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Robert Ritner - Book of Abraham Interview


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30 minutes ago, OGHoosier said:

I don't think I understand the question. 

Nobody has said that the Book of the Dead is the Book of Abraham.

All Egyptologists, in the Church and out of it, are in agreement on that. The argument as I understand it is: did the Book of Abraham text come from another part of the papyri? Or did Joseph just receive it by revelation, independent of the papyri connection? How do the facsimiles fit in? Were they simply repurposed for Joseph's translation or were they connected with the Book of Abraham urtext? 

Nobody that I know of is denying that Facsimile 1, say, is surrounded by the text of the Book of the Dead, and that text does not say anything about Abraham. So, I do not understand the question. 

Oh, then we are dissecting a non seen papyri?

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19 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Oh, then we are dissecting a non seen papyri?

Again, not sure I understand. The traditional options are as follows:

1) Given that Egyptian vignette drawings don't always have to stick by the text that references them, the facsimiles could have been drawn to accompany the Book of Abraham text elsewhere on the papyri. This is the missing-papyrus or missing-scroll theory.

2) Joseph never had a Book of Abraham papyrus in his hands, he translated it like the papyrus of John from D&C 7. The facsimiles from the Joseph Smith Papyri were representative of/similar to/perhaps derived from the vignettes on the Book of Abraham original text. In this view the papyri Joseph received were vehicles for the facsimile representations alone. 

3) Joseph, acting much like an early Christian or Jewish documentarian, repurposed the ancient symbols to illustrate the revealed doctrine. Options 2-3 represent versions of the catalyst theory. I should also add that we don't give Joseph enough credit here: he didn't have the advantage of knowing the scholastic Egyptological assessment of the papyri like we do. Even under this last and perhaps most skeptical option, it's entirely possible that he genuinely thought the facsimiles were from Abraham, and thus, even if mistaken, was not lying. 

Edited by OGHoosier
Fixed pluralization and added noted on theory
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What would happen to Ritter's career and reputation if he said the BoA was an ancient document?

What would happen to Gee's career and reputation if he said the BoA was not an ancient document? 

Why should I trust either of them?

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But if I leave his employ, what will become of me?

 

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It seems from  comments by David Bokavoy and now Colby Townsend that they do not accept a historical Abraham. If as seems also to be happening the growing  consensus that the exodus and conquest did not happen. See papers in T.E.Levy et al (eds.) Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplnary Perspectives:Quantitative Methods in the Humanties and Social Sciences Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014. Watch Gospel Tangents interview with Townsend.

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2 hours ago, aussieguy55 said:

seems from  comments by David Bokavoy and now Colby Townsend that they do not accept a historical Abraham

Then you have scholars like Lincoln Blumell and Dana Pike...

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15 minutes ago, Calm said:

Then you have scholars like Lincoln Blumell and Dana Pike...

Indeed. Even the higher canons of critical scholarship, like deutero-Isaiah, have their critics (see Avraham Gileadi for one). The dance of scholars will continue until the end of time. 

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I could run across the street and ask him for his list of publications, nah...too lazy. Here is a list of his activities though. 

https://news.byu.edu/news/dana-pike-named-publications-director-byus-religious-studies-center

Apparently BYU doesn’t do the CVs  for their professors anymore on their profiles.  Darn. 
 

Here’s a few of them:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Dana_Pike

Edited by Calm
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On 8/8/2020 at 3:55 PM, mfbukowski said:

Good analogy, but the biologist would not be seeing it as a spiritual lesson instead of science.  THAT is the category error.  

The author's intentions become irrelevant- what is important is the value we can gain from the story.   On the other hand, as has been pointed out, even the Genesis story can be seen as primitive but biologically "accurate" in that plants come before animals even in evolutionary theory.

And spiritually, we are all Adam and Eve and all of us have a fall from innocence at some point in our lives. 

Yes seeing the story metaphorically is the way go, I think.  

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On 8/8/2020 at 6:57 PM, smac97 said:

Are you sure?

Robert is correct.  "Muhlestein is being very frank" about his assumptions.  I question whether you are being similarly frank about Ritner.  

Oh brother.  If you want to make this a contest about questioning other people's intentions because, well, it's easy, then have fun playing that game.  

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You claim that you aren't "trying to portray him as anything," and yet you are "respecting his expertise" while simultaneously not respecting Muhlestein's.

Where have I not respected Muhlestein's?  

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Contrary to your denial, you are specifically and expressly portraying Ritner as "objective" and having an "agenda" of "truth" and "good solid objective scholarship."  In contrast, you characterize Muhlestein as an "apologist" who is unduly beholden to "assumptions."

I'm going with what Muhlestein said.  You even agreed.  His goal is not objectivity....but it is agenda driven--attempting to find ways to show the BoA could be true.  As I said you agreed with Muhlestein's approach, now you want to twist it into Muhlestein striving for objectivity?  

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OGHoosier characterized Dr. Ritner as an "an excellent Egyptologist with an anti-Mormon chip in his shoulder so big that Khufu modeled his Pyramid on it."  I think there are evidentiary grounds for this characterization.  For example, he was removed from Gee's doctoral committee at Yale.  The circumstances of that removal remain mostly publicly opaque, apart from this (apparently written by Daniel Peterson in 2006):

 

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Ritner purportedly responded to the above:

Good.  So Peterson who has no involvement apparently claimed something untrue about the event.  Not sure that provides good reason to question Ritner's motives and intentions.  

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Seems like there may be some behind-the-scenes stuff going on.

Odd you characterize that as if Ritner is the one who is hostile.  Sounds to me like you are intent on painting Ritner as something you simply don't know about all to make an apologetic point.  

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But that's mostly conjecture.  I think there's a better case to be made by examining what Dr. Ritner has actually said in publications.  In his 2013 book, The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition, Dr. Ritner declares that "Except for those willfully blind… the case is closed."  This doesn't really come across as "objective" (or, for that matter, scholarly).

Larry Morris provides further indications:

I appreciate Morris doing more than just critiquing Dr. Ritner's less-than-scholarly rhetoric.  He offers examples of other scholars (here, Remini) who adopted a more objective, less cynical/incendiary approach to the BoA.

uh...it is plainly racial discrimination.  It doesn't matter if it's charged words, that is clearly what it is.  Thus, I disagree with this characterization.  It hardly means he's being anything but objective.  

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More:

Well?  It sure seems like Ritner's editorializing is far from "objective" or "impartial."  Who is correct here, you or Morris?

Rimini's not an Egyptologist.  Why would he critique the Egyptology discussion?  It's a weird comparison--apples and oranges.  The problem here is, if something is clearly wrong, no matter how it's stated it needs to be stated.  Rimini has no grounds to declare Joseph wrong in terms of the Egyptian, Ritner does--apples and oranges.  And not really making your point, if you ask me. 

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More:

Huh.  Seems like Ritner "rebuts Gee" by citing . . . Ritner.  He quotes his own reconstruction of the text to rebut Gee.  This is, in your view, "objective" scholarship?

Beats me.  But i"m not an Egyptologist.  And niether are you.  He might be going rogue here, but how do we know?  This is largely my point.  

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Morris drops a long footnote expressing concern about Dr. Ritner using a scholarly venue to vent about his personal dispute with Gee:

What are your thoughts about this?  

Not much.  Apparently Gee refused to seek peer review and that frustrated Ritner.  Sounds like peer review would have been a good move to me.  

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More:

Are you sure you want to continue to juxtpose Ritner's purported "objective" approach to the BoA with Muhlestein's purportedly biased/"apologetic" approach?  As I see it, Ritner's Dialogue article brings his (apparent lack of) objectivity, and his apparent biases, into reasonable dispute.

Fine.  As I said, continue to play that game.  It's a useless one if you ask me.  Decrying people's intentions is silly.  If they bring up their intentions, as Muhlestein did, then perhaps it's fair to comment, as I see it.  All of these attacks on Ritner have little to do with his scholarship it seems to me.  It's all simply a matter of complaining about the words he chose.  I don't think that speaks to his scholarship at all.  I find it a distraction and a weaselly way to approach discussion, to be honest.  

