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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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1 hour 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.

In truth, when it comes to religion, many will not believe.  Indeed, as we move forward it seems more people will fail to believe religion than believe it.  It may be there is spiritual power in the story that Abraham was shown intelligences before the world was.  It also may be that there is no significance.  What if Abraham was never shown as much?  That may not matter if the principle is true, I suppose.  What if it's not true?  What if there was no noble and great ones gathered amongst the rest of us losers? 

I think you are correct in trying to frame this all as spiritual vs what secular or academic?  The problem is, of course, the spiritual does not hold up under scrutiny itself.  It's merely a product of culture, tradition and such.  If the verifiable historic-type of claims of religion can't hold up under scrutiny then it doesn't leave much room to accept them spiritually.  YOu simply have to to accept things like, Jesus wasn't really resurrected even if it feels really good to spiritually ascent to such a notion as religious group, and since we do so, it means a lot to us because Jesus being resurrected just feels good and we want heaven after we die....or something.  

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34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

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'm saying that you continue to assert there is "no evidence," yet you never seem to get around to defining what would constitute "evidence," and pretty much always end up displaying some variation of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I don't think you understand that fallacy.  

I think I do.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

THat's not evidence. 

See?

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

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? 

My experience is a "fact," yes.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Is it information? 

Yes.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Calling your spiritual witness of something that is not even the topic at issue is evidence seems to misunderstand what evidence is. 

I feel I have a pretty good grasp of "what evidence is."

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

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?  

My point remains the same.  The BOA is "downstream" from the Book of Mormon.

If someone were to come to me and say "I insist that you explain with scientific precision and accuracy the process by which Jesus Christ arose from the dead with a glorified, immortal body," I would say "Well, let's first explore whether He did, since the particulars of how He did are very much 'downstream' from that."

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

This really sets this all off on the wrong foot. 

I quite disagree.  Accepting the Book of Abraham for what it claims to be is first and foremost a spiritual and religious exercise.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

The question is one simple point--what evidence is there for the BoA.  

Asked and answered.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

So what specifically is there as evidence for the BoA?  

You're sort of schizophrenic in your approach.  I point to websites with resources, and you demand specificity.  I provide a list, and you accuse me of posting a Gish Gallop. 

Anyhoo, here's one: The Four Sons of Horus (Facsimile 2, Figure 6) (Conclusion: "While Joseph Smith’s succinct interpretation of Figure 6 in Facsimile 2 might have left out some additional details we know about the Sons of Horus (roles which evolved over the span of Egyptian religious history), it nevertheless converges nicely with current Egyptological knowledge.")

And another: The Hathor Cow (Facsimile 2, Figure 5) (Conclusion: "There is nothing obvious in Figure 5 of Facsimile 2 that lends itself to being identifiable as the sun to somebody who is idly speculating about what it might mean. So while not all of Joseph Smith’s explanation of this figure currently finds immediate confirmation, the fact that at least one important element of his explanation does find confirmation from the ancient Egyptians indicates that the Prophet was doing something more than simply guessing.")

And another: Facsimile 1 as a Sacrifice Scene (Conclusion: "It is thus reasonable to insist, as Gee does, that 'excluding a sacrificial dimension to lion couch scenes is un-Egyptian, even if we cannot come up with one definitive reading {of Facsimile 1} at this time.'")

And another: Approaching the Facsimiles (Conclusion: "Whichever theoretical paradigm one adopts in approaching the facsimiles, a respectable case can be made that with a number of his explanations Joseph Smith accurately captured ancient Egyptian concepts (and even scored a few bullseyes) that would have otherwise been beyond his natural ability to know.  Any honest approach to the facsimiles must recognize this and take this into account.")

And another: Kolob, The Governing One (Conclusion: "While questions about the identification of Kolob still remain, there are some very tantalizing pieces of evidence that, when brought together, reinforce the antiquity of this astronomical concept unique to the Book of Abraham.")

And another: Ancient Near Eastern Creation Myths (Conclusion: "These parallels between the Book of Abraham’s Creation account and ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths serve nicely in situating the text in a plausible ancient Near Eastern context in Abraham’s day.")

And another: Shinehah, The Sun (Conclusion: "So while the Egyptian word for the sun itself is not the same as in the Book of Abraham, one of the Egyptian words for the sun’s ecliptic (the path of the sun through the sky) as attested in Abraham’s day is. This in addition to the cosmic orientation of Shinehah or the sun in the Book of Abraham that parallels ancient Egyptian views reinforces belief that the text is authentically ancient.")

And another: The Ancient Egyptian View of Abraham (Conclusion: "From the evidence of the Greek Magical Papyri we can conclude that 'a group of priests from Thebes possessed, read, understood, and employed biblical and extra-biblical texts, most especially texts about Abraham and Moses.' This evidence, along with the other evidence for a knowledge of Abraham circulating in ancient Egypt, bolsters confidence in the Book of Abraham’s authenticity by providing it a plausible ancient Egyptian historical and literary context.")

And another: Abrahamic Legends and Lore (Conclusion: "What is important for the Book of Abraham is not that these sources somehow 'prove' the book is true, which they don’t. Rather, they demonstrate that important themes and narrative details in the Book of Abraham fit comfortably in the ancient world and do not always fit comfortably in Joseph Smith’s nineteenth century environment.")

And another: Jews in Ancient Egypt (Conclusion: "vidence from surviving textual sources confirms that Jewish names (including names such as Solomon, Aaron, Abraham, and Samuel) proliferated throughout Egypt. Summarizing this evidence, one scholar wrote how 'besides the Greeks, Jews were the most numerous group of foreigners living in Egypt' during this time. There is also clear evidence that these Egyptian Jews copied their sacred texts and even composed new texts while they lived in Egypt. The Old Testament was translated into Greek in Alexandria during this time, and stories about Abraham and other biblical figures circulated amongst Jews living both inside and outside of Egypt.  So even though Abraham would have written his record many centuries earlier, there is plenty of historical evidence to suggest a plausible way in which those writings could have been transmitted into Egypt at any point over the course of many centuries.")

And another: Sobek, The God of Pharaoh (Conclusion: "From evidence unknown in Joseph Smith’s day, we can say the following about 'the god of Pharaoh' in the Book of Abraham and Facsimile 1. First, the god in question is most likely the crocodile deity Sobek. Second, among other things, Sobek was closely associated with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Third, Sobek was especially venerated by king Amenemhet III, a pharaoh contemporary to Abraham. Fourth, and finally, specimens of Sobek iconography have been recovered from the likely region of Abraham’s homeland during the right period for Abraham’s lifetime (the Middle Bronze Age).  All of this 'provides concrete archaeological evidence that . . . the {B}ook of Abraham accurately describes an aspect of the ancient world about which Joseph Smith could have known little or nothing.'")

And another: Human Sacrifice (Conclusion: "From this evidence, we can conclude the following about Egyptian 'human sacrifice' during Abraham’s lifetime:

-That it was more or less 'ritual' in nature.
-That it was sometimes undertaken 'for cultic offenses' or offenses against Egypt’s gods.
-That 'the pharaoh {was sometimes} involved and the sacrifice {was sometimes} under his orders.'
-That sometimes these sacrifices were initiated 'for rebellion against the pharaoh.'
-That 'the sacrifice could take place both in Egypt proper and outside the boundaries in areas under Egyptian influence.'

