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 Post subject: From the Archives: The Burden of Being Gee
PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 7:25 pm 
Master Mahan

Joined: Sun Oct 29, 2006 2:13 pm
Posts: 5604
For some time now, I have found myself increasingly fascinated by the very difficult mantle which is presently being shouldered by Professor John Gee. As most of us know, the controversy surrounding the Book of Abraham is perhaps the most damning apologetic issue that LDS defenders have ever had to reckon with. The Book of Abraham makes a rather chilling commentary on the prophethood of Joseph Smith, and, as even TBMs are sometimes willing to point out, it could be the final straw for any number of LDS with wavering testimonies. Indeed, it is probably not going too far to state that the Book of Abraham, more than any other issue, is one which should be avoided by struggling Mormons.

With so much at stake, then, it was clear, post-Nibley, that the world of Mormon apologetics was sorely in need of someone with both the superficial credentials and the chutzpah needed to address all these Book of Abraham problems. Enter John Gee--the Yale-educated Egyptologist who, apologists hoped, would be their Great White Hope. But Gee entered the fray with a troubled past. The Chair of his dissertation committee, Dr. Robert Ritner, abruptly resigned on account of some shadowy conflict---one which may have had to do with Gee's heavy involvement with Book of Abraham apologetics. (On the other hand, LDS apologists such as DCP have insinuated that the resignation came about because Ritner is "bigoted" against Mormons.)

What is interesting---and sympathetic---about Gee, is that he has become a Sisyphean figure in Mopologetics. He, practically by himself, has been left alone to try and shoulder the over-bearing boulder of the Book of Abraham. And, following the very embarrassing "Two Inks" scandal, Gee was left in a tailspin. Indeed, in his most recent FARMS Review piece, he lamented his lot in life, complaining that those involved with Book of Abraham apologetics "will never be left alone."

This brings us to one of the great, classic moments in recent online Mopologetics:

Professor Gee's Book of Abraham 'Qualifications' Test

Approximately a year ago, following an inquiry by CaliforniaKid, the following was posted to the aptly named MADboard. It is important to note that Gee himself was apparently too timid to post the material himself; instead, he had juliann/Chaos do it. I will intersperse my comments within:

Chaos wrote:
Dear Moderators,

It has been more than a quarter of a century since I first started
studying ancient Egypt. I spent years in graduate school learning the
basic skills to do research in the area. I teach the subject now and
regularly publish and participate in professional conferences in my
field. Occasionally, I have friends who direct my attention to this and
other message boards where I am regularly vilified as incompetent by
people who in some cases have not attended college, and usually
masquerade behind pseudonyms. Yet, when I read their responses, I
wonder about the competence of these critics. They remind me of
something Nibley wrote long ago: "As if to prove that they have no
intention of pursuing serious investigations, these people have
conspicuously neglected to prepare themselves for any but the most
localized research; they are like a man setting out to explore a
wonderful cavern without bothering to equip himself with either lights
or ropes. We respect our local Gelehrten for the knowledge and
proficiency which they have demonstrated to the world, but when they go
out of bounds and attack the Church with specious learning they invite
legitimate censure. They are like dentists who insist on performing
delicate brain surgery, because that is more interesting than filling
teeth. Nice for them--but what about their patients?" I demonstrate my
knowledge and proficiency on a regular basis, but [b]I never see the
critics on the message boards at these events and thus see no
demonstration of knowledge or proficiency from them.[b]
(emphasis added)

A couple of points here. 1) Apologists frequently trot out the argument that there is not such things as a "Mormon Studies" degree. Thus, why is Gee trying to "out" people with no "college education"? (This seems a veiled insult towards B. Metcalfe, in any event.) Further, he complains about folks "hiding behind a pseudonym." Well, might it be the case that the reason he "never see[s] the critics....at these events" lie in the fact that they were pseudonymous?

Anyways, Gee goes on:

Quote:
So I am willing for the next month to conduct a little test of the
basic Egyptological skills needed for an intelligent discussion of the
Joseph Smith Papyri. I do not participate on these message boards and
rarely even look at them. I will pose the questions through you, the
moderators, requesting that you pin them for a month. Any who wish to
demonstrate their skills may send their answers to the following to me
at egyptiantest at BYU.edu. All emails must include the person's real
name, daytime phone number, and pseudonym under which they post to this
board. All persons should submit a statement truthfully stating that
their submission is their own work. I will evaluate the results and send to the moderators, the pseudonym and the test results in the form of a score. My answers coincide with the standard published
Egyptological versions of these texts and images, so I am not introducing anything that is idiosyncratic.


Wow! That's quite a test. A few things are worth observing. For one thing, it seems that Gee took the trouble to create a whole, spanking new BYU email account for the sole purpose of administering this silly Egyptology test to the MAD board. Secondly, why does he want the person's contact information? Is he hoping to "out" the anonymous critics, or to submit their names to the SCMC?

