August 20, 2009

Royal Skousen's Critical Text Project and The Book of Mormon


The most important critical project on the text of the Book of Mormon to date is close to completion. Professor Royal Skousen's continuing study of the textual history of the Book of Mormon will be completed soon with the publication of Part Six of Analysis of Textual Variants of the Book of Mormon, covering 3 Nephi 19 to Moroni 10, with addenda.1

What is a "critical edition"? Skousen defined it as follows:
Simply put, a critical edition is composed of two main parts, the critical text itself and an apparatus (consisting of notes at the bottom of the page, below the critical text). Usually, the critical text attempts to represent the original form of the text, while the apparatus shows the textual variants and their sources. The editors of the critical edition decide which textual variant best represents the original and put that in the critical text. The apparatus shows all the (significant) variants of the text and the sources for those variants (manuscripts,  published texts, and conjectures). The apparatus thus allows the reader to evaluate the decisions of the editors.2
In short: Skousen is looking at the available manuscripts for the Book of Mormon along with the earliest editions and publishing their exact contents so they can be evaluated. For anyone interested in what this watershed project is all about, here are some sources to check out:3

During the 80s FARMS got the critical text ball rolling by publishing the Book of Mormon Critical Text. It was used for some wordprint studies, and Skousen applauded its publication. However, he also described important problems with the publication and proposed a better project which he has been working on for almost 19 years. after this BYU Studies article. This article is an interesting introduction.

In this brief chapter Skousen talks about the available manuscripts he studied for the project, the partial original manuscript (O) and the almost-completly extant printer's manuscript (P) which was copied from the original by Oliver Cowdery and a few others. 

In these articles Skousen discusses various translation theories including "loose," "tight," and "iron-clad." Though witnesses to the translation process itself (like Emma Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and David Whitmer) appear to favor something like an iron-clad method, Skousen posits a "tight control," based on their statements in addition to evidence from the Book of Mormon manuscripts and editions themselves. These articles show what kind of work can result from the critical text project. The volumes of the project can be intimidating and difficult to read with all the technical emendations and explanations. Fortunately, Skousen's upcoming publication trims the fat and gives his conclusions all in one small volume:

As this publication shows, the critical text project is already yielding fruit aside from various articles and essays. Yale University Press is releasing Skousen's version of the "earliest text" on September 22, 2009. According to the introduction by Grant Hardy:
Royal Skousen has single-handedly brought the textual analysis of the Book of Mormon to a professional level on par with the finest classical and biblical scholarship. This volume is the culmination of his labors, and it is the most textually significant edition since Joseph Smith's work was first published in 1830. It takes us back to the original manuscript (as best we can reconstruct it) and sometimes beyond, to the very words that were first spoken by Joseph Smith to his scribes.4
In a 2006 review of earlier volumes of Skousen's critical text project Kevin Barney said he "would still like to see an actual critical edition in print at the conclusion of the critical text project, preferably in a smaller format than the large volumes."5 At the time Barney feared Skousen would not provide such an edition. This fear has been allayed and I look forward to checking out the "earliest text." Barney also gave an overview of some of Skousen's already-published work and disagreed with a few conclusions Skousen extracts from his data. Thus, Barney's article gives some needed perspective.

It is important to remember that Skousen's work comes in at least three varieties or approaches:6

1. His critical text project itself (which is, for the most part, strictly observable data, namely: writing in a technical form what the handwriting on the available manuscripts actually says. This is the most "objective" aspect of the process, though Skousen admits there is a subjective element here. The results can't be perfect, based on the available materials alone, as discussed in number 2 below).

2. His extrapolation of the data into the most persuasive readings (Skousen analyzes manuscript variants, spelling errors, transcribing errors, phonetic mishearings and so forth to determine the most likely and earliest text. This is more subjective though there are technical procedures employed. Skousen's Earliest Text is the easily-readable fruit of his labors. The longer volumes published by FARMS detail his reasoning).