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Meanwhile, what are we to make of Ritner's treatment of the KEP?  This is a pretty important issue.  Again from the Morris article:

Morris does a pretty good job of laying out examples of Dr. Ritner's lack of objectivity and impartiality in his scholarship.

I'm not sure what if anything Ritner got wrong here.  the 11 extant fragments were employed for the basis for the BoA.  How is that controversial?  I don't know.  If Morris is suggesting that the BoA material could have been burned, then great.  Anything's possible.  But as of now, all we know is what we see.  The fascimiles that KEP all point to material in the extant fragments.    

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I think you are doing more than that.  

Is there any similar "filtering" going on with Dr. Ritner (particularly given the issues raised by Morris, some of which are noted above)?

Beats me.  He hasn't said there is much like Muhlestein admitted to.  

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"In contrast."

You characterize the scholar who shares your antipathy toward the Church and its doctrines as "objective," as having an "agenda" of seeking "truth" through "good solid objective scholarship."

I'm fair to both sides.  I gave Muhlestein his due.  I quoted him and let him speak for himself.    

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You then, "in contrast," characterize the Latter-day Saint scholar (Muhelstein) as . . . something else.  As an "apologist" beholden to "assumptions."

No.  He characterized himself as such.  I simply pointed that out to you.  

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See the Morris article, quoted at length above.

It doesn't appear MOrris offers anything relevant to the scholarship in question.  He simply seems displeased with Ritner's tone.  Yiptey.  I'm not interested in getting into such petty disputes.  

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So you are speaking of ancient Egyptian sources of information about Abraham?

In The Ancient Egyptian View of Abrahamthe author states that "evidence survives today indicating that stories about Abraham were known to the ancient Egyptians as early as the time of the composition of the Joseph Smith Papyri (ca. 300–30 BC)."  The article itemizes some of these ancient sources:

Wait!  who cares?  What stories?  The very story of the BoA?  The point I made was in describing, as I understand it, Ritner's view--the BoA's story is not found in ancient Egypt.  

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Why is Artapanus not a sufficient source for you?

Source for what?  You seem confused what the point is.  The point is simply--the BoA story is not found in ancient Egypt.   

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Is it your position that Joseph Smith knew about Artapanus writing about Abraham teaching astronomy to the Egyptian Pharaoh, and included that detail in the BoA?  Or is it just happenstance that an ancient source presents this story and Joseph Smith just stumbled into replicating it?

Again, you are barking up a wrong tree.  I did not give my view.  I gave what I understand to be Ritner's view.  If you want to argue whether Ritner thinks Artapanus' writings show that BoA story to be true, then, you might want to start by listening to the hours and hous of his views, given in the podcast.  

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As Daniel Peterson commented: "It's amazing what Joseph Smith was able to pick up on the western frontier."

Indeed.

I don't think such a claim is meaningful to any Egyptian scholar outside of Mormonism.  So, it's kind of meaningless other than a claim to bolster faith.  

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Hecateus of Abdera?  Eupolemus?  Artapanus?  Philo?  The Testament of Abraham?

These aren't ancient Egyptian sources talking about Abraham in Egypt?

Yes, Joseph Smith talked about Abraham in Egypt, yes ancient sources, particularly Jewish ones mentioned it too.  As the Church essay on the topic indicates, Joseph likely had access to sources that talked about these things.  Teryl Givens uses bricolage as the term to describe what Joseph was doing with these scriptures.  It can't possibly be surprising that vague hits found in sources available in Joseph's day as anything but non hits.  

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I'm not sure what you are saying.  Did you even read the POGPC article?

Odd since this topic is about Robert Ritner's podcast.  Did you even listen to it?  

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"Beats me?"  That's it?  That's all you've got?  Desite having commented extensively about the Book of Abraham?

yup.

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Funny how often we end up with glib conclusions like this.  You aren't the first one to be unwilling/unable to formulate or defend a counter-argument relative to the claims of the Church.  Daniel Peterson has commented on the tendency of critics who, when pressed in an adversarial construct, suddenly go all quiet and agnostic and conveniently ambivalent about such controversies.  They are vocally adamant about the Church's position being necessarily and demonstrably wrong, but then become curiously uncurious when asked to provide and substantiate and defend a coherent alternative explanation for, say, the source of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham.  

YOu seriously think there are no responses from critics of the BoA?  The topic of this discussion is Ritner's many hours of criticism.  He addresses apologist's arguments.  

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Some excerpts from DCP:

I think DCP has a fair point.  I think it's intellectually incumbent upon people like you to provide at least some sort of alternative explanation for, say, how Joseph Smith ended up with including a narrative about Abraham teaching astronomy to the Pharaoh.  Was it just a lucky guess? 

WHy?  That's not my argument.  You have twisted my comment summarizing what I view as Ritner's position with my position.  There's no argument to be made when you fail to follow the conversation.  

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See also here (also by Dr. Peterson) (emphasis added):

With respect, I think you are taking a Dale Morgan-esque approach that just doesn't work for me.  I think it is problematic to, as Morgan put it, "look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church."  This is a heads-the-Church-loses-tails-the-Church-loses approach.  

No.  I think Givens offers some interesting ideas.  However, I'm not sure he has fully considered the ramifications of this approach.  Mark Johnson has some interesting comments on this here:

Indeed.

In any event, Givens is not seeking to upend or contradict the Church's claims about the Book of Abraham.  I am reminded here of the pretty-darn-embarrassing misreading/misrepresentation of Givens by Consig and Analytics last year.  Quoth Analytics:

I responded:

And here:

I continue to feel a bit perplexed at

  • A) critics and skeptics taking a Dale Morgan-esque I-will-look-everywhere-for-explanations-except-to-the-ONE-explanation-that-is-the-position-of-the-church approach to the Church's claims,
  • B) critics and skeptics adopting a "guerrilla warfare" attitude when examining the BOM, BOA, etc. (endlessly disputing the Church's explanation of the BOM, BOA, etc., while not actually getting around to formulating a coherent counter-explanation);
  • C) critics and skeptics suddenly going all quiet and agnostic and conveniently ambivelant about issues pertaining to the Church when pressed to present a coherent counter-explanation for these things, and
  • D) critics and skeptics not really listening to, or meaningfully interacting with, what the Church and its scholars and apologists are actually saying, and instead trying to distort, misconstrue, misstate and mischaracterize what we are saying so as to put us in the worst possible light (such as what Consig and Analytics did re: Givens).

Responses like "beats me" and “I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies" are singularly unimpressive to me, particularly in 2020, and particularly given the wealth of readily-available information and scholarship we have seen come out in the last many years.  

I returned from my mission in 1995, and ever since then have made studying the Restored Gospel a significant priority in my life.  I think it's fair to say that I am both a "defender of the faith" and a long-time consumer of apologetic and scholarly materials.  In the aggregate I have found such materials to be very helpful in my faith journey.  They are a wonderful supplement to the spiritual and personal experiences I have had which have pursuaded me to that the Church is what it claims to be. 

Since law school, I have come to appreciate the value of adversarial examination of disputed issues.  My daily, bread-and-butter work is to examine factual and legal issues about which the parties pretty much always have divergent viewpoints, asssessments, conclusions, etc.  I like how the adversarial process can (can, mind you) help the parties sift through the facts and the law to get to a more accurate and more complete understanding of A) what really happened, and B) what the law should do about what really happened.

I have had many experiences in which I have had to backtrack and reconsider my client's factual and/or legal position because my grasp of the facts and/or the law was materially incorrect.  My errors have become manifest because, through the adversarial process, people who who do share my perspective/biases have shown me where I went wrong.  These are difficult and humbling, but also very useful, learning experiences for me.