What followed were a series of questions aimed at determining whether or not the answeree was "legit" in terms of being able to criticize Gee's Book of Abraham apologetics. Interestingly, the following was added to the message by the MAD moderating team:

Quote:
This post has been made with the permission of John Gee for the use on http://www.mormonapologetics.org site solely. This is a good opportunity for our posters to have some interaction with Gee concerning the Joseph Smith Papyri.

Chaos


What this says to me is that Gee is completely and utterly overwhelmed and terrified by the multitude of problems he's facing vis-à-vis the Book of Abraham. He certainly seems to *want* to address the critics, but he is afraid to do so himself on the MADboard, and further, he apparently feels the need to control every tiny, conversation-related piece of minutia as far as the debate is concerned. Thus, it's rather difficult to see how Chaos's (i.e., juliann's) use of the word "interaction" is even remotely applicable in this situation.

It should be noted that this thread originally appeared in the main MAD forum, "LDS Dialog & Discussion," but later, for whatever reason, it was squirreled away to the seldom-viewed "Pundits Forum," where it now resides. Of further interest is the fact that the MADmods trimmed away the "Peanut Gallery" commentary which was originally part of the thread. In other words, juliann and Co. went to pains to separate the embarrassing criticism from Gee's embarrassing "test." What do I mean by "embarrassing"? Observe:

Tarski wrote:
I think it quite likely that there are plenty of people (often mentioned here- Ritner etc) who could rise to Dr. Gee's challenge and yet have the same criticisms of Dr. Gee's writings anyway. So, one is left wondering about the point of the challenge.


The Dude wrote:
The point? To question the competence of a critic and put off engaging that person's specific criticism.


Next: if there was any doubt that Chaos=juliann, prepare to kiss those doubts goodbye:

Chaos wrote:
The point is self-evident and I don't think there is one poster here who doesn't see what it is. Put up or shut up as the saying goes. It is time to stop blustering and start some serious analysis for those who think their opinion about obscure academic topics should make a difference to anybody. Apparently, a few bluffs have been called. Step up to the plate or get out of the debate. Calling trained scholars liars isn't a substitute for the real thing on this board.


Here is a very observant post from Runtu:

Runtu wrote:
I asked this in another thread, but I don't understand why it's necessary to read Egyptian to discuss the Book of Abraham. It's been my understanding that there's general agreement among everyone as to the translation of the Egyptian text. The interesting questions are not what the Egyptian says but how Joseph Smith arrived at an alternative translation.

Anyway, I don't know much about this subject, so I'll leave it to the experts.


Yes, of course. We *know* what the Egyptian portion of the Book of Abraham says.

Later, with Chaos evidently not being enough, juliann decides to post under her "normal" moniker:

juliann wrote:
cksalmon wrote:
I would not necessarily expect MB critics of the missing scroll hypothesis to be able to translate Egyptian. And discussing non-translational aspects of JSP/Book of Abraham does not require that one be able to translate Egyptian.


I wouldn't expect that either. But that isn't what happens on message boards. What we have been treated to is a shameful exhibition of slander, mockery and just plain meanness. Maybe if a discussion ever got on its feet it would be different. So let the mockers and savagers present their credentials and get on with it. It's not an unreasonable request.


And what, pray tell, are juliann's credentials? Does she possess a graduate degree? Is she an expert in sociology of religion? I don't think so. It's worth noting that she attempted to utilize this same Mopologetic gambit with Brent Metcalfe and handwriting analysis.

Perhaps the most level-headed and damning post came from Dan Vogel:

Dan Vogel wrote:
Professor Gee,

Of what relevance could translating Egyptian be to the study of early Mormon history? Joseph Smith didn't translate Egyptian. You have proposed that the text he translated is missing. So no matter how good you are at translating Egyptian, it won't help you. You don't even dispute that the characters in the left margins of the translation papers are incorrectly translated, although you question the relationship between the two. And for that theory your knowledge of Egyptian is useless. What about Joseph Smith's translation or interpretation of the characters on the facsimiles? Does your expertise in Egyptian help you explain your way out of that? Hardly. No one (not even Noel, I believe) has questioned your ability to translate Egyptian. What is at issue is your theories about how the Joseph Smith Egyptian papyri connect with the Book of Abraham. Basically, your idea that the missing papyri contain the missing text of Abraham is wishful thinking, the fallacy of possible proof, and downright silly, according to your mentor. The question I have for you is: are you an Egyptologist who happens to be interested in the Book of Abraham, or are you an apologist who became an Egyptologist so that you could browbeat your opponents with irrelevant feats of erudition?

If there has been ad hominal attacks, I don't approve of it; but most of the points made by the critics involve the non-technical aspects of the debate. I hope you realize that your test, if taken seriously, would apply to many of your defenders as well, some of whom go into vast detail on things Egyptian. You quote Nibley, but how bright was his light and long his rope when he tried to explore the Egyptian caverns? And was his wild theories about Joseph Smith's scribes trying to learn Egyptian by working backwards from Joseph Smith's translation beyond criticism from all except the Egyptologist?