3. His theory of the translation process as being "tight" (Based on data from the earliest text and manuscript evidence Skousen posits a translation theory).

Again, these comprise at least three separate but related areas, each more subjective than the last. In the first (more objective) area, Skousen presents "documents as direct indicators."7 Information is virtually uninterpreted, only insofar as Skousen (in a mix of part 1 and 2 above) includes footnotes and explanations which prefer one particular reading over another when handwriting is ambiguous or a phonetic mistake can be detected. Still, his work attempts to present all possible variants to track the changes over time, thus making the thrust of the entire publication a "direct indicator" piece of evidence. The data speaks for itself, literally. "What does the manuscript say?" There are arguable cases regarding some readings, but the project seeks to be as completely accurate and prima facie as possible.

In the second and third (more subjective) areas, Skousen more fully employs "documents as correlates."8 Skousen takes the data from the critical text, considers witness statements and internal textual evidence (like Hebraisms, etc.) and posits theories of translation, arguing for a "tight control" theory.9

It is important to remember that data from the first area can be utilized and interpreted differently by different people and Skousen's second area work does not contain inevitable conclusions, though they deserve close attention. Brant Gardner, for example, calls into question some of Skousen's conclusions in the second area, though he makes much use of Skousen's first area in his commentary on the Book of Mormon, Second Witness.10




FOOTNOTES


[1]
The image combines the cover of Skousen's forthcoming book with the Title Page of the first edition of the Book of Mormon. The scan of the original page comes from John Hajicek's high-resolution full scan of a first edition found at inephi.com. I think the absence of such a rigorous text until now single-handedly calls into question the validity of wordprint studies (those that argue for and against "ancient" and/or multiple authorship of the Book of Mormon. A good primer on such studies is John B. Archer, John L. Hilton, and G. Bruce Schaalje, "Comparative Power of Three Author-Attribution Techniques for Differentiating Authors," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6:1. See also BHodges, "A New Book of Mormon Wordprint Analysis," LifeOnGoldPlates.com, Dec. 8, 2008. The authors of the most recent wordprint study didn't mention Skousen or make use of the critical text he's been publishing with FARMS.

[2]
See Royal Skousen, "Towards a Critical Edition of the Book of Mormon," BYU Studies 30:1 (1990), 41. For a great interview with Skousen after he began the project see "12 Answers From Royal Skousen," TimesandSeasons.org, Oct. 13, 2004.

[3]
These articles are not the only ones in which Skousen discusses his work on the critical text project, or various discoveries therein. Moreover, other articles by other authors regarding the translation process should be taken into consideration. I am currently working on a project called "TWA," or the "Translation Witness Accounts" project. We are seeking to compile into one source all known witness statements of the translation of the Book of Mormon. As a corollary I have been researching as many different translation theories as I can discover.

[4]
See the blurb on Amazon.com.

[5]
Kevin Barney, "Seeking Joseph Smith's Voice," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15:1, pp. 54-59.

[6]
Skousen may explain the difference differently, I haven't seem him parse the differences but haven't checked the intro to the published critical text project volumes. This is a rather simple way of differentiating between what I view as two related but different aspects of historical inquiry.

[7]
See Vernon K. Dibble, "Four Types of Inference From Documents to Events," History and Theory, Vol. 3 No. 2 (1963), pp. 213. In this article Dibble is more particularly discussing how historians make inferences from documents to events. 

[8] 
Ibid., p. 210. This calls for further analysis I have not yet performed.

[9]
Some readers may believe that Skousen is sounding the "death knell" for people who believe in anything but a "tight" translation theory. However, Skousen's conclusions on the translation theory deserve consideration but need not be accepted as "granted" merely from Skousen's data, analysis, and opinions. There is a level of subjectivity in each step of his project, but it increases when Skousen starts to interpolate, or use documents as correlates.

[10]
See Brant Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, (Kofford, 2007-2008).

23 comments:

Kevin Barney said...

A terrific report, Blair. I look forward to this volume with great interest. Skousen's work on the BoM text is absolutely top notch.

