Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Few Observations on Ritner's Joseph Smith Papyri Book: Circumscribe all Truth

Once in a while I do lengthy reviews of research out there on Book-of-Abraham-related things and other times I present my own research.

Sometimes I reread through books I have already scanned through or read before to see if things jump out at me that didn't before.

This will be a post regarding a few things that I was pondering on as I read again through Robert Ritner's book The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition.

After the time I had read through this book last time, I had come upon the Mormon Discussions Podcast episode that featured Brian Hauglid, and how Hauglid mentioned Ritner's take on some of the apologetics other apologists have come up with surrounding items in Facsimile #2, for example.  I recall how Hauglid noted that Ritner did not believe that the apologists had come up with a good defense for any of the items in the Hypocephalus (Facsimile #2) explanations.  Yet, using my own critical thinking, I can't see how all of the defenses of Facsimile #2 that various individuals such as Michael Rhodes, Hugh Nibley and even John Gee so forth ought actually to be considered good, plausible and reasonable by good thinking individuals without an ideology to support.  And this is coming from me, a person that at many times is quite critical of these individuals in many cases.

So, I'm sitting there reading through Ritner's work again, and thinking how grateful I am that Ritner is here as a check to things that John Gee and others have put out that are atrocious.  And then after an awesome presentation made by Ritner of the forensic evidence (where Gee has things wrong), which is critical to the discussion, I focused in on statements from Ritner that I have seen before, yet kind of got irritated by them a little, in the same way that I often get irritated a little by what I read many times from Gee.  Not that this hasn't happened before as I have read ex- or Anti-Mormon literature pretending to present evidence or research on this, that or the other, especially from Ritner.  Its not that its entirely pretending because they believe what they are doing and what they are saying.  But they treat their conclusions on evidence as if they are the last word, and as if everyone else that is truly reasonable ought to agree with them in that conclusion, when there is ample room for disagreements on those points.  And in this, there is a certain amount of pretension, that nothing that the apologists ever come up with is of value.  That type of rhetoric doesn't serve for much more than a rallying cry for the troops of a certain camp, to get those who are in lockstep to fall in line using basically an appeal to emotion for groupthink.  I guess, what I'm saying is, Ritner ought to know better just like Gee ought to know better.  As I have equal-opportunity criticism on this blog for whatever scholar ought to be criticized, this time it is Ritner.  He says stuff like:

The fact that Smith's published interpretation of the papyrus is pure fantasy is indication not of a lost papyrus or section, but of the ultimate source of Smith's wording--his imagination . . .
Whether this assessment will have any impact beyond the world of scholarship is questionable, since Gee has noted that "members of the Church of Jesus Christ in general have no pretensions about holding any dialogue with critics.  They simply do not, for the most part, care what the critics say."   While that may well be true for many, it does not account for the extraordinary interest in the Joseph Smith Papyri among Mormons of all opinions, as evidenced by email, chatrooms, web postings, and the continued publications of Nibley, Rhodes and Gee himself.  Clearly FARMS has taken a direct interest in the Egyptological opinions concerning these papyri, and it aspires to scholarly acceptance, but where faith and scholarship are irreconcilable, the apologists defer to faith.  I prefer scholarship.  The reader may choose for himself.  (p. 143)
While Gee may not hold dialogue with critics, Brian Hauglid does.  Yet Brian Hauglid has sort of sided with Ritner on these points, rather than seeking some sort of middle ground, as evidenced in the recent Mormon Discussions podcast with Bill Reel last year.  This is where I have an issue with Hauglid.  Mormons are as interested in scholarship as we are in faith.  Its just that, there does happen to be differences in our conclusions about things where we can't be entirely open-minded.  We can't be open-minded on the issue of Book of Abraham historicity as a matter of faith, because we are committed by that faith to its authenticity and historicity.  This doesn't mean that we do not take scholarship extremely seriously.  We just aren't going to give in to Anti-Mormon demands for us to abandon our central claims based on faith just because someone is a critic.  Ritner claims to be entirely open-minded about things.  Yet, when he says he chooses scholarship, the fact is that by this what he is really saying is that he dismisses anything that he doesn't agree with his scholarship.  I'll give you some examples.