D'oh! Perhaps that would make for a better "discussion": What were Hugh Nibley's Egyptology credentials? Would he have been able to ace all the technical items on Gee's list?

Later, we get another pathetic cry from juliann/Chaos:

Chaos wrote:
It looks like to me that this is the level of response we will have to be satisfied with when those who rely on badmouthing instead of demonstrating their knowledge can't put out what they demand from others. It is unfortunate that posters with no background in what they are criticizing resort to this instead of facing the problems with their approach with the same honesty they claim is lacking in others. Claiming that a critic doesn't need to know what an Egytologist knows to determine if that Egyptologist is lying or interpreting obscure translations correctly is laughable and pathetic. I don't know how to say what needs to be said about what we have seen nicely and we have been given no reason to try to. Dr. Gee has been a poster here and the scoffers will talk about what he says instead of throwing out schoolyard taunts when they are in our house. Critics can use all the phoney baloney justifications they can muster but the challenge stands unanswered and that tells us what we need to know.


And this:

Chaos wrote:
cksalmon wrote:
It appears to be an attempt to silence criticisms, rather than respond to them.


And how will a challenge like this silence discussion? Will the name callers start caring about what they know as compared to what Dr. Gee knows and disappear into the shadows in shame? I have seen no indication of that. If a call out silences the school yard criticism then bully for us, respectful posters will finally be able to have a discussion. The truth is this challenge is doing what it needs to do. It is an embarrassment to those who can't do anything but parrot what somebody else says. The only thing that comes from them is the scurrilous insults they use to convince everybody they know best. So just keep bringing on those excuses and see who falls for them while the challenge stands unanswered. Complaining that Dr. Gee hasn't answered your questions when you won't even get near theh questions he asked first is the weakest response of all.


Later, The Dude tries to get the discussion back on track:

The Dude wrote:
Chaos wrote:
I agree so let's begin with Dr. Gee's carefully thought out questions. We have to start somewhere, he did ask them first, and I think those who have slandered Dr. Gee should be responsible for restarting the debate in a nondefensive way.



We all know it's CaliforniaKid we're talking about.

What if CKid tries to answer the test and gets an "F" grade? Then will Gee post a response to CKid's criticism (...which was asked first, by the way)? There's a pundit folder for this kind of thing, right? Maybe we can get that moderator formerly known as Oreos to set it up. He/she did a pretty fair job when I debated David Stewart.


So, what is this debate really about then? Is it a question of who can translate Egyptian? (Despite the fact that Joseph Smith couldn't?) Or is it a question of who is failing to respond to whose criticisms?

Later, we find out that it was really just a lame and desperate attempt to score points against critics:

Orpheus wrote:
Dan Vogel wrote:
The existence of unique texts doesn't answer the problem of constructing a probable, rather than a merely possible argument.

Enough of the vague and indirect responses. Your original post needs clarifying. You said:
What exactly are you talking about? Rather than the critics trying to guess what you mean and more or less causing problems that may not exist, please outline what accusations you are addressing with this test.



This is Dr. Gee's thread and no one else get's to control the topic. Sorry but the topic is his questions and nobody elses.


If it is Gee's thread, then where is the Good Doctor? Answer: hiding. Trying to not deal with the criticism, which, it seems, is eating him up from the inside out. Later, the mods added a final piece of text from Gee:

Chaos wrote:
The final post from Dr. Gee:

At the end of a class I taught a few years ago one of the students told
me that the class had the worst whining of any class she had ever
attended. The class did whine about the textbooks, the subject matter,
the essays, and the tests; I also know that they whined a great deal
about me behind my back. This message board beats them hands down. As
Elder Holland said this past conference: "no misfortune is so bad that
whining about it won't make it worse."


Wow! Was it really all that bad? Further, it seems a tactical mistake for him to admit that his students dislike him so strenuously. (And how did he know they were bad-mouthing him behind his back? Darn those BYU spies!)

Anyways, the post goes on:

Quote:
I am withdrawing the test; my workload has increased and I no longer
have time for it. I have asked the moderators to delete it from the
thread and close the thread. I am certain you can start another one to
grouse in.


A pity they didn't delete it.

Quote:
Many construed the test to mean that if you did not know Egyptian you
could not discuss the Book of Abraham. This is utter nonsense, as they
all immediately went on to argue. Egyptian, however, is necessary if you
wish to discuss the Book of Abraham as a translation of Egyptian
(whether you think it was or wasn’t). If you wish to argue with those
who espouse the view that the Bible was originally written in Syriac,
you need to have some Syriac even if you take the contrary view.


Wha...? Why, if one does not think the Book of Abraham is the result of actual translation, would one need to know Egyptian? It doesn't make sense. If you are a chiropractor, do you really need to know acupuncture in order to treat someone's sore back?

