriptions, (6) the text of the Book of Abraham itself in its various editions, (7) the three facsimiles as reproduced in various editions of the Pearl of Great Price, (8) Joseph Smith’s explanation of the facsimiles, (9) the large and growing literature of ancient traditions and legends about Abraham in Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Greek, Slavonic, etc., and (10) the studies and opinions of modern scholars on all aspects of the Book of Abraham.

As Gee put it:

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If you decide you want to enter the debate {on the JSP and Book of Abraham}, you ought to do some real homework. There is a large bibliography, and there are dozens of theories to master, not to mention a large body of evidence. … You have to pay attention to what Latter-day Saints say about the papyri. It is they who have traced the history of the papyri, dug up what information is known about Antonio Lebolo, identified Joseph Smith Papyri X–XI as a Book of Breathings, and done much basic work on hypocephali, and they are the people who have access to the original documents. They know their own history much better than others do.

Some folks just can't be bothered, I guess.  And that's too bad.

12 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Did Joseph Smith give us a correct translation of the extant papyri?  Clearly no.  Does the Book of Abraham resemble any of the extant papyri? Again, clearly no.

This is facile, to the point of misleading.  It ignores the extensive analysis of the Book of Abraham.  It does not address or engage the evidence.  It does not address the missing scrolls.  It does not address the BOA's extra-biblical details about Abraham found in other sources.  It does not address the elements of Joseph's interpretation of the facsimiles that are quite plausible.  And so on.

Our critics are not listening to us.  They are not addressing what the Latter-day Saints are saying.  They are not addressing the substantive scholarship that is readily available.

12 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

These aren't complex questions no matter how many times you and other supposed apologists say they are. 

Yes, they are complex questions.  Meaningfully evaluating the Book of Abraham issues is a complex and difficult task, no matter how much you and other critics want to circumvent and ignore such things.

12 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

All Dr. Ritner was saying is that Joseph Smith couldn't and didn't translate correctly the Egyptian papyri. 

Again, facile and misleading.  Again, you are speaking of "the Egyptian papyri" as if we have the entirety of it.  You are assuming that which has yet to be demonstrated.  You are assuming that which is very much in dispute.  You are then drawing broad conclusions based on those unsubstantiated (and quite possibly incorrect) assumptions.

And again, you are not listening to what we have to say.  From Muhlestein:

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{W}e must acknowledge that when it comes to Joseph Smith’s ability to translate, a student of the issue truly has only two choices: that Joseph Smith could translate by the gift of God or that he could not. There really is not a middle ground. One has to make a choice about Joseph Smith’s translating ability — or ignore it, as most do, which means that a decision has been made but most often not consciously.

I believe all parties agree that Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian via conventional methods.3 To go beyond this original agreement, all involved make a faith-based choice. It is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to impose a false sense of objectivity on the nature of this choice. Believing that Joseph Smith could translate with the help of God is a faith-based choice, one made based on a belief that cannot be proved. Believing it is impossible for Joseph Smith (or anyone else) to translate with the help of God is also a faith-based choice, one based on a belief that cannot be proved. Yet this choice colors the way we see everything else in regard to the Book of Abraham.

I get that you are refusing to consider such things (after all, I posted this before, provided link to it before, and yet here we are, with you apparently having not bothered to read any of it), but perhaps others will be open to considering such things.

12 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Perhaps we should just deal with it and focus on the spiritual?

I don't know what this means.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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13 hours ago, Nofear said:

Is anything that Ritner says that is directly relevant to the theory The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources?
What is the current status of that theory? How do John Gee and Kerry Muhlestein view it?

Muhlestein has suggested this:

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Even though it is obvious to ask whether or not Joseph Smith’s explanations of the Facsimiles matches with those of Egyptologists, it is not necessarily the right question to ask. For example, as we compare Facsimile One, or any of the Facsimiles, with similar Egyptian vignettes, we may be barking up the wrong tree. What if Abraham’s descendants took Egyptian elements of culture and applied their own meanings to them? We know this happened.  For example, Jesus himself did this when he gave the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which clearly draws from the Egyptian tale of Setne-Kamwas. The Apocalypse of Abraham and Testament of Abraham are two more examples of Semitic adaptations of Egyptian religious traditions. Maybe we shouldn’t be looking at what Egyptians thought Facsimiles meant at all, but rather at how ancient Jews would have interpreted them.

Or perhaps Joseph Smith is giving us an interpretation that a small group of priests that were familiar with Abraham would have seen in this vignette. We know that from about the same time period when the Egyptian drawings Joseph Smith acquired were created, there were priests from the same area who were very familiar with Abraham, and who used him in their own religious texts/rituals. This group of priests could easily have altered a drawing they were accustomed to in order to fit their specific textual needs, and thus those priests would interpret that drawing differently than other Egyptians. How can we be sure that this is not the case we are dealing with here? We cannot know, but it is certainly plausible.