An example of where Ritner goes off on this kind of tirade is where he gives his treatment of the Joseph Smith (Sheshonq) hypocephalus (otherwise known as facsimile #2).  Ritner goes through and rightly finds issues with Rhodes translations.  But then he says stuff like, "As elsewhere, Nibley did not evaluate Smith's statements objectively, but sought out any possible defense, no matter how farfetched." (p. 221).  This was with regard to the ship of 1000, which is the Ship of Sokar, which indeed in many cases is associated with the number 1000, no matter what Ritner says, but Ritner won't admit that this is valid, calling it far-fetched.  Yet it is well-grounded in research from the LDS side that it actually checks out.  However, it seems from the interview with Bill Reel, that Hauglid is deferring to Ritner on this type of thing, which is a mistake.  Similarly, Ritner calls the translation of Figure 2 "nonsense," which is Oliblish, or in regular Egyptian, Wepwawet.  Wepwawet, like the explanation on Oliblish states, is the grand key, the Key-Holder, or Janus, his Roman equivalent.  Never mind that the Egyptian figure was an appropriate symbol to use for the Grand Key.  Nevermind that the ship of Sokar is indeed the Ship of 1000.  Then Ritner criticizes the names Kli-flos-is-es or Hah-ko-kau-beam, saying "as elsewhere these outlandish names are not Egyptian." (p.222).  As with the rest of the names in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar and in the Book of Abraham, many of them are Semitic, like Ha-kokobim (the stars in Hebrew), the very word that Ritner dismisses.  He seems to have missed the fact that the claim wasn't explicitly made that all of these names purport to be Egyptian the way an Egyptologist would Transliterate or even form them.  But like the word Chalsidonhiash in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar is instead Kassite, a form of the Babylonian word Karduniash, an actual ancient place-name for Babylonia.  Comedically, Ritner criticizes the Khnum-Ra hieroglyph (Figure 2), otherwise known as Re-Atum, as Ritner identifies him, saying:
The central figure is not Kolob in Egyptian terms, nor is he the "first creation, nearest to the celestial, or residence of God."  Rather, the image is the creator god himself, not simply a figure near god. (p. 221)
Little does Ritner realize, but he unthinkingly pointed out the very fact pointed out on this blog quite a number of times, that the whole point was not that Joseph Smith was claiming that this was literally Kolob, but that rather it was a symbol that successfully stood for the theme which Kolob is associated with:  creation.  Ritner said it.  God of Creation = First Creation.  Not literally.  But he wouldn't even give Joseph Smith the credit he deserved for pointing out the fact that there is the theme of creation at work here.  As Robert F. Smith, an LDS scholar has recently observed:
Register 1 of the Shishak Hypocephalus (Book of Abraham facsimile 2) is identified by Joseph Smith’s explanation in part as, 
    a.  Kolob,
    b.  signifying the first creation,
    c.  nearest to the celestial,
    d.  or the residence of God.
    e.  First in government,
In Book of Abraham 3:3, “the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me”; 3:9, “Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God”; 3:16, “Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam . . , because it is nearest unto me.”  These repeated and specific references to the meaning of Kolob (even referring to it as one of the Hebrew Kokaubeem "stars") amplify the explanatory phrases in Fac. 2:1, “nearest to the celestial,” and Fac. 2:2, “near to the celestial,” and provide excellent justification for J. M. Sjodahl’s comparison with an Arabic word derived from the same root as Kolob, though we may appeal here more directly to the theophoric Hebrew epithet, Qarob “The-Near-One” (Psalm 119:151 ∥152 Qedem “The-Primeval-One”; cf. Pss 69:19, 74:12, 145:18; Arabic Qarib is cognate), which appears in the common qutl-form at Qumran (qwrb “midst”; 11QMelch 1:10 = Psalm 82:1; for Aramaic qrb see 1QapGen 22:18).  The word also appears in Akkadian and Ugaritic, but it is in Arabic that we find the root split into two variants, QLB/QRB, with closely related connotations.  Moreover, the -R- and -L- are regular dialectical variants in ancient Egyptian and Coptic – serving to tell us from which part of Egypt a word was most likely to have come.  The usage of these terms was certainly compatible with the usage of Kolob throughout the Book of Abraham.  Moreover, S. A. B. Mercer correctly identified this figure as the seated ram-god, Khnum-ʼAmun-Reʻ. Theodule Devéria, though unable to name this ram-god, was able to note the quadrapartite intent of the original (following Champollion), who may have been thinking of Janus quadrifons of ancient Rome.  He was also Reʿ of Memphis, the Sun-god (Speleers terming it “the soul of Re and his three forms”), and this Khnemu, the ram-headed Creator-Sun-god who sits with knees raised, as on the place of prominence on the Metternich Stele, can have either two or four heads – two heads being, artistically, as good as four.  Khnum, a member of the Enneads of Abydos and Philae, Lord of Antinoë (Hr-wr), the Ram (bЗ) of Mendes (Mntw), and living soul (bЗ) of Reʿ, was “the builder of men, maker of gods, and the father from the beginning.”  Khnum was the “maker of that which is, creator of what shall be, the beginning of beings, father of fathers, and mother of mothers,” shown as if a human with one or more rams’ heads, wearing a crown with horns, plumes, uraei, and disks (the triple diadem of the gods), and holding the  ʿnh, wЗś, and dd scepters (supporting heaven on four such pillars of scepters).
Kolob as “nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God,” is a fully Semitic as well as Egyptian term, though I ought to mention here that the notion of gods living in the sky was familiar to Egyptians from early times (cf. Pyramid Texts 251,357,531,882,929,935, 1364,1707,1295, etc.), as in Mesopotamia.  In Ugaritic, one finds qrb, “midst,” used to refer directly to the abode of ʼEl, i.e., the “cosmic mountain” known as Zaphon or HUR.SAG (= Huršan), as being in the “midst of the source of the Two Deeps.”  Of course, the Egyptian temple as the residence of the god was symbolic in the very sense described, as Klaus Baer made clear, but it was a regular function of temples throughout the ancient Near East to bridge the gap between the celestial and earthly spheres.
According to Jaroslav Černý, the Egyptians saw the stars as divine beings.  The Stars were divided into two main groups: ihmw-sk, “Indestructible-stars, Circumpolar-stars” ∥ʿЗw, “Great-ones, Circumpolar-stars” (Pyramid Texts 405a, 733, 782, 1123, 2051; Coffin Text I, 271), both being identical with Hebrew kokabe-'El, “Stars of God, Circumpolar-stars” (Isaiah 14:13 ∥II Nephi 24:13), symbolizing “eternity,” and identical with “the Mount of Council” or “Mt. Zaphon,” and referring to the Supreme Council of God and to his throne (Psalms 48:3, 148:3; cf. the “great one” in Enuma Elish V:1, and in Abraham 3:3).   (
So, as Smith shows, what Joseph Smith and the ancients were doing in the Book of Abraham recension we have, but also in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, was a mixture of not just Egyptian (which is not specifically Semitic, but still part of the same general family of Afro-Asiatic), but also of other Semitic and Middle Eastern languages, but even Greek (for example, the use of Hades in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, as "Hah-dees").  So, not only is Ritner equivocating on the fact that not everything in the Book of Abraham claims to be Egyptian, but it is very obvious that they are not, as Semitic scholars can readily see, because many of them are either Hebrew or other related Semitic languages, as Smith demonstrates above for Kolob.

