Response to Rommelator

The catch-all forum for general topics and debates. Minimal moderation. Rated PG to PG-13.
_CaliforniaKid
_Emeritus
Posts: 4247
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:47 am

Response to Rommelator

Post by _CaliforniaKid »

Since I am suspended at MADB, I am here responding to Rommelator's comments there concerning the missing papyrus theory.

Rommelator asserts there that I most certainly have not (his bolding, not mine) succeeded in putting this specious theory to rest. According to Rom, there are three things to consider:

1. The proposed length of the Horos scroll by Egyptologists (including two non-LDS Egyptologists Marc Coenen and Jan Quaegebeur). Standard scrolls (especially those with Letter of Fellowship texts) from the time era of the JSP (the Ptolemaic Era) were 320 cm by 32 cm - although Gee in his 2007 FAIR Conference address showed evidence for an ever longer length of these scrolls. The recovered fragments only measure 96.5 cm by 11 cm. Allowing an additonal 20 cm for the vignette of Fac. 3 and another 20 cm each for the two missing columns of heiratic, that leaves us with 156 cm of the Letter of Fellowship document. By contrast, the Denon Book of Breathings is 187 cm long and has a height of 20.5 cm. So, how do we account for the other missing 164 cm?


According to Dr. Robert K. Ritner (in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, v. 62, p. 166), "The original width of the papyrus was correctly estimated by Baer as being about 150–55 cm, allowing for textual restorations and the now lost Facsimile 3." Ritner adds in a footnote that "There is no justification for Gee’s unsubstantiated attempt to more than double this figure to '320 cm (about 10 feet)' in Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, pp. 10 and 12–13. Gee presumably wishes to allow space for a supposedly 'lost hieratic text' of The Book of Abraham; his figure derives from the average length of a manufactured (blank) Ptolemaic papyrus roll—not comparable, individual documents cut from such a roll."

In Michael D. Rhodes' critical edition of the Hor Book of Breathings, he projects that portion missing from the end of the BoB would be about 60 cm (or about 2 feet) in length. (The extant portion also has a piece missing from the middle.) The Hor BoB is narrower than Rom's "standard" scroll; there is no reason it should not also be shorter.

If Rom reviews my thread on the missing papyrus equation, he will find that Gee botched his math at the 2007 FAIR conference. My numbers, which Rom is more than welcome to double-check, show that the upper limit for the length of the portion missing from the end of the roll is somewhere between 90 and 110 cm. Definitely not long enough to fit in a Book of Abraham.

In an aside, Rom adds,

Furthermore, the Joseph Smith Book of Breathings is the only only known copy that contains a lion couch motiff like Fac. 1. The same goes for Fac. 3. Klaus Baer was the first to identify the uniqueness of these vignettes in the 1960's. We know that the vignette in JSP I has absolutely nothing to do with the text of columns 1,2 and 3. It would, therefore, make little sense for this vignette to be present on the Horos scroll unless an accompanying text (like the Book of Abraham text) followed shortly thereafter.


Rom is again encouraged to read Ritner, who finds nothing especially unusual in the vignettes in the Hor Book of Breathings. Ritner writes,

Most examples place the directions at the end, but the Joseph Smith papyrus has shifted these before the main text. Perhaps for the same reason, the papyrus inverts its versions of the two common illustrations ("vignettes") that often accompany "Books of Breathings": a scene of the deceased at the court of Osiris, and a scene of the corpse in the process of reanimation. The latter scene may also include a depiction of the risen ba-spirit, the human-headed bird that represents the soul of the deceased individual. Since the fate of the ba-spirit is the focus of the document, this depiction is logical and is found on the Joseph Smith example. The modern designation "Books of Breathings" includes a variety of late funerary compositions, but the text found in the Joseph Smith collection represents a specific type termed in antiquity "The Documentof Breathings Made by Isis for Her Brother Osiris." These were used by (often interrelated) priestly families in Thebes and its vicinity from the middle Ptolemaic to early Roman eras, and the limited distribution probably accounts for their uniform pattern, displaying only minor modifications. Thus the reanimation scene of P Joseph Smith I is adapted from contemporary temple depictions but has precisely the same meaning and purpose as other examples with the mummy reinvigorated by the sun disk.