Chaos as J. Gee wrote:
Three things are interesting about the test:

(1) Few people seem to have read it all. For example, Mr. Vogel
complains that Joseph Smith’s interpretation of the Facsimiles should
have been addressed, but it was, in question 5.

(2) CaliforniaKid has taken the test. He and I have discussed his
results and I will not post them. No one else seems to have thought
about answering any of the questions. That is too bad, as the answers to
those questions might have taught them something about the debate and my
positions in it. Instead they merely spouted their opinions and claimed,
without basis, that I had done nothing to engage their positions. If
they had bothered to respond to the questions, even the bibliographic
ones, they would have realized how hard it is to answer certain
questions. The test was diagnostic of several skills, not just in
Egyptian, that are directly relevant to the debate. The test was an
invitation to a serious discussion, but no one is actually interested in
such. I put forth a riddle for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.


A "diagnostic of several skills"? What, such as the ability to smooch Gee's butt?

Quote:
(3) Most importantly, no one seems to have any interest in what the
texts actually say.


Especially LDS apologists!

Quote:
This has been the irony of the whole debate as no
one else seems to care what either the Book of Abraham or the Letter of
Fellowship Made by Isis actually says and yet the debate rests on a
comparison between the two. The texts in the test were important too,
but no one seems to have realized it.

In the end, the test should have taught those who took it something
about faith. Who do we put our faith in, that is, who do we trust? Most
critics put no trust in me, whatever argument I might make on whatever
subject, because I am Mormon.


This, of course, is complete and utter bull, and it is embarrassing to see Gee relying on this very cheap rhetorical card. If people have lost "trust" in him it may have more to do with such things as the "two inks" theory, or his gossiping about Robert Ritner.

Quote:
They are willing to put their trust in
some surprisingly dubious sources because those sources tell them what
they want to hear (compare Helaman 13:25-28). In the end, it does not
matter whether anyone trusts me because they should trust God more than
me. I have found God trustworthy. I have also found his prophets
trustworthy--imperfect though they may be. If you trust God, you do not
need to have the answer to every little question; certainly not now and
perhaps not ever. If this or that sophistry seems persuasive or this or
that little thing bothers you and makes you doubt God, then you do not
have enough faith in him.


Ah, good: When in doubt, bear thy testimony!

Quote:
My test asked you not to trust me, but trust the texts; but they are not
important, at least not to you. That is why I find discussion on these
boards generally not to be worth my time.

--
John Gee
William (Bill) Gay Associate Research Professor of Egyptology
Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship
Brigham Young University


And so, that was that. Gee retreated into the shadows once again. This "performance," though, points us to how many cracks exist in Gee's Mopologetic foundation. I have no doubt that Gee is a terrific Egyptologist. As an LDS apologist, though, he positively sucks, and this set of posts is a case study why.

Perhaps most poignantly, though, is that Gee, perhaps alone amongst contemporary apologists, seems genuinely wounded by the criticism he's endured. He doesn't take it on the chin and use it as fodder for further Mopologetic endeavors, as do DCP and Hamblin; nor does he seem to view the criticism as evidence of his own divine apologetic calling, as do folks like Tvedtness and Midgley. Instead, Gee seems almost to have fallen into this position of Chief Book of Abraham apologist, and he seems to resent it very much.

The poster named Helix summed all of this up nicely:

helix wrote:
That being said, I do understand some of John Gee's motivations (he does seem to be the favorite punching bag of critics, and it looks like it finally brought him to the point of responding).


Yes; indeed. The problems relating to the Book of Abraham are never going to go away. One can only wonder how long Gee will continue to weather the storm.


Last edited by Mister Scratch on Wed May 21, 2008 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 7:59 pm 
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Gee has used the credentials argument a lot. In fact, he has even directed the same argument against some of his fellow Egyptologists, whom he thinks lack the necessary credentials to discuss Mormon issues. At the end of the day, what Gee is trying to do is to set himself (as one of the only Mormon Egyptologists who has studied this subject) up as the sole authority on all things Book of Abraham.

My own account of the Egyptian Test episode is here.

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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:10 pm 
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Yeah, Gee's "challenge" was embarrassing on a number of levels: (1) that he hadn't the time or interest to address critics directly, (2) that he proposes the missing scroll hypothesis, the very hypothesis rendering knowledge of Egyptian vis-à-vis Book of Abraham inconsequential, (3) that he pulled out a lame Appeal to Authority fallacy, and (4) that he withdrew from the discussion when it became clear that his credentials, as relevant and vaunted as he sees them to be, just weren't all that compelling to any but the already-convinced, etc.

This is, indeed, a low-point in Internet Mormon apologia.

But, I don't think Gee's chosen profession is as difficult as you make it out to be. The fact that his (irrelevant) challenge was even posed, I'm sure, satisfied TBM's. The dissenters were "anti-Mormons," whose opinion is worth spit.