And in the case of Oliblish too, it is not Wepwawet that is literally Oliblish, but rather, they are both the Great Key or Key Holder.  They share the central theme, making the Egyptian symbol of Wepwawet a suitable abstraction for the more solid or concrete assignment of meaning attached to it in the Explanation.  The explanation was not in fact claiming that these meanings were literal, but that there is a certain specialized type of symbolism going on here with these figures.  On these points, the LDS Scholars actually hit the bullseyes, while Ritner's critiques of them on these things are anemic and hard-headed with lack of scholarly charity.  But also there is a lack of thinking outside the box.  If Ritner was entirely honest, he would acknowledge the LDS finds on these things to be not only interesting, but on many levels, compelling, when one is entirely open to a number of possibilities and not just locked in to the idea that only current Egyptology has the answer.  Similarly, Hauglid, in the podcast with Bill Reel was critical of LDS scholars that suggest answers outside of Egyptology, that seek to suggest answers that come from a more multi-disciplinary approach.  If you pay close attention to what Robert Smith is doing above with his exegesis on the word Kolob, it is multi-disciplinary (taking into account the Semitic evidences), not strictly Egyptological.  And this is the approach Nibley takes as well.  This is where Ritner has failed, and where he is closed-minded, and where he has a measure of lack of honesty.  Because indeed, the LDS scholars do make good points that are likely to be true sometimes.  These things are of such quality sometimes that it is glaringly obvious that they are correct, and that Ritner and other Anti-Mormons are wrong.

And so, it is sad that Hauglid seems to have eaten up Ritner's criticisms on these points, and that, unfortunately, is a measure of gullibility on his part for deferring entirely to Ritner on these points.  Hauglid says that it is unlikely that there is something outside of current Egyptology where the answer would lie.  Well, it isn't so much outside of Egyptology, as the proper application of Egyptology as it now stands that things start to come to light.

When Ritner presents solid facts, he deserves deference.  When the LDS Scholars are in the right, and differ with Ritner, they deserve deference, and Ritner deserves criticism.  And so, interestingly enough, not one camp has all the truth on every point, as one would expect.  We need to find the truth wherever it's found, and side with it when it happens to be true, and call out whoever the people that are in the wrong, when they are wrong, in each issue where they are wrong.  We are only interested in truth, to circumscribe it into one whole.  We are not interested in ideologies, logical fallacies, or hard-headed Anti-Mormonism, or even hard-headed ideological Mormon Apologetics.  We just want the whole truth, and we want the parts of the truth that come from critics as well as the parts that come from apologists.  There must be an eclectic mix of where that which is true shines forth from whatever camp it comes in each issue.  Nothing less will do than to find the truth in every area where it exists and bring it all together.  Therefore, a correct approach on this is to bring together the good points from wherever they come, and let that which is false, regardless of where it comes from, fall by the wayside.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Vincent Coon's Article: The Tetragrammation and Earth

One of my partners in Book of Abraham studies, Vincent Coon, has a new article entitled The Tetragrammation and Earth:

Here is a link to it:

Tetragrammation and Earth

This has to do with the circle-and-cross symbol used in Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar to symbolize the Earth, and how the vocalization for this symbol is "Ja-oh-eh," something many scholars have either identified with or equated to the name Jehovah (pronounced Ya-Oh-Eh, Ia-Oh-Eh or Yahweh, depending on how you try to represent the vocalizations).

While I don't agree with everything, I think some of it is very good.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Some Clarifications and Vocabulary for Cryptography and Another Attempt to Communicate how the Kirtland Egyptian Papers Work

Over time, I have tried to figure out how to communicate how my theory works in various ways, because the theory is multi-faceted.  I have tried to show the various aspects to how things work with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and describe those differing aspects.  Some people may think I am repeating myself sometimes.  Perhaps, but, if I say things enough in different ways, maybe people will understand, because this subject is a difficult one for people to comprehend.

Cryptography is a bad word, because it implies something is hidden or protected.  That is not the case in the KEP.  Nothing is hidden, but instead, the information is out in the open, like in a regular dictionary.  There is no intent whatsoever like that.  But using the word cryptography in another sense is key.  Cryptography can also mean principles used to have a specialized kind of symbolism using special rules.