These details converge remarkably well with the Book of Abraham, offering a plausible historical context for Abraham’s near-sacrifice.")

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

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

Interesting how you constantly refer to and rely on, but never actual explain, "the qualifications of evidence."

Evidence is "that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief."  It can, of course, taken on different and more nuanced meanings depending on context (scientific, legal, etc.).  So where is this list of "qualifications of evidence" to which you refer?

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

What did he arguably get right? 

See here for a few examples.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Arguably might the be operative word here.

Yes, it might.  I don't have black-or-white absolutist notions of what constitutes "evidence."  Do you?

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

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?  

No.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

ANy one in particular that stands out?  

Jah-oh-eh.  Kolob.  “Elkenah,” “Libnah,” “Mahmackrah” and “Korash.”  Olishem.  Shinehah.  Shagreel.  Shulem.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Of course that is fair. 

Sure seems to take a beating, tho.

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

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.

I don't think so.  I have lost count of the number of times I have seen critics make conclusory assertions without addressing (or even acknowledging the existence of) on-point scholarly/apologetic treatments of the asserted issue.

It happens all the time, actually.  Even worse is when critics go beyond ignoring such materials and actively misrepresent the scholars and apologists defending the Church (such as what RFM and Analytics did to Terryl Givens).  

34 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

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

The eyewitness and other contemporaneous accounts.  Gustavus Seyffarth’s 1856 catalog.  The guesswork about the length of the scrolls being guesswork.  The guesswork about the contents of the lost scrolls being guesswork.

Thanks,

-Smac

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In regards to the following:

And another: Sobek, The God of Pharaoh (Conclusion: "From evidence unknown in Joseph Smith’s day, we can say the following about 'the god of Pharaoh' in the Book of Abraham and Facsimile 1. First, the god in question is most likely the crocodile deity Sobek. Second, among other things, Sobek was closely associated with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Third, Sobek was especially venerated by king Amenemhet III, a pharaoh contemporary to Abraham. Fourth, and finally, specimens of Sobek iconography have been recovered from the likely region of Abraham’s homeland during the right period for Abraham’s lifetime (the Middle Bronze Age).  All of this 'provides concrete archaeological evidence that . . . the {B}ook of Abraham accurately describes an aspect of the ancient world about which Joseph Smith could have known little or nothing.'")

 

I posted the following before, but I'll post it again:

Here’s another way of looking at the explanation of fig. 9 in facsimilie 1.  Consider the “of” in “the idolatrous God of Pharaoh” to be an epexegetical genitive, meaning that Pharaoh IS the idolatrous God depicted in fig. 9.  This is the way the “of” in the explanations of figures 5-8 is to be understood, as the nouns given are taken as the names of the gods.  The identification of Pharaoh as both a god, and as a crocodile, occurs in Ezekiel 29:3:

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

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

Introduction

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

Verse 3

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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22 hours ago, smac97 said:

I'm saying that you continue to assert there is "no evidence," yet you never seem to get around to defining what would constitute "evidence," and pretty much always end up displaying some variation of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

I think I do.

See?

My experience is a "fact," yes.

Yes.

I feel I have a pretty good grasp of "what evidence is."

My point remains the same.  The BOA is "downstream" from the Book of Mormon.

If someone were to come to me and say "I insist that you explain with scientific precision and accuracy the process by which Jesus Christ arose from the dead with a glorified, immortal body," I would say "Well, let's first explore whether He did, since the particulars of how He did are very much 'downstream' from that."

I quite disagree.  Accepting the Book of Abraham for what it claims to be is first and foremost a spiritual and religious exercise.

Asked and answered.

You're sort of schizophrenic in your approach.  I point to websites with resources, and you demand specificity.  I provide a list, and you accuse me of posting a Gish Gallop. 

Anyhoo, here's one: The Four Sons of Horus (Facsimile 2, Figure 6) (Conclusion: "While Joseph Smith’s succinct interpretation of Figure 6 in Facsimile 2 might have left out some additional details we know about the Sons of Horus (roles which evolved over the span of Egyptian religious history), it nevertheless converges nicely with current Egyptological knowledge.")

So Joseph figured the four jars represented the four cardinal directions--although I do think he suggests they represent the four corners or something.  He names them something that is in no way descriptive of the Egyptian characters.  So that was off.  I enjoy this item because there's really nothing to disprove it.  

Joseph used what Ritner called jiberish in terms of Egyptian.  All efforts by apologists as I have seen have attempted to suggest these names that Joseph came up with for these four jars were Hebrew-like.  I don't know how that works, so I won't say much.

On Adam Clarke, some have suggested it could be, since it appears Joseph relied heavily on Adam Clarke for his translations, he declares the 4 beasts in Rev 4 represented the four directions (north, south, east and west) and it could be Joseph connected the beasts in Rev 4 (lion, Ox, eagle man) were represented by the 4 heads on the jars.  I think it's a stretch.  

I rate this a percentage of a piece of evidence since Joseph got some unrelated names applied to 4 known items.  He said they represented the 4 directions, in a somewhat tenuous way.  So it's definitely something I think.  I don't think there is much charity in trying to directly suggest Joseph used Clarke to identify this figure, although it could relate.  

THe problem with your conclusion is its not that JOseph left out details its that the details he gives as in the names of the 4, simply aren't correct in any sense.  25%

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And another: The Hathor Cow (Facsimile 2, Figure 5) (Conclusion: "There is nothing obvious in Figure 5 of Facsimile 2 that lends itself to being identifiable as the sun to somebody who is idly speculating about what it might mean. So while not all of Joseph Smith’s explanation of this figure currently finds immediate confirmation, the fact that at least one important element of his explanation does find confirmation from the ancient Egyptians indicates that the Prophet was doing something more than simply guessing.")

This suffers from the same as your first point in declaring "so while not all of Smith's explanation of this fgure currently finds immediate confirmation..."  None of it finds immediate confirmation and most of it directly contradicts that which is known.  Like names (same as the first item on this list).  

Other than that, the connection to the sun is interesting.  And I'd agree this figure, by just looking at it, won't really signify sun in any way.  So the connection is there.  Which is good for the apologetic side.  I'm weighing this heavier than the first item.  Since Joseph was completely wrong about most of this, in his identification, connecting it to he sun is really good.  I'd say it's a solid 70% an evidence.  

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And another: Facsimile 1 as a Sacrifice Scene (Conclusion: "It is thus reasonable to insist, as Gee does, that 'excluding a sacrificial dimension to lion couch scenes is un-Egyptian, even if we cannot come up with one definitive reading {of Facsimile 1} at this time.'")

This one is really tenuous.  It's not even evidence as I see it.  Its possible so therefore it's evidence?  I don't think so.  I give it a .01 just for fun.  

