Friday, December 18, 2015

Same Data, Different Questions

In his recent book, Rodney Stark makes the following observation:
Contrary to stereotypes of Muslims as ardent worshippers, their numbers have been reduced almost as greatly as those for Christians when the data are limited to weekly attenders.
(Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith [Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2015], 15.)
This comes from the way that Stark is framing his question. What he is looking at is, if you took all the people who attend religious services during the week, what percentage of them belong to which religion. If that is the question you are asking then a typical worshiper is more likely to be Christian (39%) than Muslim (31%).

But there is another way at looking at the question. Instead of asking, "What percentage of the world's weekly worshipers belong to various religions?" we could ask, "What percentage of various religions are weekly worshiper?" That is a different question and Stark provides (on pp. 14-15 of his book) the information to answer it. Here in descending order are the percentages of adherents to different religions worldwide who worship weekly:
  • Hinduism     66%
  • Muslims     64%
  • Christians     52%
  • Others     50%
  • Buddhists     28%
  • Jews     24%
  • Secular     2%
This does not invalidate Stark's argument. It is just using the same information to ask a different question. What it shows is that there is a basis for the stereotype, since on any given week almost 2 out of 3 Muslims will attend mosque, whereas just over 1 out of 2 Christians will attend church. That is a statistically significant difference.

Incidentally, I have no idea whether Latter-day Saints would be classified as Christians or Others in this study. I would be curious to know what the specific Latter-day Saint number were, but given the geographic variation that probably exists they would be no particular help to any particular congregation. And, given the magnitude of people we are talking about in the study, whatever the Latter-day Saint numbers are, they would make a negligible difference on Stark's overall numbers.

What really impresses me are the Hindu numbers. So what are Hindus doing right? (Since we do not know what Latter-day Saint numbers are, we do not know what we may or may not be doing right compared to Hindus, but clearly Hindus are doing something right, and so are Muslims.)

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Plug for BYU?

Brigham Young University gets a plug from an unlikely source on its diversity, of all things. (I do not endorse the crudeness in the title; the article itself I did not find crude.)

Monday, December 7, 2015

A New Book on the Old Kingdom

I received in the mail today the first volume of the new series, Harvard Egyptological Studies: Towards a New History for the Egyptian Old Kingdom: Perspectives on the Pyramid Age, ed. Peter Der Manuelian and Thomas Schneider (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2015). As expected from Brill publications, the book is beautifully produced.

I do have an essay in the volume ("Did the Old Kingdom Collapse? A New View of the First Intermediate Period" pp. 60-75) but I wanted to highlight two other contributions in the volume.

Miroslav Bárta ("Ancient Egyptian History as an Example of Punctuated Equilibrium: An Outline" pp. 1-17) counters the idea that the Old Kingdom was a static place. He depicts it as having times of stability punctuated by major periods of change. In other words, history actually occurred.

My late friend, Harold Hays ("The Entextualization of the Pyramid Texts and the Religious History of the Old Kingdom" pp. 200-226), takes on the theory of the democratization of the afterlife. Mark Smith, Harco Willems, and others, including myself, have pointed to major problems in the theory and it is great to have Harold's contribution to add to the growing list of refutations of it.

There are several other good essays in the collection that I might recommend another time. I am only disappointed that, for whatever reasons, Ann Roth's and Manfred Bietak's contributions to the conference did not appear in the volume.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Paying Hidden Costs

A thirty second sound bite on the radio news this morning announced that the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts of America is laying some people off as donations are down and they cannot afford to employ the people anymore. I have not been able to find confirmation for this tidbit elsewhere, but the rest of this post is based on the assumption that the information is correct.

This is sad for those laid off. I am sure that at least some (and perhaps all) of those who will be laid off sincerely worked for the good of the boys.

On the other hand, this was entirely predictable. No one wants to support an organization that abandons its principles and betrays its constituents.

Unfortunately, my observations about this sort of situation is that those who caused it are never the ones to suffer the ill effects. They will be lauded and praised for how they led the organization through difficult times and given a golden parachute instead of being sacked for their abandonment of principle or betrayal.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Apologetics for Not Doing Apologetics

Yesterday at Utah Valley University there was a panel discussion on Mormon apologetics. The panelists were Brian Hauglid, Ralph Hancock, Brian Birch, Julie Smith, and Ben Park. Each had ten minutes to make their case and then there was an hour-long discussion. Here are some brief summaries of the arguments (losing most of the detail to perhaps the point of caricature--sorry, I do not mean to be inaccurate, just brief).