So, what I mean by multi-faceted is the same thing physicists mean when they say that light is both a wave and a particle at the same time.  The thing itself is more complex than trying to reduce it to one description.  The two things are intertwined in the whole.  You cant separate the two, yet you can only describe the two aspects separately.  And so, while I say that the usage of these characters from the Sensen papyrus in the Book of Abraham manuscripts is like section markers, from another point of view, the usage is like a code.  I even used language calling it a word or letter puzzle, and a sign list that was used pictographically, where its characters were used independently of itself in other compositions pictographically.  This means that each character was separated out from other characters, and used in other compositions.  And by that I mean, compositions external to the Sensen Papyrus, like the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and the Facsimile Explanations, but that some of these compositions were ancient, not just modern ones from Joseph Smith.  The ones from Joseph Smith represent things transmitted to us in modern times that transmit the ancient intent from ancient times.

I even tried to use the word cipher as an analogy.  Once again, the difference is that the word cipher implies that the intent was to be hidden or protected.  I am not implying that anything was to be hidden or protected in the KEP at all.  This is why the word cipher has ideas attached to it that don't apply in the case of the KEP.  So with my analogy, all I wished to point out, is that in each entry in a cipher there is a pair of items.  The pair is a symbol, with the explanation or interpretation of symbol attached.  I was trying to make an analogy with the word cipher.  I wasn't implying that in the case of the KEP, with each entry being a pair, had the intent of protecting information or hiding information.  In the tabular structure of the KEP, there was only an intent to have these paired items out in the open, not protected or hidden.  This is why the analogy with the word cipher is imprecise.

These things are not contradictory, nor are they mutually exclusive.  They are all part of a complete understanding of this thing, and there are even other aspects to this that are not contradictory either.  Such as saying that these are like variables, or like abstract symbols with concrete meaning assignments.  All of these descriptions are true, because they all describe various aspects of the whole.

So, as I said in various blog posts previous to this, from one point of view, the characters in the Book of Abraham text are section markers.  On the other hand, from another point of view, there seems to be a "code" involved, which in modern cryptological jargon, is not the same as a "cipher."  So, it is now necessary to get technical in my usage of these terms:
Some terminology: code (a word or phrase is replaced with a word, number, or symbol, e. g. codeword),cipher (each letter in a phrase is replaced by another letter, or number, or symbol), plaintext (themessage), ciphertext (the encrypted message) . . .
(, "THE CODE BOOK: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography," by Simon Singh, Freshman Seminar, Winter 2006, February 28, 2006, pp. 3-4)
So, what we are talking about here is not a a "cipher," in this sense, where letters or symbols are replaced by other letters or symbols, or where information is hidden or protected.  What we are talking about here is word-based.  So, ideas in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are described or explanations for characters are given.  And so, these symbols are given meanings with words.  Similarly:
Cryptography takes two forms: "codes" and "ciphers". The distinction between codes and ciphers is commonly misunderstood. A "code" is essentially a secret language invented to conceal the meaning of a message. 
Codewords and codenumbers are referred to collectively as "codegroups". The words they represent are referred to as "plaintext" or, more infrequently, "cleartext", "plaincode", "placode", or "plaindata".  Codes are unsurprisingly defined by "codebooks", which are dictionaries of codegroups listed with their corresponding plaintext . . . 
In contrast to a code, a "cipher" conceals a plaintext message by replacing or scrambling its letters. This process is known as "enciphering" and results in a "ciphertext" message. Converting a ciphertext message back to a plaintext message is known as "deciphering". 
(, "A Codes & Ciphers Primer," v1.0.5 / 01 jun 15 / greg goebel)
So, in the case of the Kirtland Egyptain Papers, instead of codewords, symbols are used to represent groups of words.  And so, therefore, using this jargon described in these quotes, what we have is plaintext and plaindata being represented by Egyptian symbols, or assigned to them, much like a codeword is assigned to a meaning in a code.  Therefore, this is not a cipher, but is a code, so to speak, in a certain sense, but still once again, the word code may imply that something is trying to be hidden or protected, which is not the case here in the KEP.  And so, the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are a codebook, because it contains the key to the code.  But it is not a codebook in the sense of trying to hide anything.  It is out in the open for inspection by anybody.  This is why the worde code or cipher is a bad description.  They words have too much baggage associated with them, which causes the intent here to be clouded.  And so, from one point of view, this is why characters in the KEP have associations with the meanings attributed to them, such as the reed symbol being used to represent Land of the Chaldees, which is the land of reeds.  The association between character and meaning/value assignment is clear.  But it isn't literal.  While it is true that the reed symbol has a good tie to Land of the Chaldees or Kiengi (land of reeds) by virtue of the reed as a symbol, a theme they both have in common, there is more to it.  And that is that it is a deliberate code in a sense, but without hiding or protecting the content.  Abstractions are being used for literal or concrete ideas, which are assigned to them.  And without a codebook, the symbol itself is too abstract for the thing it is meant to represent.  And by this, I mean, the codebook ties it down to precision to what it is meant to represent.  Again, the author of the Sensen Papyrus didn't hide this meaning in it.  This is a usage of these characters separate from their original intent.  And so, like a cryptographic hash, it is only one way.  Meaning, with the codebook, you know the intended meaning.  Without codebook the characters become pretty useless.   The symbols by themselves don't give you enough.  To know the intended meaning you need the key or codebook.  So, the group of documents called the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, from that point of view, could be called a "codebook."

Historically, people have also used the term "cipher" to describe a "codebook" or "dictionary."

So, what we are describing is a dictionary for the "system" or "code" used with Sensen Papyrus characters that is evident in the Kirtland Egyptian Paprs.  This is not to be confused with the regular Egyptian usage (i.e. Egyptological Egyptian) of hieroglyphic and hieratic characters.  This is a separate system defined by the evidence in the "code book" which describes their usage in this system.