BHodges said...

Thamks, Kev. It has also been noted that the leadership of the Church, I presume at least members of the 12, have been kept up-to-date on Skousen's project, suggested changes, etc. The new DoubleDay edition of the BoM already reflects some changes at least in the chapter headings though Skousen doesn't touch on those since they are very late additions. Skousen evidently also reports to the "Scriptures Committee" of the church and so it is likely that whenever we get a new English edition of the Book of Mormon they will consider recommendations, though ultimate decisions are ecclesiastical, as opposed to strictly scholarly, decisions.

I wonder if suggestions will be taken into consideration already for ongoing translations of the Book of Mormon into languages other than English.

Brant said...

I think that publishing this particular text with Yale rather than even BYU/Maxwell Institute is the perfect way to have it seen in the scholarly context and not be confused with the canon. We have that. I think that we want this reconstruction to be separated from anything that might give it the appearance of being authorized or official. It is useful, but it is not replacement for the text we already have--though I suspect that some of his conclusions may change some future version. Not all of them will (or should).

Matt W. said...

This is great, Blair. The Earliest Text just got added to my Amazon wishlist. Nice to see that Yale's Press comes with a lower price point than Farms. I never could afford the other editions!

BHodges said...

Yeah, those volumes are larger and I imagine that helps the price grow a bit for FARMS. I couldn't afford the earlier volumes either, only have inspected them at the library. I too like the price point.

Brant, I agree that publishing at Yale is a good move for the reasons you suggest.

Brant said...

The critical text project is a masterpiece. The problem is that the very thing that makes it so important makes it so that it is not all that interesting to the majority of readers and certainly more expensive that most would be interested in purchasing.

My interest in the Book of Mormon is such that I really need it and rely upon his conclusions. However, I suspect that for most people, the compilation of the text itself will be a sufficient indication of what his work has done. It may only be interesting, but valuable for that reason.

No knowing how or whether explanatory notes will be handled, it may require someone going to the multi-volume series to know why something appears as it does, but it should give readers a different flavor on the Book of Mormon.

In my book, anything that helps us see the Book of Mormon in new ways is important (as long as the new ways are built on a firm foundation of scholarship.

BHodges said...

Completely agree, Brant.

What do you make of my "documents as correlates" versus "documents as direct indicators" distinction in this case? What got me thinking about it was reading you and reading Skousen.

Jacob J said...

Great write-up Blair. I am looking forward to this.

BHodges said...

A note for clarification:

I noticed another blogger linked to my post, calling Skousen's new publication as "reason #89" why she won't "return to Mormonism." The blogger states:

What is so amazing about Royal Skousen’s “critical text” of the BofM published by Yale University Press?

It’s that Mormons are touting it as being “on a par with” the “critical texts” of the Bible — that is, a look at different original language (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic) sources for the Bible.

What’s the problem with this comparison? There are no original language sources for the Book of Mormon. Only the English that Joseph Smith thought sounded Biblical. And the fact that even with supposed direct, hands-on revelation over a period of just a few years, there could be so many English versions of the BofM.


See http://tinyurl.com/nohof4

I posted a response but I am not sure it will leave moderation and be viewable so I will post my response here:

Your comments seem to be based on a misunderstanding of both “critical texts” and Biblical text criticism.

There are many different types of critical texts. Critical text analysis is a type of literary criticism where one analyzes any text (in any language) in order to establish the “correct” or “earliest” reading possible. The “original” text does not need to be extant in order to do such a project. Further, textual criticism need not apply only to texts which have been translated from one language to another.

In regards to Biblical critical text scholarship, there aren’t any known extent originals. What we have to base Biblical critical texts on are copies of copies of copies. So when we look at critical texts of the Bible we are looking at the earliest known sources, regardless of language, and trying to determine what those earliest sources said. For an easy-to-read primer on the subject you might be interested in Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why,” (HarperSanFrancisco. 2005). While I don’t agree with all of Ehrman’s conclusions, it is a good and brief overview of Biblical “higher” criticism that a layman can grasp. Moreover, the Bible is a collection of books and leters and so forth. It was not given from heaven to earth in one piece. To establish a critical text of the Bible is to try and discover the earliest autographs and then determine precisely what they say.