Pearl of Great Price Central (in which, IIRC, both Muhlestein and Gee have been involved) has an article addressing the facsimiles: Approaching the Facsimiles.  An excerpt:

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Latter-day Saint scholars and interested laypersons have offered a number of different approaches to understanding the facsimiles and gauging the validity of Joseph Smith’s interpretations thereof.2 Some of the more common approaches include:

  1. The illustrations were original to Abraham. To interpret them we should look to how Egyptians in Abraham’s day, or Abraham himself, would have understood them.
  2. The illustrations were original to Abraham but were modified over time for use by the ancient Egyptians. The illustrations we have as preserved in the facsimiles are much later and altered copies of Abraham’s originals. To interpret them we should consider the underlying Abrahamic elements and compare them with how the Egyptians understood these images.3
  3. The illustrations were connected to the Book of Abraham when the Joseph Smith Papyri were created in the Ptolemaic period (circa 300–30 BC). To interpret them we should look to what Egyptians of that time thought these drawings represent.4
  4. The illustrations were connected to the Book of Abraham for the first time in the Ptolemaic period, but to interpret them we should look specifically to what Egyptian priests who were integrating Jewish, Greek, and Mesopotamian religious practices into native Egyptian practices would have thought about them.5
  5. The illustrations were connected to the Book of Abraham in the Ptolemaic period, but to interpret them we should look to how Jews of that era would have understood of them.6
  6. The illustrations were never part of the ancient text of the Book of Abraham, but instead were adapted by Joseph Smith to artistically depict the ancient text he revealed/translated. We can make sense of Joseph’s interpretations by expanding our understanding of his role as a “translator.”7

Barney's article proposes ("suggest{s}") that that (1) "the facsimiles may not have been drawn by Abraham’s hand but may have been Egyptian religious vignettes that were adopted or adapted by an Egyptian-Jewish redactor as illustrations of the Book of Abraham," (2) that there were "general processes of Jewish adaptation of Egyptian sources" in antiquity (and provides three examples "that each relates in some way to Abraham"), and (3) that "such Jewish adaptation of Egyptian sources was common during this time period and would explain the adaptation of the facsimiles to illustrate the Book of Abraham, which may have come under this redactor’s care as part of the ancient transmission of the text."

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18 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Sigh.  Our critics seldom listen to what we have to say, even when it's served up to them on a silver platter.

As Muhlestein put it:

As Nibley put it:

As Gee put it:

Some folks just can't be bothered, I guess.  And that's too bad.

This is facile, to the point of misleading.  It ignores the extensive analysis of the Book of Abraham.  It does not address or engage the evidence.  It does not address the missing scrolls.  It does not address the BOA's extra-biblical details about Abraham found in other sources.  It does not address the elements of Joseph's interpretation of the facsimiles that are quite plausible.  And so on.

Our critics are not listening to us.  They are not addressing what the Latter-day Saints are saying.  They are not addressing the substantive scholarship that is readily available.

Yes, they are complex questions.  Meaningfully evaluating the Book of Abraham issues is a complex and difficult task, no matter how much you and other critics want to circumvent and ignore such things.

Again, facile and misleading.  Again, you are speaking of "the Egyptian papyri" as if we have the entirety of it.  You are assuming that which has yet to be demonstrated.  You are assuming that which is very much in dispute.  You are then drawing broad conclusions based on those unsubstantiated (and quite possibly incorrect) assumptions.

And again, you are not listening to what we have to say.  From Muhlestein:

I get that you are refusing to consider such things (after all, I posted this before, provided link to it before, and yet here we are, with you apparently having not bothered to read any of it), but perhaps others will be open to considering such things.

I don't know what this means.  

Thanks,

-Smac

I don't understand why you are complaining critics don't listen.  As Muhlestein says, "I believe all parties agree that Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian via conventional methods."

If Joseph Smith could only "translate", a particularly undefinable word as it turns out in Mormonism, by God's gift, then it is simply an unfalsifiable claim.  

Quote

An unfalsifiable proposition means that its 'falsity' cannot be determined, that we cannot know whether or not it is false (and thereby whether it is true), and that we cannot have justification to believe that it is true.

If it is unfalsifiable then there is no support for the claim, then the burden has yet to be met.  And it's essentially saying, it can't be met.  

Says Muhlestein:

Quote

It is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to impose a false sense of objectivity on the nature of this choice. Believing that Joseph Smith could translate with the help of God is a faith-based choice, one made based on a belief that cannot be proved. Believing it is impossible for Joseph Smith (or anyone else) to translate with the help of God is also a faith-based choice, one based on a belief that cannot be proved. Yet this choice colors the way we see everything else in regard to the Book of Abraham.

Invoking faith in an attempt to provide evidence is simply giving up.  As it is if it's unfalsifiable then there is no reason available to say it is true or false.  The problem isn't that critics aren't listening as you keep repeating.  It's really that the explanations aren't providing any verifiable reason.  They are simply saying, you can only believe it by faith.  But again, as Muhlestein clearly does here, it's best to keep faith and reason in different camps.  Fine.  It's no wonder Muhlestein seemed to let slip that the BoA has nothing to do with Egyptology then.  It's also interesting that Muhlestein would like to write a book on the matter with Ritner.  Both already know there's no content there.  The only scholarly position possible at this point is, it seems:  The BoA story did not come from the papyri.  The papyri say something completely unlreated to the BoA.  The translation attempts we can see, clearly, say something different then what Joseph Smith said they said.  That which has gone missing is very likely too little to include the story of Abraham and if it did include such, it would have been very out of place to the point of stretching credulity.

There is simplicity here.  