And so, in some codes, other code words in a language are used as symbols to represent a "plain text" piece of data.  In this case, Egyptian characters are being used to represent them instead of code-words.

In summary, as I pointed out in other blog posts, this is similar to William Schryver's theory, with the exception that I am saying that Ancient people in Alexandria may have been doing it, not people in the nineteenth century, the way Schryver was saying.  So Joseph Smith was transmitting to us an ancient code system from Egypt that was separate from the regular Egyptian usage of characters.  Joseph Smith and his scribes did not make this system up.

This article referenced above shows how recently scholars have deciphered the documents from the Oculars, a secret society that seems to have been based off of Masonry from the 18th and 19th Centuries.  I am suggesting that cult groups or secret societies may have existed in Ancient Egypt, perhaps in the Alexandria area, that were obsessed with codes as well.  And Joseph Smith transmitted their ancient usage of Egyptian characters to us in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  It therefore could be called a translation of an "Ancient Cipher," or of an "Ancient Codebook."  But without the intent of protection or hiding of information.

Now, the problem with many people is that they assume that I'm saying that somehow the Sensen Papyrus is the thing that "contains" the message.  No.  The Sensen Papyrus is merely the thing that provides the list of symbols that are drawn upon for the creation of things that are external to it for the use of this code.  It's like the Papal Code used by Catholics.  They would give people a bunch of symbols for a message, and the symbols meant nothing for the receiver of the message unless he had a key or a "code book" to understand the message.  There was nothing inherent in the symbols that suggests that some symbol ought to be interpreted as "Pope" or "Priest."

In the case of the Sensen papyrus symbols used in this system, there were clever associations between assignments to the symbols and the meanings assigned in a "code book."  this is not the case in some "codes" where substitutions have been made.  Sometimes the symbols or code words people use in various codes have nothing to do with the things that they are made to represent.

It is true that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is a collection of documents, some bound and some unbound.  Contrary to John Gee, I insist that they all belong in one whole, and are not to be separated.  And so, when I say they constitute one "code book," then I literally mean that, because they make one whole.  They describe one particular system of using the Egyptian characters for a code.  This is not to be confused with the regular Egyptian written language.

Some people may be confused that I am saying Egyptology is incomplete or that there is more to be found.  Well, in its own sphere, Egypology is complete, but this is a separate field really, that has to do with a lot of things outside Egyptology, but that also sort-of overlaps with certain portions of the Egyptology field.  And science is always self-corrective and needing to be tweaked when new information is known.  So, what I mean to say is, that it is unsurprising that Egyptology would not previously know about a code like this.  That does't make it deficient.  It make it something that is progressive like any other branch of knowledge.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Problem with Joe Sampson's work on the KEP ("Written by the Finger of God"): You can't Translate Text magically from Symbols that Contain no Information by themselves

John Gee wrote:

As for Sampson's dubious assumption that "Joseph Smith with 'Urim and Thummim' looked at the Book of Breatings[sen-sen] and saw the Book of Abraham encoded there" (p. 70), one would have thought that the critics had demonstrated the impossibility of that idea long ago.

I don't like a lot of what Gee writes, but his writings are a mixed bag, like anything else.  In this paragraph, John Gee is right.  The critics DID demonstrate the impossibility of the idea that the Book of Abraham is encoded in the Sensen papyrus.  The Book of Abraham is not encoded in the Sensen papyrus.  This is why Kabbalah (what Joe Sampson is trying to do) doesn't work on the Sensen papyrus.  I will tell you what Kabbalah IS useful for but it is going to be difficult, and I'm going to do it step by step.  But what it is not useful for is decoding the Book of Abraham or the Book of Joseph from the Sensen papyrus or from the Book of the Dead.

Try to understand this.  This is why what I'm saying and what I'm doing is fundamentally different from Joe Sampson.

Joseph Smith recovered the ancient information in the minds of ancient people about the story of Abraham.  The Sensen Papyrus didn't contain this ancient information.  But symbols from the sensen papyrus were used to help keep track of this information.  It contained markers like in an outline, or like a numbering or alphabetic marker system that helped them keep track of some of the concepts.  What I mean by that is, we have verse and chapter numbers in our scriptures that help keep track of things so that we know how to look them up.  The scriptures are not encoded in verse and chapter numbers.  The verse and chapter numbers are not helpful to know the content of our scriptures.  Joe Sampson is trying to show magically how to extract the scriptures from verse and chapter numbers and letters.  That is a problem, because verse numbers and letters used to mark verses do not contain content.

With Egyptian numbering systems using their alphabet as a numbering or marking system for text, they would have a relationship between the markers/numbering letters and the text.  But the text is not contained in the markers.  Without a document that shows you the content and how they line up with the markers or numberings, you wouldn't know that that's what they were used for.  The Kirtland Egyptian Papers is a thing that shows how ancient markers or numberings were used for text, and why those markers were chosen to mark that part of the text.  The markers have no real relationship to the text other than they were used as markers.

So, if you say, to someone in the ancient way of quoting from the book of Abraham:  Show me the verse from the Book of Abraham, Chapter 1, verse Reed Symbol.  That's like saying show me Abraham chapter 1 verse 1.  Reed Symbol didn't contain the Book of Abraham.  Reed Symbol marked a verse like the number 1 for us marks verse 1.  It's nice that Land of the Chaldees (Kiengi) means "Land of Reeds."  But that is the association I'm talking about, between marker/numbering and verse.  That is not content.  That is just a clever association:

You can't extract text from a verse numbering system.