Oh, to read the congratulatory emails Gee received for his victory in, this, his defense of the Faith.

I stand by what I wrote: This was an attempt on Gee's part to silence discussion, rather than engender it.

I think he's already too far down the rabbit hole to even notice the manifest irreality he has perhaps been charged to defend.

But, what do I know? I didn't participate in his challenge.

Chris

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 Post subject: Re: From the Archives: The Burden of Being Gee
PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:11 pm 
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Mister Scratch wrote:
And, following the very embarrassing "Two Inks" scandal, Gee was left in a tailspin.

Where could I find out more on this? I think I'm probably too new to Book of Abraham issues to have noticed it when it occurred (whatever it is....)

As always, fascinating stuff, Scratch.


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 Post subject: Re: From the Archives: The Burden of Being Gee
PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:25 pm 
Master Mahan

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TrashcanMan79 wrote:
Mister Scratch wrote:
And, following the very embarrassing "Two Inks" scandal, Gee was left in a tailspin.

Where could I find out more on this? I think I'm probably too new to Book of Abraham issues to have noticed it when it occurred (whatever it is....)

As always, fascinating stuff, Scratch.


A good, concise explanation of the "Two ink" debacle can be found here:

http://mormondiscussions.com/discuss/vi ... +ink#89262

Basically, apologists such as Nibley and Gee tried to claim that two different kinds (or colors) of ink were used on the documents in question (especially the Kirtland Egyptian Papers), and they used (allegedly) doctored photos in order to try and bolster their case.


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 8:28 pm 
Master Mahan

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CaliforniaKid wrote:
Gee has used the credentials argument a lot. In fact, he has even directed the same argument against some of his fellow Egyptologists, whom he thinks lack the necessary credentials to discuss Mormon issues. At the end of the day, what Gee is trying to do is to set himself (as one of the only Mormon Egyptologists who has studied this subject) up as the sole authority on all things Book of Abraham.

My own account of the Egyptian Test episode is here.


Gee's credentials argument is very poor. It is like saying that one needs a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in order to understand why a saw works better at cutting wood than a screwdriver.


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PostPosted: Tue May 20, 2008 9:30 pm 
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I am beginning to think that the whole Gee strategy on Book of Abraham apologetics is modeled on Nibley's Book of Mormon challenge. Come up with an idiotic test that no one in their right mind would take up, and when no one takes you up on it, declare victory. Sorry, Chris. But, my theory is that you were humoring a man who was essentially acting like a big fat jerk in a way I have seen too many old-school professors do it.

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 12:48 am 
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Trevor wrote:
I am beginning to think that the whole Gee strategy on Book of Abraham apologetics is modeled on Nibley's Book of Mormon challenge. Come up with an idiotic test that no one in their right mind would take up, and when no one takes you up on it, declare victory. Sorry, Chris. But, my theory is that you were humoring a man who was essentially acting like a big fat jerk in a way I have seen too many old-school professors do it.


I did it more to silence juliann and her mob of angry forumers than to appease Gee. But I think that in the end, the fact that I fulfilled Gee's demand and that he then cut and ran without answering my specific criticisms left me more or less holding all the cards.

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 2:23 am 
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This extract from CK's blog is a wonderful example of what 'eirenic/irenic' means.

Of course once CK had taken the test, Gee and the rest ducked out of answering his criticisms - making it quite clear that the whole idea of Gee's test was to stop any discussion of the Book of Abraham in its tracks. CK defeated that tactic, and the apologists threw in their hand.

Gee never of course explained why, given that his pet theory is that we do not have the original Egyptian text of the Book of Abraham, and given that the translation of the extant papyri is pretty uncontroversial, anyone should need to be an Egyptologist before being qualified to talk about the Book of Abraham.

Quote:
I actually did proceed to express a willingness to answer the new questions, since they were at least partially related to the subject at hand. Shortly thereafter Gee and his moderator cronies raised the bar again by posting another addendum. I decided not to be intimidated, and to work toward a truce by attempting as many questions as I thought I had a shot of getting right without going and doing a bunch of research. Things ended fairly well. Dr. Gee and I had a pleasant conversation on the telephone, during which he gave me my score—which wasn’t very good—and I explained to him my critique and he admitted it had merit. He sent the moderators a final response for the forum, in which he chastised the other posters for not being interested enough in serious discussion to take the test, and denied that it was an attempt to disqualify people from participating in the debate. The posters who had been harassing me shut up, and I posted my critique again in full and nobody was brave enough to take it on.