2. Oliver Cowdry and other eye witnesses to the papyri identifed red rubrics or paint on the Abraham text. On two occasions Cowdry clearly identified such and specified that they belonged with the Abraham text. The extant fragments of Joseph Smith Papyrus I, IX and X (the ones critics say Joseph Smith identified as the Abraham text) contain no such rubrics. How do the critics account for this? Charles Larson proposes that Cowdry was simply describing the papyri themselves based on a report published in Philedelphia and carried with Michael Chandler. However, this does not account for how Cowdry specifically said that the Abraham text had red letters. If he had simply said that the record of Joseph alone had red paint and never mentioned the Abraham text, then this would be a viable option as it would then seem that Cowdry was describing the Scroll of Semminis. However, he was clear that both the records of Abraham and Joseph had red paint. The critics, as I have seen, have yet to explain this.


Actually, Cowdery was not clear that the Book of Abraham text was the one with rubrics. He writes, "Upon the subject of the Egyptian records, or rather the writings of Abraham and Joseph, I may say a few words. This record is beautifully written on papyrus with black, and a small part red, ink or paint, in perfect preservation." Although Cowdery begins by distinguishing the two records, he soon conflates them with the phrase "this record". It therefore ceases to be clear precisely which of the two records his various details are intended to apply to. When one takes the Cowdery letter as a whole, however, it becomes clear that his attention is almost entirely upon the record of Joseph (AKA the Ta-shert-min Book of the Dead). Although Cowdery describes "this record" as "beautifully written," William I. Appleby made it clear in 1841 that "there is a perceptible difference between the writings [of Abraham and Joseph]. Joseph appears to have been the best scribe." Appleby's statement perfectly describes the contrast between the Ta-shert-min and Hor rolls, the latter of which Nibley described as a "badly written, poorly preserved little text." Cowdery had good reason to be fixated on the roll of Joseph. Its vignettes were much more interesting than the ones on the roll of Abaham, and a prophecy ostensibly from the Book of Joseph features prominently in the introduction to Cowdery's patriarchal blessing. All of this is to say, quite simply, that there is no reason to assume that Cowdery's comments about red ink are meant to apply to the record of Abraham.

3. The eyewitness accounts clearly establish that Joseph Smith had a lot more papyri then is now present. John Gee aptly summed it up this way:

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

http://www.farms.byu.edu/publications/r ... m=2&id=670

I have seen the critics try to refute this, but I remain unimpressed. And after re-reading Larson and Chris' posts that are supposed to have destroyed the missing scroll theory, I can now see just how dismal the case against Gee's thesis really is.


Speaking of dismal cases, let's look at Gee's supposed eyewitness evidence.

1) The papyri preserved under glass is now in the possession of the Church, and therefore is not missing.
2) The "long roll" described by Charlotte Haven was undoubtedly the remainder of the Book of Breathings roll, which ended up in the Wood Museum where it was viewed by Gustavus Seyffarth in 1856. Gee's assertion that its contents are "only conjecture" is absurd, since Seyffarth told us exactly what was on the roll: "an invocation to the Deity Osirus in which appears the name of the deceased person, [Horus,]" and a vignette answering to Facsimile 3. In other words, the remainder of the Hor Book of Breathings.
3) Haven viewed vignettes "from another roll", but did not indicate that the roll was intact at the time. Quite to the contrary, her statement undoubtedly refers to the Ta-shert-min fragments that are presently preserved under glass. She described a figure of a serpent speaking to Eve in the Garden. A vignette answering to this description appears on one of the extant fragments.
4) The two or three other fragments would be the Amenhotep and Neferirnub fragments, as well as Facsimile 2.

We thus find that the quantity of missing papyrus is very small. And since the KEP make it quite clear that the extant BoB was the source of the Book of Abraham, the missing papyri are more or less irrelevant, anyway.