This is the problem with Joe Sampson.  He is trying to extract meaning from a verse numbering/marking system, symbols that contain no information to extract.  This is like some kind of Kircherian type of exercise he is trying to do.  I'm trying to show why symbols in the numbering system were chosen, and how there are associations between number/character and verse or paragraph, whatever you wnat to call it.  All I'm doing is to demonstrate that these associations were clever.  I'm not trying to show how the numbering system translates to the text.  It doesn't.  Do you see the difference between what I'm doing and what Joe Sampson was doing?

So, when I say that it is an ancient cipher, this is what I mean, that there is an ancient relationship between verse numbers/letters and content.  I am not saying that the verse numbers/letters contain content.  I'm saying that they creatively marked their verses with things in the Egyptian Alphabet that had associations with content in the verses/sections of text.

So, when I say that the Book of the Dead was the Book of Joseph, I mean that symbols from the the Book in the papyrus of Ani, for example, were creatively used for verse/section markers in the Book of Joseph.  The order the alphabet/characters were used to mark text were used in the order they are in in the papyrus.  The same with the Sensen Papyrus, when it was used to mark verse sections in the Book of Abraham.  You can't extract the text from it.  You need an external document or key to show you content and context.  This is what I mean when I say "external content dependency."

The ancient acrostics in the Book of Psalms marks sections of text with Hebrew letters like verse numberings but that doesn't tell me the content.  Yes, there is an association between a letter and the verse that it marks or enumerates, but that doesn't mean it contains the content of the verse/section.  And it is clever how the ancient prophets used those acrostics.

Similarly, it is evident from the KEP that Joseph Smith never claimed that the Sensen Papyrus contained text from the Book of Abraham, but that it was used as an ancient marking/numbering system for sections of text, and he was trying to show people that.  He wasn't claiming that the text could be extracted from it.  He was showing associations between that content and the characters, and why it was clever for someone to use it for a marking/numbering system.  And so, my work on this blog is not to show how the Book of Abraham text is extracted from these characters.  My work is to show the underlying relationships between section markers/numbers and text, and how clever people chose these verse/section markers/numberings to mark/enumerate the text for various reasons.  I'm not saying that the markers/numberings translate to the text.  There is a big difference there.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Follow-Through, and Redefining Apologetics to be Evidence-Based

Alan Turing and Boris Pavlovich Belousov never lived to see the ultimate outcome of their contributions to science.  Their contributions would lead to a change that would effect the very understanding of science itself.  And that their ideas, coupled with the ideas of others would ultimately cause a paradigm shift.  And so, just because someone's research is not immediately accepted, that it is worth following through with it.  Turing showed how complex patterns emerge from simple mathematical principles:  a big, bold idea.

As Wikipedia says about Belousov:

It was while seeking an inorganic analog of the biochemical citric acid cycle that Belousov chanced to discover an oscillating chemical reaction. He tried twice over a period of six years to publish his findings, but the incredulous editors of the journals to which he submitted his articles rejected his work as "impossible". He took this very hard.
The biochemist Simon El'evich Shnoll, at the Institute for Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics (Puschino), heard of Belousov's work and tried to encourage him to continue. Belousov gave Schnoll some of his experimental notes and agreed to publish an article in a rather obscure, non-reviewed, journal, but then essentially quit science. Schnoll gave the project to a graduate student, Anatol Zhabotinsky, who investigated the reaction in detail and succeeded in publishing his results. The reaction now bears the names of both Belousov and Zhabotinsky.
Belousov was posthumously awarded the Lenin Prize in 1980 for his work on the BZ reaction.

Belousov's reaction was the type of behavior in nature that Turing's work predicted.  And it was further added upon by the work of Mandelbrot.

In my case, I am suggesting a way of looking at Egyptian symbolism that has simple principles, and that those principles lay the foundation for proper understanding of Joseph Smith's Egyptian productions in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and in the Explanations for the Book of Abraham Facsimiles.  Someone had lay the groundwork for a wide understanding of these facts.  If I am remembered for anything, perhaps it will be that I sought out the basic principles so as to not get lost in all the weeds many other people are lost in.

There are people out there that sense patterns where others do not see anything.  There are people that can sense fundamentals in things that others cannot seem to sense.  This is what I mean to say, when I say that Turing and Belousov and Mandelbrot had a sense for the same type of elusive, underlying realities that Bohr and Einstein and Darwin had a sense for.  I y mahave a sense for what I believe are underlying principles in Joseph Smith's Egyptian.

One thing that I think I have in common with skeptics is that I wish for things to be evidence-based.  Apologetics ought to be evidence- and principled-based.  We need serious answers that harmonize with evidence as far as possible.  We need serious hypotheses and theories that actually explain the evidence that we see before us, instead of saying stuff and trying to force reality to fit what we say.  This is where I differ with other apologists I think.  I want an evidentiary basis if it is possible to have one, or at the very least, strive for it.  I don't believe they try hard enough to do that.