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And another: Approaching the Facsimiles (Conclusion: "Whichever theoretical paradigm one adopts in approaching the facsimiles, a respectable case can be made that with a number of his explanations Joseph Smith accurately captured ancient Egyptian concepts (and even scored a few bullseyes) that would have otherwise been beyond his natural ability to know.  Any honest approach to the facsimiles must recognize this and take this into account.")

Basically the same as the last item.  It's merely saying its posssible so that means it works, or something.  That's not evidence, as I see evidence.  I'd give it equally a .01%.  

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And another: Kolob, The Governing One (Conclusion: "While questions about the identification of Kolob still remain, there are some very tantalizing pieces of evidence that, when brought together, reinforce the antiquity of this astronomical concept unique to the Book of Abraham.")

Nothing to make a connection here, it seems. Its all more than tenuous, it seems.  I'm giving it a .01%.  We started off fast, but these last 3 items aren't really much of anything it seems to me.  

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And another: Ancient Near Eastern Creation Myths (Conclusion: "These parallels between the Book of Abraham’s Creation account and ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian myths serve nicely in situating the text in a plausible ancient Near Eastern context in Abraham’s day.")

In generous mode I'll provide a 2.5% on this.  I don't see it as evidence per se, since I see no direct connection.  BoA's creation account is simply the biblical creation account.  

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And another: Shinehah, The Sun (Conclusion: "So while the Egyptian word for the sun itself is not the same as in the Book of Abraham, one of the Egyptian words for the sun’s ecliptic (the path of the sun through the sky) as attested in Abraham’s day is. This in addition to the cosmic orientation of Shinehah or the sun in the Book of Abraham that parallels ancient Egyptian views reinforces belief that the text is authentically ancient.")

This feels quite tenuous too.  I"m not seeing how the connection really works.  Perhaps it does and as such I'll give it a 25%.  

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And another: The Ancient Egyptian View of Abraham (Conclusion: "From the evidence of the Greek Magical Papyri we can conclude that 'a group of priests from Thebes possessed, read, understood, and employed biblical and extra-biblical texts, most especially texts about Abraham and Moses.' This evidence, along with the other evidence for a knowledge of Abraham circulating in ancient Egypt, bolsters confidence in the Book of Abraham’s authenticity by providing it a plausible ancient Egyptian historical and literary context.")

I don't understand how this can be evidence.  If it was said that the myths of Abraham among Jews in pre and post Jesus times included connections with Egypt it hardly provides evidence, since that was already an available story for Joseph Smith at the time of the BoA.  I'll give it a .1% sticking to my charitable trend.  

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And another: Abrahamic Legends and Lore (Conclusion: "What is important for the Book of Abraham is not that these sources somehow 'prove' the book is true, which they don’t. Rather, they demonstrate that important themes and narrative details in the Book of Abraham fit comfortably in the ancient world and do not always fit comfortably in Joseph Smith’s nineteenth century environment.")

I don't see precisely what is being said was not available to Joseph.  IT does admit though that some of it was available in Joseph's day.  I"ll give it 20% for fun.  

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And another: Jews in Ancient Egypt (Conclusion: "vidence from surviving textual sources confirms that Jewish names (including names such as Solomon, Aaron, Abraham, and Samuel) proliferated throughout Egypt. Summarizing this evidence, one scholar wrote how 'besides the Greeks, Jews were the most numerous group of foreigners living in Egypt' during this time. There is also clear evidence that these Egyptian Jews copied their sacred texts and even composed new texts while they lived in Egypt. The Old Testament was translated into Greek in Alexandria during this time, and stories about Abraham and other biblical figures circulated amongst Jews living both inside and outside of Egypt.  So even though Abraham would have written his record many centuries earlier, there is plenty of historical evidence to suggest a plausible way in which those writings could have been transmitted into Egypt at any point over the course of many centuries.")

Is it evidence if in Joseph's day it was thought that Jews would have had such interaction with Egypt?  I'll give it 5%, but I think that's more than generous since I don't see anything really substantive here.  

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And another: Sobek, The God of Pharaoh (Conclusion: "From evidence unknown in Joseph Smith’s day, we can say the following about 'the god of Pharaoh' in the Book of Abraham and Facsimile 1. First, the god in question is most likely the crocodile deity Sobek. Second, among other things, Sobek was closely associated with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Third, Sobek was especially venerated by king Amenemhet III, a pharaoh contemporary to Abraham. Fourth, and finally, specimens of Sobek iconography have been recovered from the likely region of Abraham’s homeland during the right period for Abraham’s lifetime (the Middle Bronze Age).  All of this 'provides concrete archaeological evidence that . . . the {B}ook of Abraham accurately describes an aspect of the ancient world about which Joseph Smith could have known little or nothing.'")

.01%...we can follow Steve Thompson's comments on this.  I think the source is far more likely to be Adam Clarke on this.  

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And another: Human Sacrifice (Conclusion: "From this evidence, we can conclude the following about Egyptian 'human sacrifice' during Abraham’s lifetime:

-That it was more or less 'ritual' in nature.
-That it was sometimes undertaken 'for cultic offenses' or offenses against Egypt’s gods.
-That 'the pharaoh {was sometimes} involved and the sacrifice {was sometimes} under his orders.'
-That sometimes these sacrifices were initiated 'for rebellion against the pharaoh.'
-That 'the sacrifice could take place both in Egypt proper and outside the boundaries in areas under Egyptian influence.'

These details converge remarkably well with the Book of Abraham, offering a plausible historical context for Abraham’s near-sacrifice.")

I think most of the statements on this point are highly debatable at the very least, and outright refuted otherwise.  I'd give it 8% for effort.  It doesn't appear there's any real connection here.  

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Interesting how you constantly refer to and rely on, but never actual explain, "the qualifications of evidence."

Evidence is "that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief."  It can, of course, taken on different and more nuanced meanings depending on context (scientific, legal, etc.).  So where is this list of "qualifications of evidence" to which you refer?

See here for a few examples.

Yes, it might.  I don't have black-or-white absolutist notions of what constitutes "evidence."  Do you?

No.

Jah-oh-eh.  Kolob.  “Elkenah,” “Libnah,” “Mahmackrah” and “Korash.”  Olishem.  Shinehah.  Shagreel.  Shulem.

Sure seems to take a beating, tho.

I don't think so.  I have lost count of the number of times I have seen critics make conclusory assertions without addressing (or even acknowledging the existence of) on-point scholarly/apologetic treatments of the asserted issue.

It happens all the time, actually.  Even worse is when critics go beyond ignoring such materials and actively misrepresent the scholars and apologists defending the Church (such as what RFM and Analytics did to Terryl Givens).  

The eyewitness and other contemporaneous accounts.  Gustavus Seyffarth’s 1856 catalog.  The guesswork about the length of the scrolls being guesswork.  The guesswork about the contents of the lost scrolls being guesswork.

Thanks,

-Smac

As I see it I'm giving you generously an item and a half of evidence here.  I asked for one, so you met the request.  For that I thank you.  

Edited by stemelbow
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3 hours ago, stemelbow said:

As I see it I'm giving you generously an item and a half of evidence here.  I asked for one, so you met the request.  For that I thank you.