You also state: “And the fact that even with supposed direct, hands-on revelation over a period of just a few years, there could be so many English versions of the BofM.”

I am not sure what you mean by this statement. A critical text project can be based on one known text if that is all that is available. There need not be a host of texts to compare. Dr. Skousen has taken the earliest manuscript from the dictation of the Book of Mormon and the printer’s manuscript that was copied from it in order to set the type for publishing. He also has looked at all changes to the text up to the present edition. By so doing he has sought to compile the “earliest text,” just as the Yale site explains.

In sum, calling the book “on par” with critical texts of the Bible is entirely accurate.

-Both involve books which religious groups deem as scripture.

-Both seek to discover the earliest autographs and then determine precisely what they say.

-Skousen’s work follows extremely rigorous and academic analysis, like the best Bible critical texts do.

-One significant difference is the age of the documents. The Book of Mormon text is more contemporary than many Biblical critical texts. However, the goal is the same.

Skousen’s work is best analyzed and judged by the methods and goals he has clearly outlined. He has sought to discover the original manuscript text of the Book of Mormon. The result of his 20+ year analysis is an exciting publication for students of American religion, and Mormons most especially.

Latayne C Scott said...

I believe you have underestimated my knowledge of textual criticism and are unaware that I have taken master’s level classes in textual criticism (and literary criticism as well, for that matter) and my education in Biblical languages. Although I appreciate your attempt to explain what you see as the basics of textual criticism, we must disagree on several points.

First of all, if you knew what “higher criticism” means in Biblical scholarship, I doubt you would enlist higher critics to support your contentions. One of the bases of higher criticism is the contention that the Bible is not an inspired document and is simply the product of human endeavor. Such an understanding cannot be reconciled with the LDS 8th Article of Faith. Therefore if you are saying that Skousen’s work is a work of higher criticism, that by definition says he is treating the Book of Mormon as an uninspired document. Is that your contention?

Secondly of all, the only way that a document of the scope of Skousen’s work (with an extremely finite number of modern “source materials” and their variants) can be compared with something correlative would be with textual criticism of another piece of 19th century fiction. To say that his work is “on a par” with Biblical scholarship demeans the wealth of the Bible’s history, documents, and discipline. (You are wise to dismiss from your contentions the notion of original languages because of the utter absence of anything in literature, archaeology, or any other supportive discipline of the imaginary “reformed Egyptian.”)

Finally, we have written testimony of Joseph Smith regarding the Book of Mormon: of its manner of translation – including the famous account of words not disappearing until Smith had written them down correctly and other mechanics that were meant to assure an error-free document. At each step of literary production from that moment forward inspired priesthood authority could have squelched all variants (and negated the need to carry on for a century and a half such things as “white and delightsome” that was changed to “pure and delightsome,” for instance.)

And for that matter, why in the world would there be so many ongoing variants from an extant source document within the lifetime of the writer who claimed it was provided by plenary inspiration?

I do not doubt Skousen’s diligence and methology. I rather imagine Yale’s publication of the book attests to that. But the very work he has produced is perhaps the most powerful witness I know of the lack of inspiration of the Book of Mormon and the LDS priesthood authority and corporate structure that produced, maintained, and continues to support it.

For those of us who believe the Bible to be an inspired document in its autographs, to say that Skousen’s work is “on a par” with Biblical scholarship is not just an arrogant overstatement, it is preposterous.

Latayne C Scott
www.latayne.com

BHodges said...

Well, Latayne, I can appreciate your credentials but have to disagree on a few points.

First, as pertaining to "higher criticism," you appear to approach it from a fundamentalist mindset, seeing higher criticism as necessarily proclaiming the Bible to be merely "man made." However, higher criticism does not preclude the possibility of revelation. Not all higher criticism demands no interplay with God and revelation. This distinction is important, but those who hold to Biblical inerrancy or infallibility struggle to grant the distinction.