Rom also adds,

I see the KEP as possibily an attempt by Joseph and his scribes (and moreso by his scribes) afterwords to reverse engineer a grammar based on Joseph's translation as offered by Hauglid and Nibley.


I commented on this briefly in the School of the Pundits at MADB, but a fuller rebuttal will soon be submitted for publication under the names of Chris Smith and Don Bradley. Keep an eye out.

Another poster wrote,

Since we know that Chris has as much if not more problems with Prof. Gee as he does with the "missing scroll" theory we have to assume that Chris has as much bias against as Gee does for. Don't get me wrong, Chris has proven himself extremely educated on the subject and has made many great points, but he also admits that Gee is significantly more experienced in the language and other aspects of the discussion. That being said, and I admittedly don't have the background to even begin to rebut Chris or Gee, I don't think the "missing scroll" theory was put to rest in that post. Gee would have to much more involved to show that. Only a good two sided discussion can enlighten to it's fullest and that thread was heavily one sided at best.


I have nothing against Gee personally. The one conversation I have had with him personally was quite pleasant. I do, however, have very serious objections to his apologetic approach to the Book of Abraham. This has nothing to do with the man (who I'm sure is top flight) and everything to do with his shoddy apologetics.

I think appeals to credentials are lame, but since the issue has been raised, I feel fairly sure that my expertise in the study of 19th century history (Mormon and otherwise) substantially surpasses Gee's. His knowledge of Egyptology will not aid him in the interpretation of English-language sources.

Cheers,

-Chris
_harmony
_Emeritus
Posts: 18195
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 1:35 am

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _harmony »

CaliforniaKid wrote:I think appeals to credentials are lame, but since the issue has been raised, I feel fairly sure that my expertise in the study of 19th century history (Mormon and otherwise) substantially surpasses Gee's. His knowledge of Egyptology will not aid him in the interpretation of English-language sources.

Cheers,

-Chris


Nice slap, Chris!
(Nevo, Jan 23) And the Melchizedek Priesthood may not have been restored until the summer of 1830, several months after the organization of the Church.
_CaliforniaKid
_Emeritus
Posts: 4247
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:47 am

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _CaliforniaKid »

The following magnificent display of erudition appeared today over at MADB under the name "Ipso Facto":

I've only just recently reviewed some of what Chris Smith has written on this topic. His entry into this field of study is, I have discovered, of quite recent date, and his credentials sorely lacking. I find his confidence, nay, his hubris on the topic to border on the comical. Apparently he and a similarly-qualified colleague are preparing a "paper" to contradict Professor Gee (with whom I am well acquainted and with whose work I am familiar). I'm pleased that Smith et al. are taking this approach as opposed to simply contradicting Gee via rhetorical fiat on message boards. By placing their arguments in a formal venue, they will then enter the realm of actual scholarly dialogue, as opposed to the more common method employed by anti-Mormon writers. I am confident that, should Dr. Gee ultimately choose to do so, he will be able to demonstrate the serious flaws in Smith's arguments, as well as those of Professor Ritner. Ritner, incidentally, is proving to be increasingly on the losing end of several Egyptological questions. His star is fading among the new generation of Egyptologists, many of whom have come to recognize him as more interested in accolades than accuracy. His ill-considered arguments on the length of the scroll of Horos contained in the Joseph Smith collection are flawed, as Professor Gee has already demonstrated in part.

The casual fashion with which Smith (and others) dismiss the eyewitness testimony from the Kirtland and Nauvoo periods is breathtaking at times. The evidence is overwhelming that there was considerably more papyrus material originally in Joseph Smith's possession than has survived to the present day. The extant fragments represent only a fraction of the collection that was divided and distributed to various parties by Charles Bidamon, whose apparent interest was to maximize his profits by dividing the collection and selling it piecemeal to the highest bidders. Smith's claims that his knowledge of LDS history, and specifically of this particular topic, far surpass that of Professor Gee, represents one of the most brash claims I have come across in my brief experience with LDS-related online forums. He is apparently unaware that Gee has been researching the history of these things for a period of time almost as great as Smith's brief lifetime.