Now if you want to say Abraham myth has been found in Egyptian writings, therefore it's possible Joseph's inspired writings are repeated myths from long ago.  Great.  You might even want to add, Joseph couldn't have known them.  And perhaps you are right or wrong about that.  One might say it's evidence it's ancient writings about Abraham, as in not near as ancient as Abraham.  But then again, that seems to be stretching credulity since such stories were already possibly available to Joseph smith.  

If you want to say the papyri that is not extant could have included the story of Abraham.  Great.  Say it.  But it's unlikely for many reasons, and just stating a possibility doesn't really supply evidence or meet the burden either.  

In the end, it seems all we have is faith and no evidence.  

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2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I don't understand why you are complaining critics don't listen. 

Because substantive discussion about these topics can't advance when the critics don't listen.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

As Muhlestein says, "I believe all parties agree that Joseph Smith could not translate Egyptian via conventional methods."

Yes.  That seems to be beyond dispute.  Nobody is claiming otherwise.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

If Joseph Smith could only "translate", a particularly undefinable word as it turns out in Mormonism, by God's gift, then it is simply an unfalsifiable claim.

I think that's what makes the Book of Abraham so enticing to critics.  It's about as close as we can get to having an empirically testable measure of prophetic ability.

And yet, for a variety of reasons I don't think it works.  There's plenty of room for both sides to rely on their respective assumptions.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

If it is unfalsifiable then there is no support for the claim,

Um, no.  That something is unfalsifiable does not mean "there is no support for the claim."  That's an unwarranted and unjustified leap in logic and reasoning.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

then the burden has yet to be met. 

Again with your fixation on "the burden."  

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

And it's essentially saying, it can't be met.  

I think the burden can be met.  Of course, this depends on what is meant by "burden," and what evidence is "admissible" to meet it.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Says Muhlestein:

Quote

It is disingenuous and intellectually dishonest to impose a false sense of objectivity on the nature of this choice. Believing that Joseph Smith could translate with the help of God is a faith-based choice, one made based on a belief that cannot be proved. Believing it is impossible for Joseph Smith (or anyone else) to translate with the help of God is also a faith-based choice, one based on a belief that cannot be proved. Yet this choice colors the way we see everything else in regard to the Book of Abraham.

Invoking faith in an attempt to provide evidence is simply giving up. 

It is not.  

The best evidence for this is that Muhlestein, Gee, and many many other scholars are not "simply giving up."

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

As it is if it's unfalsifiable then there is no reason available to say it is true or false. 

But Latter-day Saint apologists are not saying this, or anything like it.  So you can't stuff those words in their mouths.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

The problem isn't that critics aren't listening as you keep repeating. 

Yes, I think that is a big problem.  Not the only one, but a big one.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

It's really that the explanations aren't providing any verifiable reason. 

I am okay with a critic evaluating the evidence and arguments presented by the Latter-day Saints and responding with "I'm not convinced."  That's the way of things.  We all bring our assumptions and worldview into such discussions.

My complaint arises when critics don't evaluate the evidence and arguments.  

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

They are simply saying, you can only believe it by faith. 

They are saying you can ultimately believe it by faith.  But the "only" isn't justified.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

But again, as Muhlestein clearly does here, it's best to keep faith and reason in different camps.  Fine. 

He does not do this.  He uses the latter to support the former.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

It's no wonder Muhlestein seemed to let slip that the BoA has nothing to do with Egyptology then.  It's also interesting that Muhlestein would like to write a book on the matter with Ritner. 

That Muhlestein is willing to do this rather upends the notion that he is proposing faith only, to the exclusion of reason and evidence, as the basis for accepting the Book of Abraham for what it purports to be.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Both already know there's no content there.  The only scholarly position possible at this point is, it seems:  The BoA story did not come from the papyri. 

Nope.  That's not what Muhlestein is saying.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

The papyri say something completely unlreated to the BoA. 

You are speaking as if we have all of "{t}he papyri."  I don't think we do.  I don't think Muhlestein thinks we do.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

The translation attempts we can see, clearly, say something different then what Joseph Smith said they said. 

And yet there are those elements for which Joseph was plausibly correct in his interpretation...

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

That which has gone missing is very likely too little to include the story of Abraham and if it did include such, it would have been very out of place to the point of stretching credulity.

This seems to be very much in dispute.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

There is simplicity here.  

Facile simplicity, yes.  But such an approach does not account for the Book of Abraham.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Now if you want to say Abraham myth has been found in Egyptian writings, therefore it's possible Joseph's inspired writings are repeated myths from long ago.  Great.  You might even want to add, Joseph couldn't have known them.  And perhaps you are right or wrong about that.  One might say it's evidence it's ancient writings about Abraham, as in not near as ancient as Abraham.  But then again, that seems to be stretching credulity since such stories were already possibly available to Joseph smith.  

Huh.  So much for "simplicity."  All you have to do is point to how these "stories were already possibly available," then get beyond the "possibly" by pointing to actual evidence.  And yet...

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

If you want to say the papyri that is not extant could have included the story of Abraham.  Great.  Say it.  But it's unlikely for many reasons, and just stating a possibility doesn't really supply evidence or meet the burden either.  

I think it's quite likely.  The eyewitness accounts need to be accounted for.

2 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

In the end, it seems all we have is faith and no evidence.  

I quite disagree.  I think we ultimately have faith, but there is quite a bit of evidence to supplement and strengthen that faith.