However, I have also had many other experiences where my grasp of the facts and the law has been largely confirmed and vindicated through this same adversarial setting and process.  Having worked vary hard in law school to gain some mastery of the basics of the practice of law, and then having spent 15+ years practicing law, it is gratifying to have had such experiences.

I have spent the last 25+ years reading what the Church and its scholars/apologists have said about controversies and difficulties pertaining to the claims of the Church.  I have also spent most of that time reading what critics of my faith have to say about such things, and also interacting with many of them in an adversarial setting (message boards).  The claims of the Church, and critiques and criticisms of those claims, are examined, and re-examined.  I have actively involved myself in many of these examinations.

I feel like I am a lot more informed than I was in 1995, and a lot more clear-eyed in my perception of and perspective on the Church and its claims.  But more to the point, examining the Church's claims in an adversarial setting has helped me feel vindicated in my assessment of the Restored Gospel.  I have long believed that the Church's claims are substantively true, but I have spent the last 25 years testing and debating those claims in an adversarial setting.  I have been humbled a lot.  I have had to correct and re-assess some of what I believe and why.  But in the main, I am very happy with the cumulative results of these efforts.  Through revelation, through day-to-day experiences, through prolonged study and examination (including reviewing critical assessments/arguments), I have come to find that the Church's claims are reasonable, resilient, eminently defensible, and substantively true.

Thanks,

-Smac

Good for you, Smac.  This feels like a pretty solid effort to change the subject.  I admit I"m not feeling very concerned about anyone's intentions.  They tell me their intentions and I take it for what it is.  I think there is plenty brought up by Ritner that is worth discussing, but it appears you haven't given a minute's time to the topic to discuss it.  You have run off trying to claim Ritner's scholarship is biased, and that my view of Ritner's position is my own view.  You've quoted a bunch of stuff that doesn't address the topic.  I don't even know what to make of it.  I don't really feel interested to continue down the rabbit trail, to be honest.  

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

Oh brother.  If you want to make this a contest about questioning other people's intentions because, well, it's easy, then have fun playing that game.  

Where have I not respected Muhlestein's?  

I'm going with what Muhlestein said.  You even agreed.  His goal is not objectivity....but it is agenda driven--attempting to find ways to show the BoA could be true.  As I said you agreed with Muhlestein's approach, now you want to twist it into Muhlestein striving for objectivity?  

 

Good.  So Peterson who has no involvement apparently claimed something untrue about the event.  Not sure that provides good reason to question Ritner's motives and intentions.  

Odd you characterize that as if Ritner is the one who is hostile.  Sounds to me like you are intent on painting Ritner as something you simply don't know about all to make an apologetic point.  

uh...it is plainly racial discrimination.  It doesn't matter if it's charged words, that is clearly what it is.  Thus, I disagree with this characterization.  It hardly means he's being anything but objective.  

Rimini's not an Egyptologist.  Why would he critique the Egyptology discussion?  It's a weird comparison--apples and oranges.  The problem here is, if something is clearly wrong, no matter how it's stated it needs to be stated.  Rimini has no grounds to declare Joseph wrong in terms of the Egyptian, Ritner does--apples and oranges.  And not really making your point, if you ask me. 

Beats me.  But i"m not an Egyptologist.  And niether are you.  He might be going rogue here, but how do we know?  This is largely my point.  

Not much.  Apparently Gee refused to seek peer review and that frustrated Ritner.  Sounds like peer review would have been a good move to me.  

Fine.  As I said, continue to play that game.  It's a useless one if you ask me.  Decrying people's intentions is silly.  If they bring up their intentions, as Muhlestein did, then perhaps it's fair to comment, as I see it.  All of these attacks on Ritner have little to do with his scholarship it seems to me.  It's all simply a matter of complaining about the words he chose.  I don't think that speaks to his scholarship at all.  I find it a distraction and a weaselly way to approach discussion, to be honest.  

I'm not sure what if anything Ritner got wrong here.  the 11 extant fragments were employed for the basis for the BoA.  How is that controversial?  I don't know.  If Morris is suggesting that the BoA material could have been burned, then great.  Anything's possible.  But as of now, all we know is what we see.  The fascimiles that KEP all point to material in the extant fragments.    

Beats me.  He hasn't said there is much like Muhlestein admitted to.  

I'm fair to both sides.  I gave Muhlestein his due.  I quoted him and let him speak for himself.    

No.  He characterized himself as such.  I simply pointed that out to you.  

It doesn't appear MOrris offers anything relevant to the scholarship in question.  He simply seems displeased with Ritner's tone.  Yiptey.  I'm not interested in getting into such petty disputes.  

Wait!  who cares?  What stories?  The very story of the BoA?  The point I made was in describing, as I understand it, Ritner's view--the BoA's story is not found in ancient Egypt.  

Source for what?  You seem confused what the point is.  The point is simply--the BoA story is not found in ancient Egypt.   

Again, you are barking up a wrong tree.  I did not give my view.  I gave what I understand to be Ritner's view.  If you want to argue whether Ritner thinks Artapanus' writings show that BoA story to be true, then, you might want to start by listening to the hours and hous of his views, given in the podcast.  

I don't think such a claim is meaningful to any Egyptian scholar outside of Mormonism.  So, it's kind of meaningless other than a claim to bolster faith.  

Yes, Joseph Smith talked about Abraham in Egypt, yes ancient sources, particularly Jewish ones mentioned it too.  As the Church essay on the topic indicates, Joseph likely had access to sources that talked about these things.  Teryl Givens uses bricolage as the term to describe what Joseph was doing with these scriptures.  It can't possibly be surprising that vague hits found in sources available in Joseph's day as anything but non hits.  

Odd since this topic is about Robert Ritner's podcast.  Did you even listen to it?  

yup.

YOu seriously think there are no responses from critics of the BoA?  The topic of this discussion is Ritner's many hours of criticism.  He addresses apologist's arguments.  

WHy?  That's not my argument.  You have twisted my comment summarizing what I view as Ritner's position with my position.  There's no argument to be made when you fail to follow the conversation.  

Good for you, Smac.  This feels like a pretty solid effort to change the subject.  I admit I"m not feeling very concerned about anyone's intentions.  They tell me their intentions and I take it for what it is.  I think there is plenty brought up by Ritner that is worth discussing, but it appears you haven't given a minute's time to the topic to discuss it.  You have run off trying to claim Ritner's scholarship is biased, and that my view of Ritner's position is my own view.  You've quoted a bunch of stuff that doesn't address the topic.  I don't even know what to make of it.  I don't really feel interested to continue down the rabbit trail, to be honest.  

Seems to me, no one has listened at all to the podcasts that think Ritner is wrong. I'd love it if they would listen a bit, to pin point exactly what Ritner is saying is wrong. That would be most helpful, because without that we aren't getting anywhere. But honestly...it may just be that faith rules here, and they have faith in JS and the church. So nothing is going to get in between that. 

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1 hour ago, stemelbow said:

Teryl Givens uses bricolage as the term to describe what Joseph was doing with these scriptures. 

You need to stop abusing Terryl Givens to try to make your points. Givens was talking about the facsimiles, not all of Joseph's scripture. 

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18 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Seems to me, no one has listened at all to the podcasts that think Ritner is wrong. I'd love it if they would listen a bit, to pin point exactly what Ritner is saying is wrong. That would be most helpful, because without that we aren't getting anywhere. But honestly...it may just be that faith rules here, and they have faith in JS and the church. So nothing is going to get in between that. 

We have. @Robert F. Smith and @gav have pointed out that Ritner's reconstruction of Facsimile 1 is likely wrong. But beyond that, we've stepped beyond the minutiae and lampooned the central pillar beneath Egyptological attacks on the Book of Abraham: that the presence of the Book of the Dead surrounding Facsimile 1 is a defeater for the Book of Abraham's divine provenance. 

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3 hours ago, stemelbow said:

Oh brother.  If you want to make this a contest about questioning other people's intentions because, well, it's easy, then have fun playing that game.  