Brian Hauglid summarized Stephen Cowan's classification of Evangelical apologists but did not deal with how this classification system might apply to Mormon apologetics or which Latter-day Saint scholars might fit in which classification if it did apply. He argued that apologetics should not be a full-contact sport. He said that apologetics ought to be done in such a fashion that no one got their feelings hurt.

Ralph Hancock argued that apologetics meant defending one's beliefs using arguments. Thus everyone does apologetics for their own opinions. He argued that irony and satire have a legitimate place in apologetics and that it was generally best to be straightforward in presenting one's arguments.

Brian Birch applauded the Maxwell Institute's abandonment of defending the Church. He reiterated a claim that he has made elsewhere that apologetics of any sort could only have a chair at the academic table if it bowed to scholarship. He claimed that no satire or irony ought to be used in academic arguments and put forward the academy as a model of being humble and charitable. He voiced his opinion that apologetics was not really ready for the rough and tumble of scholarship.

Julie Smith thought that apologetics was most appropriate for missionaries and seminary teachers. She thought apologetics was dangerous because it fossilized the status quo and made women collateral damage. She wanted more numbered lists. She voiced her opinion that the next frontier in Mormon apologetics would be the Bible.

Ben Park thought that there should be a wall between apologetics and Mormon Studies. Maintaining a wall between the two would, he claimed, make better apologetics and better scholarship. For him Leonard Arrington and Eugene England were his heroes because they used the latest scholarly fads in their work. Mormon Studies was, however, better because it sheds the insider focus in the study of Mormonism.

The panel was big on generalities and short on specifics. This was most clearly apparent when an actual apologist asked them about how they might respond to a hypothetical sister in Parowan who might be troubled by things she had read. None of the panel betrayed the least indication of ever having done such a thing. It was like witnessing a bunch of arm-chair quarterbacks who had never set foot on a football field discussing what a professional team ought to do. To extend the metaphor and grossly oversimplify the arguments: Hauglid seem to be arguing that the best way for a team to win was to play touch football. Hancock was arguing that the team should actually play football since they were engaged in a match whether they wanted to or not. Birch seemed to argue that one team should only be allowed on the field if it was not allowed to score any points. Smith seemed to think that the best strategy was for the coach to provide the players with a numbered list of all possible plays without any guidance on which ones were likely to work in a particular situation. Park seem to think that there should be a wall between the football team and the stadium to keep the team out of the stadium. Which of these would you rather have coaching your team?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

On Supposed Tips for LDS Graduate Students

A recent blog post over on the ironically named "Faith Promoting Rumor" blog purports to give advice to prospective graduate students in "in Religious Studies (broadly conceived), the Ancient Near East, Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Early Christian Lit., Late Antique, Patristics, etc." This has caused some concern in certain quarters, though perhaps not for the reasons someone might think. I have a few comments to make in general and some on the specific recommendations made.

In the first place, the recommendations are made by someone who writes anonymously, apparently with no qualifications whatsoever. How would she know what a graduate school is looking for? Has she even been to graduate school? Anonymous recommendations on the internet should have no credibility. If someone is not willing to sign their real name to something, why should anyone trust it?

There are some clear indications that the author of the blog post does not know what she is talking about. Thus it is the product of some ignorant ideological biases.

I write this post as someone who successfully was admitted to graduate school, successfully completed graduate school and has successfully gotten a job in academia, who advises prospective graduate students, who has sat on graduate degree committees and on committees that award graduate school funding, and who has actually talks with people who are involved in graduate school admissions.

Committees are not monolithic entities. They are composed of individuals who come to the committee with their own ideas, qualifications, and biases. All it may take is one wrong person to change the entire committee. For example, I once sat on a committee where one individual insisted that money be given to a candidate who did not even meet the minimal qualifications for it. Sometimes success or failure is simply a matter of who is sitting on the committee.
  1. The first piece of advice is to avoid Studia Antiqua. Studia Antiqua is a student journal. The papers are usually suggested by professors who thought that the paper was promising. The papers are peer reviewed and authors work with a faculty mentor and a faculty editor to get the paper ready for publication. Our anonymous author thinks that this is a bad thing, saying: "I would avoid it." After all, who needs intensive help on your writing or experience with the academic publication process? I looked through the past issues of Studia Antiqua and see that many of the students who published in its pages in the past not only made it into graduate school but now have academic jobs. Obviously, this is the kind of thing that our anonymous author wants to avoid.