Chris Smith appears to be little more than a vocal dilettante whose bravado exceeds his knowledge in these matters -- not at all uncommon in the realm of anti-Mormon writers.

Incidentally, I selected the poll option that Joseph Smith translated the Egyptian in a fashion not understood by modern Egyptologists. However, I might have also selected the "missing scroll" option, since I believe both are correct. I am of the opinion that these documents were intentionally created to appear to be something that they were not, in order to conceal their actual meaning and purpose.


Ipso Facto is to be commended for his substantive contribution to the discussion.

-Chris
_Runtu
_Emeritus
Posts: 16721
Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 5:06 am

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _Runtu »

Four paragraphs of unsupported assertion and ad hominem.

And he accuses you of arguing by "rhetorical fiat."

Unbelievable.
Runtu's Rincón

If you just talk, I find that your mouth comes out with stuff. -- Karl Pilkington
_CaliforniaKid
_Emeritus
Posts: 4247
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:47 am

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _CaliforniaKid »

Rommelator has responded at some length. I'll reproduce his post below and then respond in a subsequent post.

I have read Chris' post. He has some interesting thoughts, but I think that he misses the point on several occasions.

According to Dr. Robert K. Ritner (in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies, v. 62, p. 166), "The original width of the papyrus was correctly estimated by Baer as being about 150–55 cm, allowing for textual restorations and the now lost Facsimile 3." Ritner adds in a footnote that "There is no justification for Gee’s unsubstantiated attempt to more than double this figure to '320 cm (about 10 feet)' in Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, pp. 10 and 12–13. Gee presumably wishes to allow space for a supposedly 'lost hieratic text' of The Book of Abraham; his figure derives from the average length of a manufactured (blank) Ptolemaic papyrus roll—not comparable, individual documents cut from such a roll."


Gee does have evidence that such a length is not unjustifed. Consider that one of the main objections of Gee is that it is not uncommon for multiple texts to be appended to Egyptian scrolls and thus to be larger in length. For example, at least 40% of Book of Breathing Scrolls have other texts appended to them. From the FAIR Wiki:

But why, some might ask, would a Book of Abraham be present among ancient Egyptian funerary scrolls? We know from other ancient documents that sometimes scrolls with different material were attached together. Some ancient copies of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, for example, have been found to contain a variety of other non-funerary texts including stories similar to the sacrifice of Abraham (involving different personalities), temple rituals, and more. Yale-trained, professional Egyptologist Dr. John Gee estimates that about 40% of known Sensen texts have other texts attached to them.


Some Egyptian papyri, for example, contain Egyptian instructions on one side and Semitic writings on the back side—in one case Psalms chapters 20–55. One Egyptian temple archive (with an extensive collection of Egyptian rituals), provides an early copy of the “Prayer of Jacob” and two copies of the “Eighth Book of Moses” with a discussion of the initiation into the temple at Jerusalem. Both Moses and Abraham are mentioned in this collection and the most commonly invoked deity is Jehovah.
http://en.fairmormon.org/Search_for_the ... of_Abraham

At his 2008 presentation at Olivewood Bookstore, Gee showed more examples of this phenomenon. If anyone is interested, I am sure that they can contact Dr. Gee himself.

In Michael D. Rhodes' critical edition of the Hor Book of Breathings, he projects that portion missing from the end of the BoB would be about 60 cm (or about 2 feet) in length. (The extant portion also has a piece missing from the middle.) The Hor BoB is narrower than Rom's "standard" scroll; there is no reason it should not also be shorter.


It is true that the extant portion of the papyri are narrower than most Book of Breathing Documents (like the Denon Book of Breathings). However, I would like to see Chris' evidence that " there is no reason it should not also be shorter." The Denon Book of Breathings is almost 2 feet longer than the Joseph Smith Book of Breathings, for example.

If Rom reviews my thread on the missing papyrus equation, he will find that Gee botched his math at the 2007 FAIR conference. My numbers, which Rom is more than welcome to double-check, show that the upper limit for the length of the portion missing from the end of the roll is somewhere between 90 and 110 cm. Definitely not long enough to fit in a Book of Abraham.