You have been juxtaposting Ritner's motives/intentions with Muhlestein's.  I am disagreeing with you on that point.

You started the "game."

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I'm going with what Muhlestein said.  You even agreed.  His goal is not objectivity....but it is agenda driven--attempting to find ways to show the BoA could be true. 

And you juxtaposed this with Ritner, whom you have characterized as being "objective" and having an "agenda" of "truth" and "good solid objective scholarship." 

Ritner is objective, Muhlestein is "agenda driven."

This is you not "questioning other people's intentions?"

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uh...it is plainly racial discrimination.  It doesn't matter if it's charged words, that is clearly what it is.  Thus, I disagree with this characterization. 

What?  How can you say you disagree with a "characterization" when "charged words" don't "matter?"

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It hardly means he's being anything but objective.  

Actually, yes, it can mean just that.  Using inflammatory / derisive / contemptuous language in a scholarly article tends to indicate a lack of objectivity.

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Well?  It sure seems like Ritner's editorializing is far from "objective" or "impartial."  Who is correct here, you or Morris?

Rimini's not an Egyptologist. 

So what?  He's a scholar.  Are Egyptologists in their own little sphere?  Are they excused from normative standards/expectations of scholars?

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Why would he critique the Egyptology discussion?

He described the Book of Abraham is clinical, objective terms because it was a part of the subject of his 2002 book about Joseph Smith.

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It's a weird comparison--apples and oranges. 

Nope.  Let's look again at what Morris said:

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Ritner apparently believes that those who engage in these kinds of discussions ought to follow basic standards of good scholarship.  I agree. Ritner does not say precisely what those standards are, but I suggest the following:

  • Avoiding sarcastic language or ad hominem arguments
  • Making explicit and fair assumptions
  • Following sound methodology
  • Documenting arguable facts
  • Eschewing ax-grinding

Morris proceeds to give a number of examples of Ritner resorting to and relying on these bulleted items, and contrasting him with other scholars (Remini, Baer, the Ostlings) who avoid them.

And it's not just a matter of style in lieu of substance.  Morris suggests that Ritner let his animosity against Gee and the Church affect his scholarship to some extent.  So not only is his scholarship lacking in the appearance of objectivity by resorting to, as Morris put it, "sarcastic and contemptuous language," the substance of his scholarship seems to have been affected as well.  

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The problem here is, if something is clearly wrong, no matter how it's stated it needs to be stated.

Sure.  But "how it's stated" still matters.  Just ask any attorney.  Lawyers get in trouble all the time for resorting to sarcasm, insults, etc. in legal briefs - the very failings exhibited by Ritner over and over.  

What we say about a topic is important.  How we say it is also important.

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Rimini has no grounds to declare Joseph wrong in terms of the Egyptian, Ritner does--apples and oranges.

Remini managed to be clinical / objective / scholarly when discussing Joseph Smith.  Ritner's scholarship is often lacking in these attributes.

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Huh.  Seems like Ritner "rebuts Gee" by citing . . . Ritner.  He quotes his own reconstruction of the text to rebut Gee.  This is, in your view, "objective" scholarship?

Beats me. 

There you go again.

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But i"m not an Egyptologist.  And niether are you. 

LOL.  You can present your perspective on Ritner's scholarship (as "objective" and having an "agenda" of "truth" and "good solid objective scholarship") despite not being an Egyptologist,   but when I provide my perspective on Ritner's scholarship, suddenly a degree in Egyptology is required?

One set of rules for thee, another set for me?

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He might be going rogue here, but how do we know?  This is largely my point.  

Um, what?  "How do we know?"  By reading his scholarship.  We lack the training and skills necessary to critique much of Ritner's scholarship, but plenty of it is still open for lay critique (as Morris did).  See here:

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There is also reason to believe that Ritner’s anti-Mormon sentiments affect his translation. As noted above, Ritner offers the following translation for a text fragment identified as column 4 in JSP I: [“O Anubis(?), . . .]. He explains that “a divine name (Anubis?) must be lost here, since the following address shifts from Hor to a deity on his behalf.” This is hardly incidental, however, because, as Ritner points out, “This passage rebuts Gee” (JNES, p. 169 n. 51). Since Ritner is relying on his own reconstruction of the text to rebut John Gee, the question is, How did Baer translate this fragment? Baer offered no translation at all. “Too little is left of line 4 to permit even a guess at what it said,” he wrote. Likewise, Rhodes offers no translation, simply an ellipsis indicating missing text. Ritner, however, suggests a new interpretation that just happens to give him an advantage in his dispute with Gee—and he fails to inform the reader of Baer’s comment on the matter.

Ritner "rebuts" Gee by quoting . . . Ritner.  This seems problematic from a scholarly point of view, particularly given that Ritner is pointing to his own reconstruction of missing text to rebut Gee.

Baer said that “Too little is left of line 4 to permit even a guess at what it said."  And yet Ritner felt free to not only "guess at what it said," but to use his (Ritner's) guess to declare that "This passage rebuts Gee" (a conclusion he leads his readers to, while neglecting to point them to "Baer's comment ont he matter).

You are previously pretty adamant about Ritner being "objective" and having an "agenda" of "truth" and "good solid objective scholarship."  The above seems like a pretty good example of A) Ritner lacking objectivity, B) Ritner having an ax to grind vis-à-vis Gee (and, presumably the Church), and C) Ritner's lack of objectivity affecting the substance of his scholarship.

And your response to this is "Beats me" and "I'm not an Egyptologist."

Oh.

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Morris drops a long footnote expressing concern about Dr. Ritner using a scholarly venue to vent about his personal dispute with Gee:

What are your thoughts about this?  

Not much. 

Hmm.  I figured as much.

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Apparently Gee refused to seek peer review and that frustrated Ritner.  Sounds like peer review would have been a good move to me.  

A very admirable dodge.  The point was not about Gee's purported unwillingness to work with Ritner (and given Ritner's removal from Gee's dissertation committee, Gee's apparent qualms appear to have had some merit).  Rather, the point was about Ritner "using a scholarly venue to vent about his personal dispute with Gee."

This is another example of Dr. Ritner's apparent lack of objectivity.  You previously felt fine with characterizing Ritner as "objective" and having an "agenda" of "truth" and "good solid objective scholarship."  But when presented with countervailing examples, all you've got is "beats me" and "I'm not an Egyptologist" and having "not much" thoughts.

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Are you sure you want to continue to juxtpose Ritner's purported "objective" approach to the BoA with Muhlestein's purportedly biased/"apologetic" approach?  As I see it, Ritner's Dialogue article brings his (apparent lack of) objectivity, and his apparent biases, into reasonable dispute.

Fine.  As I said, continue to play that game.  It's a useless one if you ask me.  Decrying people's intentions is silly. 

Funny, then, that you chose to introduce that "game" into this thread.

You've had plenty to say about Ritner's and Muhlestein's "intentions."  

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If they bring up their intentions, as Muhlestein did, then perhaps it's fair to comment, as I see it. 

But when you bring up Ritner's intentions ("His agenda appears to be truth,  good solid objective scholarship"), then somehow it is not "fair to comment"?  It becomes a "game" that is "silly"?

That seems like a fairly brazen double standard, Stem.

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All of these attacks on Ritner have little to do with his scholarship it seems to me. 

Indications of a lack of objectivity have "little to do with his scholarship?"

Really?  Then why do you care about Muhlestein's "agenda"?  Why not just address Muhlestein's scholarship on its own?

You are free to question Muhlestein's scholarship by questioning his motives / agenda / biases, but we are not similarly at liberty to question Ritner's scholarship by questioning his motives / agenda / biases?

Again, this seems like a fairly brazen double standard. 

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It's all simply a matter of complaining about the words he chose. 

No, it's about quite a bit more than that.

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I don't think that speaks to his scholarship at all.

Quelle surprise.