  2. The second and third pieces of advice deals with being a professor's research assistant or co-authoring a paper with a professor. "Avoid this," our anonymous author advises. I have not had many research assistants but half of them made it into top graduate programs. If that is a consequence that you want to avoid, please do so.

  3. See point two.

  4. The fourth piece of advice has to do with starting a personal blog. Don't do this. If you need any reasons not to do it, look no further than our anonymous blog author. I have seen many graduate students sink their careers with blogs.

  5. The fifth point advises students against working with FAIR or Interpreter. Our anonymous author advises: "DO NOT DO THIS." Actually, FAIR prefers to work with people who already have finished their schooling, like Michael Otterson, Richard Bushman, Terryl Givens, and so on. Surely that must be disreputable company. The last graduate student I knew of to publish with Interpreter just got a tenure-track job. If you do not want that to happen to you, then by all means avoid Interpreter and FAIR. There are publications that will seriously damage your job prospects. I have known individuals whose involvement with Sunstone and Dialogue have cost them jobs that otherwise they would have gotten.

  6. The last piece of advice has to do with accepting jobs on academic projects. Our anonymous adviser says, "DO NOT DO THIS unless you really, really need the job." Well, yes, someday you probably will need the job. I am reminded of a certain non-Mormon academic who really, really needed the job. She took a job doing research on one of these Mormon projects. Later she got a job at a certain Ivy League school and now runs one of the top graduate programs in the country. Going to "work with [Mormon apologists] on their latest project on something that only deals with LDS matters" certainly hurt her job prospects.
So our anonymous author advises:
Listen, friends, we know that you want to help your faith community, we know that these various opportunities and venues are incredibly enticing (and let’s be honest, flattering), but if you are applying or will be applying to grad school, you simply must watch out for number one. You are number one. Not the big name apologist, not the security of your faith community (it will be just fine!), not anyone else but you.
There is a word for this attitude, and it is selfish. What does it profit someone if they gain their degree and lose their soul? If personal integrity and your covenants mean nothing to you, you can follow the advice of someone who not only will not even sign her own name to her opinions, but will not even take her own advice. This individual is well-meaning but not necessarily well-informed. Somehow people who don't follow her advice have managed to get into graduate school, to earn degrees, and get jobs, sometimes precisely because they did not follow her advice.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

More on Parental Effects on Youth Religiosity

About a year ago, Richard Petts used the National Survey of Youth and Religion to study the effects of family structure on youth religiosity. Along the way, he found some interesting things about things that parents do that help their youth retain their religion. He published this in the journal Sociology of Religion but my page numbers will refer to the online publication.

In his first hypothesis test (pp. 13-14), he found that the most significant positive impact on the religiosity of youth was parental religiosity (1.10). The second most significant positive impact was if their parent was a Mormon (0.64). The third most positive impact was if their parent was a conservative Protestant (0.61). The most negative impacts were if the parents were cohabiting, that is living together without being married (-0.39), if the parent was single without ever being married (-0.35), or if the parents owned their own home (-0.34).

In his third hypothesis test (pp. 13-14), Petts found that besides parental religiosity, the most important things were "family religious practices" (0.84) which meant: "Youth are considered to engage in religious practices with their family if they had prayed together with their family in the past year and talked with their family about religious things at least once a week" (pp. 8-9). In a Latter-day Saint context that would include family prayer and family home evening.

Petts also tested for religious salience, that is, how important religion is for the youth (pp. 16-17). The most important positive factors were: Parental religiosity (0.61), if the parent is a conservative Protestant ( 0.48), and if the parent is a Mormon (0.46). The three most detrimental things were having a single parent who had never married (-0.24), living in a step family (-0.20), and having a child who is a different race from their parent (-0.17).

When Petts tested for things that make youth feel close to God, the most important thing was family religious practices (0.36) while the most detrimental thing was divorce (-0.28).

Here are some of Petts's conclusions:
Although there were a few exceptions, family structure generally did not have a direct influence on youth religious outcomes. (p. 19)
Parental religiosity was a strong predictor of youth religiosity; youth were less likely to be religious when raised by parents with low levels of religiosity and vice versa. (p. 19)
Overall, religious transmission in nontraditional families appears to be less effective for religious participation and religious salience among youth, and these differences are most pronounced at higher levels of parental religiosity. That is, youth raised in nontraditional families with highly religious parents have lower levels of religious participation and religious salience than those raised by highly religious married parents. (p. 22)
Consistency in religious affiliation among family members and engaging in religious behavior as a family are important in predicting youth religiosity. (p. 23)
So, the take away for parents who want to keep their children in the faith:
  1. Set a positive example by participating yourself.

