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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

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

I wonder about that.

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

From the abstract:

And from the conclusion:

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.

Ok, so let's see if we can sum this up.  
 

No one really knows when Abraham lived, or where his land was located, if he did live...

Since we don't really know time and place, we can make some assumptions and open our window to time and place pretty wide to see if we can find some ancient words, no matter their origin other than they come from the middle east somewhere at sometime.  And then try and change whatever names for gods we do find to fit these odd sounding names in the BoA.  If we can make some sketchy sounding connections in naming the jars on the Egyptian Facsimile names that, if you squint hard enough, relate to some deity from some era and from some peoples in the ANE then it appears Joseph was inspired when he named the jars, typically representing completely others, because, I mean, they are old characters and all of that.  

My problem is the names don't match.  And that doesn't matter anyway.  If they did, it doesn't mean it makes sense they randomly end up on an Egyptian facsimile replacing for some unknown reason already known Egyptian objects.  

This argument tends to express something like "it doesn't matter what we come up with in our defense.  As long as it's something...it's effective."  

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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.

Define close.

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Three (Elkenah, Libnah, and Korash) are close geographically to the site of Abraham’s sacrifice;

Perhaps if we can actually pinpoint the location of his sacrifice site...that seems to be a particular problem with this conclusion.

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Two (Elkenah and Korash) are superregional deities whose geographical attestation covers Abraham’s homeland.

Where's his homeland?  I suppose since it's debated, as well as his actual existence, it appears Gee assumes the northern location near norther Syria or SOuthern Turkey and not Mesopotamia, where, it is said most scholars locate him.  No big deal...but it makes you wonder if these tenuous, if that, connections work for the southerly location.  

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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.

So roughly a 900 years span?  THat's a pretty wide range.  Nearly a millennia.  That does open the window wide enough to make some really sketchy connections I guess, but it also makes the connections as weak as they appear, to be even less significant, it seems to me.

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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.

Let's see:  

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Now, this priest had offered upon this altar three virgins at one time, who were the daughters of Onitah, one of the royal descent directly from the loins of aHam. These virgins were offered up because of their virtue; they would not bbow down to worship gods of wood or of stone, therefore they were killed upon this altar, and it was done after the manner of the Egyptians.

So...hmm...somehow he's saying these 3 virgins who were sacrificed were asked to engage in sexual immorality or face death?  It looks like he's either mixing things up or making things up.  

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One (Korash) is involved in cursing those seen as disobedient to the king, who were destroyed, which parallels Abraham 1:5‒13.

k.

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This might seem like a meagre amount of information, but it represents a significant step forward in research on the Book of Abraham. [Page 150]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?

Guessing what right?  The closest connection he makes is Korash or Kursa for Hittites might have something to do with destroying those who were disobedient to the king.  

 

1 hour ago, smac97 said:

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

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

Thanks,

-Smac

Yes...indeed bias affects us all.  

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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

 

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.

That would be the point of possibilities.  But again, stating something is possible hardly means that possibility is evidence confirming historicity.  

1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

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.

Look.  it's possible some unknown person wrote a BoA in egyptian and used cute eygptian pictures, imagining in his head that these pictures represented the story of Abraham that he wrote.  I mean it's possible.  But that's not evidence supporting the claim.  THat's simply saying, some really odd, unheard of thing possibly happened.  

1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

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: 

No we don't.  And bullseye simply is not so.  

1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

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.

you do you.  that's fine.  But just know, your methods are terribly unsupportable.  The reasonable method is to look for reliable evidence to support the claim and if it is not there or that which is presented is not reasonable then there is no reason to accept the claim.  

1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

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.

uh...I think the weak nature of the 4 sons of Horus being some random panoply of various gods whose names don't match, who have no connection to Abraham or Egypt is not evidence and is extremely easy to dismiss.  

1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

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? 

So it's my job to show evidence that the 4 sons of Horus aren't a combination of various gods from the ANE misspelled by Joseph to not even sound very close to the names of the ANE gods?  Welll...sure the evidence that these are representations as the sons of HOrus and not these others is found in every single Egyptological explanation that they are representing the sons of Horus.  

1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

 

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.

Its ok.  You two have different ideas in explanation.  

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39 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Ok, so let's see if we can sum this up.  

"Sum this up" seems to have a strong connotation to it, something along the lines of "Let's see if we can ignore most of what Gee says, and distort and caricature and ridicule and summarily dismiss the rest."