Morris gives some examples where his biases/animus seem to affect his scholarship.

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I find it a distraction and a weaselly way to approach discussion, to be honest.

And I find flagrant double standards weaselly.

And you are the one that introduced this "distraction" into this thread by juxtaposting Ritner's motives with Muhlestein's.

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Morris does a pretty good job of laying out examples of Dr. Ritner's lack of objectivity and impartiality in his scholarship.

I'm not sure what if anything Ritner got wrong here. 

Well, we could discuss it.  But you just finished dismissing the examples out-of-hand by calling citation to them a "silly" "game" that is "weaselly."

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the 11 extant fragments were employed for the basis for the BoA.  How is that controversial?  I don't know. 

That is an exceedingly "controversial" claim.  Hugely.  I am really quite surprised that you seem to be saying this with a straight face.  

Anyway, not only is the substance of what you are saying controversial, how it is presented by the purportedly "objective" scholar, Dr. Ritner, is very much in dispute.  As Morris put it:

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Nor is Ritner following in the tradition of Wilson or Baer when he goes out of his way to attack Joseph Smith, the Church of Jesus Christ, and BYU scholars. In his discussion of JSP II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX (all of which are fragments from the Book of the Dead—Egyptian religious documents typically buried with the dead), Wilson limits his comments to the papyri themselves, never making snide remarks about the position of the Church of Jesus Christ. His good will is apparent in his concluding sentence: “The Church may well be proud to have such a text.”

Similarly, Baer’s tone is nonhostile. He certainly agrees with Ritner that the Breathing Permit of Hor has nothing to do with Abraham, but he does not use terms such as “outlandish,” “nonsense,” “hopeless,” or “uninspired” to describe Joseph Smith’s interpretation. After giving his preliminary translation, Baer comments: “This is as far as an Egyptologist can go in studying the document that Joseph Smith considered to be a ‘roll’ which ‘contained the writings of Abraham.’ The Egyptologist interprets it differently, relying on a considerable body of parallel data, research, and knowledge that has accumulated over the past 146 years since Champollion first deciphered Egyptian—none of which had really become known in America in the 1830’s. At this point, the Latter-day Saint historian and theologian must take over.”

By making personal attacks, Ritner produces a paper that is less scholarly than those of Wilson or Baer. 

Remember, you are the one that held up Ritner's scholarship as "objective."  You are the one that accused Muhlestein of having "a goal other than objectivity."

But now that Ritner's objectivity is brought into question, you respond with evasions and jabs ("beats me" and "I'm not an Egyptologist" and "games" and "silly" and "weaselly" and so on).

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If Morris is suggesting that the BoA material could have been burned, then great.  Anything's possible.  But as of now, all we know is what we see. 

This is flagrantly, spectacularly wrong.  We know a lot more than just "what we see."  There are considerable amounts of "known unknowns" as pertaining to the Book of Abraham.  See, e.g., Gee's compilation of eyewitness statements:

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Eyewitnesses from the Nauvoo period (1839–1844) describe “a quantity of records, written on papyrus, in Egyptian hieroglyphics,”32 including (1) some papyri “preserved under glass,”33 described as “a number of glazed slides, like picture frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics”;34 (2) “a long roll of manuscript”35 that contained the Book of Abraham;36 (3) “another roll”;37 (4) and “two or three other small pieces of papyrus with astronomical calculations, epitaphs, &c.”38 Only the mounted fragments ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and thence were given back to the Church of Jesus Christ. When eyewitnesses described the vignettes as being of the mounted fragments, they can be matched with the fragments from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; but when the vignettes described are on the rolls, the descriptions do not match any of the fragments from the Met. Gustavus Seyffarth’s 1856 catalog of the Wood Museum indicates that some of the papyri were there.  Those papyri went to Chicago and were burned in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Whatever we might imagine their contents to be is only conjecture. Both Mormon and non-Mormon eyewitnesses from the nineteenth century agree that it was a “roll of papyrus from which our prophet translated the Book of Abraham,”39 meaning the “long roll of manuscript” and not one of the mounted fragments that eventually ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.40
---
32. William S. West, A Few Interesting Facts Respecting the Rise, Progress, and Pretensions of the Mormons (Warren, OH, 1837), 5, cited in Todd, Saga of the Book of Abraham, 196–97.
33. Quincy, Figures of the Past, 386.
34. Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons; or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842 (London: Rivington, 1843), 22–23.
35. Charlotte Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843, printed in “A Girl’s Letters from Nauvoo,” Overland Monthly 16/96 (December 1890): 624, as cited in Todd, Saga of the Book of Abraham, 245.
36. Jerusha W. Blanchard, “Reminiscences of the Granddaughter of Hyrum Smith,” Relief Society Magazine 9/1 (1922): 9; and Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843.
37. Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843.
38. Oliver Cowdery to William Frye, 22 December 1835, printed in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 2 (December 1835): 234.
39. Blanchard, “Reminiscences,” 9; and Haven to her mother, 19 February 1843.
40. For the distribution of the manuscript fragments, see John Gee, “Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence of the Joseph Smith Papyri,” in The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, ed.  Stephen D. Ricks et al. (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 188–91; and John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000), 10–13.

There are all sorts of issues that arise from the historical record about how many scrolls there were, their lengths, their relationships to the vignettes and fragments, Seyffarth’s 1856 catalog, the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, and so on.

It is very surprising to see you blithely declare that "as of now, all we know is what we see," and that "the 11 extant fragments were employed for the basis for the BoA."  I invite you to study this matter is more detail.  Even though you obviously disagree with Gee and Muhlestein, I hope you someday at least read what they have written.

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The fascimiles that KEP all point to material in the extant fragments.

Again, I invite you to study this matter in further detail.  POGP has a good introduction (published in January 2020) The “Kirtland Egyptian Papers” and the Book of Abraham

Some excerpts:

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{The KEP}  “can be divided into two fairly distinct parts: “(1) those papers that center primarily on the text of the Book of Abraham and (2) those that focus on alphabet and grammar material that the authors connected to the ancient Egyptian language.” The Abraham manuscripts (1) are what contain the extant English text of the Book of Abraham. These manuscripts date from between mid-1835 to early-1842 and are in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps, Warren Parrish, Frederick G. Williams, and Willard Richards. The Egyptian-language manuscripts (2) are comprised of a hodgepodge of documents that transcribe portions of the characters from the Egyptian papyri and appear to attempt to systematize an understanding of the Egyptian language in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Warren Parrish. While these two groups can be broadly distinguished, “it should also be understood that the Abraham documents contain a certain amount of Egyptian material and the Egyptian papers include a certain amount of Abraham material.” Because of this, it is clear that there is some kind of relationship between these two groups.

Although there is an apparent relationship between these two groups of documents, because of conflicting interpretations of the historical data among scholars “almost every aspect of these documents is disputed: their authorship, their date, their purpose, their relationship with the Book of Abraham, their relationship with the Joseph Smith Papyri, their relationship with each other, what the documents are or were intended to be, and even whether the documents form a discrete or coherent group.” This uncertainty has unfortunately resulted in a lack of consensus on how to understand this collection.

(Emphasis added)

Jeff Lindsay also has some interesting observations about the fragments and the KEP (when discussing The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translations ("JSPRT")) :

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From an apologetic perspective, of course, it is interesting that the KEP contains a great deal of “Egyptian” not from the scrolls and explanations/definitions that are not part of the Book of Abraham but apparently from other preexisting texts. In fact, for the GAEL and the Egyptian Alphabet documents, one can examine the characters, their definitions, and the existence of any apparently related glyphs on the key existing scroll (Fragment of Breathing Permit for Horus-A), and see that, of the 62 characters assigned a meaning, only four (2.32, 2.41, 2.42, and 3.11) have a clear connection to a character on the papyrus, with three more characters (2.36, 2.40, and 3.15) possibly, but with less certainty, being found on the papyrus. At best, then, it appears that only 7 of the 62 characters given meanings in the GAEL and the Egyptian Alphabet documents come from actual Egyptian. This raises serious questions about the purpose and use of these documents and calls into question claims that Joseph was using them to create the Book of Abraham as a translation from an existing papyrus fragment. Such factual observations should have been given emphasis in the commentary, but seem to have been overlooked in JSPRT4. Fortunately, determined readers can discover this for themselves using the published documents and the helpful “Comparison of Characters” section.

