Episodes

Radio Free Mormon: 189: Dr. Robert K. Ritner on the Book of Abraham part 2

In this episode, Dr. Ritner goes through Facsimiles Two and Three and shows how the actual Egyptian translations do not match those provided by Joseph Smith.  We also go into depth on two of the apologists’ favorite arguments; (1) The practice of human sacrifice in ancient Egypt; and, (2) The translation of the four sons of Horus as representing the earth in its four quarters.  Facsimile 3 rings the death knell on Joseph Smith’s ability to translate Egyptian.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT! As you know, Dr. Ritner needs a kidney because his is failing. If you can help, call Dana McClain, Northwestern Medicine Transplant Coordinator, at 312-695-0828. Donors will be given an application asking for Dr. Ritner’s date of birth. It is 05-05-1953. Thanks so much!!! RFM

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13 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 189: Dr. Robert K. Ritner on the Book of Abraham part 2

  1. RFM, this is really great stuff. There’s a lot of detail but it’s necessary to go though it given the minute details that the apologists hang their hats on.

    Listening to this, I got the sense that the Joseph Smith papyri could have just as easily been the Kinderhook Plates — something that looked ancient that got Joseph’s creative juices flowing.

    Maybe Joseph Smith was such a narcissist that in his mind everything he encountered was something relevant to his religious project –“Hey here are some old scrolls — these have to have something to do with my project”. But in the real world, sometimes a hypocephalus is just a hypocephalus.

    I wonder about the psychology of an LDS Egyptologist/Apologist. How could you have an advanced degree in the field and subscribe to and promote such garbage arguments? The cognitive dissonance must be enormous. Or maybe, even worse, they know that what they are doing is really bad egyptology but the ends justify the means — “we must lie to advance the truth”?

    Any perspective from a recovering apologist on that score?

    Thanks again
    Rick

    • I’ve recently come to the belief that Joseph Smith very much had a high imagination and a very “self oracle” complex. IOW, very early in Joseph Smith’s life and storytelling endeavors it becomes clear that anything “mysterious” set off the lightbulb in Joseph Smith’s mind and led to him tying it to religion and injecting his own evolving theology.

      What are these ancient mounds in the North East of America? Who built them? Where are those people?

      Joseph Smith’s lightbulb goes off and he combines stories he knows from View of the Hebrews, the Bible, Manuscript Found, Preacher Benjamin, etc. and tells stories to his parents of Ancient Hebrews coming to America. Later combines these and canonizes them in a Book and attaches a fantastical claim of how he came to become the author of the book.

      We found a skeleton in one of the mounds? I wonder who this person was.

      All eyes turn to Joseph Smith and he invents a story. It’s Zelph. A white lamanite prophet/warrior.

      They struggle navigating the river on a church expedition. What is our journey so hard? They look to Joseph…

      Oh that’s because in this section of river Satan rules over it (from whence is born that Satan rules over water) etc.

      A traveling salesman goes all over claiming he has mummies dating from the times of the Patriarch’s and Pharoahs of biblical times. He arrives in Kirtland, Ohio to sell them. All eyes turn to Joseph Smith…is what this salesman claims true?

      The lightbulb goes off: YES, those mummies and papyrus ARE from that time and in fact the papyri and drawings are the Book of Abraham and the Book of Joseph. Here let me create an Egyptian Alphabet from those documents and translate them into English.

      Every single thing that Joseph claimed having divine origin is and was 100% born of his imagination combined with things and influences surrounding him.

      The revelations, translations and prophecies of Joseph Smith are and were born of Joseph Smith and borrowed, influenced and constructed from things that surrounded him. They are and were 100% the product of a man no matter what anyone claims contrary to that. That is what the facts and evidence support. That is what honesty and integrity demand be acknowledge and it is what, unfortunately, many have sold because of what they feel is true vs. what is legitimately and logically and according to evidence, true.

  2. Another stunning effort, and well worth the 4 hours to soak it all in. Ghee & Co. are TOAST!!

  3. RFM….I’ll leave my comment over here rather than Mormon Stories. What an incredibly important interview to be hand picked to join. I give you an ‘A’ too. LOL

    It’s unfortunate that in the first podcast, John, in his nervousness with such a prestigious guest, was so anal about maintaining control of the interview, that he kept cutting you off or not including you. It was awkward and embarrassing how he maneuvered himself for much of it. I give this feedback as constructive , not mean.

    You sir, handled yourself with him in the most gracious and patient way. Thank goodness for your tact and charming wit. By the second podcast, he had obviously corrected himself and was finally actually co hosting with you.

    Personalities aside, what a coup to have a teacher of this caliber painstakingly go through the minutia of this mess. It has to be done. And I believe we have a moral obligation to the Mormons we leave behind, to be prepared to explain some of these things generally at least should they ever ask.

    I thought John’s best moment was when he went off about the absurdity of it all. I got what he was saying exactly.

    This is such a slam dunk against anything Joseph Smith did here with the papyri, that it IS absurd, however necessary, to apply this kind of expert microscope because of all the people’s lives that have been affected by these lies.

    You played an interesting role in the interview that became more clear as time went on.

    Can’t wait for the rest.

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Angie!

      It did take a bit of time for John and I to hit our stride.

      I think it was rocky at first because John has an outline of where he wants the interview to go and doesn’t want to get off track.

      Then I come along and start interjecting things that John feels will get off track or ahead of where he wants to be in the interview.

      I have listened to a lot of Mormon Stories, and I am not sure John has ever had somebody else co-host with him on an interview.