I read Chris' post, and found the following:

He states, for example, that the study was more than a decade old, that it was written by somebody with a Germanish name that sounds like "Fredam Holfman", and that it was created in order to gauge the original length of "Papyrus Spiegelberg". I haven't tried very hard yet to track this reference down, but since I know little about Egyptology and I don't speak German, it may prove difficult do so.


It's a little hard to match up the lacunae perfectly, so this isn't an exact science. But I have done my best to be as accurate as possible.


Obviously it would be better to have had access to the originals, but I think we can get reasonable figures from the photographs, anyway.


1. Gee is both an Egyptologist and speaks German.
2. Gee does have the original papyri to work from.
3. Gee does have the original works cited at the 2007 FAIR Conference.
4. Gee did provide the formula at the 2007 FAIR Conference which I saw with my own eyes. Chris is working with an audio recording.
5. Gee has told me that he is going into print on this subject, so we can look forward to seeing the real numbers presented and then refuted by Chris (if he can).

So, for now it looks like the circumstances are in favor of Dr. Gee.

An 80-centimeter figure (about two and a half feet) is precisely what we would expect based on Michael D. Rhodes' predictions, cited above.


I am not sure if Chris is proposing if Rhodes is talking about the entire scroll or the Book of Breathings text. However, for anyone interested, Rhodes is talking about the Book of Breathing text alone and not the entire scroll. He gives 60 cm for two more columns of hieratic and the final vignette.

Most examples place the directions at the end, but the Joseph Smith papyrus has shifted these before the main text. Perhaps for the same reason, the papyrus inverts its versions of the two common illustrations ("vignettes") that often accompany "Books of Breathings": a scene of the deceased at the court of Osiris, and a scene of the corpse in the process of reanimation. The latter scene may also include a depiction of the risen ba-spirit, the human-headed bird that represents the soul of the deceased individual. Since the fate of the ba-spirit is the focus of the document, this depiction is logical and is found on the Joseph Smith example. The modern designation "Books of Breathings" includes a variety of late funerary compositions, but the text found in the Joseph Smith collection represents a specific type termed in antiquity "The Documentof Breathings Made by Isis for Her Brother Osiris." These were used by (often interrelated) priestly families in Thebes and its vicinity from the middle Ptolemaic to early Roman eras, and the limited distribution probably accounts for their uniform pattern, displaying only minor modifications. Thus the reanimation scene of P Joseph Smith I is adapted from contemporary temple depictions but has precisely the same meaning and purpose as other examples with the mummy reinvigorated by the sun disk.


And here is where both Chris and Dr. Ritner miss the boat. What is unique is not that we have ressurection/judgment scenes but how these scenes are depicted. No known other example of a lion couch scene similar to the one found in the JSP has been found in any other Book of Breathings document, as has been demonstrated by Baer. Furthermore, no known vignette with Sobek or a priest holding a knife (and yes, there was a knife since 3 eye witnesses described such) is also known from other Book of Breathings documents. Ritner in his article claimed that there is no known example of Anubis holding a knife in Egyptian art. This is false, since the Dendera Temple Walls clearly depict Anubis holding a knife. Maybe Ritner was referring to examples in the Book of Breathings. This, I posit, further bolsters my case that the vignettes (at least the vignette in JSP I) are unqiue. We know that a knife was in the vignette in JSP I since Henry Caswall, William Applyby and Charolette Haven all detailed such. How does Chris account for this?

Actually, Cowdery was not clear that the Book of Abraham text was the one with rubrics. He writes, "Upon the subject of the Egyptian records, or rather the writings of Abraham and Joseph, I may say a few words. This record is beautifully written on papyrus with black, and a small part red, ink or paint, in perfect preservation." Although Cowdery begins by distinguishing the two records, he soon conflates them with the phrase "this record". It therefore ceases to be clear precisely which of the two records his various details are intended to apply to.