  2. Marry your spouse.

  3. Stay married.

  4. Hold family prayer.

  5. Hold family home evening.
I'm sure I must have heard this somewhere before.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why You Might Not Want to "Upgrade" to Windows 10

When we bought our last family computer, I did some research and decided on a system that used Windows 8.1 because I would get the following features:
  • Each child could have their own account.

  • The accounts could be local, without each child having to register with some big corporation that would be collecting data on their every move.

  • Parents could control when children got on the computer.

  • Individual children could have specific time limits when they could use the computer and the computer would be keeping track of the time so there would be no arguing that what seemed like five minutes was really an hour.

  • There were options for limiting websites and downloads.

  • Parents can get weekly reports on how much time children have been on the computer and what they have been doing.

  • Parents can override certain functions on a case by case basis.

These features and others are lumped together into something called "Family Safety." I have recommended them to many parents, and do so again.

Recently I upgraded to Windows 10 for one of my computers and it fixed one of the recurring glitches I had been having. That was well done. Windows 10 also has a much better start menu than Windows 8.1. There are other improvements, but I have not really noticed them yet.

This experience led me to upgrade to Windows 10 on the family computer. That was a huge mistake. Every reason for which I got a Windows 8.1 computer instantly vanished. Windows 10 converted all the family safety accounts into regular accounts with no possibility of converting them back to family safety accounts. No controls or limitations of any sort could be put on the accounts.

Windows 10 still offers something it calls "family safety" but in a form which makes me feel anything but safe.

In Windows 10 to create any sort of account (temporary, local, family) you have to register with Microsoft so that they can collect the following information on you and your kids and anyone else who uses your computer (and I quote from Microsoft's own (lack of) privacy statements):
  • "your first and last name, email address, postal address, phone number, and other similar contact data."

  • "passwords, password hints, and similar security information"

  • "demographic data . . . such as your age, gender, country and preferred language"

  • "your interests and favorites, such as the teams you follow, . . . the stocks you track, . . . or the favorite cities your add to a weather app. In addition to those you explicitly provide, your interests and favorites may also be inferred ro derived from other data we collect"

  • "payment data . . . if you make purchases, such as your payment instrument number (such as a credit card number), and the security code associated with your payment instrument."

  • "usage data . . . such as the features you used, the items you purchase, the web pages you visit, the search terms you enter . . . you device, including IP address, device identifiers, regional and language settings, and data about the network, operating system, browser or other software you use."

  • "your contacts and relationships."

  • "your locations, which can be precise or imprecise . . . Global Position System (GPS) data, as well as data identifying nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots, . . . your IP address . . . city or postal code"

  • "content of your files and communications . . . your documents, photos, music or video . . . subject line and body of an email, text or other content of an instant message, audio and video recording of a video message, and audio recording and transcript of a voice message you receive or a text message you dictate"
Additionally, Microsoft says that they "also obtain data from third parties (including other companies)" about you.

This, of course, is precisely why a parent might want to create a local account and not register their children with Microsoft data collection.

Supposedly, by registering your children with Microsoft on every device you use the same controls will apply across the board to all devices running Microsoft. I can see some advantages to this but also some disadvantages. I can see reasons why a parent might want to have different devices have different settings. Perhaps you want your child doing their homework between the time they get home and when the family eats dinner and so want the computer available at that time, and you will let them play the X-box only after dinner on the assumption that their homework is done. In that case you would want different settings for different devices.

So there are some legitimate concerns why parents might not want to upgrade to Windows 10.

What if, like I did, you made the mistake of upgrading?

You can downgrade back to Windows 8.1 if it has been less than a month since you upgraded.

Simply click on the Start menu

Go to "Settings" (which is in the bottom left-hand corner and has the gear icon next to it). Then go to "Update & Security" which is in the lower right of the menu options. Then go to "Recovery" which is the fourth option down on the left-hand side. Then select the option "Go back to Windows 8.1". It took less time than upgrading to Windows 10. I did have to reenter wireless router passwords but all my family's accounts and old family safety settings were still there.

When you downgrade, Microsoft will ask for feedback about why you want to downgrade. I listed some of my concerns about the lack of real Family Safety in Windows 10.

Is it hypocritical for a parent to track her children's computer activities and complain when Microsoft does it? Possibly. But there are some key differences. (1) Parents have a responsibility to train their children in how to use tools (including computers) responsibly; Microsoft does not. (2) Parents are only tracking their own children, not everyone's children. (3) Parents need not use all the tracking tools; they can be customized to the child and the situation but one never knows if Microsoft is using the tracking tools or how.