      It is not easy to go from having full responsibility for an interview to allowing somebody else to join in.

      I remember having a similar difficulty with Jonathan Streeter when we did a joint podcast. It wasn’t an interview, but both Jonathan Streeter and I are used to holding up the entirety of the time by ourselves.

      The result was that we kept trying to do the whole presentation by ourselves, with sometimes humorous results. But Jonathan and I got better at it as time went on there, too.

      I was totally thrilled to be able to join in an interview with Dr. Robert Ritner! Something I never imagined in a million years I would be doing! And when he said I got an “A” I was over the moon!

      I am very thankful to John Dehlin for inviting me on his program for what is turning out to be a very important series of interviews.

      Thanks so much for listening, Angie!

      RFM

  4. With Fascimile 1 being just a scene from a sacred religious story from ancient Egypt, I was thinking it would be comparable to a painting of the nativity scene.

    The characters are unmistakable. The items in the scene are unmistakable. Just as it would be dishonest for anyone familiar with Christianity to attribute a nativity scene to some other story, it is the same with a Mormon Egyptologist trying to justify JS’s fraud.

  5. “Mesopotamia” by the b-52’s would be appropriate as the musical accompaniment to the next podcast in this series.

    Now I ain’t no student (we’re goin’ down to meet, feel those vibrations)
    Of ancient culture (I know a neat excavation)
    Before I talk
    I should read a book
    (Mesopotamia, that’s where I wanna go)
    But there’s one thing that
    I do know (Mesopotamia, that’s where I wanna go)
    There’s a lot of ruins in Mesopotamia

  6. Every time an apologist can construe Smith’s translation to match that of the modern secular one, they claim it as a ‘hit’. Is this not an explicit admission that the modern interpretation of the facsimiles is the correct one?

    If one wishes to maintain the assertion that the papyri have anything to do with the Book of Abraham, the only reasonable assertion becomes the one that all modern understanding of Egyptian language, culture, and religion is wrong *wrong* WRONG. There should be absolutely no need to connect Smith’s translation to the secular one since we already have the “correct” translation of the papyri in the Book of Abraham and annotated facsimiles, and thus *everything* is a bullseye.

    *Any* attempt to give Smith credit for a correct translation by using the secular one as the gold standard is an admission that anything that doesn’t match the secular translation is INCORRECT, that the papyri have nothing to do with the text of the Book of Abraham, and that Smith’s translation is necessarily a fraud.

    Maintaining the position that the papyri have anything to do with the BoA requires a brain-damaging level of cognitive dissonance; thus we see the attempts to rebrand it as a revelation rather than a translation. I expect that Smith’s annotated facsimiles will be decanonized at some point in the future.

    • ….” a brain damaging level of cognitive dissonance” ? LMAO!!!!

      I’m going to be adopting that phrase. Amen to your comments.

    • This is such a great insight, Chris!

      I forgot where I read it, but I did use it in a later part of the interview with Dr. Ritner.

      I apologize I didn’t remember where I had read it; there are comments about these interviews scattered far and wide across the Bloggernacle.

      This is by way of saying that if I had remembered you were the one who had provided this insight, I would have given you credit by name when I brought it up.

      What you say here is extremely important!

      Thanks!

      RFM

  7. Dehlin, Ritner, and RFM really get into a synergistic grove in this part 2. Incredibly valuable interview.

  8. On the four cardinal point issue, I’m not sure if Ritner is familiar with all the material on this point, perhaps he does but it was not involved in his comments here. This is from other Egyptologists point of view. The four sons of Horus
    represent “. . . the four cardinal points; or the four tresses (ḥnsktiw) which were conceived of as binding earth
    and heaven, or the four pillars of heaven, which eventually became the four cardinal points.” (Mercer 1942,
    109)
    The four sons of Horus sometimes appeared as four birds who announced to the four quarters of heaven the
    accession of the king as Horus. Horus himself is also associated with all four cardinal directions (Mercer 1942, 111)
    Ref: Mercer, Samuel A. B. 1942. Horus, Royal God of Egypt. Grafton, MA: Society of Oriental Research.

    • Thanks for this important information, Jerry.

      I did try to bring it up in a later interview.

      It seems that the four sons of Horus can be understood as messengers of kingly accession to the four corners of heaven, but I think it a stretch to say that they “represent” the four quarters of the earth.

      Maybe you could say that, but I think it unlikely an Egyptian looking at them would have that thought first in their mind, even if they know the story.

      Dr. Ritner pointed out a deity (I can’t remember his name); he is the one who “should” be in the middle of Facsimile 2 with the four heads which represents the four quarters of the earth; or the snakes and other things he mentioned that actually do represent the cardinal directions.

      Even in the quote you provide, it sounds like Horus himself can be seen as being associated with the four cardinal directions.

      I am certainly no expert, but it sounds like lots of things can be associated with the four directions in Egyptian.

      Maybe it is like a drawing of a newspaper being on the papyri and it being translated as the earth in its four quarters.

      That would seem to be off; but then somebody could come along and say, “Wait a minute! This is a newspaper. It is about the news. And news is actually an acronym for the four cardinal directions; standing for North, East, West and South. (Which it does). Therefore it is a bullseye to translate an image of a newspaper as representing the four cardinal directions.”

      I don’t know if that is a good analogy, but I think we can all agree it would have been much more impressive had Joseph Smith translated the figures as, “The four sons of Horus, or the earth in its four quarters.”

      Then I think he would have had something!

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