39 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

No one really knows when Abraham lived, or where his land was located, if he did live...

Yes.  So we're dealing with some ambiguities, and we're starting with room for differing assumptions and interpretations.

39 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Since we don't really know time and place, we can make some assumptions and open our window to time and place pretty wide to see if we can find some ancient words, no matter their origin other than they come from the middle east somewhere at sometime.  And then try and change whatever names for gods we do find to fit these odd sounding names in the BoA.  If we can make some sketchy sounding connections in naming the jars on the Egyptian Facsimile names that, if you squint hard enough, relate to some deity from some era and from some peoples in the ANE then it appears Joseph was inspired when he named the jars, typically representing completely others, because, I mean, they are old characters and all of that.  

This really doesn't do much for me.  You aren't saying anything substantive.  You aren't engaging the evidence, you are ridiculing it and dismissing it out of hand.  Phrases like "squint hard enough" and "sketchy sounding" and such mark your assessment as unserious and off-the-cuff (particularly since you apparently were not previously aware fo Gee's article, and so have only had a few minutes to read it).

39 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

My problem is the names don't match. 

This sort of conclusory stuff doesn't work for me.  You aren't engaging the evidence.  

39 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

And that doesn't matter anyway.  If they did, it doesn't mean it makes sense they randomly end up on an Egyptian facsimile replacing for some unknown reason already known Egyptian objects.  

Right.  We're wrong no matter what.  The evidence "doesn't matter anyway."  Examining and discussing the evidence "doesn't matter."

"Heads the critics win, tails the Latter-day Saints lose" could be a bumper sticker on the back of your car.

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

And bullseye simply is not so.

Facsimile 2, figure 6 is definitely a bullseye. The language Joseph Smith used has to be understood in the context of 19th century usage, which means that earth in its four quarters is clearly synonymous with the earth and its cardinal points. Once again here is footnote 2 from the PofGPC article:

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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.

 With that in mind, we have the following statements from Joseph Smith and various scholars about the symbolism of the 4 canopic jars:

  • Joseph Smith: "Represents this earth in its four quarters" (which as shown above is synonymous with the cardinal points or directions in his day)
  • Richard H. Wilkinson: "The group ... are often given geographic associations and hence became a kind of “regional” group. . . . The four gods were sometimes depicted on the sides of the canopic chest and had specific symbolic orientations, with Imsety usually being aligned with the south, Hapy with the north, Duamutef with the east and Qebehsenuef with the west."
  • James P. Allen: "representing the cardinal directions"
  • Manfred Lurker: "each [of the sons of Horus] had a characteristic head and was associated with one of the four cardinal points of the compass"
  • Geraldine Pinch: "The four sons were also associated with the four directions (south, north, east, and west)
  • Michael D. Rhodes: "They were the gods of the four quarters of the earth ... and later came to be regarded as presiding over the four cardinal points."
  • E. Wallis Budge: "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."
  • Maarten J. Raven: the primary purpose of the Sons of Horus was to act as “the four corners of the universe and the four supports of heaven, and only secondarily with the protection of the body’s integrity.”

This is unquestionably a bullseye. 

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

"Sum this up" seems to have a strong connotation to it, something along the lines of "Let's see if we can ignore most of what Gee says, and distort and caricature and ridicule and summarily dismiss the rest."

I admit, the whole piece is so far from evidence as I see it, it's merely a deflection.  I suppose as that is the case, I wonder what you might expect one who sees his piece as so bad to do?  

6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Yes.  So we're dealing with some ambiguities, and we're starting with room for differing assumptions and interpretations.

That's fine, actually.  Its where it goes when examining that room, it seems to me.  

6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

This really doesn't do much for me.  You aren't saying anything substantive.  You aren't engaging the evidence, you are ridiculing it and dismissing it out of hand.  Phrases like "squint hard enough" and "sketchy sounding" and such mark your assessment as unserious and off-the-cuff (particularly since you apparently were not previously aware fo Gee's article, and so have only had a few minutes to read it).

