Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Refutation of John Gee's Claim that there is no Sequence to the Characters taken from the Sensen Papyrus

An earlier observer knowledgeable about the state at the time of the papyrus of the Book of Abraham (the Hor Sensen Papyrus) named William S. West said in 1837, "These records were torn by being taken from the roll of embalming salve which contained them, and some parts entirely lost; but Smith is to translate the whole by divine inspiration, and that which is lost, like Nebuchadnezzar's dream, can be interpreted as well as that which is preserved." (H. Donl Peterson, The Story of the Book of Abraham: Mummies, Manuscripts, and Mormonism, p. 148).  So this is clear that there were lacunae in the papyrus at that time.

Back in 2010, William Schryver presented John Gee's paper at the FAIR Conference wherein Gee asserted that the characters from the Sensen Papyrus in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts contained no specific order, but were taken from other parts of the papyri in some cases.  The following is where the pdf for this presentation is found on the FAIRMormon website.

A poster named Xander also posted information on Gee's claims here:

To his credit, later, William Schryver said the following in response to Xander's work on this subject:
Because he had to be out of town during the 2010 FAIR Conference, John Gee requested that I deliver, in his behalf, a short paper concerning the relationship between the characters in the left column of the Abraham manuscripts and the characters from the Book of Breathings. As a favor to a friend, I agreed to read the paper.
With the exception of a couple humorous asides, I delivered the paper verbatim.
I did not endorse its findings.
In my admittedly amateur judgment, I do not find the paper persuasive. (
Gee's assertions simply do not stand up to scrutiny at all.  Chris Smith refuted Gee's position when he said the following, and provided an image to prove it.  He stated:
The images below show sequential characters from Book of Abraham Manuscript # 1 juxtaposed with sequential characters from the Hor Document of Breathing. As should be evident from these images, the characters come sequentially from the Breathing Document except where there is a lacuna. It is to fill the lacuna that Joseph draws characters from elsewhere on the fragment. This is what Gee failed to tell his audience.
And here are the images below referred to in the quote provided by Chris Smith:

These facts are shown at the URL which I give here not because I want people to go to the web site or give it traffic, but because I believe in disclosing where I got information.  While that site that had this quote and these images is critical of the Church, it is just this information that was of interest here to present.  Chris Smith on his own is not really a "critic" of the Church.  He is a non-Mormon scholar interested in the truth.  Some apologists find fault with him because he has wanted to show where the truth lies with the Book of Abraham to the best of his ability as a non-believer.  But he was never a member of the church to begin with, so in that aspect he is different from certain other non-Mormon scholars of Mormonism, some of whom are either apostates or ex-Mormons.  Chris Smith is just an objective, honest scholar of Mormonism with no pro- or anti-Mormon ideology to promote or to defend.  I don't give this information because I want to be critical of John Gee in general.  I am mostly happy with John Gee's research with the exception of his pushing of the Missing Papyrus Theory.  It is important because John Gee's claim about the sequence of the characters came up recently as if it were fact, and I thought it was important to show the refutation of his claim.