So, is it your position that a plausible alternative explanation for any given evidence renders it as essentially moot. I noticed, for instance, that you gave a .01% for the Sobek connection because Joseph Smith could theoretically have seen that in Clark's commentary. Of course, there is no way to know for sure if Joseph came across that in Clark's commentary (there is actually ongoing debate about how significantly he may have drawn from it). But the possibility that he did renders the evidence as essentially a 1/1000 for you?

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

So, is it your position that a plausible alternative explanation for any given evidence renders it as essentially moot. I noticed, for instance, that you gave a .01% for the Sobek connection because Joseph Smith could theoretically have seen that in Clark's commentary. Of course, there is no way to know for sure if Joseph came across that in Clark's commentary (there is actually ongoing debate about how significantly he may have drawn from it). But the possibility that he did renders the evidence as essentially a 1/100 for you?

Of course.  It's always most reasonable to go with the most likely, unless given a reason otherwise.  Since there is already plenty of evidence that Joseph was not only familiar with Adam Clarke's commentary but was also readily incorporating it as if it was revelation, then there is no reason whatsoever to think this item is evidence that the BoA is of ancient origin.  It's far more likely Joseph, and/or perhaps company, got the idea from Clarke's commentary and incorporated it than it is God (an unknowable entity) put the notion in his head.  

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22 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Of course.  It's always most reasonable to go with the most likely, unless given a reason otherwise.  Since there is already plenty of evidence that Joseph was not only familiar with Adam Clarke's commentary but was also readily incorporating it as if it was revelation, then there is no reason whatsoever to think this item is evidence that the BoA is of ancient origin.  It's far more likely Joseph, and/or perhaps company, got the idea from Clarke's commentary and incorporated it than it is God (an unknowable entity) put the notion in his head.

Your bias in favor of naturalism seems to explain a lot about how you disproportionately weight the evidence. Two options, both of which offer potentially valid explanations, and you favor the naturalistic explanation 999 to 1. Interesting. 

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On 9/21/2020 at 10:18 AM, stemelbow said:

The problem is, of course, the spiritual does not hold up under scrutiny itself.  It's merely a product of culture, tradition and such.  If the verifiable historic-type of claims of religion can't hold up under scrutiny then it doesn't leave much room to accept them spiritually.  YOu simply have to to accept things like, Jesus wasn't really resurrected even if it feels really good to spiritually ascent to such a notion as religious group, and since we do so, it means a lot to us because Jesus being resurrected just feels good and we want heaven after we die....or something.  

I don't know if we can say that the spiritual doesn't hold up under scrutiny, at least for me personally.  I have had personal experiences that tell me that there is something beyond this life.  I have had many experiences while listening to the Book of Mormon online while driving or reading it that put me in touch with something that I can only explain as the spirit.  Perhaps it is something other than organized religion but I have to believe that it is Moronism based on my experiences with the Book of Mormon.  So, for me, it is immaterial whether or not Joseph Smith invented it or whatever his purposes were.  What he created or translated is divine for me and I have to believe that we will know more perhaps in a future world as the answers aren't all here in this one.

I get that for someone who just looks at the lack of proof of actual Nephites or looks at how Joseph Smith couldn't translate the papyri we currently have would lead to a certain conclusion.  For me, however, I can't deny what I have experienced and therefore there has to be some explanation as to why it is so.  Perhaps God is more of what the Deists claimed and that He doesn't meddle much if at all in this world, leaving clues here and there scattered throughout the world, I don't know.  Maybe Joseph Smith was in touch with the divine for a time and gave us words that are like an aid to finding this.  All I know at this point is what I experienced personally.

Edited by Robert J Anderson
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30 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Your bias in favor of naturalism seems to explain a lot about how you disproportionately weight the evidence. Two options, both of which offer potentially valid explanations, and you favor the naturalistic explanation 999 to 1. Interesting. 

To favor the option that is unreasonable is a problem.  I'd be curious, though, what you have in mind as to a valid explanation that is not naturalistic.  

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12 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I don't know if we can say that the spiritual doesn't hold up under scrutiny, at least for me personally.  I have had personal experiences that tell me that there is something beyond this life.  I have had many experiences while listening to the Book of Mormon online while driving or reading it that put me in touch with something that I can only explain as the spirit.  Perhaps it is something other than organized religion but I have to believe that it is Moronism based on my experiences with the Book of Mormon.  So, for me, it is immaterial whether or not Joseph Smith invented it or whatever his purposes were.  What he created or translated is divine for me and I have to believe that we will know more perhaps in a future world as the answers aren't all here in this one. 

That's fine.  It just so happens, though, that your experiences, as personal as they are, could simply be explained in a number of ways which may or may not mean there really is life after death--type of stuff.  

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23 minutes ago, stemelbow said:
56 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Your bias in favor of naturalism seems to explain a lot about how you disproportionately weight the evidence. Two options, both of which offer potentially valid explanations, and you favor the naturalistic explanation 999 to 1. Interesting. 

To favor the option that is unreasonable is a problem.  I'd be curious, though, what you have in mind as to a valid explanation that is not naturalistic.

I have lots of reasons (spiritual and scientific) for believing Joseph Smith was a prophet, and lots of reasons for believing the Book of Abraham reflects authentically ancient content, most of which (unlike the Sobek issue) Joseph Smith probably couldn't have known about.

So, for me, I am persuaded that Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Abraham and his explanations of its facsimiles were facilitated through God's miraculous power. I've looked fairly carefully at many of the criticisms of the Book of Abraham and of the Book of Mormon, and just don't find them very persuasive. 

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On 9/22/2020 at 7:21 AM, Steve Thompson said:

In regards to the following:

And another: Sobek, The God of Pharaoh (Conclusion: "From evidence unknown in Joseph Smith’s day, we can say the following about 'the god of Pharaoh' in the Book of Abraham and Facsimile 1. First, the god in question is most likely the crocodile deity Sobek. Second, among other things, Sobek was closely associated with the Pharaoh of Egypt. Third, Sobek was especially venerated by king Amenemhet III, a pharaoh contemporary to Abraham. Fourth, and finally, specimens of Sobek iconography have been recovered from the likely region of Abraham’s homeland during the right period for Abraham’s lifetime (the Middle Bronze Age).  All of this 'provides concrete archaeological evidence that . . . the {B}ook of Abraham accurately describes an aspect of the ancient world about which Joseph Smith could have known little or nothing.'")

 

I posted the following before, but I'll post it again:

Here’s another way of looking at the explanation of fig. 9 in facsimilie 1.  Consider the “of” in “the idolatrous God of Pharaoh” to be an epexegetical genitive, meaning that Pharaoh IS the idolatrous God depicted in fig. 9.  This is the way the “of” in the explanations of figures 5-8 is to be understood, as the nouns given are taken as the names of the gods.  The identification of Pharaoh as both a god, and as a crocodile, occurs in Ezekiel 29:3:

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

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

Introduction

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

Verse 3

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

Hello I read your paper in Dialogue Egyptology and the Book of Abraham. I wondered if youhad read a paper by Tamas Mekis "Some Reflections on the funerary Equipment of Paiuhor. There he has Registers similar to that of figures 5 6 & .These are Hypocephalus Louvre N 3527  and Turin cat no. 2321 Musei Antichita Egiie diTorino. Figure 2 can be found in Vienna AS 253 /1  Turincat.no. 2321 Louvre E 26834a   Anything compatible with Smith's interpretation?