Plenty of stuff to chew on.  Lots of unknowns.  Lots of room for informed and principled disagreement.  

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What's that I figured filtered meant, from his {Muhelstein's} statement.  He takes all the evidence then filters it to fit his assumption, no?  That's what he said, it seems to me.

Is there any similar "filtering" going on with Dr. Ritner (particularly given the issues raised by Morris, some of which are noted above)?

Beats me.  He hasn't said there is much like Muhlestein admitted to.  

And yet Morris has quoted quite a bit of Ritner's material that gives rise to reasonable questions about his "filters."

But rather than address what Morris has presented, all you've got is "Beats me."

Oh.

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You characterize the scholar who shares your antipathy toward the Church and its doctrines as "objective," as having an "agenda" of seeking "truth" through "good solid objective scholarship."

I'm fair to both sides.  I gave Muhlestein his due.  I quoted him and let him speak for himself.    

I'm content to let the reader decide how "fair" you've been in your treatment of Muhlestein (particularly when contrasted with your praise of Ritner and your curious indifference to Morris's critique of Ritner's scholarship).

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See the Morris article, quoted at length above.

It doesn't appear Morris offers anything relevant to the scholarship in question. 

Sure he does.  I've quoted such relevant critiques a few times now.  And your response is "beats me."

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He simply seems displeased with Ritner's tone.  Yiptey.  I'm not interested in getting into such petty disputes.  

Funny, then, that you introduced that "petty dispute" into this thread.

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Perhaps there are stories that crept in Hebrew tradition for instance, but that's not finding the BoA story in ancient Egypt. 

So you are speaking of ancient Egyptian sources of information about Abraham?

In The Ancient Egyptian View of Abrahamthe author states that "evidence survives today indicating that stories about Abraham were known to the ancient Egyptians as early as the time of the composition of the Joseph Smith Papyri (ca. 300–30 BC)."  The article itemizes some of these ancient sources:

Wait!  who cares?  What stories?  The very story of the BoA? 

The contents of the Book of Abraham.

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The point I made was in describing, as I understand it, Ritner's view--the BoA's story is not found in ancient Egypt.

And the point I am making is that elements of "the BoA's story" are "found in ancient Egypt."

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Why is Artapanus not a sufficient source for you?

Source for what? 

A source for part of "the BoA's story" being found in ancient Egypt.

“In the first century BC, the Egyptian Jew Artapanus wrote an account of Abraham teaching astronomy to the Egyptian Pharaoh.”

Compare that with Joseph Smith's interpretation of Facsimile No. 3:

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book_of_abraham_facsimilie_3.png
Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king...
...
Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court.

From Morris:

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Furthermore, Ritner does not inform his readers that certain elements of the Book of Abraham also appear in ancient or medieval texts. Take, for example, Facsimile 3, which depicts, as Ritner puts it, "enthroned Abraham lecturing the male Pharaoh (actually enthroned Osiris with the female Isis)."  In what Ritner describes as nonsense, Joseph Smith claimed that Abraham is "sitting upon Pharoah's throne . . . reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy" (Facsimile 3, explanation).

Clearly, Joseph Smith's interpretation did not come from Genesis (where there is no discussion of Abraham doing such a thing). From Ritner's point of view, therefore, this must qualify as one of Joseph's "uninspired fantasies." But going a layer deeper reveals interesting complexities. A number of ancient texts, for example, state that Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians. Citing the Jewish writer Artapanus (who lived prior to the first century BC), a fourth-century bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius, states: "They were called Hebrews after Abraham. [Artapanus] says that the latter came to Egypt with all his household to the Egyptian king Pharethothes, and taught him astrology, that he remained there twenty years and then departed again for the regions of Syria."

As for Abraham sitting on a king's throne—another detail not mentioned in Genesis—note this example from Qisas al-Anbiya' (Stories of the Prophets), an Islamic text compiled in AD 1310: "The chamberlain brought Abraham to the king. The king looked at Abraham; he was good looking and handsome. The king honoured Abraham and seated him at his side."

Well?  How do you account for Joseph Smith's interpretation, which involves

  • A) Abraham
  • B) in Egypt,
  • C) teaching astronomy,
  • D) to the king
  • E) while sitting on the king's throne
  • F) because the king has chosen to honor or be polite to Abraham?

How do you account for A-D appearing the writings of Artapanus?

How do you account for D-F apparing in Qisas al-Anbiya?

Were these just lucky guesses?  

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You seem confused what the point is.  The point is simply--the BoA story is not found in ancient Egypt.   

No, that's not the point.  Because that point is at least partly false.  As Morris notes, "Ritner does not inform his readers that certain elements of the Book of Abraham also appear in ancient or medieval texts."

Ritner doesn't address this.  You aren't addressing it (even when it's practically served up to you on a silver platter).

That's the point, I think.

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Again, you are barking up a wrong tree.  I did not give my view.  I gave what I understand to be Ritner's view. 

"Ritner's view" omits what Morris described above.

You seemed to be advocating or advancing "Ritner's view."  Now you seem to be backing off that.  Well, okay.  You were just parroting him?  You don't subscribe to his assessment?

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As Daniel Peterson commented: "It's amazing what Joseph Smith was able to pick up on the western frontier."

I don't think such a claim is meaningful to any Egyptian scholar outside of Mormonism. 

Ah.  Argumentum ad populum.  

You aren't the first one to do this.  See here:

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I think he's relying on a weird confluence of argumentum ad populum (aka appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, appeal to democracy, appeal to popularity, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, bandwagon fallacy, vox populi, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum ("appeal to the number"), fickle crowd syndrome, and consensus gentium ("agreement of the clans")) and and argument from authority.

Lots of scholars don't pay attention to or interact with LDS scholarship and evidence about the historicity and the Book of Mormon, ergo that scholarship/evidence "isn't good."

I'm not really persuaded by scholarly indifference, whether it be about the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham.

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So, it's kind of meaningless other than a claim to bolster faith.

LOL.  Scholarship only has meaning if it's popular?  Widespread?  Garnering tons of attention in academia?

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Hecateus of Abdera?  Eupolemus?  Artapanus?  Philo?  The Testament of Abraham?

These aren't ancient Egyptian sources talking about Abraham in Egypt?

Yes, Joseph Smith talked about Abraham in Egypt, yes ancient sources, particularly Jewish ones mentioned it too.

Yes.  So why did Ritner not address these?  Why are you not addressing them?  

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As the Church essay on the topic indicates, Joseph likely had access to sources that talked about these things. 

It does?  CFR, please.  The closest think I can find in the essay is this:

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Other details in the book of Abraham are found in ancient traditions located across the Near East. These include Terah, Abraham’s father, being an idolator; a famine striking Abraham’s homeland; Abraham’s familiarity with Egyptian idols; and Abraham’s being younger than 75 years old when he left Haran, as the biblical account states. Some of these extrabiblical elements were available in apocryphal books or biblical commentaries in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, but others were confined to nonbiblical traditions inaccessible or unknown to 19th-century Americans.

"Available in apocryphal books or biblical commentaries in Joseph Smith's lifetime" seems not quite the same as "Joseph likely had access to sources that talked about these things."

Meanwhile, what "sources" do you think Joseph had access to relative to his interpretation of Facsimile No. 3? 

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Teryl Givens uses bricolage as the term to describe what Joseph was doing with these scriptures.  It can't possibly be surprising that vague hits found in sources available in Joseph's day as anything but non hits.  