If this is the case, then why did Cowdry even mention the Abraham record? Why didn't he just say "Upon the subject of the Egyptian record, or rather the writings of Joseph, I may say a few words..." The fact that Cowdry brought the Abraham scroll into question begs the question: why? If he did not intend to discuss it, then why even bring it up?

Although Cowdery describes "this record" as "beautifully written," William I. Appleby made it clear in 1841 that "there is a perceptible difference between the writings [of Abraham and Joseph]. Joseph appears to have been the best scribe." Appleby's statement perfectly describes the contrast between the Ta-shert-min and Hor rolls, the latter of which Nibley described as a "badly written, poorly preserved little text."


This requires some amazing mind reading on Chris' part. How does he know that what Appleby meant was the physical nature of the papyri? How do we know that he is not talking about the wonderful vignettes? How do we know that he was not talking about the red letters? How do we know that he is not talking about how the hieratic characters were drawn? How do we know that he is not talking about a host of other things? Furthermore, another eyewitness specified red letters being on the Abraham text.

"Oh, here is the Pearl of Great Price," said Brother Horne, picking up that book. "I've seen these records with my own eyes," referring to the Book of Abraham, "and handled them with these hands. Mother Lucy . . . showed them to me. . . . The records which I saw were some kind of parchment or papyrus, and it contained writing in red and black. Mother Lucy told me that one was the writings of Abraham and the other the writings of Joseph, who was sold in Egypt."


Notice how this report are consitant with Dr. Gee's claims that 1) the Book of Abraham scroll was given to Lucy Mack Smith and 2) that it had red ink.

The "long roll" described by Charlotte Haven was undoubtedly the remainder of the Book of Breathings roll, which ended up in the Wood Museum where it was viewed by Gustavus Seyffarth in 1856. Gee's assertion that its contents are "only conjecture" is absurd, since Seyffarth told us exactly what was on the roll: "an invocation to the Deity Osirus in which appears the name of the deceased person, [Horus,]" and a vignette answering to Facsimile 3. In other words, the remainder of the Hor Book of Breathings.


Can we seriously believe that Haven would have described a scroll of no more than 2 feet long (60cm) as "a long roll of manuscript"? I personally doubt it, considering that it would therefore have been even shorter than the rest of the Book of Breathings which would have measured about 96 cm (3 feet).

3) Haven viewed vignettes "from another roll", but did not indicate that the roll was intact at the time. Quite to the contrary, her statement undoubtedly refers to the Ta-shert-min fragments that are presently preserved under glass. She described a figure of a serpent speaking to Eve in the Garden. A vignette answering to this description appears on one of the extant fragments.


Actually, here is what Haven said:

Then in the same way she interpreted to us hieroglyphics from another roll. One was Mother Eve being tempted by the serpent, who—the serpent, I mean—was standing on the tip of his tail, which with his two legs formed a tripod, and had his head in Eve's ear.


The vignette in the Semminis Scroll porportedly being described by Haven 1) does not form a tri-pod, nor does it stand on its tail and 2) does not have its head near the female figure. Can we seriously think that this is what Haven was describing?

And since the KEP make it quite clear that the extant BoB was the source of the Book of Abraham, the missing papyri are more or less irrelevant, anyway.


A rather bold pronouncement. I wish I had as much confidence in the KEP debate as Chris did. There you have it folks! The debate has been settled and there is nothing more to do. It looks like Brent and Brian can stop their publication plans, since Chris has settled it for us.
_CaliforniaKid
_Emeritus
Posts: 4247
Joined: Wed Jan 10, 2007 8:47 am

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _CaliforniaKid »

I should preface my response to Rommelator by reciting the historians' dictum that the questions we ask of a historical text quite frequently were not in the mind of its author. An author may not have intended to describe a text with the kind of accuracy that the historian might wish, he may not have been interested in the same distinctions the historian is interested in, and he may simply overlooked or discounted as irrelevant aspects of an object or an event that (for whatever reason) are important to the historian. When we begin drawing inferences or focusing on details that were not important to a text's author, we run the risk of interpretive error. That, of course, is not to say that the historian should avoid this task altogether. But it is to say that when he or she does so, he/she should do so cautiously and hold his/her conclusions tentatively.