Moreover, you appear to be conflating "higher criticism" and "textual criticism," which intersect, but have different methods and goals. Higher criticism can involve textual criticism, but it is not a 1 to 1 term, though some have used it interchangibly as you appear to.

You also beg the question when you state the BoM can only involve " another piece of 19th century fiction." Further, you seem to misunderstand what the critical project is. It isn't a comparison of two completely different books. Skousen's project is, quite simply, an attempt to provide, through literary and textual analysis to determine the earliest texts. This does not include faith claims in the book, it is simply the "earliest text." The same procedure can be done on extant texts of the Bible (no original autographs) to determine earliest known texts. You appear to want to make the argument into one of faith claims rather than what it is: an "earliest text."

You mention the "utter absence of anything in literature, archaeology, or any other supportive discipline of the imaginary 'reformed Egyptian.'"

This is simply not so. A hybrid Hebrew/Egyptian/Pidgeon concept (called "reformed Egyptian" in the text of the BoM) was ridiculed by contemporaries of Joseph Smith, and some critics today employ the same claim, as you have. However, several examples of reformed Egyptian scripts have been discovered. See Hamblin's overview here:

http://mi.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=36

You might disregard the publication because of its publisher. In that event, please carefully note the footnotes Hamblin provided. This evidence is from non-Mormon scholars.

As for translation descriptions we have many different accounts. They all need to be collected into one place for full analysis which is a project that is actually ongoing as we speak. Also, Brant Gardner has some great new work coming out dealing with the witness accounts. Finally, Royal Skousen himself has some opinions on the subject which I linked to in this post you are responding to, I advise checking them out.

Why variations? Because Mormons are not scriptural inerrantists of infallibilists. JS himself made changes to the BoM between editions (including changing "white" to "pure," something that was recently changed again in the 1981 edition to reflect that original change.


For those of us who believe the Bible to be an inspired document in its autographs, to say that Skousen’s work is “on a par” with Biblical scholarship is not just an arrogant overstatement, it is preposterous.

Again, you misunderstand the claim. Further, Mormons do not believe in "perfect scripture."

Best,

BHodges

BHodges said...

Two more points of clarification for Latayne:

My first point of clarification:
Latayne wrote:
Finally, we have written testimony of Joseph Smith regarding the Book of Mormon: of its manner of translation – including the famous account of words not disappearing until Smith had written them down correctly and other mechanics that were meant to assure an error-free document.

The grammar is ambiguous in this claim but the statement can be taken in at least 2 ways. First, you might mean that we have witness statements regarding the translation from people who were with Joseph Smith as he translated. Or you might mean we have descriptions of the translation from Joseph Smith himself that describe the things you mention (spelling and word accuracy, etc.)

In regards to the first possibility, that you are referring to various witness statements other than Joseph Smith's, many of the few direct witnesses describe a process (years later) of JS reading directly from the seer stone and not allowing any errors, or making sure names were spelled correctly, etc. These witness statements should be analyzed historically for accuracy and authenticity compared with the evidence at hand. We must determine whether they are direct written statements, hearsay, news reports, or first or second hand, as well as determine the time elapsed since the translation of the Book of Mormon was actually witnessed. They also need to be compared against competing descriptions for similarities (and as some witnesses gave several explanations over time, these need to be compared for consistency). Finally, the witnesses never mention actually looking into the seer stone to see how it worked or to see what JS saw. Statements describing something the witness couldn't have observed need to be closely analyzed. For example, you'll note that none of the statements mentioning these particulars (by Emma Smith, David Whitmer, or Martin Harris, for example) attribute their description to JS. They made guesses about aspects of the translation they did not actually witness in order to create a whole picture to the best of their ability.

In regards to the second possible reading of your claim, that we have "statements of Joseph Smith," or statements from him, that describe these particularities, that simply isn't the case. So far I have been able to discover only 8 actual descriptions on record from Joseph Smith discussing the translation and in each case he simply states that he did so "by the gift and power of God."