It is nice that Microsoft is at least pretending to provide tools of some sort to parents, but who will protect your kids from Microsoft?

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Read This, Not That!

Richard Bushman's discussion of the Book of Mormon in Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism was really good. Surprisingly, his discussion of the Book of Mormon in Rough Stone Rolling was as weak as the one in Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism was strong.

Now, however, there is something better. The best discussion of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon is now Michael MacKay and Gerrit Dirkmaat's From Darkness unto Light published this year. If you are reading Rough Stone Rolling, skip the section on the Book of Mormon and read this instead. (Skip what Bushman says about the Book of Abraham too.)

If you think you know how the Book of Mormon was translated, you should read MacKay and Dirkmaat because you find out all kinds of things that you did not know.

Friday, October 2, 2015

One Less Worry

I was comforted by this thought from Elder Russell M. Nelson reflecting on the calling of apostles:
You look at a university or a big business where there’s a vacancy. A search committee works hard to find suitable successors. They do well but it’s always a worry. Here, it is not a worry. You know the work of the Lord will be done by His servants.
Thank heavens that the calling of apostles is done by the Lord instead of a university committee.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Religious Studies at BYU

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, former president of BYU, outlines the place of Religious Studies at BYU in a recently published interview:
I think we will want to keep asking hard questions: how much is practical, how much is needed, how many lines of communication do we need, and what books are good enough to carry our imprimatur. When we know which products those are, then we should do a world-class job with them. I would like this [the Religious Studies Center] to become known as the scholarly voice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on matters that would normally be considered as "religious studies." When people think, "Where do I look to see the real heartbeat of intellectual life and academic contribution for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," I want them to think BYU, and at BYU when the issue is religious scholarship, I want them to think of the Religious Studies Center.
(Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Thomas Wayment, "The RSC Turns Forty: A Convesation with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland," Religious Educator 16/2 [2015]: 3.)
Later in the interview Elder Holland also gave kudos to BYU Studies for its work in that field.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Provenance of Greek New Testament Manuscripts

There are a number of lists of New Testament manuscripts available, most of them based on the one at the back of the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament. A good list will tell you about where the manuscript is found now, what texts it contains, and when the manuscript is thought to be written. What the lists do not tell you is where the manuscript was found. So this list is to provide that information, to the extent it is known.

I am arranging the list chronologically as well as geographically. Many of the dates in the standard lists are wrong. I am adjusting the dates following the new ones given by Orsini and Clarysse (two papyrologists) rather than the standard ones given by theologians. Papyrologists can at best date business hands to the nearest half-century; literary hands can at best be dated to the nearest century. (So I think that even some of the Orsini and Clarysse dates are too precise.)

I have also included a number of other details about some of these manuscripts that are not well known. The contents only mention the book or books that show up in the manuscript and in most cases the entire book is not attested. I have added the Trismegistos number and links for those interested in more information.

Take the question marks seriously.

Oxyrhynchus (Bahnasa)
p104 (= TM 61782, Matthew)
p90 (= TM 61625, John)
P.Oxy. 50 3528 (= TM 59983, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Oxy. 69 4706 (= TM 69384, Shepherd of Hermas)
p30 (= TM 61860, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians)
P.Oxy. 69 4705 (= TM 69383, Shepherd of Hermas)
p1 (= TM 61787, Mathew)
p5 (= TM 61630, John)
p18 (= TM 61636, Revelation)
p20 (= TM 61618, James)
p27 (= TM 61854, Romans)
p29 (= TM 61701, Acts)
p69 (= TM 61700, Luke)
p70 (= TM 61789, Matthew)
p100 (= TM 61619, James)
p101 (= TM 61786, Matthew)
p103 (= TM 61785, Matthew)
p106 (= TM 61631, John)
p107 (= TM 61632, John)
p108 (= TM 61633, John)
p109 (= TM 61634, John)
p111 (= TM 65894, Luke)
p113 (= TM 65896, Romans)
p114 (= TM 65897, Hebrews)
p119 (= TM 112358, John)
p121 (= TM 112360, John)
P.Oxy. 15 1828 (= TM 59987, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Oxy. 50 3527 (= TM 59986, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Oxy. 69 4707 (= TM 69385, Shepherd of Hermas)
P. Oxy 3 404 (= TM 59989, Shepherd of Hermas)
p22 (= TM 61629, John)
p23 (= TM 61620, James)
p77 (= TM 61784, Matthew)
p13 (= TM 61861, Hebrews)
p28 (= TM 61635, John)
p78 (= TM 61695, Jude)
p115 (= TM 65898, Revelation)
P. Oxy. 15 1783 (= TM 59991, Shepherd of Hermas)
p39 (= TM 61638, John)
p9 (= TM 61639, 1 John)
p125 (= TM 117814, 1 Peter)
p10 (= TM 61868, Romans)
p123 (= TM 113259, 1 Corinthians)
p15+16 (= TM 61859, 1 Corinthians, Philippians) p17 (= TM 61862, Hebrews)
p71 (= TM 61794, Matthew)
p102 (= TM 61790, Matthew)
p110 (= TM 65893, Matthew)
p120 (= TM 112359, John)
P.Oxy. 9 1172 (= TM 59993, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Oxy. 13 1599 (= TM 59992, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Oxy. 50 3526 (= TM 59993, Shepherd of Hermas)
p19 (= TM 61798, Matthew)
p21 (= TM 61796, Matthew)
p48 (= TM 61702, Acts)
p24 (= TM 61641, Revelation)
p51 (= TM 61869, Galatians)
p122 (= TM 112361, John)
p127 (= TM 119313, Acts)
p54 (= TM 61622, James)
p105 (= TM 61803, Matthew, amulet)
p35 (= TM 61802, Matthew)
p112 (= TM 65895, Acts)
p36 (= TM 61662, John)
p124 (= TM 113260, 2 Corinthians)
p26 (= TM 61898, Romans)
p52 (= TM 61624, John)