Its hard to take seriously because there is not much there.  It basically says there are these 4 gods among many from various places and peoples from eras that appear in a different era from Abraham (for the most part.  1 apparently might have gone back to the middle Bronze Age, which might be close), and may or may not have been found in the super-region in which he may have lived, if he lived.  Adding things like "preserved a myth, supposedly [Page 141]Canaanite", and "may actually be voiceless ", and "This may be a variation of mqrw", and "Kurša could be a form' and "it could also represent a male deity ".  From these estimations and guesses and possibilities, Gee concludes:  "What are the odds of Joseph Smith guessing right?"  I ask again...guessing right about what?  SOme of this may be the case and it may be that Libnah or Korash really mean something that was thought of by Hittites.  but alas, there is no connection.  There is no Abraham defining these gods, nor no Egyptians using them in facsimiles.  Its simply taking a large swath of time, place and peoples and seeing if we can possibly find names of deities, among many deities, that can tenuously come close to these names found on this explanation offered by Joseph Smith.  

6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

This sort of conclusory stuff doesn't work for me.  You aren't engaging the evidence.  

If it ain't evidence it aint' evidence, smac.  It's simply explanation of a possibility.  That's not evidence.  

6 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Right.  We're wrong no matter what.  The evidence "doesn't matter anyway."  Examining and discussing the evidence "doesn't matter."

"Heads the critics win, tails the Latter-day Saints lose" could be a bumper sticker on the back of your car.

Thanks,

-Smac

Nah...if you can actually provide something that is evidence then we can get somewhere.  Remember I, being charitable, already granted 1.5 items of evidence for your case.  But as hard as I'm trying to be charitable here, there is nothing that can be seen as evidence.  

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20 minutes ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Facsimile 2, figure 6 is definitely a bullseye. The language Joseph Smith used has to be understood in the context of 19th century usage, which means that earth in its four quarters is clearly synonymous with the earth and its cardinal points. Once again here is footnote 2 from the PofGPC article:

 With that in mind, we have the following statements from Joseph Smith and other scholars about the symbolism of the 4 canopic jars:

  • Joseph Smith: "Represents this earth in its four quarters" (which as shown above is synonymous with the cardinal points or directions in his day)
  • Richard H. Wilkinson: "The group ... are often given geographic associations and hence became a kind of “regional” group. . . . The four gods were sometimes depicted on the sides of the canopic chest and had specific symbolic orientations, with Imsety usually being aligned with the south, Hapy with the north, Duamutef with the east and Qebehsenuef with the west."
  • James P. Allen: "representing the cardinal directions"
  • Manfred Lurker: "each [of the sons of Horus] had a characteristic head and was associated with one of the four cardinal points of the compass"
  • Geraldine Pinch: "The four sons were also associated with the four directions (south, north, east, and west)
  • Michael D. Rhodes: "They were the gods of the four quarters of the earth ... and later came to be regarded as presiding over the four cardinal points."
  • E. Wallis Budge: "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."
  • Maarten J. Raven: the primary purpose of the Sons of Horus was to act as “the four corners of the universe and the four supports of heaven, and only secondarily with the protection of the body’s integrity.”

This is unquestionably a bullseye. 

Can you define bullseye?  Smac is trying to argue these 4 aren't representing the 4 sons of Horus, and you're trying to argue, or so it seems, that these are the four sons of Horus and at times some have suggested it's possible these four sons represent the four cardinal direction points.  

What if Joseph in consulting Adam Clarke's commentary decided the four jars represent the 4 beasts from Revelation, and in so consulting alluded to the 4 quarters of the earth?  Probably more likely than God telling him something that doesn't make sense, it seems to me.  

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1 minute ago, stemelbow said:

I admit, the whole piece is so far from evidence as I see it, it's merely a deflection.  I suppose as that is the case, I wonder what you might expect one who sees his piece as so bad to do?  

That's fine, actually.  Its where it goes when examining that room, it seems to me.  

Its hard to take seriously because there is not much there.  It basically says there are these 4 gods among many from various places and peoples from eras that appear in a different era from Abraham (for the most part.  1 apparently might have gone back to the middle Bronze Age, which might be close), and may or may not have been found in the super-region in which he may have lived, if he lived.  Adding things like "preserved a myth, supposedly [Page 141]Canaanite", and "may actually be voiceless ", and "This may be a variation of mqrw", and "Kurša could be a form' and "it could also represent a male deity ".  From these estimations and guesses and possibilities, Gee concludes:  "What are the odds of Joseph Smith guessing right?"  I ask again...guessing right about what?  SOme of this may be the case and it may be that Libnah or Korash really mean something that was thought of by Hittites.  but alas, there is no connection.  There is no Abraham defining these gods, nor no Egyptians using them in facsimiles.  Its simply taking a large swath of time, place and peoples and seeing if we can possibly find names of deities, among many deities, that can tenuously come close to these names found on this explanation offered by Joseph Smith.  