Moreover, in citing Ehrman, I do not indicate complete agreement with any of his conclusions. Instead, I hoped to to demonstrate how careful analysis of textual evidence can yield interesting work, and controversial work.


My second point of clarification:
Scholar Grant Hardy said the Skousen project is at a "professional level on par with the finest classical and biblical scholarship." Keep in mind you oversimplify when you say "Mormons" are call it "on par." Further, Hardy is not committing the fallacy of the perfect analogy as you seem to assume. Of course there are differences between Skousen's work and other textual criticism of the Bible, no one is claiming otherwise. (You seem to believe such a comparison somehow demeans the Bible, and on that point we will have to disagree.) Beyond that, though, Hardy's point is that the approach, scholarship, thoroughness, etc. of the Skousen project are on par with the "professional level" of similar work on the Bible. Because both are considered scriptures by some people or the invention of man by other people (or perhaps some combination of the two) I believe the comparison is appropriate and apt.

Latayne C Scott said...

Dear Mr. Hodges.

I’ll go back to my original contention and try to explain it.

1) I never called into question any of Skousen’s methodologies, character, nor scholarship. Nor did I ever question the methodology of trying to determine the original (Smith) text of the BofM.

2) I did say that “Mormons” are calling his work “on a par” with Biblical scholarship. You quote Grant Hardy. He is LDS, right? Your blog quoted Hardy – in fact was where I first saw the “on a par” statement. You are LDS, right? The people who commented on your post, at least some of them who were congratulating the post, are LDS, right? So why would I not say Mormons are saying that?

3) Begging the pardon of Dr. Hardy, but the differences between a critical text of a single-language 19th century document whose writer claimed to be inspired and who said he had produced “the most correct book” and then within his lifetime (and later under supposedly equally-inspired prophets) produced this many textual variants under their inspired supervision has no parallel in Biblical scholarship.

4) Finally, your appeal to http://mi.byu.edu/publications/transcripts/?id=36 made me very happy. Of course the Egyptian language underwent revision (the Rosetta Stone itself showed that.) Of course ancient languages adapted each other and wrote in each other’s script/language (the Septuagint shows that –nothing new there.) Of course ancient people in the East wrote on metal as well as on other materials. None of those concepts are new – and it is the only information on that Internet document that I saw that was from non-LDS sources (except Nibley and you’ll have to excuse the fact that his credibility as a scholar is increasingly in question.) But where is there any example of reformed (or regular) Egyptian hieroglyphics and/or record-keeping on metal plates in the Americas? So I return to my original contention: there is no evidence for New World reformed Egyptian written on metal plates as a linguistic source for what Smith wrote (and rewrote.) Therefore again there is no parallel nor justification for comparing Skousen’s work to Biblical scholarship – which for its validity, especially when treated with “higher criticism,” looks at original languages and also seeks verification from archaeology, linguistics, sociology, and other disciplines. (Please, be objective here. Would you accept any scholarly look at a book of the Bible – or any other document of antiquity -- if that work had no access to the original language, and had no corroborating documentation from the time, culture, and languages of the source language?)

5) Finally, you said you refused to read the post of another person on my blog, www.latayne.com because of your contention that the BofM witnesses said they saw the plates. Please, even LDS scholars including Dan Vogel would strenuously disagree with you.

Here’s the problem. I remember being a faithful Mormon and giving talks in church. If I quoted from the book of Mormon and wanted to know what a word meant, I 1) looked it up in an English dictionary or 2) saw what McConkie or some other GA said about it or 3) saw how the word was used in other places using a concordance.

But look at the wealth of scholarship available regarding the Bible! If it’s koine I can see how Greek writers of the day used it. I can see how the tenses of the word affect the reading. I can read about Hezekiah’s tunnel or Paul’s Philippian jail cell or Temple Mount – and even go and visit them!