Besides being entertaining because completely absurd, I think that there are things to be learned from this encounter. The first is that if you’ve got legitimate points to make, making any kind of derogatory remarks about your opponent is utterly counterproductive. Even if you’re right, all you will accomplish is to provide your opponent with an opening to press the attack while ignoring your more substantive arguments. The second is that, if you screw up, it’s never too late to start being thoroughly and consistently conciliatory. It may take a while, but eventually either the skies will clear and discussion will be productive again or your opponents will appear to be the belligerent party without a leg to stand on. And finally, there’s a lesson in here somewhere about the fallacy of appealing to authority. Even the smartest and most credentialed people are capable of silliness. The fact that somebody has a degree doesn’t mean that you are incapable of seeing their errors, that you should accept everything they say, or that you shouldn’t try to understand the issues for yourself.


EDITED TO ADD:

In an earlier thread I posted this note, which may be relevant here:

Quote:
Oddly enough, in my intercontinental peregrinations I met an Egyptologist the other day who had met John Gee.

It came up because in a discussion of a certain issue I referred to the difficulties experienced by those who had a strong commitment to a certain interpretation of a given text for religious or political reasons. I said something like 'for instance, in Mormonism there is this thing called the Book of Abraham which is said to be based on a hieroglyphic text', at which my interlocutor chuckled and said something like 'Oh, you mean John Gee?'. The person to whom I spoke indicated that he/she had tried to open a discussion with Jersey Girl about a technical issue (not the Book of Abraham), but that Jersey Girl had cut him/her off rather abruptly, and seemed to be a somewhat defensive person.

Make of that what you will. Of course it may be that my interlocutor was clearly unqualified to participate in a discussion with a colleague as eminent as Jersey Girl, and that the brush-off was well deserved. He/she may have made it all up in an attempt to look academically well-connected. I may be suffering from false memory syndrome. This may not have been the real John Gee. And so on.

(The option of believing my statements above to be a cowardly anonymous lie is of course also freely available. Be my guest.)


If I was John Gee, I would not be a happy bunny, given the apologetic task before him. If I was on friendly terms with him, I would strongly suggest that for the next couple of years he should put the Book of Abraham firmly on the shelf, and publish mainline (non LDS linked) Egyptology like crazy. Then on that basis he should apply for and get himself a job somewhere else other than BYU. That would bring these advantages:

1. If he then continued to publish on the Book of Abraham, no-one could slander him by saying that he was in effect doing it because under the guise of being a scholar in Egyptology he was really a paid part-time apologist.

2. No-one could suggest that his research integrity was constrained by the fact that as a BYU employed LDS he cannot keep his job if he ceases to believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet (and ceasing to believe in the Book of Abraham would be a major step in that direction).

3. If he one day does conclude that the Book of Abraham is a fake, and wants to say so in print, he will still have a job and be able to pay the mortgage.

But then I am just an anonymous coward, and nobody should take much notice of what I say.

(Does Gee look happy in this picture? Looks a bit as if he is chewing on a rather sour pickle: Image)


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:10 am 
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Excellent Sir Scratch.

You spank the pious pontificators of pretend with such tenacious eloquence!

Yea verily it doth suck to be Gee. What a grim reality for him to face every morning!

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I concur. Good essay, Mister Scratch!

I find it interesting that Professor Gee equates "criticism" with "whining."

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:32 am 
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CaliforniaKid wrote:
Gee has used the credentials argument a lot. In fact, he has even directed the same argument against some of his fellow Egyptologists, whom he thinks lack the necessary credentials to discuss Mormon issues. At the end of the day, what Gee is trying to do is to set himself (as one of the only Mormon Egyptologists who has studied this subject) up as the sole authority on all things Book of Abraham.

My own account of the Egyptian Test episode is here.


I've often heard of Stephen Thompson from Brown referred to as an LDS Egyptologist. Though from his Dialogue article a few years ago I'd say he's far from a believer in the Book of Abraham.

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:43 am 
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Phaedrus Utah wrote:
I've often heard of Stephen Thompson from Brown referred to as an LDS Egyptologist. Though from his Dialogue article a few years ago I'd say he's far from a believer in the Book of Abraham.

Is it incorrect, then, to refer to him as LDS?


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:46 am 
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Phaedrus Utah wrote:
CaliforniaKid wrote:
Gee has used the credentials argument a lot. In fact, he has even directed the same argument against some of his fellow Egyptologists, whom he thinks lack the necessary credentials to discuss Mormon issues. At the end of the day, what Gee is trying to do is to set himself (as one of the only Mormon Egyptologists who has studied this subject) up as the sole authority on all things Book of Abraham.

My own account of the Egyptian Test episode is here.


I've often heard of Stephen Thompson from Brown referred to as an LDS Egyptologist. Though from his Dialogue article a few years ago I'd say he's far from a believer in the Book of Abraham.

Phaedrus


And what department is he in at Brown?


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 10:53 am 
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TrashcanMan79 wrote:
Phaedrus Utah wrote:
I've often heard of Stephen Thompson from Brown referred to as an LDS Egyptologist. Though from his Dialogue article a few years ago I'd say he's far from a believer in the Book of Abraham.