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19 hours ago, stemelbow said:

That's fine.  It just so happens, though, that your experiences, as personal as they are, could simply be explained in a number of ways which may or may not mean there really is life after death--type of stuff.  

Yes, of course they can and that is what I wrestle with.  It very well could be that I am influenced by the group as we all probably are to a certain extent.  However, I like to think that I can look at my beliefs from a distance and judge them as objectively as I can.  I have chosen to remain a believer in them, sort of a pascal's wager, as I haven't seen anything to disprove them and I have a hope that we continue on after this life is over.  I am also aware of the Marcus Aurelius quote about living a good life and letting the future take care of itself.

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18 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

I have lots of reasons (spiritual and scientific) for believing Joseph Smith was a prophet, and lots of reasons for believing the Book of Abraham reflects authentically ancient content, most of which (unlike the Sobek issue) Joseph Smith probably couldn't have known about.

So, for me, I am persuaded that Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Abraham and his explanations of its facsimiles were facilitated through God's miraculous power. I've looked fairly carefully at many of the criticisms of the Book of Abraham and of the Book of Mormon, and just don't find them very persuasive. 

I am interested in knowing how you judge what Joseph Smith could have known or could not have known.  It seems to me that this is near impossible regarding a lot that is relevant to the Book of Abraham or Book of Mormon.  What do you think he couldn't have known about?  Could you expand on this?

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1 hour ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I am interested in knowing how you judge what Joseph Smith could have known or could not have known.  It seems to me that this is near impossible regarding a lot that is relevant to the Book of Abraham or Book of Mormon.  What do you think he couldn't have known about?  Could you expand on this?

Well, take Facsimile 2, figure 6, for example. Joseph Smith's explanation is as follows: "Represents this earth in its four quarters."

As demonstrated in the PofGPC insight on this topic, it has now been well-established that this is a valid explanation, based on modern Egyptological understanding:

https://www.pearlofgreatpricecentral.org/the-four-sons-of-horus-facsimile-2-figure-6/

Someone might quibble with the distinction between the earth in its "four quarters" vs. cardinal directions or points, but as the article notes, this distinction appears to be superfluous based on common usage at the time (which typically treats the concepts as essentially synonymous), as noted in end note #2: 

Quote

Thus George Stanley Faber, A General and Connected View of the Prophecies, Relative to the Conversion, Restoration, Union, and Future Glory of the Houses of Judah and Israel (London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1808), 2:84, emphasis in original: “[N]ot merely from the north, but . . . from the east, the south, and the west, that is (in the language of St. John) from the four quarters of the earth.”; Robert Hodgson, The Works of the Right Reverend Beilby Porteus, D. D. Late Bishop of London (London: G. Sidney, 1811), 218: “[A]nd they shall gather together his elect (that is, shall collect disciples and converts to the faith) from the four winds, from the four quarters of the earth; or, as St. Luke expresses it, ‘from the east, and from the west, from the north, and from the south.’”; Matthew Henry, An Exposition of the Old and New Testament (London: Joseph Ogle Robinson, 1828), 3:1415: “As the city had four equal sides, answering to the four quarters of the world, east, west, north, and south; so in each side there were three gates, signifying that from all quarters of the earth there shall be some who shall get safe to heaven and be received there, and that there is a free entrance from one part of the world as from the other.”; Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (New York, NY: S. Converse, 1828), s.v. quarter: “A region in the hemisphere or great circle; primarily, one of the four cardinal points; as the four quarters of the globe; but used indifferently for any region or point of compass.”; William L. Roy, A New and Original Exposition on the Book of Revelation (New York, NY: D. Fanshaw, 1848), 13, emphasis in original. “Standing on (at) the four corners of the earth. They were placed as sentinels over the hostile armies, there to watch their movements, and prevent them from marching into Judea until the servants of God were sealed. Each of them had his particular station and duty assigned to him. One was stationed in the east, the other in the west, one in the north, and the other in the south.”; William Henry Scott, The Interpretation of the Apocalypse and Chief Prophetical Scriptures Connected With It (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1853), 185–186: “Rome is spoken of as overrunning and subduing the ‘whole earth,’ not merely in reference to the vast extent of her empire in point of territory, or the multitude of kingdoms which she absorded one after another, but properly and immediately because the four quarters of the earth, North, East, West, and South, are all incorporated by Rome into herself.”; Peter Canvan, “The Earth, As We Find It,” Saints’ Herald 20, no. 5 (March 1, 1873): 139: “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth. . . . The four corners may be represented by the north, south, east, west, which are the cardinal points.”

So how did Joseph Smith know that that the canopic jars represented the earth in its 4 quarters? Is it random luck? That seems to be unlikely. If I were to show these jars to 1000 random people (who know nothing of their symbolism), how many of them would guess this? I suspect few to none (most probably none). Nothing about the jars suggests the earth or its quarters or directions. They could be hundreds of thousands of other things, if someone is just taking a shot in the dark.

Was there some way that Joseph Smith could have known what these jars symbolized through diligent study? I'm not sure on this point. Perhaps someone will someday present a valid channel through which he could have obtained this knowledge (as Steve Thompson has offered for the crocodile/Pharaoh connection). I don't think that is out of the question. But to my knowledge, there is currently no explanation for how he could have known this in the mid 1830s. 

Do you have a good explanation, other than random luck, for why Joseph Smith's interpretation is valid on this point?

 

Late Addition: Regarding the distinction between quarters of the earth and cardinal points, there is this statement from Budge: "In the pyramid texts we find a group of four gods with whom the deceased in closely connected in the 'other world': these are the four 'children of Horus' . . . originally they represented the four pillars which supported the sky, or Horus. Each was supposed to be the lord of one of the quarters of the world, and finally became the god of one of the cardinal points." 

E. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, (New York: Dover, 1967, originally published 1895).

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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51 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Well, take Facsimile 2, figure 6, for example. Joseph Smith's explanation is as follows: "Represents this earth in its four quarters."

As demonstrated in the PofGPC insight on this topic, it has now been well-established that this is a valid explanation, based on modern Egyptological understanding:

https://www.pearlofgreatpricecentral.org/the-four-sons-of-horus-facsimile-2-figure-6/

Someone might quibble with the distinction between the earth in its "four quarters" vs. cardinal directions or points, but as the article notes, this distinction appears to be superfluous based on common usage at the time (which typically treats the concepts as essentially synonymous), as noted in end note #2: 

So how did Joseph Smith know that that the canopic jars represented the earth in its 4 quarters? Is it random luck? That seems to be unlikely. If I were to show these jars to 1000 random people (who know nothing of their symbolism), how many of them would guess this? I suspect few to none (most probably none). Nothing about the jars suggests the earth or its quarters or directions. They could be hundreds of thousands of other things, if someone is just taking a shot in the dark.