I say this because in a few cases, Gee and Rommelator both are drawing hard-and-fast conclusions based on minor details in eyewitness accounts that probably did not have any great importance to the witnesses. This is the case, for example, in their interpretation of Charlotte Haven's account. Haven wrote that

"One was Mother Eve being tempted by the serpent, who—the serpent, I mean—was standing on the tip of his tail, which with his two legs formed a tripod, and had his head in Eve's ear."

As Rommelator notes, the serpent on the Ta-shert-min roll is not standing on its tail, and its head is a ways away from Eve's head. Gee and Rom therefore conclude that Haven must have some other vignette in mind. Their hypothesis deserves careful consideration, but must also weighed against other concerns. There are several things to keep in mind here:

1) Cowdery indicated that Joseph Smith had two rolls: one answering to the description of the Ta-shert-min Book of the Dead, and the other (about which he gives few if any details) apparently being the Hor scroll. The former he identified as Joseph's record, the latter as Abraham's. (Appleby later confirms these identifications.) Now back to Charlotte's account. If the first roll she viewed was Abraham's record (i.e. the Hor scroll), then what could "another roll" refer to but the Ta-shert-min Book of the Dead? The Ta-shert-min roll already has a depiction of a serpent and a woman on it. Are we to suppose that there were originally two such depictions on this roll?
2) The "Eve" vignette had been noticed and interpreted as such before, by Oliver Cowdery in his 1835 letter in the Messenger and Advocate. The vignette he referred to was apparently the one on the Ta-shert-min roll. The scribes leave us a drawing of this vignette in one of their notebooks, which is quite comparable to the Ta-shert-min vignette (as shown below). The question, then, is why we should posit the existence of another such vignette, when this one is known to have been interpreted precisely as Charlotte describes?

Image

Cowdery's statement: "The serpent represented as walking, or formed in a manner to be able to walk, standing in front of and near a female figure, is to me, one of the greatest representations I have ever seen upon paper, or a writing substance; and must go so far towards convincing the rational mind of the correctness and divine authenticity of the holy scriptures, and especially that part which has been assailed by the infidel community, as being fiction, as to carry away with one mighty sweep the whole atheistical fabric, without leaving a vestige sufficient for a foundation stone. Enoch's pillar as mentioned by Josephus, is upon the same roll."

3) Charlotte was not looking at the vignette when she wrote her account. She wrote this later, in a letter to her mother. Memory is a funny thing. When you look at an image, you make interpretive decisions about that image that affect your later recall of it. Since Charlotte was interpreting this image as Eve being tempted by the serpent, it is only natural that she should later recall the serpent's head [whispering ssseductively] in Eve's ear. The presence of legs also particularly stood out to her. The exact shape of the tail is unimportant to the interpretation of the image, and so is not likely to have held more than cursory significance for her at the time of viewing. In other words, predicating a major historical argument on the presumption of Charlotte's accurate recall on these two minor points is ill-advisable, for the simple reason that Charlotte was not trying to give us a scientifically accurate description of the vignette.

There is the possibility, of course, that one of the Amenhotep fragments had a comparable vignette on it that Charlotte might have been referring to. But that seems to me unnecessary and improbable. It makes a good deal more sense to just assume that Charlotte described the vignette she saw with less than mathematical precision.

This same reasoning also applies to two other instances where Gee and Rom are taxing their sources beyond what they can bear. The first, of course, is Oliver Cowdery's letter. Rom asks us why Cowdery does not more precisely distinguish the two records. One reason is that Joseph Smith understood these two records as part of a single lineage history. (Other lineage histories the prophet translated parts of are the Book of Mormon and the Book of the Generations of Adam.) Abraham's record was handed down through the family until it came to Joseph of Egypt, who added to it. Some 19th c. witnesses also report that Moses and Isaac were thought to have written on it, as well. In other words, there is in the Joseph Smith papyrus collection both a duality-- they are the records (plural) of Abraham and Joseph-- and a unity: this is a dispensational, family record (singular). Another reason Cowdery does not more precisely distinguish the records is that his concern was to emphasize their grandeur. He was writing to tell William Frye (and the Church more generally) about the magnificent new works that were being unfolded. Can you imagine if he had stopped his rapturous oration to point out that Abraham had crappy handwriting? That just wasn't in his purview. Much the same could be said of Horne's report. He is quoted, "The records which I saw were some kind of parchment or papyrus, and it contained writing in red and black." This hardly requires any comment from me. Horne obviously does not specify whether or not red ink appears on both rolls, and there's no reason we should expect him to have done so.

