Hat tip to An Open Mind.
Most objective readers would agree with Professor Robert Ritner’s opinion of Joseph Smith’s “translation” of Egyptian funerary scrolls into the Book of Abraham: “Except for those willfully blind, the case is closed.” Professor Ritner recently published The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition. From the book description:
The surviving papyri have been translated into English in their entirety. In analyzing and translating the ancient texts, Robert K. Ritner, foremost American scholar of Egyptology, has determined that they were prepared for deceased men and women in Thebes during the Greco-Roman period. They have nothing to do with Abraham, Joseph, or a planet called Kolob, as Smith had claimed.
I’ve watched with interest the treatment of Professor Ritner, who is known as one of the most respected Egyptologists in the world, by certain Mormon apologists. All sorts of accusations have been made against Dr. Ritner, from suggestions that John Gee (an LDS apologist and student of Ritner’s) had to petition for Ritner to be removed from his doctoral committee to hints that Ritner is gay. Here are a few statements by Mormon apologists about Ritner:
The fact is that Professor Gee went on to earn a doctorate from Yale in Egyptology after successfully petitioning for the removal of Professor Ritner, his appointed advisor, from his doctoral committee. (Aug 2 2006, 10:45 AM)
Perhaps you’re unaware that Professor Gee (successfully) petitioned his department at Yale to have Professor Ritner replaced as chairman of his doctoral committee. Such requests are not commonly made. And they are not commonly granted. Do you think they’re best buddies? (Jun 10 2006, 04:56 PM)
Professor Ritner was once Professor Gee’s dissertation chairman at Yale University, until he was removed from that position and replaced by another professor. There is a personal history here (of which I was aware as it played out, since Professor Gee had been a student of mine before he went off to graduate school at Berkeley and then Yale. (Mar 22 2006, 08:43 PM)
As I’ve said, various substantive responses are in the works. Whether the personal side of this will ever come out is unknown to me. I wish it would, but I don’t think that’s my decision to make. (Sep 29 2004, 01:26 PM)
“I also will not comment on his removal from my dissertation committee other than to note that it was the department’s decision to do so. There is much more to the story than what Professor Ritner has chosen to tell.” (John Gee, Mar 23 2006, 07:47 PM).
When asked to comment about these accusations, Ritner responded:
My response to Gee’s relevant academic output will be contained in the book edited by Brent [Metcalfe]. Gee has been increasingly visible, but not increasingly respected, at meetings. I do not know [one of his critics], nor how he would have any knowledge of my involvement with Gee’s dissertation (except through misrepresentations by Gee himself), but I am the one who rejected further participation in Gee’s work, and I signaled many errors in his work as a reason. If [said critic] continues to make false allegations, I may have to consider a slander or libel lawsuit. In any case, whoever he is, he is neither competent nor legally authorized to discuss the private matter. I have retained my dated correspondence and may put it on-line if such misrepresentations continue.
Sincerely, Robert Ritner
In my view, the dishonesty and nastiness of some Mormon apologists have been stunning. For some examples of the shenanigans of Mormon apologists, see Chris Smith’s excellent blog. Naturally, Chris–who is one of the kindest, most reasonable, and fairest student of Mormon history I have ever met–is routinely denounced as a “career anti-Mormon” bent on destroying the church.
It’s nice to see Ritner’s full discussion of the Book of Abraham issue in print, though he has published on the subject before. Except for William Schryver’s rather lame presentation a couple of years ago at the FAIR conference and the premature crowing from apologists about it’s “game-changing” nature, no one has been able to show that the Book of Abraham is anything more than most critics and outside observers recognize: a clumsy and easily debunked fraud.