Was there some way that Joseph Smith could have known what these jars symbolized through diligent study? I'm not sure on this point. Perhaps someone will someday present a valid channel through which he could have obtained this knowledge (as Steve Thompson has offered for the crocodile/Pharaoh connection). I don't think that is out of the question. But to my knowledge, there is currently no explanation for how he could have known this in the mid 1830s. 

Do you have a good explanation, other than random luck, for why Joseph Smith's interpretation is valid on this point?

Thanks for the response.  However, given he got so much wrong, isn't a lucky guess the rational response?  This is the basis of why I believe that we need a different approach, not relying so much on whether or not Joseph Smith could translate egyptian.  He simply couldn't translate egyptian and the facsimiles show that.

Anyway, I want to couch my comments with a disclaimer that I don't want to appear that I am trying to push a non-believing perspective here.  I am for a different approach that allows for a non-historical cannon, given the state of the evidence.

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31 minutes ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Thanks for the response.  However, given he got so much wrong, isn't a lucky guess the rational response?  This is the basis of why I believe that we need a different approach, not relying so much on whether or not Joseph Smith could translate egyptian.  He simply couldn't translate egyptian and the facsimiles show that.

That's the real problem, though, isn't it. How do you know that Joseph Smith got so much "wrong"? That really depends on the assumptions that you bring to the text.

In my view, he seems to have gotten a number of things "right," meaning that they are valid or very plausibly valid based on relevant ancient data. That shouldn't be the case if Joseph were just guessing, and it is very hard to explain through some sort of derivative hypothesis. I've yet to see a detailed critical response to the many proposals made by Latter-day Saint scholars on this front. I certainly acknowledge that not all of Joseph Smith's interpretations or explanations are in agreement with today's mainstream Egyptological understanding, but under the assumptions I bring to the text, that isn't a problem.

The unknowns and boundless possibilities about the text's redaction and transmission history, as well as its translation, provide lots of latitude for evaluating its merits. And of course, there is the persistent problem with trying to prove something "wrong" through the mere absence of evidence. That doesn't work well when dealing with assertions about the ancient world. The most one can say is that something doesn't currently fit the available data. 

Thus, in the end, it is much harder to demonstrate that something about Joseph's translation is categorically "wrong" than it is to demonstrate that it is similar or consistent with relevant ancient concepts. For me, that imbalance tips the scales in favor of the the text being authentically ancient. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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21 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

That's the real problem, though, isn't it. How do you know that Joseph Smith got so much "wrong"? That really depends on the assumptions that you bring to the text.

In my view, he seems to have gotten a number of things "right," meaning that they are valid or very plausibly valid based on relevant ancient data. That shouldn't be the case if Joseph were just guessing, and it is very hard to explain through some sort of derivative hypothesis. I've yet to see a detailed critical response to the many proposals made by Latter-day Saint scholars on this front. I certainly acknowledge that not all of Joseph Smith's interpretations or explanations are in agreement with today's mainstream Egyptological understanding, but under the assumptions I bring to the text, that isn't a problem.

The unknowns and boundless possibilities about the text's redaction and transmission history, as well as its translation, provide lots of latitude for evaluating its merits. And of course, there is the persistent problem with trying to prove something "wrong" through the mere absence of evidence. That doesn't work well when dealing with assertions about the ancient world. The most one can say is that something doesn't currently fit the available data. 

Thus, in the end, it is much harder to demonstrate that something about Joseph's translation is categorically "wrong" than it is to demonstrate that it is similar or consistent with relevant ancient concepts. For me, that imbalance tips the scales in favor of the the text being authentically ancient. 

Joseph's translation certainly doesn't fit the currently available data.  At a certain point one has to say that plausibility is so remote given the available data that one can make a reasonable conclusion that it never will fit the available data and move on to a different paradigm or theory.  I think we agree, though, that the Book of Abraham is scripture.  To me it doesn't matter whether Joseph could or couldn't translate egyptian.  I think something else akin to some sort of catalyst was going on that resulted in the Book of Abraham.  I think the same thing was going on with the Book of Mormon, where the plates are immaterial and perhaps used by God to metaphorically communicate that it is His word.  Perhaps using mythical figures is how God communicates and so it doesn't matter whether or not there were real Nephites at one time or whether or not Abraham even existed?  I don't know.  Jesus, who even non-believing scholars say existed, spoke in parables and perhaps this is what the scriptures are, more parable than real stories?

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2 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

Joseph's translation certainly doesn't fit the currently available data.  At a certain point one has to say that plausibility is so remote given the available data that one can make a reasonable conclusion that it never will fit the available data and move on to a different paradigm or theory. 

Obviously, we have different understandings of the available and relevant data, how it may relate to the Book of Abraham, and the valid assumptions and methods for evaluating that data.

2 hours ago, Robert J Anderson said:

I think we agree, though, that the Book of Abraham is scripture.  To me it doesn't matter whether Joseph could or couldn't translate egyptian.  I think something else akin to some sort of catalyst was going on that resulted in the Book of Abraham.  I think the same thing was going on with the Book of Mormon, where the plates are immaterial and perhaps used by God to metaphorically communicate that it is His word.  Perhaps using mythical figures is how God communicates and so it doesn't matter whether or not there were real Nephites at one time or whether or not Abraham even existed?  I don't know.  Jesus, who even non-believing scholars say existed, spoke in parables and perhaps this is what the scriptures are, more parable than real stories?

I'm glad you accept the Book of Abraham as scripture. However, I'm sure that your understanding of what constitutes scripture and how I think of scripture are probably very different on key points. 

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5 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Well, take Facsimile 2, figure 6, for example. Joseph Smith's explanation is as follows: "Represents this earth in its four quarters."

As demonstrated in the PofGPC insight on this topic, it has now been well-established that this is a valid explanation, based on modern Egyptological understanding:

https://www.pearlofgreatpricecentral.org/the-four-sons-of-horus-facsimile-2-figure-6/

Someone might quibble with the distinction between the earth in its "four quarters" vs. cardinal directions or points, but as the article notes, this distinction appears to be superfluous based on common usage at the time (which typically treats the concepts as essentially synonymous), as noted in end note #2: 

So how did Joseph Smith know that that the canopic jars represented the earth in its 4 quarters? Is it random luck? That seems to be unlikely. If I were to show these jars to 1000 random people (who know nothing of their symbolism), how many of them would guess this? I suspect few to none (most probably none). Nothing about the jars suggests the earth or its quarters or directions. They could be hundreds of thousands of other things, if someone is just taking a shot in the dark.

Was there some way that Joseph Smith could have known what these jars symbolized through diligent study? I'm not sure on this point. Perhaps someone will someday present a valid channel through which he could have obtained this knowledge (as Steve Thompson has offered for the crocodile/Pharaoh connection). I don't think that is out of the question. But to my knowledge, there is currently no explanation for how he could have known this in the mid 1830s. 

Do you have a good explanation, other than random luck, for why Joseph Smith's interpretation is valid on this point?