Hermopolis (el-Ashmunein)
P.Iand. 1 4 (= TM 59982, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Berl. 13272 (= TM 59990, Shepherd of Hermas)
Koptos (Qift)
p4+64+67 (= TM 61783, Matthew, Luke)
Aphroditopolis (Atfih) (?)/Panopolis (Akhmim) (?)/Arsinoites(?)
p46 (= TM 61855, Romans, Hebrews, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians)
p45 (= TM 61826, Matthew, John, Luke, Mark, Acts)
Aphroditopolis (Atfih) (?)
p47 (= TM 61628, Revelation)
Panopolis (Akhmim)
p66 (?) (= TM 61627, John)
p72 (= TM 61420, Protevangelium of Jacob, 3 Corinthians, Odes of Solomon, Jude, Melito of Sardis Peri Pascha, 1 Peter, 2 Peter)
P. Bodmer 38 (= TM 59994, Shepherd of Hermas, Dortheus Visio)
Hipponon (Qararo)
p40 (= TM 61846, Romans)
Egypt (further specification unknown)
p95 (= TM 61651, John)
p87 (= TM 61857, Philemon)
p98 (= TM 61626, Revelation)
p32 (= TM 61853, Titus)
p75 (= TM 61743, Luke, John)
p91 (= TM 61699, Acts)
p49 (= TM 61858, Ephesians)
p65 (= TM 61856, 1 Thessalonians)
p8 (= TM 61704, Acts)
p116 (= TM 66065, Hebrews)
p50 (= TM 61709, Acts)
p62 (= TM 61839, Matthew, Greek and Coptic [Akhmimic], Daniel)
p81 (= TM 61911, 1 Peter)
p82 (= TM 61706, Luke)
p86 (= TM 61793, Matthew)
p89 (= TM 61863, Hebrews)
p117 (= TM 68759, 2 Corinthians)
p126 (= TM 68735, Acts)
P.Hamburg 24/P.Iand. inv. 45 (= TM 59995, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Prague I 1 (= TM 59996, Shepherd of Hermas)
p88 (= TM 61757, Mark)
p85 (= TM 61644, Revelation)
p118 (= TM 68810, Romans)
p6 (= TM 61656, John in Greek and Coptic [Akhmimic]; James in Coptic; 1 Clement in Coptic)
p93 (= TM 61650, John)
p99 (= TM 61873, Romans, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians)
p94 (= TM 61885, Romans)
p63 (= TM 61661, John)
P. Amherst 2 190 (= TM 59999, Shepherd of Hermas)
p25 (= TM 61823, Matthew)
p76 (= TM 61669, Matthew)
p96 (= TM 61810, Matthew, Greek and Coptic [Sahidic])
P.Berl. BKT 6 (= TM 60001, Shepherd of Hermas)
p31 (= TM 61901, Romans)
p73 (= TM 61814, Matthew)
p74 (= TM 61742, Acts, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude)
p80 (= TM 61645, John)
p42 (= TM 62320, Luke in Greek and Coptic)
P.Mich 2.2 130 (= TM 59984, Shepherd of Hermas)
P.Berl. 5513/BKT 6.2.1 (= TM 59988, Shepherd of Hermas)
p12 (= TM 62312, Hebrews 1:1 and Genesis 1:1-5 palimpsest amulet over a letter)
p37 (?) (= TM 61788, Matthew)
p38 (?) (= TM 61703, Acts)
p53 (= TM 61827, Matthew, Acts)
p57 (= TM 61707, Acts)
P.Berl. 5104 (= TM 59997, Shepherd of Hermas)
p56 (= TM 61721, Acts)
p33+58 (= TM 61731, Acts)
p3 (= TM 61732, Luke)
p55 (= TM 61671, John)
p34 (= TM 61903, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians)
p79 (= TM 61907, Hebrews)
200-500 (?)
p7 (= TM 61747, Luke)
p11 (= TM 61908, 1 Corinthians)
p14 (= TM 61886, 1 Corinthians)
p68 (?) (= TM 61902, 1 Corinthians)
Theadelphia (Batn el-Hatit)
P.Mich. 2.2 129 (= TM 59985, Shepherd of Hermas)
Narmouthis (Medinet Madi)
p92 (= TM 61852, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians)
Djeme (Medinet Habu)
p2 (= TM 61744, John in Greek and Luke in Coptic)
p44 (= TM 61825, Matthew, John)
Khirbet Mird, Israel
p83 (= TM 61808, Matthew)
p84 (= TM 61775, Mark, John)
Wadi Sarga
p43 (= TM 61673, Revelation)
Aphrodito (Kom Ishqau) (?)
p97 (= TM 61698, Luke)
Nessana (Auja Hafir) Israel
p59 (= TM 61676, John)
p60 (= TM 61677, John)
p61 (= TM 61906, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, Titus, Philemon)
Krokodilopolis (Medinet el-Fayyum)
p41 (= TM 61739, Acts, in Greek and Coptic)
A few things stand out. First, we do not know the provenance of a large percentage of these manuscripts.