In October 2016, in the talk "A Witness of God", Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:

The gathering of Israel is a miracle. It is like an enormous puzzle whose pieces will be set in place prior to the glorious events of the Second Coming. Just as we might be perplexed with a mountain of puzzle pieces, the early Saints must have seen the commission to take the restored gospel to all the world as a nearly impossible task. But they began, one person, one puzzle piece at a time, finding the straight edges, working to rightly frame this divine work. Little by little, the stone cut without hands began to roll forth; from hundreds to thousands, to tens of thousands, and now millions of covenant Latter-day Saints across every nation are connecting the puzzle pieces of this marvelous work and a wonder.
An enormous puzzle--Each of us is a piece of the puzzle, and each of us helps to set in place other essential pieces. You are important to this great cause. Our view ahead is now clear. We can see the miracle continuing and the Lord’s hand guiding us as we complete the gaps that remain. Then, “the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done,” and He will return in majesty and glory.
Each of us is a piece of the puzzle.
President Thomas S. Monson has said: “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together … to bring souls unto Him. … He will assist us in our labors if we will act in faith to fulfill His work.”
The divinely appointed responsibility that once rested primarily upon the shoulders of full-time missionaries now rests upon us all. We all want to share the restored gospel, and gratefully, thousands are baptized each week. But even with this wonderful blessing, our concern for our brothers and sisters and our desire to please God bring a compelling urgency to share and strengthen the kingdom of God across the world.
It is not uncommon in Mormonism for inspiration to sometimes be from the bottom, up, where those at the top have the opportunity to profit from insights that originate from the bottom, not that the bottom is trying to tell the top how to run things.  Not at all.  It's more like somebody submitting something in a suggestion box.  But this is a Church of councils, and even the most lowliest of members of ward councils, for example, sometimes give insight that those with the keys can profit from, even though the buck stops with those with the keys, and ultimately, the members of a council unite with the decisions of the key-holders, and submit to it, and do not insist that their suggestions be carried out.

So, if I am a puzzle piece, and gave my widows mite in this thing, and any small thing was done through me, it is now up to those in the future to figure out what ought to be done with my research, as I have done all I can do on my own already.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Response to "Book of Abraham Fraud" By Mark Hines: Anti-Mormon Egyptian Art Aversion

Sometimes things irritate me because they are stupid.  And I feel that they need a response to illustrate and bring out the stupidity, especially when someone disrespects Joseph Smith and the Church so much, and then makes the claim that it is common sense that it is so.  This sort of claim shows how people when they are against the Church have lost the Holy Ghost, and refuse to look at anything through any kind of lens except their extremely cynical worldview.  They refuse to give anything the benefit of the doubt, but they feel the need to portray it in the worst possible light, and then pass judgement on it, condemning it to hell, and refuse to understand it.  This type of thing coming from people like this reminds me of the how children are fixated on potty stuff and private parts.

This is a link to an article by an Anti-Mormon named Mark Hines. The copy of this that I have in PDF form doesn't seem to be exactly the same, but the content is pretty much the same.

People ought not to be disturbed by the drivel in documents that circulate such as this.  Hines makes claims that are classic Anti-Mormon claims against the Book of Abraham (which is the same kind of stuff used in Larson's classic book By His Own Hand on Papyrus):

(1) The Book of Abraham Facsimiles use the god Min from ancient Egypt as a symbol.  Min was a fertility god, and iconographically, his penis is erect, and in some contexts, in some statues and so forth, Egyptians actually use a depiction of Min with his hand around his erect penis.

(2) Mormons will burn in hell if they don't stop believing in Mormonism, and Mormonism is Satanic because Ancient Egyptian Iconography is pagan and evil.  And Egyptian iconography is especially evil, because some characters in it are pornographic such as Min.

(3) The God of Christians would never use a penis for a symbol.

(4) Christians have enough common sense to know that God would never use a penis for a symbol.

Yes, it is true that in other ways I have praised Larson's book at times for the presentation of facts in general, not its anti-Mormon claims.  But Larson also seems to have had a fixation on Min's penis like Hines.  For example, Larson shows Osiris on the Lion Couch in an Egyptological reconstruction holding his penis.  And its not that it is necessarily incorrect to suggest that some Lion Couch scenes showed the idea of fertility between Isis and her dead husband Osiris in their marriage (especially the fact that the fertility extended beyond the grave, an idea that Mormons are quite at home with, and it was a marriage for crying out loud).  But anti-Mormons love to make a big deal out of nothing and can't be adults about things that are just symbols.  Hines says things like this:

Even in Joe Smith's day, a moderately retarded person could identify the sitting person as having an erect penis. Anybody with high school level reading comprehension skills can read Joe Smith's explanation. Sanity, common sense, basic decency, etc., tell one that this "prophet" Joe Smith and his obscene representation of God are of Satan . . .  He is usually represented as having an erect penis. In some hypocephali, Min holds his stiff penis with his left hand.

Hines has no respect for a religion that he disagrees with, and calls it's founding prophet by the name of "Joe," as many Anti-Mormons have since the beginning of time, to make the first man in the 19th Century who spoke with Jehovah, a man of the stature of Moses in modern times, into a regular "Joe."

And now, Hines makes an appeal to the emotion of his audience, appealing to their "basic decency," and their "common sense," because in the infinite wisdom of his audience, of course his audience "knows" that it is "obvious" that this is "obscene" and surely their God would never use such symbols which are obviously Satanic.  Some of you out there may almost think that Hines argument has real substance in it, until you actually start analyzing how he is manipulating his audience emotionally, and appealing to their own sense of what they think is "decent" and "common sense" from their own culture.  Yet, if you recognize that the fact that the Egyptians didn't necessarily have the same thoughts, you may come to realize that Egyptians and other people in other cultures in a world three or four thousand years separated from ours may have had a different sense of "common sense."