Thanks,

-Smac

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19 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Because substantive discussion about these topics can't advance when the critics don't listen.

Yes.  That seems to be beyond dispute.  Nobody is claiming otherwise.

I think that's what makes the Book of Abraham so enticing to critics.  It's about as close as we can get to having an empirically testable measure of prophetic ability.

And yet, for a variety of reasons I don't think it works.  There's plenty of room for both sides to rely on their respective assumptions.

Um, no.  That something is unfalsifiable does not mean "there is no support for the claim."  That's an unwarranted and unjustified leap in logic and reasoning.

Again with your fixation on "the burden."  

I think the burden can be met.  Of course, this depends on what is meant by "burden," and what evidence is "admissible" to meet it.

It is not.  

The best evidence for this is that Muhlestein, Gee, and many many other scholars are not "simply giving up."

But Latter-day Saint apologists are not saying this, or anything like it.  So you can't stuff those words in their mouths.

Yes, I think that is a big problem.  Not the only one, but a big one.

I am okay with a critic evaluating the evidence and arguments presented by the Latter-day Saints and responding with "I'm not convinced."  That's the way of things.  We all bring our assumptions and worldview into such discussions.

My complaint arises when critics don't evaluate the evidence and arguments.  

They are saying you can ultimately believe it by faith.  But the "only" isn't justified.

He does not do this.  He uses the latter to support the former.

That Muhlestein is willing to do this rather upends the notion that he is proposing faith only, to the exclusion of reason and evidence, as the basis for accepting the Book of Abraham for what it purports to be.

Nope.  That's not what Muhlestein is saying.

You are speaking as if we have all of "{t}he papyri."  I don't think we do.  I don't think Muhlestein thinks we do.

And yet there are those elements for which Joseph was plausibly correct in his interpretation...

This seems to be very much in dispute.

Facile simplicity, yes.  But such an approach does not account for the Book of Abraham.

Huh.  So much for "simplicity."  All you have to do is point to how these "stories were already possibly available," then get beyond the "possibly" by pointing to actual evidence.  And yet...

I think it's quite likely.  The eyewitness accounts need to be accounted for.

I quite disagree.  I think we ultimately have faith, but there is quite a bit of evidence to supplement and strengthen that faith.

Thanks,

-Smac

And here is the point one might say, then show me at least one piece of evidence.  And you will show something and it will be that critics have already addressed it and it has been shown to not be evidence at all.  And you will respond with something like "well Gee says it's possibly evidence so that's good enough for my faith" or something...and we'll have found no evidence.  

Or

You will give as a response a paper or two or three, four or a hundred...and many will argue that faith is a required assumption.  And we can get caught up in that dispute if you like.  

Shall we go down that road?  

I personally would prefer we start by addressing what you think is the strongest piece of evidence for the BoA.  Be it in whatever context you like--is it ancient, is it inspired?

 

Edited by stemelbow
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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

This is facile, to the point of misleading.  It ignores the extensive analysis of the Book of Abraham.  It does not address or engage the evidence.  It does not address the missing scrolls.  It does not address the BOA's extra-biblical details about Abraham found in other sources.  It does not address the elements of Joseph's interpretation of the facsimiles that are quite plausible.  And so on.

Our critics are not listening to us.  They are not addressing what the Latter-day Saints are saying.  They are not addressing the substantive scholarship that is readily available.

I think you are adding complexity where there isn't any.  Here is a sentence in spanish:  Juan fue a la iglesia.  My translation is:  The Book of Abraham is an amazing book of scripture regardless of how we received it.  Now, you may get some supposed expert to come along and say that the correct translation is merely "John went to church."  But I would then say that you and your so called expert are missing the complexity and richness that is my translation.  Clearly, I am wrong in saying that my translation is correct and to continue to push my translation would seriously harm my credibility.  Even so, I still believe the Book of Abraham is an amazing book of scripture regardless of how we received it.  If the critics point to how Joseph got the translation wrong, I say so what.  I derive a spiritual benefit from the book even if Kolob isn't real or if there are anachronisms contained therein.

My point is this:  We as a people have spilled a lot of ink on trying to defend positions that are clearly indefensible.  They require too much twisted logic in order to work.  Perhaps the time is ripe to shift the focus of our efforts to building up the spirituality of our scriptures regardless of how we received them?  There are many wonderful truths in the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham regardless of historicity.  Maybe some day there will be proof of historicity that is more concrete and less speculative.  However, that day isn't today.  Additionally, when we try to defend a hill that isn't defensible, those questioners looking at what is said and how the defense is organized will see through it and perhaps ditch the spiritual and leave all together?  Maybe it is time for a different approach?

If a critic says to me that Joseph Smith couldn't translate egyptian, I say o.k., do you want to come to church with me and discuss it?  How about we focus on the spiritual and less on whether or not this actually happened in history or not.  Critics point to how there is no evidence for the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years, or for Abraham, etc.  I say, really?  How about you come to church with me and let's discuss this further and while you are there how about trying to open your mind and heart to some spiritual things you may find while we are there?

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17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

And here is the point one might say, then show me at least one piece of evidence. 

And here is the point one might say, the "evidence" is out there, ready for your perusal.  And the point after that will be the No True Scotsman fallacy.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

And you will show something and it will be that critics have already addressed it

Some evidences have been "addressed," with varying degrees of quality.  Others have not.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

and it has been shown to not be evidence at all. 