 

Late Addition: Regarding the distinction between quarters of the earth and cardinal points, there is this statement from Budge: "In the pyramid texts we find a group of four gods with whom the deceased in closely connected in the 'other world': these are the four 'children of Horus' . . . originally they represented the four pillars which supported the sky, or Horus. Each was supposed to be the lord of one of the quarters of the world, and finally became the god of one of the cardinal points." 

E. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, (New York: Dover, 1967, originally published 1895).

If anyone is interested in how several Egyptologists interpret the figures of the four sons of Horus when they occur in hypocephali, here's a passage from Mekis' book on the Hypocephalus:

In the second group of figures, the Four Sons of Horus appear in the first position, and stand in front of the jh.t-cow and the god(dess), who has a wedjat-eye in the place of his/her head.

According to Jan Assmann, the Four Sons of Horus manifest the personality of the deceased.327 Bernard Mathieu, in his study of the Four Sons of Horus, approaching Assmann’s interpretation, wrote about how the four figures manifest the four members of the supreme god in the Pyramid Texts.328 Hapy and Duamutef embody the arms of the deceased, Imsety and Qebehsenuef the two legs, through which the defunct is able to move in the underworld.329 On the basis of the interpretations of Assmann and Mathieu, one may suppose that the Four Sons of Horus are a new transformation of the hidden Amon-Re – Atum, representing his members just before the access to the underworld at the entrance of the West, in front of the guardian cow-goddess.

According to Horst Beinlich330 and Dieter Kurth,331 the Four Sons of Horus, hold the four colour bandages (wAD.t, jdmj, dmj, HD.t)332 used during the embalming of the deceased, are participants in the ritual and are interceding in the divination of the deceased. Kurth bases his opinion on the role the gods fulfilled during the embalming ritual. The four deities act in the revivification of the four inner organs, separated from the body during embalming. When they appear together with the bandages used for the ‘clothing’ of the mummy, their role may be manifest in the promise of rebirth.333

pp. 53-54 from The Hypocephalus: an Ancient Egyptian Funerary Amulet by Tamás Mekis

 

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On 9/22/2020 at 2:48 PM, Ryan Dahle said:

I have lots of reasons (spiritual and scientific) for believing Joseph Smith was a prophet, and lots of reasons for believing the Book of Abraham reflects authentically ancient content, most of which (unlike the Sobek issue) Joseph Smith probably couldn't have known about.

So, for me, I am persuaded that Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Abraham and his explanations of its facsimiles were facilitated through God's miraculous power. I've looked fairly carefully at many of the criticisms of the Book of Abraham and of the Book of Mormon, and just don't find them very persuasive. 

I"m sure you have lots.  I"m also guessing they on the sum aren't very convincing, but I could be wrong.  Who knows?  

When I was going through Smac's links, I couldn't help but note that for each there happened to be more evidence to show Joseph, or rather God, was wrong.  From the start, the four sons of Horus were given names by Joseph that simply aren't their names.  If God wanted to really provide evidence of inspiration one would think he'd actually give Joseph their names instead of some gobbledygook.  How is a vague allusion to he might have gotten something right outweighing a direct clear naming that shows he's completely wrong?  Beats me.  But people have their reasons--I'd probably narrow down to bias.  

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23 hours ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Well, take Facsimile 2, figure 6, for example. Joseph Smith's explanation is as follows: "Represents this earth in its four quarters."

As demonstrated in the PofGPC insight on this topic, it has now been well-established that this is a valid explanation, based on modern Egyptological understanding:

https://www.pearlofgreatpricecentral.org/the-four-sons-of-horus-facsimile-2-figure-6/

Someone might quibble with the distinction between the earth in its "four quarters" vs. cardinal directions or points, but as the article notes, this distinction appears to be superfluous based on common usage at the time (which typically treats the concepts as essentially synonymous), as noted in end note #2: 

So how did Joseph Smith know that that the canopic jars represented the earth in its 4 quarters? Is it random luck? That seems to be unlikely. If I were to show these jars to 1000 random people (who know nothing of their symbolism), how many of them would guess this? I suspect few to none (most probably none). Nothing about the jars suggests the earth or its quarters or directions. They could be hundreds of thousands of other things, if someone is just taking a shot in the dark.

Was there some way that Joseph Smith could have known what these jars symbolized through diligent study? I'm not sure on this point. Perhaps someone will someday present a valid channel through which he could have obtained this knowledge (as Steve Thompson has offered for the crocodile/Pharaoh connection). I don't think that is out of the question. But to my knowledge, there is currently no explanation for how he could have known this in the mid 1830s. 

Do you have a good explanation, other than random luck, for why Joseph Smith's interpretation is valid on this point?

 

Late Addition: Regarding the distinction between quarters of the earth and cardinal points, there is this statement from Budge: "In the pyramid texts we find a group of four gods with whom the deceased in closely connected in the 'other world': these are the four 'children of Horus' . . . originally they represented the four pillars which supported the sky, or Horus. Each was supposed to be the lord of one of the quarters of the world, and finally became the god of one of the cardinal points." 

E. Wallis Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, (New York: Dover, 1967, originally published 1895).

He was a student of Hebrew, could he have learned this then? https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V03N02_43.pdf  

Could Joseph had intertwined the Bible version of the four corners, and then Budge later read the BoA and put the two together? https://christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c017.html

Edited by Tacenda
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29 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

He was a student of Hebrew, could he have learned this then? https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V03N02_43.pdf  

I'd say that that is extremely unlikely. Joseph Smith was a student of Hebrew in that he possessed several Hebrew textbooks and took the equivalent of 1 introductory course in Hebrew under Joshua Seixas. He attained the status of talented amateur, with special focus on biblical Hebrew. The identification of the canopic jars as cardinal directions, however, is Egyptian and extremely unlikely to be associated with introductory Hebrew materials. 

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4 hours ago, stemelbow said:

I"m sure you have lots.  I"m also guessing they on the sum aren't very convincing, but I could be wrong.  Who knows?  

There are many "upstream" assumptions that affect our assessment of "downstream" evidences.

Quote

When I was going through Smac's links, I couldn't help but note that for each there happened to be more evidence to show Joseph, or rather God, was wrong. 

I wonder about that.

Quote

From the start, the four sons of Horus were given names by Joseph that simply aren't their names.  If God wanted to really provide evidence of inspiration one would think he'd actually give Joseph their names instead of some gobbledygook. 

Gee's recent article is worth reading: Four Idolatrous Gods in the Book of Abraham

From the abstract:

Quote

Although unknown as deities in Joseph Smith’s day, the names of four associated idolatrous gods (Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, and Korash) mentioned in the Book of Abraham are attested anciently. Two of them are known to have connections with the practices attributed to them in the Book of Abraham. The odds of Joseph Smith guessing the names correctly is astronomical.