The God of Israel is not a product of Western Culture, but instead is a being that has been around far longer than the earth itself, and who assures us that his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).  So if God has a "culture," then it is not ours for sure.  Yet Hines presumes to know what is acceptable to God, which, to know such a thing, would require Hines to know the mind of God, yet the religion that Hines belongs to rejects modern-day revelation to know the mind of God on a subject.  If Hines rejects Mormon Prophets, then how would he presume to know what God thinks of Min's penis in a drawing from the Egyptians, and what God may use the symbol for?

To the Muslims, isn't it common sense that Westerners are indecent by allowing their women to not be covered head to toe?  Yet isn't it common sense to us that forcing women to do such things is abusive, and that our own sense of what is "modest" and "decent" is entirely culture-based?  Hines doesn't bother to really reveal to his audience what the point the Egyptians were trying to make by using an erect penis as a symbol.  And as it happens, the value to them was the message behind the symbol, which is the idea of fertility and the power of procreation.  Indecency and pornography was the furthest thing from their minds, but Hines doesn't bother to tell people this.  He would rather manipulate people and try to make an appeal to their ethnocentricity.  And he would hope that his audience doesn't actually start trying to analyze what he is actually saying.

Well, now, Hines, of course, loves the shock value of pointing out the use of the penis on Min statues and in other art.  I don't know what his fascination/fixation is with Min's penis, but Mormons have never thought much of it, and have not only NOT pointed it out, but just simply don't care because it isn't a big deal.  Hines needs to grow up and be an adult.  Grow up Hines.

Mormons don't seem to be as childish as this.  Yes I said childish.  I say to the Anti-Mormons, get over it and stop being childish, and stop getting so worked up about Min's erect penis.  It's a symbol of fertility.  Get over it.  It is an ancient symbol that is not any more of a big deal than a naked statue from the Greeks.  You Anti-Mormons are the only ones getting worked up about about Min's penis.  Egyptologists don't get worked up about Min's penis, and neither do Mormons.

Christians, so called, in their unChristlike judgement of Mormons, like Hines probably don't want you to notice the fact that their Savior God also is a man...  Get it?  His name is Jesus Christ, and he is in the form of a man, and that means he is equipped in the form of a man.  Get it?  It is doubtful that Jesus walked around as a Eunuch for 33 years on this planet, but that he had what it took to be considered a man.  So, not only did the Egyptian god Min have a penis, but so did your God.  I have no problem saying it as it is.  Mormons aren't scared that Father in Heaven is equipped to be a Father, even though some Christians are scared to even contemplate the possibility that Jesus was married and did what it took to be a Father as well.  Why should I mince words?

You Christians as you call yourselves, holier than the rest of us, so you believe.  You condemn the rest of us to hell because you say we are Satanic over a symbol.  You are commanded not to judge, but you pass judgement on the basis of doctrines that you disagree with.  You act like you are the only people in the world who have the right to use that name, are trying to exclude Mormons from your "Christian club," because we don't have the same cool doctrines you do in your minds.  So you resort to making a big deal out of something that is nothing.  You people forget that Egyptology is all about symbolism, and those symbols are drawings.  And this wasn't used with pornographic intent.

You claim the Bible as yours.  Well, it is not.  It is the book of the primitive Christians.  You didn't write it.  Nevertheless, I could point out God's fixation on Onan's spilling his own seed from his penis, not wanting to provide an heir to his brother (Genesis 38:9).  I could point out King David's dancing in the streets naked (2 Samuel 6:20).  I could point out the commandment to Hosea to go marry a prostitute and God's use of the prostitute/whore for a symbol, which was quite literal, and may have caused a prophet to get an STD, for all we know (Hosea 1:2).  God seems to have had no aversion to use the symbol of a whore in the Book of Revelation as the whore of Babylon.

As my associate, Vincent Coon points out, there are many other things in Hebrew scripture "that should rub the sensibilities of western Christian society the wrong way."  For example, he notes:
The KJV still leaves us with God repeatedly stating that he will cut of him that “pisseth against the wall” and then there are statements like “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins” (KJV 1 Kings 12:10), more explicit in Hebrew, not to mention Shir ha-Shirim (Song of Songs).
But I won't rip on "your" Bible, because the Bible is true, and it isn't yours anyway.  It is actually the book from the ancient Christians, not you.  And it is as much a Mormon book as anything.  Christians are actually the intellectual descendants of the proto-Orthodox usurpers, not the primitive Christians, according to scholars such as Bart Ehrman.  The Mormons at least had it right, long before Ehrman, to know that there were usurpers in the religious lineages of the sectarians.  And the Mormons know that Joseph Smith and his successors are the true successors to the primitive Christians through restoration.  But Christians don't want to have to bother with little facts such as these.  And the primitive Christians had no aversion to symbolism that was only used as symbolism in the culture of the middle east.  Therefore, it is the so-called Christians with their penis aversion in art that didn't have the intent that they put upon it that I will criticize.

You can't even represent a penis, or even the idea of fertility, in Egyptian without drawing one.  That's how stupid this is.  The Egyptians thought no more about drawing a penis (Gardiner's D52 and D53) than drawing an eye.