See?  No True Scotsman.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

And you will respond with something like "well Gee says it's possibly evidence so that's good enough for my faith" or something...

Funny how the critics are so frequent with stuffing words in our mouths.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

and we'll have found no evidence.  

There is evidence out there.  And there are very solid arguments for a lot of missing evidence.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Or

You will give as a response a paper or two or three, four or a hundred...

Yep.  Heads you win, tails I lose.  You ask for "evidence" and then invoke No True Scotsman, or else preemptively complain about a Gish Gallop.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

and many will argue that faith is a required assumption. 

It's a pretty important point, either way.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

And we can get caught up in that dispute if you like.  

Shall we go down that road?  

You've preemptively shut down the discussion.  Before it even began.

17 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I personally would prefer we start by addressing what you think is the strongest piece of evidence for the BoA.  Be it in whatever context you like--is it ancient, is it inspired?

I think it's both ancient and inspired.  I think it needs to be both in order for my position to work.

As for "the strongest piece of evidence," I think it's the Book of Mormon, and the spiritual witness I have about it.  I would therefore encourage a person who is interested and open-minded to temporarily bracket the Book of Abraham, meet with the missionaries, sincerely seek inspiration through study, pondering, prayer, and so on as to the Book of Mormon.  In short, I think the Book of Abraham is "downstream," such that I would encourage the individual to go further "upstream" and sort out the issues there before turning around and going back downstream to assess the Book of Abraham.

As for evidences that may lend themselves to empirical testing of some sort, I think Pearl of Great Price Central is the best starting point (though Jeff Lindsay's home-grown resources are also quite good).

I also think the extra-biblical details of Abraham's life are very interesting (Jeff Lindsay has a good compilation here, and FAIR's compilation here).

I think the interpretations of the facsimiles that Joseph got (arguably) "right" are interesting (though I have recently become more impressed with Kevin Barney's "Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources" approach).

I think many of the points raised in Jonathan Moyer's 2003 article, "The Jewish Origin of the Book of Abraham" merit attention and further study.

I think the onomastic evidence is quite interesting (see also here).

I also think critics need to either accurately state the position taken by their ideological opponents, or else at least refrain from distorting and caricaturing them.

I also think the missing papyri need to be addressed in further detail.

Thanks,

-Smac

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22 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I think you are adding complexity where there isn't any. 

And I think you are dismissing obvious complexities because it excuses you from engaging substantive points raised by Latter-day Saint scholars and apologists.

22 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Here is a sentence in spanish:  Juan fue a la iglesia. 

Translating between two modern and well-known languages is vastly different from the subject matter at hand.

22 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

My translation is:  The Book of Abraham is an amazing book of scripture regardless of how we received it.  Now, you may get some supposed expert to come along and say that the correct translation is merely "John went to church."  But I would then say that you and your so called expert are missing the complexity and richness that is my translation. 

Ridicule and contempt in lieu of substantive discussion.

No thanks.

-Smac

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23 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I think you are adding complexity where there isn't any.  Here is a sentence in spanish:  Juan fue a la iglesia.  My translation is:  The Book of Abraham is an amazing book of scripture regardless of how we received it.  Now, you may get some supposed expert to come along and say that the correct translation is merely "John went to church."  But I would then say that you and your so called expert are missing the complexity and richness that is my translation.  Clearly, I am wrong in saying that my translation is correct and to continue to push my translation would seriously harm my credibility.  Even so, I still believe the Book of Abraham is an amazing book of scripture regardless of how we received it.  If the critics point to how Joseph got the translation wrong, I say so what.  I derive a spiritual benefit from the book even if Kolob isn't real or if there are anachronisms contained therein.

My point is this:  We as a people have spilled a lot of ink on trying to defend positions that are clearly indefensible.  They require too much twisted logic in order to work.  Perhaps the time is ripe to shift the focus of our efforts to building up the spirituality of our scriptures regardless of how we received them?  There are many wonderful truths in the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham regardless of historicity.  Maybe some day there will be proof of historicity that is more concrete and less speculative.  However, that day isn't today.  Additionally, when we try to defend a hill that isn't defensible, those questioners looking at what is said and how the defense is organized will see through it and perhaps ditch the spiritual and leave all together?  Maybe it is time for a different approach?

If a critic says to me that Joseph Smith couldn't translate egyptian, I say o.k., do you want to come to church with me and discuss it?  How about we focus on the spiritual and less on whether or not this actually happened in history or not.  Critics point to how there is no evidence for the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years, or for Abraham, etc.  I say, really?  How about you come to church with me and let's discuss this further and while you are there how about trying to open your mind and heart to some spiritual things you may find while we are there?

Robert, I much prefer your approach to that of Smac's, but I hope you realize a few things.  If someone has an opinion on the BoA and is not Mormon or does not go to Church, it is likely they have been to Church and might have even discussed it there, only to find there is nothing useful in such a pursuit.  So if  critics says to you that JS couldn't translation Egyptian, and you respond "ok, want to come to church with me and discuss it"?  They'll most likely think that's a silly idea.  Church doesn't really give you place to discuss the difficult issues.  There's really no room to look critically at the messages and stories.  That certainly needs to happen to make some room at Church.  But again, that's not going to happen.  The Church is exclusive rather than inclusive.  