Is it incorrect, then, to refer to him as LDS?


Well he's a BYU Graduate and was published in FARMS. I've heard no record of him being ex'd or resigning. In Stan Larson's book he referred to him as a LDS Egyptologist that rejects the Book of Abraham. I don't know where he sits on the other issues like the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I can only guess.


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// you can read his article here. Dialogue: Spring 1995


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 11:24 am 
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Phaedrus Utah wrote:
TrashcanMan79 wrote:
Phaedrus Utah wrote:
I've often heard of Stephen Thompson from Brown referred to as an LDS Egyptologist. Though from his Dialogue article a few years ago I'd say he's far from a believer in the Book of Abraham.

Is it incorrect, then, to refer to him as LDS?


Well he's a BYU Graduate and was published in FARMS. I've heard no record of him being ex'd or resigning. In Stan Larson's book he referred to him as a LDS Egyptologist that rejects the Book of Abraham. I don't know where he sits on the other issues like the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I can only guess.


Phaedrus

// you can read his article here. Dialogue: Spring 1995




Here is the conclusion of his article. Strong stuff. Basically Joseph Smith doesn't understand the pictures, the story of Abraham is not one that could have come from the time of Abraham, the story of the attempted sacrifice of Abraham makes no sense in historical context, and Joseph Smith didn't know diddly-squat about Egyptian religion (I paraphrase).

Phew. A good job he doesn't work at BYU.


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 11:30 am 
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About 5 years ago Thompson was visiting scholar at Brown University's dept of Egyptology. I assume he still is. I had an email exchange with him some years back and he explained his position to me.

He regrets that IRR posted what he said about Nibley, even though he stands by what he said. He asked Luke Wilson to remove it from the web because it was damaging to the Church, but he refused. Thompson is LDS. Apparently he has managed to adjust his faith to the fact that the Book of Abraham is not what it claims to be.

Currently he is teaching high school in Florida, but he remains in the scholarly circles at Brown. Apparently he shows up on occassion to teach classes or to give presentations. Or at least this is what I understood about 5 years ago.

It should be significant that the first real LDS egyptologist to study the Book of Abraham came away with the conclusion that it was false. The same holds true for Ed Ashment who isn't an egyptologist, but has done graduate work at the University of Chicago. His doctoral program came to a halt after learned to adjust his life without the Church in it.

Peterson and Hamblin has attacked him for being an "insurance salesman" as if he never had any expertise in anything relevant to the topic. Peterson also tried to imply Ashment had lied about being a doctoral candidate at the U of Chicago, simply because he had not obtained it after ten years.

Essentially the apologists attack him for not being an Egpytologist, although it is OK for the non-Egyptologist Hugh Nibley to opine all day long on the subject.

[/b]

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 11:40 am 
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dartagnan wrote:
About 5 years ago Thompson was visiting scholar at Brown University's dept of Egyptology. I assume he still is. I had an email exchange with him some years back and he explained his position to me.

He regrets that IRR posted what he said about Nibley, even though he stands by what he said. He asked Luke Wilson to remove it from the web because it was damaging to the Church, but he refused. Thompson is LDS. Apparently he has managed to adjust his faith to the fact that the Book of Abraham is not what it claims to be.

Currently he is teaching high school in Florida, but he remains in the scholarly circles at Brown. Apparently he shows up on occassion to teach classes or to give presentations. Or at least this is what I understood about 5 years ago.

It should be significant that the first real LDS egyptologist to study the Book of Abraham came away with the conclusion that it was false. The same holds true for Ed Ashment who isn't an egyptologist, but has done graduate work at the University of Chicago. His doctoral program came to a halt after learned to adjust his life without the Church in it.

Peterson and Hamblin has attacked him for being an "insurance salesman" as if he never had any expertise in anything relevant to the topic. Peterson also tried to imply Ashment had lied about being a doctoral candidate at the U of Chicago, simply because he had not obtained it after ten years.

Essentially the apologists attack him for not being an Egpytologist, although it is OK for the non-Egyptologist Hugh Nibley to opine all day long on the subject.

[/b]



This is what Thompson said about Nibley, in the context of a discussion of Larson's 'By his own hand upon papyrus'

Quote:
Well I'll tell you, he's far more accurate than anything Hugh Nibley ever wrote on the subject, okay. So if you're willing to read Nibley, you can read this guy and not worry about it. I mean, because Nibley is far, far more free with his treatment of primary and secondary sources than this guy ever would be.


And this on Larson, and Book of Abraham apologetics in general:

Quote:
But as far as the general reliability of stuff goes that's written on the Book of Abraham he's right up there at the top. Nothing that's been written from an apologetic point of view comes close to it in accuracy. Because frankly, in my opinion, when you start doing apologetics you've got to twist the evidence. That what we have just doesn't support us. You've got to do something to it. You've got to manipulate it, you've got to move it, you've got to put quotes together from tops and bottoms of pages and stuff like that. So, that's my feeling on the book.


