Monday, October 16, 2017

Why aren't Novel, New Ideas on the Book of Abraham or KEP Adopted or Given Time of Day?

I ran into a really great quote on a Youtube video that I was watching about Computer Programming.  Douglas Crockford, Senior Javascript Architect, PayPal, stated:

This illustrates something that is really important about the way we make progress.
Progress does not wait for the next new idea.  It waits for consensus on an old idea.
We like to think that we're just waiting for someone to have an idea and then we'll all recognize it, and go, yes that's great.  And we all adopt it and we all move forward.  And that's how progress happens.  Progress is waiting for the next idea.  And that's not how it works.  The ideas happen all the time, and we're resistant to them.  And eventually, the idea is allowed to go forward.  But it takes a long time. 
So the reason the goto thing took 20 years to resolve, was that with all of the arguing, minds were not changed.  What happened was, we had to wait for a generation of programmers to retire or die, before we could make progress on the new idea.  And that happens all the time. ("Goto There and Back Again,"

He refers to the death of the Goto statement in computer programming languages.  But this principle applies to the Book of Abraham and the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, and why the Establishment Mormon Apologists, bless their hearts, as much as they deserve our respect, do not look at new ideas that they may consider still somewhat "lunatic fringe."

This blog is somewhat about apologetics in the sense that it seeks to preserve faith and provide a defense of the faith.  But the larger concern has always been about actually solving the puzzle of the evidence before us to ultimately provide a more robust explanation of that evidence in the long run.  All the sacrifices for that goal need to be made, and have been, including an understanding/realization that this will not be immediately accepted.  Because this is bleeding-edge research from the eyes of only one person, it is bound to have rough edges and flaws that only one person cannot see, despite his best efforts.  The expected result is that there will not be acceptance for a very long time, even though the theory upon ultimate acceptance at a future may require revision in some details.  But until more people take it seriously and put their efforts into helping to review and revise it, it will remain as it currently is.

Nevertheless, the time will come where there will be a demand for an explanation that is faithful, but that also explains the evidence.  Only that type of an explanation has a chance of being actually true.  If it is not this, it will be something very much LIKE this.  So the intent here is that we recognize the need to sacrifice short term popularity for actually solving the problem.  Trying to advertise or push this idea has not worked because of the current state of the climate of things.  The biggest problem may be that those that are not accepting of this are not familiar with the evidence, and the problems presented by it, so they don't realize why a solution for problem that they don't understand is needed.

The Israelites in ancient times were not able to enter the promised land until all of those that were among them were able to enter.  Because the Lord had sworn in his wrath, for the most part only the children of those who came out of Egypt were allowed to enter.  The old generation literally had to die off for there to be real progress.  In the same way, it is possible that the Book of Abraham and Kirtland Egyptian Papers issues have to wait another generation before an old idea (as this idea will be in the future) can be adequately considered by upcoming people with fresh eyes and with understanding of the evidence.  When we have people like that in the Mormon Apologetics Establishment, will see real progress.  Until then, we just have to wait.  Until then, the attitude will continue to be one of indifference toward this information coming from the Establishment.  As one leading apologist said to me one day in an email, "I'm sorry that you are ignored," while he himself continued to deliberately ignore and not consider what I was trying to tell him.  While it is true that they don't think ill of me, or say anything bad about me, which is certainly appreciated, they are also entirely indifferent.

A response to this could be, "well, they would pay attention and not be indifferent if there was something of value here, because they have probably already looked at some of your material, and from what little they did look at, it is clearly not worth their time or attention."  Well, that could be, but did they understand the material?  If they understood the material, did they understand the problem?  If they understand the problem, then do they understand why this is a solution to that problem?  99 times out of 100, the answer is no to all three.

One approach to the Kirtland Egyptian Papers material is to say that W. W. Phelphs and the other scribes are responsible, and it is all gobbldy-gook, so it doesn't matter.  So any work to say that there is anything to the gobbldy-gook is automatically not of value.  This is essentially the approach taken by one faction of the apologists, with all due respect.

Then, another approach is the one taken by Brian Hauglid and David Bokovoy and a few others.  This approach recognizes that Joseph Smith is indeed 100% responsible for the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, but the so-called translations in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers material are still gobbldy-gook.  It doesn't matter because we can show that the Book of Abraham still shows historical accuracy, so Joseph Smith didn't know how to translate Egyptian, but as a prophet, he produced the Book of Abraham material.  Some of these theorists, like Bokovoy, say that the Book of Abraham is still inspired, but it is perhaps a pseudepigraphon.  Can you see why this is an interesting apologetic, and maybe it is good enough for some apologists?  But is it a preferred scenario?  Why would we WANT Joseph Smith to be responsible for gobbldy-gook that wasn't real translations, being a human, yet still be a prophet that produced ancient, historical material in an English revelation?  In other words, this apologetic is willing to sacrifice Joseph Smith's translation ability entirely for the sake of still being able to say that the English text is authentic in some way.  Why would the pseudepigraphon explanation be preferred?  It is willing to say that the story or narrative of the Book of Abraham is not really historical, not really coming from Abraham's own writings, but that it is still a real, ancient record created by someone else who wrote it in Abraham's voice in an authoritative way (I suppose).

I can't see or understand why either of these things is preferred to an explanation that (1) says that the English text actually was originally written by Abraham's own hand in another language, and (2) the translations that Joseph Smith came up with in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers represent actual, ancient material as well, and that the translations make sense on some level in some way.  The evidence on this blog not only argues for propositions 1 and 2 here, but also has a number of examples to demonstrate it.

It is true that (1) the Sensen Papyrus is not the Book of Abraham text.  But it is also true that (2) the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are still a translation of the symbols in the Sensen Papyrus by Joseph Smith.  (3) Since it is Egyptologically correct and not disputed that the Sensen Papayrus is not the Book of Abraham text in the Egyptian Language, then it is to be expected that the translation material in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is different from that, and would yield something else.  If people think that I have ever been claiming that the Book of Abraham text can be extracted from the Sensen Papyrus in a magical or even mechanical way, they are very mistaken.  Some believe I am saying that there was no missing papyrus.  While I believe there is no need for one, that is neither here nor there.  This works with or without a missing papyrus for the text of the Book of Abraham.  I personally prefer the idea that the original papyrus with the text of the Book of Abraham was lost in antiquity.  If you prefer the explanation that it was something extant in Joseph Smith's day, more power to you then.

Therefore, what am I saying?  I am saying that what this something else is is very important, and deserves attention, because it is a real translation on a certain level, on the same level that the English explanations for the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham are.  In other words, the translation activity in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is the same type of translation activity that Hugh Nibley and other Egyptologists defend in the Facsimiles and their explanations.  They are interpretations of pictures instead of being a translation of a text.  In the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, each symbol extracted from the Sensen Papyrus is treated as a small picture or symbol, and iconotropically, an Abrahamic or otherwise gospel centered context is imposed on it, different from an original Egyptological context.  Yet, each interpretation is still consistent with the Egyptological meaning of each symbol, in the same way that the same is true with each translation in the Explanations for the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham.  Why should this explanation not preferred over the other ones that were discussed above, especially since this is demonstrated in these materials on this blog?  I recommend that it should be, for future scholars that look at this, and decide that it should be.