If it ain't evidence it aint' evidence, smac.  It's simply explanation of a possibility.  That's not evidence.  

Nah...if you can actually provide something that is evidence then we can get somewhere.  Remember I, being charitable, already granted 1.5 items of evidence for your case.  But as hard as I'm trying to be charitable here, there is nothing that can be seen as evidence.  

I don't see your treatment of the subject to be serious or fairminded.  

Thanks,

-Smac

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43 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

So it's my job to show evidence that the 4 sons of Horus aren't a combination of various gods from the ANE misspelled by Joseph to not even sound very close to the names of the ANE gods?   

Look. Here is what we can confidently say about Joseph's explanations of these figures:

  1. The symbolic representation he provided for facsimile 2, figure 6 ("Represents this earth in its four quarters") is supported by current Egyptology, is extremely unlikely to have been "guessed," and there is currently no explanation for how Joseph likely gained access to this knowledge (but I remain open to the possibility that such a channel might exist; as I previously stated). 
  2. The names he associated with the canopic jars in Facsimile 1 are attested in relevant ancient contexts. The chances of him guessing 4 names in a row that could linguistically be associated with known deities from the approximate times and relevant regions seems to be very unlikely, as Gee points out.
  3. The relationship between the names Joseph gave in Facsimile 1 and the canopic jars aren't attested in extant documents.

By my count, that is two positive evidences and a mere absence of evidence. Looks like all the actual evidence is towards the affirmative on this one, seeing that an absence of evidence isn't actually evidence, especially when the type of thing that is being assumed to fill this gap (the presence of syncretism and the fluidity in identifying various gods with different symbols) is well-attested in ANE cultures. 

I mean, you can keep just saying you disagree and there is no evidence or whatever, but it seems like that is about all you can do here. Maybe you have an actual refutation of this line of logic, in all its constituent parts, but I doubt it. 

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1 hour ago, Ryan Dahle said:

Facsimile 2, figure 6 is definitely a bullseye. The language Joseph Smith used has to be understood in the context of 19th century usage, which means that earth in its four quarters is clearly synonymous with the earth and its cardinal points. Once again here is footnote 2 from the PofGPC article:

 With that in mind, we have the following statements from Joseph Smith and other scholars about the symbolism of the 4 canopic jars:

  • Joseph Smith: "Represents this earth in its four quarters" (which as shown above is synonymous with the cardinal points or directions in his day)
  • Richard H. Wilkinson: "The group ... are often given geographic associations and hence became a kind of “regional” group. . . . The four gods were sometimes depicted on the sides of the canopic chest and had specific symbolic orientations, with Imsety usually being aligned with the south, Hapy with the north, Duamutef with the east and Qebehsenuef with the west."
  • James P. Allen: "representing the cardinal directions"
  • Manfred Lurker: "each [of the sons of Horus] had a characteristic head and was associated with one of the four cardinal points of the compass"
  • Geraldine Pinch: "The four sons were also associated with the four directions (south, north, east, and west)
  • Michael D. Rhodes: "They were the gods of the four quarters of the earth ... and later came to be regarded as presiding over the four cardinal points."
  • E. Wallis Budge: "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."
  • Maarten J. Raven: the primary purpose of the Sons of Horus was to act as “the four corners of the universe and the four supports of heaven, and only secondarily with the protection of the body’s integrity.”

This is unquestionably a bullseye. 

Come critics are intractably absolutist in their declarations that there is zero evidence for the truth claims of the Church.  It's a surprisingly dogmatic and unreasoned position to take, particularly given the pose they so often strike (that they are basing their position on "evidence" and "reason").

I have a theory as to why this is so.  I've articulated it a few times on this board, such as here (from 2007!) :

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{Daniel Peterson}: Having carefully studied the relevant publications of Nibley, the Hiltons, the Astons, Kent Brown, and Potter and Wellington, you know that NHM isn't all "they can come up with" even in terms of Arabian culture and geography, and you also know both that NHM is pretty good indeed and that it's a richer and more complex hit than critics such as yourself are ever willing to acknowledge.

Critics such as Jaybear constantly complain that there is no "evidence" for the BoM's provenance. They use this as a bludgeon with which to beat the Church.

So you would think that these professedly open-minded folks would be willing to evaluate NHM, because it does a pretty good job of meeting the criteria for "evidence" proffered by our critics.