And from the conclusion:

Quote

Tentative identifications can be provided for all four of the deities mentioned in the first chapter of the Book of Abraham. Three (Elkenah, Libnah, and Korash) are close phonetically. Three (Elkenah, Libnah, and Korash) are close geographically to the site of Abraham’s sacrifice; the other (Mamackrah) is attested a bit farther away (although if it is a place name then it is closer). Two (Elkenah and Korash) are superregional deities whose geographical attestation covers Abraham’s homeland. As there are few sources from the region in Abraham’s day (Middle Bronze Age), all of them are attested in the Late Bronze Age with indications that at least one of them (Korash) goes back to the Middle Bronze Age. For two (Elkenah and Korash), we can currently discuss more than their names. The ability to do so shows the importance of going past the simple identification of a name where possible.

For those deities for whom we have more information than just their name, one (Elkenah) seems to be involved in a ritual in which individuals were asked to engage in sexual immorality or face death, which parallels Abraham 1:11. One (Korash) is involved in cursing those seen as disobedient to the king, who were destroyed, which parallels Abraham 1:5‒13.

This might seem like a meagre amount of information, but it represents a significant step forward in research on the Book of Abraham. Twenty years ago almost none of this was known. It was certainly not known when Joseph Smith published the Book of Abraham.

What are the odds of Joseph Smith guessing right? A number of factors complicate the calculation, so only a simplified calculation will be done. Joseph Smith provided four names, two of two syllables and two of three syllables. Using the twenty-two unique consonants provided by the Seixas transliteration system, a CVC syllabic structure (since one of the Seixas consonants is a null value), and five vowels, there are 2420 possible syllable combinations; but because the vowels were not always written and frequently changed in dialects, we drop them, for a total of 484 syllable combinations. Since there are ten syllables in the names Joseph Smith provided, this is a total of 7.05 x 1026 different possible combinations. The Mesopotamian god list AN: dA-nu-um lists 2130 non-unique deities. Multiplying the number by five to account for deities not included in the Mesopotamian list, and taking the ratio of the two numbers, gives us a very rough estimate of the chance of randomly putting together syllables into four correct ancient deities’ names of one in 6.62 x 1022 By comparison, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery by buying a single ticket are merely one in 292 million(2.92 x 106). The odds of winning the Powerball lottery two weeks in a row are one in 8.52 x 1016. The odds of winning three weeks in a row are one in 2.49 x 1025. Though only a crude calculation of the odds, it gives some idea how difficult it would be for Joseph Smith to simply guess correctly.

Glib dismissals like "simply aren't their names" and "gobbledygook" just don't work for me.  There is too much interesting stuff coming out, too many unknowns.  Too many data points that can't be summarily brushed aside.

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How is a vague allusion to he might have gotten something right outweighing a direct clear naming that shows he's completely wrong? 

I think "he's completely wrong" is not justified here.  Far from it, actually.

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Beats me.  But people have their reasons--I'd probably narrow down to bias.  

Yep.  Again, there are many "upstream" assumptions that affect our assessment of "downstream" evidences.  Bias affects us all.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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4 hours ago, stemelbow said:

From the start, the four sons of Horus were given names by Joseph that simply aren't their names.  If God wanted to really provide evidence of inspiration one would think he'd actually give Joseph their names instead of some gobbledygook.  How is a vague allusion to he might have gotten something right outweighing a direct clear naming that shows he's completely wrong?  Beats me.  But people have their reasons--I'd probably narrow down to bias.  

And here is the main problem for the critics on this point: You can't persuasively argue against the possibility that an ANE subculture may have associated different deities with these canopic figures than is currently known. In other words, you have no idea what the probability is that Joseph Smith was "wrong" on this point. Syncretism was so prevalent among ANE cultures that to argue against the possibility that these figures could have been associated with different gods is just silly. It is unreasonable to be anything more than neutral towards that possibility.

So that leaves us with Joseph Smith, against all likely odds, "guessing" a symbolic association with these figures that is essentially a bulls eye. And then when you start actually looking at the names which you describe as "goggledygook" we find that there is, contrary to your assertion, support for their authenticity: 

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(from https://journal.interpreterfoundation.org/four-idolatrous-gods-in-the-book-of-abraham/)

Tentative identifications can be provided for all four of the deities mentioned in the first chapter of the Book of Abraham. Three (Elkenah, Libnah, and Korash) are close phonetically. Three (Elkenah, Libnah, and Korash) are close geographically to the site of Abraham’s sacrifice; the other (Mamackrah) is attested a bit farther away (although if it is a place name then it is closer). Two (Elkenah and Korash) are superregional deities whose geographical attestation covers Abraham’s homeland. As there are few sources from the region in Abraham’s day (Middle Bronze Age), all of them are attested in the Late Bronze Age with indications that at least one of them (Korash) goes back to the Middle Bronze Age. For two (Elkenah and Korash), we can currently discuss more than their names. The ability to do so shows the importance of going past the simple identification of a name where possible.

For those deities for whom we have more information than just their name, one (Elkenah) seems to be involved in a ritual in which individuals were asked to engage in sexual immorality or face death, which parallels Abraham 1:11. One (Korash) is involved in cursing those seen as disobedient to the king, who were destroyed, which parallels Abraham 1:5‒13.

This might seem like a meagre amount of information, but it represents a significant step forward in research on the Book of Abraham. Twenty years ago almost none of this was known. It was certainly not known when Joseph Smith published the Book of Abraham.

What are the odds of Joseph Smith guessing right? A number of factors complicate the calculation, so only a simplified calculation will be done. Joseph Smith provided four names, two of two syllables and two of three syllables. Using the twenty-two unique consonants provided by the Seixas transliteration system, a CVC syllabic structure (since one of the Seixas consonants is a null value), and five vowels, there are 2420 possible syllable combinations; but because the vowels were not always written and frequently changed in dialects, we drop them, for a total of 484 syllable combinations. Since there are ten syllables in the names Joseph Smith provided, this is a total of 7.05 x 1026 different possible combinations. The Mesopotamian god list AN: dA-nu-um lists 2130 non-unique deities.118 Multiplying the number by five to account for deities not included in the Mesopotamian list, and taking the ratio of the two numbers, gives us a very rough estimate of the chance of randomly putting together syllables into four correct ancient deities’ names of one in 6.62 x 1022 By comparison, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery by buying a single ticket are merely one in 292 million(2.92 x 106).119 The odds of winning the Powerball lottery two weeks in a row are one in 8.52 x 1016. The odds of winning three weeks in a row are one in 2.49 x 1025. Though only a crude calculation of the odds, it gives some idea how difficult it would be for Joseph Smith to simply guess correctly.

You can continue to point to an absence of evidence for the specific association of these names with these four figures, but in the end that absence of evidence will never amount to persuasive evidence of absence. Generally speaking, it is very difficult to prove, or even persuasively argue, for a negative in the ancient world. So, for me, the only evidence that counts for much on this topic, and many like it, is the positive evidence in favor of Joseph Smith's explanation.

It is expected that you and many others won't accept that positive evidence, but I think you will have a hard time coming up with a valid argument for why it should be dismissed.

Do you have any actual evidence, other than a mere absence of evidence, to counteract the positive evidence for the authenticity of the names (generally speaking), and especially Joseph Smith's clearly correct explanation of their symbolism? 

 

Late Edit: Looks like Smac and I are thinking along the same lines. Sorry for any redundancy. He posted while I was still creating my post.

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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