Please, don’t call the lining up of Joseph’s Smith’s self-corrections on a par with Biblical scholarship.

And please don’t read too much into the fact that I am returning to other writing projects and probably won’t respond to further posts.

If however you provide information that changes my mind about my original post, I’ll be the first to let you know it. One very good thing about being a former Mormon is that I do know what it’s like to find out that I have been wrong.

BHodges said...

Latayne:

I did say that “Mormons” are calling his work “on a par” with Biblical scholarship. You quote Grant Hardy. He is LDS, right? Your blog quoted Hardy – in fact was where I first saw the “on a par” statement. You are LDS, right? The people who commented on your post, at least some of them who were congratulating the post, are LDS, right? So why would I not say Mormons are saying that?

It’s a matter of being precise. I quote many people on my website and I do not always agree with those whom I quote. If that doesn’t concern you that is your choice.

Begging the pardon of Dr. Hardy, but the differences between a critical text of a single-language 19th century document whose writer claimed to be inspired and who said he had produced “the most correct book” and then within his lifetime (and later under supposedly equally-inspired prophets) produced this many textual variants under their inspired supervision has no parallel in Biblical scholarship.

Again, you are hung up on truth claims. I don't care to debate truth claims, most especially in regards to this Skousen project. (Your "quote-mining" of Joseph Smith is one reason I feel disinclined to engage. "The most correct book" statement has simply nothing to do with your notions of infallibility of scripture.)

With regards to Reformed Egyptian you are merely shifting the goalposts. Again, I am not interested in a polemical debate. It should be known, however, that your assertion is false, as Hamblin demonstrates. Location has simply nothing to do with the existence of a reformed Egyptian script. You would have to argue that all or many people in lands near the Book of Mormon lands kept records on plates. The Book of Mormon itself contradicts that position, the plates were limited to the one group, and they didn't keep making them. But this is entirely peripheral to Skousen's text project.

Please, even LDS scholars including Dan Vogel would strenuously disagree with you.

Dan Vogel isn't an "LDS scholar," he is a former-Mormon-turned-atheist. But even still, that is not relevant to his actual arguments, and his work on the witnesses has been demonstrated to be severely flawed by other historians. I am not interested in trading expert opinion with you, though. Please refer to the analysis of his claims as linked to on your site. See also http://en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon_witnesses/Spiritual_or_literal, and the bibliographical references there.

In sum: your original blog post (and subsequent arguments) are merely victims of the fallacy of the perfect analogy. You also incorrectly conflate textual criticism with higher criticism and misunderstand the actual nature of Skousen's project.

I do appreciate your comments though, because they have assisted me in better articulated my own, and for that I thank you and wish you the best. :)

BHodges said...

*Look for some interesting clarifying remarks from Grant Hardy regarding the discussion this coming Monday.

BHodges said...

As a point of clarification, the BoM has 2 groups who keep records on plates, the other being the Jaredites.

Anonymous said...

You said "Brant Gardner has some great new work coming out dealing with the witness accounts."

Is this part of his series do you know, or who the publisher will be, etc.?

BHodges said...

Gardner's Second Witness series is complete. This is a new project he is working on. I am assuming his current project would be published by Kofford, the same publisher of 2W.

BHodges said...

*Pidgin rather than pidgeon.

Joanne said...

Regarding who should publish the earliest text volume: I got the impression that BYU did not want the earliest text published as a separate volume, and that's why Skousen had to go through Yale. Can BYU be happy about this publication or not? I hope so!

w. h. pugmire, esq. said...

I love your blog, finding it edifying and entertaining. I've started my own Mormon blog, but it lacks cohesion and focus as yours does. I merely ramble. I began it because I have suddenly become obsessed with textual study of The Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price; & I needed a place to express my enthrallment with this study and the way it enhances my testimony of the Restored Gospel. I've bookmarked ye, & look forward to following your informed discussions. Shalom.

Blair Hodges said...

Thanks. I no longer update this site. I blog at bycommonconsent.com and MaxwellInstitute.byu.edu.

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