But they aren't willing. Instead, they become remarkably dense, shrill, and unreasonable. And I think I know why. I call it the "Transmission Gap Theory," and I've explained it here:

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Some folks familiar with the LDS Church like to compare and contrast the relative "scientific" (read: archaeological) evidences for the Book of Mormon as compared to the Bible. One of the points that frequently gets noted is that evidence of antiquity or historicity doesn't necessarily (or even probably) translate into evidence of divinity.

...

William Hamblin was on a radio program and had the following exchange with a caller:

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William Hamblin: Let me give you an example for instance. The name Alma in Joseph Smith's day was a typical woman's name. Joseph Smith uses it in the BoM for a male. And since that time we have discovered in Hebrew manuscripts that Alma was in fact a perfectly decent name for a Hebrew male. Now, how would Joseph Smith know this? Same thing with Mosiah and Nephi,. All these names have been discovered. They are nonbiblical and yet they are authentic in the setting which the text claims to come from. So there are all sorts of histroical analyses you could do, I don't think you could prove it that way. We're not claiming proof for the Book of mormon. We are claiming some level of plausibility.

Caller: What I'm saying is that in the Bible I can see the maps of Israel, I can see the maps of of, all types of maps.

William Hamblin: Suppose that, well I could show you map where Troy was. Does that prove that Zeus is king of heaven and that we should worship Zeus?

Caller: Well, that has nothing to do with our subject.

William Hamblin: It is precisely to do with our subject. I mean Homer claimed that he had wrote a book about the doings of all the Greek gods. We have now autheticated that in fact the city Homer talked about existed. All the cities Homer talked about existed. It is perfectly good history. Now does that prove Zeus is king of heaven and that we should worship Zeus?

I wonder, though, if this argument yields the same result for the Book of Mormon as it does for the Bible.

The distinction I see between the two is the method of transmission. Speaking broadly, the Bible has a discernable historical pedigree, a pedigree wherein the text can be historically traced back, without significant gaps, to antiquity (though not necessarily to the original authors). This historical pedigree, coupled with the fact that some toponymns mentioned in the Bible are verified or verifiable...makes the Bible comparable in many ways to other ancient texts.

The rejoinder to this is that a historical pedigree + some archaeological verification does not equal evidence in favor of the Bible's truth claims. As Hamblin noted, The Odyssey has a historical pedigree and some archaeological verification, but that doesn't mean that the descriptions of the supernatural in Homer's work are factual.

But what about the Book of Mormon? Could its lack of a traceable historical pedigree + some archaeological verification actually work in its favor? Skeptics aren't persuaded that the Bible's historical pedigree or archaeological finds (like the Pool of Siloam that was recently discovered) mean anything precisely because those things are discernable without looking to God for an explanation (just like we can discern the historical pedigree and/or archaeological verification of The Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, etc.).

However, the Book of Mormon belies these assumptions. There is a built-in gap, a giant one, in the transmission process for that book. So if (and this is a really big "if") we someday discover persuasive archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon (evidence of toponyms, for example), then the argument used against the Bible wouldn't work.

...

The gap in the historical transmission of the text could only be bridged by divine intervention. So archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, if found, would have a far more persuasive impact on the veracity of that book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.

Brandt Gardner agrees with me:

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{Smac}: Skeptics aren't persuaded that the Bible's historical pedigree or archaeological finds (like the Pool of Siloam that was recently discovered) mean anything precisely because those things are discernable without looking to God for an explanation (just like we can discern the historical pedigree and/or archaeological verification of The Odyssey, the Epic of Gilgamesh, etc.).

{Brant}: That is a major difference in the issue of archaeology and text. The Book of Mormon is more dangerous than the Bible. If the Bible is historical and deals with religion, it can be seen as no different from any other historical text (they usually incorporate the dominant religion in the older traditions). The Book of Mormon, however, is a problem. If it is historical it becomes harder to dismiss. It is much easier to dismiss it at every turn, and therefore the level of archaeological support required by its critics is much different than that required for any other text of similar purported age.

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So if (and this is a really big "if") we someday discovery persuasive archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon (evidence of toponyms, for example), then the argument used against the Bible wouldn't work.

{Brant}: Yes. Dangerous.

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The gap in the historical transmission of the text could only be bridged by divine intervention. So archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, if found, would have a far more persuasive impact on the veracity of that book's truth claims than would archaeological evidence for the Bible impact that book's truth claims.