LOL.  Abraham teaching Pharaoh astronomy while Pharoah shows him respect is a "vague hit?"  I guess we'll have to disagree about that.

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"Beats me?"  That's it?  That's all you've got?  Desite having commented extensively about the Book of Abraham?

yup.

Well, okay then.

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Funny how often we end up with glib conclusions like this.  You aren't the first one to be unwilling/unable to formulate or defend a counter-argument relative to the claims of the Church.  Daniel Peterson has commented on the tendency of critics who, when pressed in an adversarial construct, suddenly go all quiet and agnostic and conveniently ambivalent about such controversies.  They are vocally adamant about the Church's position being necessarily and demonstrably wrong, but then become curiously uncurious when asked to provide and substantiate and defend a coherent alternative explanation for, say, the source of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham.  

You seriously think there are no responses from critics of the BoA? 

I never said "there are no responses from critics."

I said "Funny how often we end up with glib conclusions like {'Beats me' and 'Not sure it matters much to me'}."

And I stand by that.  With respect, when the chips are down, people like you usually don't have much to offer to people like me.  I'm quite willing to read what critics, including scholars like Ritner, have to say.  I've been doing that for years.  But when we really get to substantive analysis, folks like you usually back off, walk away, or merely come up with verbal shrugs like "beats me."

I'm reminded of a portion of an essay written by Daniel Peterson's (about critics' inability to formulate coherent alternative explanations for the Book of Mormon) :

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I want to suggest something like that in this case, that to me, the explanation of Joseph Smith is simple and elegant, and the alternative explanations just don’t work and they get more and more complex and it’s just too much for me, and so I’ve said sometimes that I simply don’t have the faith to disbelieve Joseph Smith’s story. I just can’t get there. I can’t do it. And I’ve tried. I’ve really tried to give it a serious look. I cannot put together hallucinatory explanations of the witnesses and stealing from Solomon Spaulding and stealing from Ethan Smith, and I’m just mentioning a few, and putting it all together. Joseph Smith, this incredibly learned young man who’s sitting there on the frontier.
...
I remember my friend Bill Hamblin once being in communication with a one-time, fairly prominent, ex-member critic of the Church and of the Book of Mormon. And he said, “Look, let’s assume for a moment that you’re right and that Joseph Smith did not have plates. Did he know that he didn’t have plates or did he think that he had the plates? In other words, was he a conscious deceiver, or was he in some sense mad?”

To which this critic responded: “I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Well, see, I think it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack.

Well to me, that simple-minded little dichotomy that this person refused to give an answer to, or refused to take part in, is still a really important question. If Joseph Smith didn’t have the plates, did he know that he didn’t have plates, or did he think that he did?

I further commented (same link) :

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Daniel Peterson and Bill Hamblin are addressing the evidence.  They are addressing the ramifications of divergent opinions about the origins of The Book of Mormon.  The LDS Church is that Joseph Smith was telling the truth.  That explanation, while audacious, is nevertheless "simple and elegant."  In contrast, alternative naturalistic explanations "just don't work and they get more and more complex," to the point of implausibility (and operating well beyond any notions of supporting evidence).  Dr. Peterson, noting this implausibility to a critic, got a response of "I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies.”

Here's we're getting a response ("I'm not sure we're even speaking the same language") that is saying pretty much the same thing.  It's a refusal to address the evidence.  A refusal to explore and acknowledge the ramifications (and, frankly, the flaws) in the alternative naturalistic explanations for The Book of Mormon.  

Of course, the critics/opponents of the Church are not obligated to provide a coherent counter-explanation for The Book of Mormon.  But the point is, they have not been able to.  We're coming up on nearly 200 years since the original publication of the text, and yet when the chips are down, and when a well-informed person like Daniel Peterson (or Ryan Dahle) argues for the plausibility of the LDS position, we don't get reasoned responses and rebuttals.  We get glib sarcasm.  We get curt dismissals.  We get anything but an engagement of the evidence.

This is part of why Daniel Peterson "can't manage to disbelieve," and why he suggests to critics (correctly, in my view) that "it’s intellectually incumbent upon people like that to, come on, give us an answer to this. Otherwise it’s like guerrilla warfare. You attack and attack and attack, you always withdraw, you never defend territory. You never have to stake out your own explanation, which then will be subject to criticism and attack."

This is likely why Ryan Dahle seems to be suggesting, in the absence of a coherent counter-explanation re: historicity, "the evidences in favor of faith are collectively better than the current competing arguments."

It's deja vu all over again, at least to some extent.

I'll be candid here.  I think the Book of Abraham is a tougher nut to crack than the Book of Mormon.  There are substantive and meaningful criticisms of the Church's position about its origins.  Ritner's critique, despite whatever flaws it has, is a formidable piece of scholarship.  Reasonable minds can certainly disagree about the BoA.  However, in the end I'm persuaded that we only have some (very) few portions of the papyri once owned by Joseph Smith, and that the most likely source of the BoA  - the long scroll - was destroyed in the Chicago Fire.  I think Muhlestein and Gee (and others) have done a pretty good job of marshaling evidence for this proposition, and that critics haven't really come up with persuasive counter-arguments.

Thus, I'll err on the side of faith.  The Book of Abraham is "downstream" from my testimony of the Book of Mormon, such that my beliefs about the latter inform my beliefs about the former.  The extant evidence allows for this.

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The topic of this discussion is Ritner's many hours of criticism.  He addresses apologist's arguments.

Sigh.  I'd like to hear what he has to say about the missing papyri.  And Facsimile No. 3.  Listening to Dehlin's meandering will make this much more of a chore than it needs to be.

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I think DCP has a fair point.  I think it's intellectually incumbent upon people like you to provide at least some sort of alternative explanation for, say, how Joseph Smith ended up with including a narrative about Abraham teaching astronomy to the Pharaoh.  Was it just a lucky guess? 

WHy?  That's not my argument. 

I'm not sure you have an argument, except to point to the Church's position and say "not that."

I'm reminded of this comment from Dr. 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.

In Risen Indeed, Stephen Davis remarks that 

Quote

believers point to something of an embarrassment in the position of those who do not believe in the resurrection: their inability to offer an acceptable alternative explanation of the known facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. The old nineteenth-century rationalistic explanations (hallucination, swoon theory, stolen body, wrong tomb, etc.) all seem to collapse of their own weight once spelled out, and no strong new theory has emerged as the consensus of scholars who deny that the resurrection occurred.

A similar situation obtains, in my judgment, with regard to the Book of Mormon and certain other elements of the Restoration. While, for instance, this or that aspect of the Book of Mormon can, hypothetically, be accounted for by means of something within Joseph Smith’s early nineteenth-century information environment, a fully comprehensive counterexplanation for Joseph’s claims remains promised but manifestly unprovided. Critics have disagreed over the nearly two centuries since the First Vision about whether Joseph was brilliant or stupid, whether he was sincerely hallucinating or cunningly conscious of his fraud, whether he concocted the Book of Mormon alone or with co-conspirators (their own identity either hotly debated or completely unknown), whether he was a cynical atheist or a pious fraud defending Christianity, and so forth.

(Emphasis added)

If your "argument" consists of, in essence, the Dale Morgan-esque "I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the church," then I'll leave you to it.

If you have something more to say, then I'd like to hear it.  For example, I'd like to hear what you have to say about Facsimile No. 3.

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Quote

I continue to feel a bit perplexed at

  • A) critics and skeptics taking a Dale Morgan-esque I-will-look-everywhere-for-explanations-except-to-the-ONE-explanation-that-is-the-position-of-the-church approach to the Church's claims,
  • B) critics and skeptics adopting a "guerrilla warfare" attitude when examining the BOM, BOA, etc. (endlessly disputing the Church's explanation of the BOM, BOA, etc., while not actually getting around to formulating a coherent counter-explanation);
  • C) critics and skeptics suddenly going all quiet and agnostic and conveniently ambivelant about issues pertaining to the Church when pressed to present a coherent counter-explanation for these things, and
  • D) critics and skeptics not really listening to, or meaningfully interacting with, what the Church and its scholars and apologists are actually saying, and instead trying to distort, misconstrue, misstate and mischaracterize what we are saying so as to put us in the worst possible light (such as what Consig and Analytics did re: Givens).