Another is that a number of the Greek manuscripts are actually bilingual Greek-Coptic manuscripts and they start appearing in the fourth century. The language switch helps explain why there are comparatively fewer copies of the Greek New Testament from Egypt after about 500.

A large percentage of our Greek New Testament manuscripts come from Oxyrhynchus. Most of those come from the third century. All the Oxyrhynchus manuscripts were found in the garbage dump. They were discarded manuscripts.

Half the manuscripts (5 of 10) from Arsinoites contain the book of Acts. Three quarters of the Sinai manuscripts contain 1 Corinthians.

Our second century manuscripts are all gospels (Matthew, John, and Luke) and the Shepherd of Hermas. The Revelation of John and James are also early popular works.

The early attestations at Coptos come as something of a surprise since Coptos is not really on  the radar of scholars in early Christianity. Arsinoites is another place that does not show up as a site of importance to those studying early Christianity but it has produced the second greatest number of papyri from a known site. Hermopolis is also not noted for its early Christian community and perhaps should be.

A number of the papyri come from the land of Israel rather than Egypt, though they figure in somewhat later.

The presence of Barnabas, 1 Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas probably surprise some people but Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas are included in the canon of scripture of Codex Sinaiticus, 1 Clement is included in Codex Alexandrinus. Note that the attestations are almost all early. After these books were excluded from the canon, they fell out of favor and generally stopped being copied.

Shepherd of Hermas is much more popular than the Gospel of Thomas and yet it figures much less prominently in the scholarship about early Christianity.

The lists in Nestle-Aland are very good at telling you which verses are actually attested but they are not good at telling you if works outside the Protestant New Testament are part of the manuscript or if there are languages other than Greek.

Provenance has not figured into discussions of New Testament manuscripts and perhaps it should.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Edwin C. (Ted) Brock

I just received new that Edwin C. (Ted) Brock passed away yesterday. This comes as something of a shock since I just saw Ted last month in Florence. I have known Ted for a number of years. He was very knowledgeable and very kind. My condolences to his wife, Lyla. I will miss him.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A Brief History of Religious Studies

This brief history of Religious Studies comes from George Marsden, who previously had written a history of how the American university system had gone from Protestant establishment to establish non-belief:
The rise of religion departments in many universities during the mid-twentieth century originally had as part of its rationale the promotions of . . . broadly Christian or Judeo-Christian ideals. Religion could be viewed as a special field of scientific study, but also as a source of inspiration going beyond science. Usually the religion taught was broadly ecumenical and interfaith, allowing little room for more traditional versions of Protestantism, Catholicism, or Orthodox Judaism.