Precisely. That is the reason that you won't see many non-believers giving any quarter here. Evidence that would be sufficient for Homer, for instance, is not sufficient for the Book of Mormon (actually - it wouldn't be for me either - I would want more -). Still, there is a point at which more should be sufficient.

I'm not sure how significant the NHM/Wadi Sayq evidence is. Yet. But Jaybear's glib (and markedly ignorant) dismissal of it provides further validation of some of the premises behind my Transmission Gap Theory.

There is an inverse relationship between the caliber of empirical evidence for the Book of Mormon and the rationality of anti-Mormon critics like Jaybear. That is, as the former increases, the latter decreases.

Switch out "NHM/Wadi Sayq" for Facsimile 2, figure 6.  Or the NHM altar.  Or the Seal of Mulek.  Or cement and barley in Mesoameria.  Or Sheum.  Or tumbaga.  Or the statements of the Witnesses.  Or anything else.  

Critics of a certain bent (described by Daniel Peterson as "self-identified atheistic materialists or naturalists") have, philosophically and rhetorically speaking, painted themselves into a corner.  They cannot tolerate even the possibility that the Church's claims are true, or even that these claims are plausible.  It's not an "all or nothing" scenario for them.  There is only one opton for them, and that is that the Church is a sham.  A fraud.  To quote Dan Peterson:

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The most serious contemporary criticisms of the Book of Mormon and of Mormonism more broadly tend to come not from self-proclaimed orthodox (i.e., usually Evangelical) Christians, but from self-identified atheistic materialists or naturalists. The Utah-based historian Dale Morgan, largely forgotten today but still much admired in certain small contemporary circles, wrote a 1945 letter to the believing Latter-day Saint historian Juanita Brooks. In it, he identifies the fundamental issue with unusual candor:

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With my point of view on God, I am incapable of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, be they however so convincing. If God does not exist, how can Joseph Smith’s story have any possible validity? I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church.

 

I am happy to be a Latter-day Saint.  Acting from a position of faith, and without perfect knowledge, I must acknowledge the possibility that God does not exist, that there is no life after death, and all the dark nihilisms that are attendant to that postulation.  But by choice I have decided to exercise faith, to examine the claims of the Church, to give them a fair hearing, to see out guidance from God, to put the precepts into practice in my daily life, and to see if the Restored Gospel really can be what it claims to be.  So far I have received much confirmation and ratification of these things.  The "upstream" matters are beautiful to me, and are not only comforting and uplifting, they are reasonable and sensible.  The "downstream" matters are likewise overwhelmingly wonderful.  There are a few that are confusing and difficult, but that's to be expected.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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46 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Can you define bullseye?  Smac is trying to argue these 4 aren't representing the 4 sons of Horus, and you're trying to argue, or so it seems, that these are the four sons of Horus and at times some have suggested it's possible these four sons represent the four cardinal direction points.  

Bullseye: something that is precisely correct. My argument is only that the symbolism attached to Facsimile 2, figure 6 is a bullseye. I never said otherwise. 

As for the apparent discrepancy, let's say there are several symbols and several names with which these jars were associated in ANE societies. It isn't hard to imagine a situation where the the authentic symbolism is present in Joseph Smith's explanation in Facsimile 2 and yet where the names differ in Facsimile 1. Once again, any familiarity with all of the variations and complexities made possible through ANE syncretism should help you understand how easily such a situation could arise.

Edited by Ryan Dahle
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39 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

What if Joseph in consulting Adam Clarke's commentary decided the four jars represent the 4 beasts from Revelation, and in so consulting alluded to the 4 quarters of the earth?

Well, if you think there may be good evidence for that line of reasoning, go ahead and explore it. Right now, it is just unsupported speculation. 

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50 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Can you define bullseye?  Smac is trying to argue these 4 aren't representing the 4 sons of Horus, and you're trying to argue, or so it seems, that these are the four sons of Horus and at times some have suggested it's possible these four sons represent the four cardinal direction points.  

I sure would appreciate you not misrepresenting me.

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What if Joseph in consulting Adam Clarke's commentary decided the four jars represent the 4 beasts from Revelation, and in so consulting alluded to the 4 quarters of the earth?  Probably more likely than God telling him something that doesn't make sense, it seems to me.  

It is increasingly clear that you subscribed to the "Dale Morgan" school of thought as to what "evidence" means: anything other than what can support the truth claims of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Literally anything else, even if it lacks a scintilla of supporting or corroborating reasoning and is sheer, unsupported ad hoc speculation, is - in your view - more "probable."

Well, okay then.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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