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15 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Robert, I much prefer your approach to that of Smac's, but I hope you realize a few things.  If someone has an opinion on the BoA and is not Mormon or does not go to Church, it is likely they have been to Church and might have even discussed it there, only to find there is nothing useful in such a pursuit.  So if  critics says to you that JS couldn't translation Egyptian, and you respond "ok, want to come to church with me and discuss it"?  They'll most likely think that's a silly idea.  Church doesn't really give you place to discuss the difficult issues.  There's really no room to look critically at the messages and stories.  That certainly needs to happen to make some room at Church.  But again, that's not going to happen.  The Church is exclusive rather than inclusive.  

My invite to church is really more of an attitude change that I wish to see.  Critics have some good points but miss the spiritual and I think that is where we have a chance to make some headway.  My goal is to show that dwelling on possibilities and demanding that possibilities become probabilities might be doing more harm than good.  It is what led my brother and his family out.  He was so into the latest papers on this or that topic on the book of mormon, etc., that he lost sight on what really is important.  So, when he finally realized that the apologists were the ones with the empty arguments, he did a 180 and left, becoming a vocal critic because he based his testimony on a vision of historicity that simply wasn't there.  I think that may be the experience of many others who have left and maybe, just maybe, we need to take a hard look at what we are saying in defense of our church and beliefs.  Elder Holland took a lot of flack from his BBC interview where he said that he didn't claim to know egyptian or how the Book of Abraham was translated, however, he believed that it was the word of God.  I think that is where we need to go and avoid traveling down paths that give critics ammunition.

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12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

And here is the point one might say, the "evidence" is out there, ready for your perusal.  And the point after that will be the No True Scotsman fallacy.

Some evidences have been "addressed," with varying degrees of quality.  Others have not.

See?  No True Scotsman.

So you are saying if what you claim is evidence is not accepted as evidence from someone else that is a good example of a No True Scotsman fallacy?  I don't think you understand that fallacy.  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Funny how the critics are so frequent with stuffing words in our mouths.

There is evidence out there.  And there are very solid arguments for a lot of missing evidence.

Yep.  Heads you win, tails I lose.  You ask for "evidence" and then invoke No True Scotsman, or else preemptively complain about a Gish Gallop.

It's a pretty important point, either way.

You've preemptively shut down the discussion.  Before it even began.

I think it's both ancient and inspired.  I think it needs to be both in order for my position to work.

As for "the strongest piece of evidence," I think it's the Book of Mormon, and the spiritual witness I have about it. 

THat's not evidence.  Evidence is "the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid."  Is your spiritual witness a fact?  Is it information?  Calling your spiritual witness of something that is not even the topic at issue is evidence seems to misunderstand what evidence is. 

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I would therefore encourage a person who is interested and open-minded to temporarily bracket the Book of Abraham, meet with the missionaries, sincerely seek inspiration through study, pondering, prayer, and so on as to the Book of Mormon. 

Ok.  THe question is not how would you try and get someone to believe Mormonism.  The question is what evidence is there for the claims about what is the BoA?  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

In short, I think the Book of Abraham is "downstream," such that I would encourage the individual to go further "upstream" and sort out the issues there before turning around and going back downstream to assess the Book of Abraham.

This really sets this all off on the wrong foot.  The question is one simple point--what evidence is there for the BoA.  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

As for evidences that may lend themselves to empirical testing of some sort, I think Pearl of Great Price Central is the best starting point (though Jeff Lindsay's home-grown resources are also quite good).

So what specifically is there as evidence for the BoA?  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I also think the extra-biblical details of Abraham's life are very interesting (Jeff Lindsay has a good compilation here, and FAIR's compilation here).

SOmething that is interesting does not meet the qualifications of evidence.  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

What did he arguably get right?  Arguably might the be operative word here. If it's arguable it may mean, it's not right at all, or it's possible it's right only in that the info was available to thim, correct?  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I think many of the points raised in Jonathan Moyer's 2003 article, "The Jewish Origin of the Book of Abraham" merit attention and further study.

Ok.  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I think the onomastic evidence is quite interesting (see also here).

ANy one in particular that stands out?  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I also think critics need to either accurately state the position taken by their ideological opponents, or else at least refrain from distorting and caricaturing them.

Of course that is fair.  Of course the opposite must be true too.  Saying critics do not hear seems like a generalized oversimplified and perhaps a the very least exaggerated complaint.  

12 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I also think the missing papyri need to be addressed in further detail.

Thanks,

-Smac

How so?  What on the missing papyri position has yet to be dealt with?  

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33 minutes ago, smac97 said:

And I think you are dismissing obvious complexities because it excuses you from engaging substantive points raised by Latter-day Saint scholars and apologists.

Translating between two modern and well-known languages is vastly different from the subject matter at hand.

Ridicule and contempt in lieu of substantive discussion.

No thanks.