Excerpts from the talk and subsequent discussion are here:

http://www.irr.org/mit/thompson.html


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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 11:47 am 
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Here are some of the emails he sent me in the past. I posted these several years ago at FAIR, with his permission, but here they are again:


Kevin:
for what it's worth, I am not an "ex-Mormon." I attend church virtually every Sunday, and am currently serving as the chairman of the scout committee in my ward. How much I believe is another issue, and will leave it to my public writings and comments for you to determine (if you care).
Yours truly,
Steve Thompson Thu, 14 Nov 2002

Kevin:
There are many people who consider themselves good Christians who consider the Bible to be a work of fiction. That is a position not uncommon among liberal scholarship. Try reading John Shelby Spong, for example. While you may find the position untenable, others do not.

I regret none of my published remarks. As far as I am aware, I wrote the truth. Others may disagree, and they are certainly free to publish articles pointing out my errors. That's the way scholarship works. I will let the readers decide.
The only thing I regret is my comments about Larson's book at the Boston Sunstone. An audience member asked me about the book, and I gave an off the cuff opinion. It was intended to be a backhanded compliment, as I compared it with Nibley's stuff, which I consider to be worthless (mainly because too many of his footnotes do not say what he claims they do. Don't take my word for it; pick one of Nibley's works dealing with ancient studies and check every footnote carefully and see what you discover).

I was shocked when I found out that the IRR was including an excerpt from my comments in a letter they were sending to members along with a copy of the book. I wrote them and asked them to stop, and they refused. The only thing they agreed to do was quote my statement in its entirety, including my reservations about the book. At one point, they had my entire statement on their web site; I don't know if they still do. When the IRR asked me to participate in their BA documentary, I declined, as I have no interest in supporting the cause of fundamentalist Christianity, which in my opinion has no stronger leg to stand on than does traditional Mormonism.

Steve Thompson Mon, 18 Nov 2002

Kevin:
Yes, I'm still at this address. I haven't given much thought to the Book of Abraham in many years, so I don't know if I can be of much help. I'm sure much has been published on both sides of the issue of which I am unaware. I still haven't seen the BA DVD put out by the IRR. I just don't have the time for such things any more.
Steve Thompson Sat, 1 Jul 2006

It all depends on what is meant by a "lion couch scene." If apologists are insisting on a scene identical to fasc 1 on a Book of Breathings, then to my knowledge the Joseph Smith BB papyrus is unique. I asked this question of Jan Quagebeur before he died, and of his student Marc Coenen, who did a diss on the BB, and they had seen no image similar to facs 1 on a BB. If one is willing to consider a "lion couch scene" to be any instance in which a mummy is on a bier with lion's feet, then P.BM 9995 (what Budge and Nibley called the Kerasher text) has a two-register scene showing the funeral of the deceased, and one of the scenes shows the mummy on a "lion couch", being attended by Anubis, with Isis and Nephthys at the head and foot, and with a jar of ointment below the mummy.

Lanny Bell, currently at Brown Univ., formerly with the Oriental Institute, Univ. of Chicago, has recently written an article in which he makes an extensive study of "lion couch" scenes in view of offering a reconstruction of fasc. 1 based on comparative material. This article will appear in a festschrift for Leonard Lesko, soon I hope.
In my opinion, as expressed in my Dialogue article, fasc. 1 and 3 make perfect sense in the context of the funerary purpose of the Book of Breathings. I see no reason to postulate a "Jewish redactor."
for what it's worth
Steve Thompson Sat, 1 Jul 2006

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 12:02 pm 
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Stephen Thompson recently completed his doctorate in Egyptology at Brown University. He is, to our knowledge, the first Latter-day Saint to complete a Ph.D. in this field. His dissertation topic was "A Lexicographic and Iconographic Analysis of Anointing in Ancient Egypt."

Dr. Thompson has also been involved in other research on Egyptological topics, including a paper on "The Anointing of Officials in Ancient Egypt" and an article on "The Origin of the Pyramid Texts Found on Middle Kingdom Saqqara Coffins." He assisted in the completion of volumes four and five of A Dictionary of Late Egyptian, edited by Leonard and Barbara Lesko. During the summer he taught courses in Religious Education at BYU.


http://maxwellinstitute.BYU.edu/display ... ghts&id=15

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PostPosted: Wed May 21, 2008 4:32 pm 
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John Gee will be at the Olivewood Bookstore on 3330 North University Ave Ste C in Provo on June 19th from 7:30 to 8:30pm. He will be giving a free lecture discussing the message of the Joseph Smith Papyri.

Those who wish to ask questions must present their Ph.D. in Egyptology along with their current Temple Recommends. Daniel C. Peterson will be on hand as a "clipping service" for taking information on anyone who wishes to question Gee.

Coats, bags and brains must be checked at the door.


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