Monday, 30 July 2012

sean worle on mormon apologetics about the book of abraham

from today on the yahoo exmormon maillist:

> Someone please tell me if Mr. Blowhard has a leg to stand on --
> either the text has NOTHING to do with Abraham, or today's
> scholars are wrong about what's on the scrolls.  
This line of argument is nothing new. In fact, this was Hugh Nibley's
favorite tactic, and he engaged it back in the '60s almost immediately after
the papyri were translated and found to not match.
Essentially, the tactic is this: the text of the Book of Abraham does not
match up with the translated text of the Joseph Smith papyri, so they elect
not to talk about that anymore, since it summarily disproves the Book of
Abraham. Instead, they dig through thousands of sources from all over the
Middle East, regardless of time period, and look for parallels between the
stuff they find and things mentioned in the Book of Abraham.

There's an ancient Assyrian place name similar to a place name in the Book
of Abraham. We found a Jewish text from the 2nd century AD that mentions
that Abraham talked about stars. Here's an old Islamic tradition that says
Abraham escaped being sacrificed by an evil priest. There's an Egyptian
myth associating the deified Pharaoh with a crocodile. We've got an early
Christian tradition that god organized the universe from existing matter.
Doesn't that all sound impressive? Maybe if we throw enough of these things
at you, you'll forget that we've actually translated the text, and it
doesn't match up. We won't even bring that up anymore. We also hope that
you don't notice we're pulling references from vastly different traditions,
cultures, and time periods, and smashing them all together as though they
were a single body of evidence. If we do it fast enough, maybe you'll get
dizzy and give up.

Essentially what they are doing here is changing the question. The original
question was "Did Joseph Smith accurately translate the papyri into the Book
of Abraham?" The way you answer that question is to compare Joseph's
translation with the translations of scholars who know how to read Egyptian
hieroglyphics. The answer, of course, ends up being very simple for anyone
to understand: "No, this is not even remotely an accurate translation of the
text." Because that is such an unassailable conclusion, apologists are
forced to change the question (while trying to convince you it's the same
question, of course). The new question they create is "Why can we find all
these parallels between the Book of Abraham and history?" This is the ideal
question for them, because unlike the previous question, the real answer to
this question is much more complicated, because each claimed parallel must
be answered individually. They, on the other hand, can offer a simple
answer: "Joseph Smith must have had special inspiration when writing the
Book of Abraham."


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