Responses like "beats me" and “I don’t have to lower myself to your simplistic little dichotomies" are singularly unimpressive to me, particularly in 2020, and particularly given the wealth of readily-available information and scholarship we have seen come out in the last many years.  
...
I feel like I am a lot more informed than I was in 1995, and a lot more clear-eyed in my perception of and perspective on the Church and its claims.  But more to the point, examining the Church's claims in an adversarial setting has helped me feel vindicated in my assessment of the Restored Gospel.  I have long believed that the Church's claims are substantively true, but I have spent the last 25 years testing and debating those claims in an adversarial setting.  I have been humbled a lot.  I have had to correct and re-assess some of what I believe and why.  But in the main, I am very happy with the cumulative results of these efforts.  Through revelation, through day-to-day experiences, through prolonged study and examination (including reviewing critical assessments/arguments), I have come to find that the Church's claims are reasonable, resilient, eminently defensible, and substantively true.

Good for you, Smac.  This feels like a pretty solid effort to change the subject. 

Nope.  Just an explanation of my perspective.  Perhaps a bit too longwinded...

Quote

I admit I"m not feeling very concerned about anyone's intentions.  They tell me their intentions and I take it for what it is. 

Okey doke.  I'm inclined to examine the substance of what they are saying to see if it matches up with their purported "intentions."

You've been trying really hard to characterize Dr. Ritner as "objective" and having an "agenda" of "truth" and "good solid objective scholarship."  You have simultaneously impugned Muhlestein's scholarship as "agenda"-driven.

I submit that Dr. Ritner has a pretty obvious "agenda," and that his has affected his scholarship.  The juxtaposition of his purported impartiality with Muhlestein's purported bias, then, seems less than apt.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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1 hour ago, OGHoosier said:

You need to stop abusing Terryl Givens to try to make your points. Givens was talking about the facsimiles, not all of Joseph's scripture. 

As discussed, my memory has it different than yours.  I'm happy to be shown I'm wrong, of course.  I haven't had a chance to consult the work.  Way busy today and tonight, might be tomorrow.  

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On 8/10/2020 at 11:03 AM, Tacenda said:

Seems to me, no one has listened at all to the podcasts that think Ritner is wrong. I'd love it if they would listen a bit, to pin point exactly what Ritner is saying is wrong. That would be most helpful, because without that we aren't getting anywhere. But honestly...it may just be that faith rules here, and they have faith in JS and the church. So nothing is going to get in between that. 

I'm reasonably sure someone will get around to parsing out Dr. Ritner's remarks.  This thread was only started a few days ago. 

Also, the podcasts are many, many hours long.  Critiquing such a presentation will take some time.

Also, most of us are enthusiastic amateurs.  I think we need heavier hitters to come along and provide an assessment.

Also, I think it's kinda misleading to imply what we are somehow afraid of listening to Ritner, that we excuse ourselves from meaningfully addressing controversies and critiques by saying "faith rules here" and "{we} have faith in JS and in the church."  That's nowhere near accurate.  Kind of taunting cheap shot, actually.  We address stuff like this all the time.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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43 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I'm reasonably sure someone get around to parsing out Dr. Ritner's remarks.  This thread was only started a few days ago. 

Also, the podcasts are many, many hours long.  Critiquing such a presentation will take some time.

Also, most of us are enthusiastic amateurs.  I think we need heavier hitters to come along and provide an assessment.

Also, I think it's kinda misleading to imply what we are somehow afraid of listening to Ritner, that we excuse ourselves from meaningfully addressing controversies and critiques by saying "faith rules here" and "{we} have faith in JS and in the church."  That's nowhere near accurate.  Kind of taunting cheap shot, actually.  We address stuff like this all the time.

Thanks,

-Smac

Sorry if I offended you, sometimes when podcasts are the main subject, we go on and on about the podcast but usually it isn't listened to and yet some still discuss, which makes it difficult to discuss having knowledge that they chose not to listen and see the same things. 

I just read the talk that Duncan mentioned on another thread by Dallin H. Oaks, and in the talk he mentions that faith is needed to decide if the BoM is true, so I assume he means that for the BoA as well. That is why I mentioned the faith thing. Although the following quote mentions some scholarship, faith is needed as well.

On the other hand, those who rely on a combination of revelation, faith, and scholarship can see and understand all of the complex issues of the Book of Mormon record, and it is only through that combination that the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon can be answered.

 

 

Edited by Tacenda
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5 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Sorry if I offended you,

I'm less concerned about my feelings than I am about accuracy.  Nevertheless, thanks.

5 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

sometimes when podcasts are the main subject, we go on and on about the podcast but usually it isn't listened to and yet some still discuss, which makes it difficult to discuss having knowledge that they chose not to listen and see the same things. 

And yet Ritner has published stuff about the BoA elsewhere, and we have been discussing that quite a bit.

5 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I just read the talk that Duncan mentioned on another thread by Dallin H. Oaks, and in the talk he mentions that faith is need to decide if the BoM is true, so I assume he means that for the BoA as well. That is why I mentioned the faith thing. Although the following quote mentions some scholarship, faith is needed as well.

On the other hand, those who rely on a combination of revelation, faith, and scholarship can see and understand all of the complex issues of the Book of Mormon record, and it is only through that combination that the question of the historicity of the Book of Mormon can be answered.

Where scholarship is available, we certainly should avail ourselves to it.  Nevertheless, acceptance of the Book of Mormon is primarily and predominantly an exercise in faith.

Thanks,

-Smac

  • Like 1
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There is some new material from this year’s FM conference. Transcribing may take time.  As to a point by point of Ritner’s stuff, I am not sure if that will happen in text. Podcasts are not the favored medium for most FM apologists as they tend to be poor conveyors of academic info, but there are a few willing to deal with them. 
 

We have a new member of FM doing our podcasts. I need to listen to at least a few to get an idea of her style, but have heard positive comments from others. So for those who like podcasts, here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2020/07/30/fair-voice-podcast-5-interview-with-john-gee-on-the-book-of-abraham

Edited by Calm
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22 minutes ago, Calm said:

There is some new material from this year’s FM conference. Transcribing may take time.  As to a point by point of Ritner’s stuff, I am not sure if that will happen in text. Podcasts are not the favored medium for most FM apologists as they tend to be poor conveyors of academic info, but there are a few willing to deal with them. 
 

We have a new member of FM doing our podcasts. I need to listen to at least a few to get an idea of her style, but have heard positive comments from others. So for those who like podcasts, here:

https://www.fairmormon.org/blog/2020/07/30/fair-voice-podcast-5-interview-with-john-gee-on-the-book-of-abraham

Thanks Calm, this brings to mind, that in the podcast with Ritner it was mentioned that Ritner was a professor to John Gee at one time. Did I hear/remember wrong, do you know?

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5 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

Thanks Calm, this brings to mind, that in the podcast with Ritner it was mentioned that Ritner was a professor to John Gee at one time. Did I hear/remember wrong, do you know?

If I remember correctly, he wasn't Professor Gee's teacher in the sense that Gee  received special tutelage, but he was on the advisory board for Gee's degree at the University of Chicago until Gee asked for him to be removed. The university removed Ritner and Gee went on to get the degree. The reason for Gee's appeal and Ritner's removal has never emerged.

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Kerry Muhlestein gave a presentation this last week some might want to watch:

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Egyptian Papers and the Translation of the Book of Abraham: What Careful Applications of the Evidence Can and Cannot Tell Us

You may not be able to purchase until September. I will try and remember to check (at doctor’s).

Edited by Calm
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