The third case in which I believe the sources are being overtaxed is in the case of the knife. Rom argues that "We know that a knife was in the vignette in JSP I since Henry Caswall, William Applyby and Charolette Haven all detailed such." There are actually only two witnesses who mention a knife. Charlotte Haven does not take notice of this particular vignette. In the case of William Appleby, some care must be taken. His "journal" actually appears to be a later redaction, and he intersperses information from the published, Times & Seasons version of the Book of Abraham with contemporary reminiscences. It is not at all clear where we are to draw the line between redactions and the original. My own rough guess places the passage Rom cited among the original text, but I can't say with any certainty that the original journal mentioned a knife. In any case, both Appleby's and Caswall's accounts suggest that the vignette was being interpreted for them by Joseph or one of his associates. Caswall makes this explicit: "Pointing to the figure of a man lying on a table, he [the Mormon guide] said, 'That is the picture of Abraham on the point of being sacrificed. That man standing by him with a drawn knife is an idolatrous priest of the Egyptians.'" Caswall therefore places the "knife" in the mouth of his Mormon guide, rather than necessarily on the papyrus itself. Appleby, too, identifies a "priest", an "altar", and "idol gods". We may surely suppose that he was given more or less the same interpretation as Caswall. To complain that the visitors did not go on at great length about how the knife was actually a hypothetical reconstruction of a lacuna in the vignette is an imposition of our concerns upon these historical sources rather than a good-faith exposition of the meaning communicated by the authors. In sum, the 19th-century sources certainly do not demand that we reconstruct this vignette in an Egyptologically peculiar way.

That's enough for now. I will address the rest of Rom's objections in a later post.

-Chris
_cksalmon
_Emeritus
Posts: 1267
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2007 10:20 pm

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _cksalmon »

CaliforniaKid wrote:I am a dilettante.
-Chris


I just can't bring myself to apologize for alerting you to that thread, Chris, because I know you find your suspension just as entertaining as I do. ;)

I'm going to invite Rommelator to register here and discuss the issues upstairs.

We'll see.

The Other White Chris
_Mister Scratch
_Emeritus
Posts: 5604
Joined: Sun Oct 29, 2006 8:13 pm

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _Mister Scratch »

Does anyone else suspect that "Ipso Facto" is actually Louis Midgley?
_cksalmon
_Emeritus
Posts: 1267
Joined: Fri Feb 02, 2007 10:20 pm

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _cksalmon »

Mister Scratch wrote:Does anyone else suspect that "Ipso Facto" is actually Louis Midgley?


LOL.

Hence my question on MADB: "As an aside, have you written for the FARMS review?"
_Gadianton
_Emeritus
Posts: 9947
Joined: Sat Jul 07, 2007 5:12 am

Re: Response to Rommelator

Post by _Gadianton »

Mister Scratch wrote:Does anyone else suspect that "Ipso Facto" is actually Louis Midgley?


Runtu beat me to it,

Four paragraphs of unsupported assertion and ad hominem.


I'd say given this spot-on analysis, there is a good chance it could be Midgley.

However, there are a couple missing trademarks from the post I'd have expected to see.
Lou Midgley 08/20/2020: "...meat wad," and "cockroach" are pithy descriptions of human beings used by gemli? They were not fashioned by Professor Peterson.

LM 11/23/2018: one can explain away the soul of human beings...as...a Meat Unit, to use Professor Peterson's clever derogatory description of gemli's ideology.
Post Reply