-Smac

I've read a lot of the scholarship on both sides of the debate and find that our scholars and apologists, while well-meaning, simply don't have much to work with in terms of historicity proof and have to rely on talking about possibilities.  Pretty much everything is possible in the beginning, however.  A flat earth is possible until one goes out into space and sees the earth as it really is.  As for the Book of Abraham, I think Dr. Ritner is correct in that Joseph Smith didn't know how to translate egyptian into english and that the papyri don't match the Book of Abraham.  I think we need to concede that point.  I think we also need to concede that there wasn't a missing scroll because the facsimiles tie into the supposed translation.  What we are left with is what E. Holland said to the BBC reporter about not knowing egyptian but still believing that the Book of Abraham was from God.  Maybe just leave it there and tone down our historicity claims until more evidence is found?  This way, we won't get members that base their church worldview on having an historical Book of Mormon or Book of Abraham and then leaving when they discover how weak the case is. 

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13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Robert, I much prefer your approach to that of Smac's, but I hope you realize a few things. 

I question if you understand what my "approach" is.

13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

If someone has an opinion on the BoA and is not Mormon or does not go to Church, it is likely they have been to Church and might have even discussed it there, only to find there is nothing useful in such a pursuit. 

I think there is.  Sacrament meetings and other Sunday services are intended to strengthen and build up faith.  I think faith is a necessary prerequisite to approaching the Book of Abraham.

As a missionary in Taiwan, I had an investigator who was a professor at the local university (he taught some sort of philosphy, IIRC).  He was the sole of civility, patience and kindness.  He also had an excellent command of English, which enabled non-native-Chinese-speaking missionaries to delve into some real nuance (by switching into English when the conversation became too difficult to continue in Mandarin).

I recall meeting with him about ten times.  He was a genteel, soft-spoken man.  He invited us in, made us honey tea, and we would talk for an hour or so.  He had met with missionaries before I arrived, and had gone through the first several missionary lessons enough times that he was familiar with their general parameters.  He was also sufficiently educated in his own right so as to have a good grasp of the Judeo-Christian concept of God.

He was a good man, and very patient with us missionaries.  However, for his own reasons he could not bring himself to exercise faith, or even the beginnings of it (a la Alma 32).  He had no particular qualms with the generalized framework of the Church's teachings.  But he recognized that acceptance of those teachings would need to be predicated on faith, and he would not do it.  

I remember asking him if he had ever prayed before.  He said no, but that he had observed missionaries do it several times.  I asked him if he would be willing to pray, and he said he would.  His prayer went something like this: "God, good morning.  I don't believe you exist.  I am saying this prayer only because these missionaries asked me to.  If you want to send me some sort of sign, okay.  But I don't believe.  Thanks."

There was no tone of mockery or contempt in his words.  He was quite sincere.

Toward the end of our visits we asked if we could bring over a member of the local ward to have a discussion with him.  The member's name was Hsieh Fang, who later became the president of the Taipei Temple.  More info about him here:

Quote

Hsieh Fan (謝凡) and his wife, Lu Shou-yi (陸守義), were called as the next temple president and matron of the Taipei Taiwan Temple in 1997. Hsieh Fan was born in China on 23 August 1922 and served as a Catholic priest for eighteen years because he “saw the example of many good Catholic missionaries . . . and thought maybe China needed more of them to teach the people about Jesus Christ.” He was ordained a Catholic priest in Macao and was then assigned to Rome, Italy. While in Italy, he studied Italian and Latin. Then while in France, he studied French, Greek, Hebrew, English, Spanish, and German “so that he could better understand the original texts and the various translations of the Bible.”

In 1967, he returned to Taiwan to teach at the Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei at the request of Cardinal Yu Ping, but noted, “I spent eighteen years teaching and fulfilling my responsibilities as a priest. . . . I was very busy, but I wasn’t happy.” He had difficulty reconciling the fact that Catholic priests could not marry while the Bible taught, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). In 1973, he resigned his teaching post and asked to be released from his priestly vows after deciding that “being alone forever wasn’t right.” He married a year later at the age of fifty but still longed for the opportunity to hold the priesthood and teach about Jesus Christ. He noted his feelings as follows: “Giving up the priesthood was difficult for me. . . . I had been a priest for so long. Now I had given up everything that I had lived for up to that point in time. I missed sharing my knowledge and understanding of the gospel, something I had been able to do as a priest. I thought about becoming a minister in another church that allowed priests to marry. But because of my belief in the Catholic Church, I couldn’t make that change.”

Three years later, he met two young missionaries from the Church. Hsieh recorded the following experience that helped him progress spiritually: “I thought that if their church were true, it would have a prophet and continuing revelation. I asked them why their church didn’t have crosses or crucifixes, and they said, ‘Because Christ is risen; Christ lives. If one of your friends or parents dies,’ they said, ‘do you take out a photograph of them dead and show it to everyone?’ I was spiritually touched by the wisdom of their response.”

One of the missionaries, Elder Cenatiempo, told Hsieh Fan that “it was possible for him to receive the priesthood and perform certain duties within that priesthood.” Hsieh noted, “For the first time since I was released from the priesthood in my own church, I thought I might be able to hold the priesthood again.” After studying the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and learning about the priesthood, Hsieh Fan and his wife were baptized together in December 1977. 

Anyway, Bro. Hsieh accompanied us on our next visit.  My companion and I mostly listened as these two good men had a solid discussion between them.  

After we left, Bro. Hsieh suggested that the man was not yet ready to learn about the Gospel.  That he was a good man, but not yet ready to proceed.

13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

So if  critics says to you that JS couldn't translation Egyptian, and you respond "ok, want to come to church with me and discuss it"?  They'll most likely think that's a silly idea.  Church doesn't really give you place to discuss the difficult issues. 

I sort of agree with this.  Church is not the place to debate the doctrines.

That said, I think Church is the place to go further "upstream" in one's exploration of the tenets of the Restored Gospel.

13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

There's really no room to look critically at the messages and stories.  That certainly needs to happen to make some room at Church.  

No, that does not need to happen.

13 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

The Church is exclusive rather than inclusive.  

Oh, nonsense.

Thanks,

-Smac

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14 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

My invite to church is really more of an attitude change that I wish to see.  Critics have some good points but miss the spiritual and I think that is where we have a chance to make some headway.  My goal is to show that dwelling on possibilities and demanding that possibilities become probabilities might be doing more harm than good.  It is what led my brother and his family out.  He was so into the latest papers on this or that topic on the book of mormon, etc., that he lost sight on what really is important.  So, when he finally realized that the apologists were the ones with the empty arguments, he did a 180 and left, becoming a vocal critic because he based his testimony on a vision of historicity that simply wasn't there.  I think that may be the experience of many others who have left and maybe, just maybe, we need to take a hard look at what we are saying in defense of our church and beliefs.  Elder Holland took a lot of flack from his BBC interview where he said that he didn't claim to know egyptian or how the Book of Abraham was translated, however, he believed that it was the word of God.  I think that is where we need to go and avoid traveling down paths that give critics ammunition.

I agree with much of what you say here.  I quite disagree with the claim that "apologists" have "empty arguments."  I have found much substance and merit and truth in what scholars and apologists have been saying in defense of the Gospel.

As for the position taken by Elder Holland, I invite you to consider his remarks here.  An excerpt (emphasis added) :

Quote

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.

Thanks,

-Smac

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6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I've read a lot of the scholarship on both sides of the debate and find that our scholars and apologists, while well-meaning, simply don't have much to work with in terms of historicity proof and have to rely on talking about possibilities. 

Strange.  I have also read a lot of scholarship on both sides of the debate, and have found that our scholars and apologists have lots to work with.  

Perhaps we differ in your expectations about "proof" instead of "possibilities."  I'm not expecting "proof."  I'm expecting plausibility (not merely "possibility").  And I see quite a lot of it in apologetics and scholarship.

6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Pretty much everything is possible in the beginning, however.  A flat earth is possible until one goes out into space and sees the earth as it really is. 

Again, "plausible" rather than merely "possible."

6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

As for the Book of Abraham, I think Dr. Ritner is correct in that Joseph Smith didn't know how to translate egyptian into english and that the papyri don't match the Book of Abraham. 

Dr. Ritner isn't the only one saying that.

6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I think we need to concede that point. 

As Muhlestein did?

6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I think we also need to concede that there wasn't a missing scroll because the facsimiles tie into the supposed translation. 

Well, no.  There's quite a bit of evidence about missing papyri.

6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

What we are left with is what E. Holland said to the BBC reporter about not knowing egyptian but still believing that the Book of Abraham was from God. 

That's the conclusion.  I share it.  But again, I invite you to consider what Elder Holland said in the link in my previous post.

"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."

Elder Holland has not given up on "acknowledge intellectual, documentable support for our belief."

6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Maybe just leave it there and tone down our historicity claims until more evidence is found? 

Isn't that what scholarship and apologetics is doing?  Looking for "more evidence?"

6 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

This way, we won't get members that base their church worldview on having an historical Book of Mormon or Book of Abraham and then leaving when they discover how weak the case is. 

I don't think the case is "weak."  Far from it.  I think "the case" is quite good.

The problem, I think, arises when members ultimately "base their church worldview" on something other than a spiritual witness.  That's not workable in the long run.

Thanks,

-Smac

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On 9/20/2020 at 8:57 AM, Robert J Anderson said:

I think this is a great point and should end the Ritner/Muhlestein conversation.  The book would be over in a few pages or sentences.  Ritner would say the BofA and the papyri have nothing to do with each other and Muhlestein would then chime in that the BofA has nothing to do with Egyptology, the end.  So, why did Muhlestein propose the book in the first place if he believes in the catalyst theory?  Why not just acknowledge the points made by one of the preeminent Egyptologists and then pivot to spirituality taking precedence over history?  It would have been less confusing.

👍

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20 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Strange.  I have also read a lot of scholarship on both sides of the debate, and have found that our scholars and apologists have lots to work with.  

Perhaps we differ in your expectations about "proof" instead of "possibilities."  I'm not expecting "proof."  I'm expecting plausibility (not merely "possibility").  And I see quite a lot of it in apologetics and scholarship.

Again, "plausible" rather than merely "possible."

Dr. Ritner isn't the only one saying that.

As Muhlestein did?

Well, no.  There's quite a bit of evidence about missing papyri.

That's the conclusion.  I share it.  But again, I invite you to consider what Elder Holland said in the link in my previous post.

"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."

Elder Holland has not given up on "acknowledge intellectual, documentable support for our belief."

Isn't that what scholarship and apologetics is doing?  Looking for "more evidence?"

I don't think the case is "weak."  Far from it.  I think "the case" is quite good.

The problem, I think, arises when members ultimately "base their church worldview" on something other than a spiritual witness.  That's not workable in the long run.

Thanks,

-Smac

What credence do you give the BOA gospel topic essay that to me, make it more a revealed vs. translated papyri.

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