During the 1960s and the 1970s the field of religion continued to grow, but in order to establish its academic credibility, it was increasingly marked by an emphasis on the scientific study of religion and decreasingly seen as a haven in the universities, or even in mainstream church-related colleges, for religious perspectives. The leaders in the field of religious studies now more often presented it as analogous to the social sciences rather than to the uplifting humanities, such as literature. The transformation in religious studies since the early 1960s had some parallels in the field of literature. Literature was no longer regarded first of all as uplifting, as it had been in the 1950s, but rather became a field whose academic status was legitimated by technical methodologies, often evidenced by esoteric terminology. Segments of religious studies followed similar paths, transforming themselves into cultural study and the comparative studies of the history of religions.

The new religious studies raised the academic credibility of the field and brought fresh insights on many religious phenomena. From the point of view of our own inquiry, however, they must be seen as part of the wider trend of insistence that the only place for religion in the mainstream academy is as an object of study.
(George M. Marsden, The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 21-22.)
In Religious Studies, as in most of academia, you are supposed to check your religion at the door.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Does Anyone Actually Believe This?

Recently a government website launched making comparisons between the cost of going to various universities. Looking at their data, something does not pass the smell test. Here are a number of universities and the government claims about how much it costs to go to each school for a year (arranged highest to lowest):
Catholic University of America $34,086
Emory University $28,463
Duke University $28,058
University of Notre Dame $27,845
University of Chicago $25,335
Columbia University $22,672
Yale University $16,743
Stanford University $15,713
University of Utah $14,114
Harvard University $14,049
University of California-Berkeley $13,769
Brigham Young University $13,070
University of Wyoming $11,292
Utah Valley University $9,642
I do not believe these numbers. Who seriously thinks that it is cheaper to go to Harvard or UC Berkeley than the University of Utah? Emory, Harvard, and Yale have roughly comparable tuition (in the $45,000 range). Something very strange is going on here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Arthur Brooks at BYU

The intelligent and thoughtful Arthur Brooks visited BYU on Tuesday and talked to the Wheatley Institute. Mostly he talked to the students. I took notes and was going to post something on it, but you can read a good summary here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Effect of Jewish Studies on Judaism

A friend of mine sent me a link to this older article where the inimitable Jacob Neusner, who taught Jewish Studies for years at a secular university, discusses how Jewish Studies has tended to undercut Judaism.

One very important point he makes in the essay is this:
When believing and practicing Jews decide who will teach what to whom, they take for granted that some things are more important than others. They affirm the cogency of the subject and know how things fit together. The Judaic system governs the things that are learned. To teachers and students, the classical texts convey truth. What follows? The Talmud is more important than a cookbook. The Jewish sponsors of Jewish learning derive the scale of values from the received canon and tradition.

Universities, by contrast, have no stake in according to Scripture or Midrash and Talmud a superior position in the curriculum. Learning in every topic and discipline defines its own priorities, and reason is not governed by revelation. So the curriculum is a mishmash of this and that — discrete details of a main point that does not register. Anything that is Jewish is as worthy of study as anything else that is Jewish. At my own college, the history of the bagel and the status of women in Jewish law have served equally well as topics of graduation essays.
Substitute "Mormon" for "Jewish" and "General Conference" for the "Talmud" and you probably have an apt description of Mormon Studies.

Neusner's point, of course, is one of the frustrating things about studying ancient Egyptian religion. Any inscription or text is taken as equally important with any other inscription or text. No system governs what is learned or studied and we do not know how things fit together. What is valuable and what is not? How are we to know? I have made the argument that the things that the Egyptians endlessly repeated to the point that modern scholars see them as "banal" are probably the most important things. Without an ancient Egyptian informant, that is an educated guess. One has to wonder if all the outpouring of writings of Egyptian religion is as valid as the outpouring of writings in Mormon Studies.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

We're Number Two (or is it Number One?)

According to this article, BYU is the number two least expensive ranked private university in America. But according to this article, BYU has the least expensive ranked law school in America.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

From the Mormon Odditoriurm

It is of no benefit in this world for men to preach such false doctrine. And now, every little while, I hear of some one of the Elders, who wishes to be considered smart, trying to teach something he knows nothing about. There is enough revealed to fill the whole earth as long as you live. Preach the truth as you understand it. Do not speculate on things you know nothing about, for it will benefit no one. (Wilford Woodruff, 6 April 1890)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

A Mesopotamian Joke

Many jokes about ancient Mesopotamia flounder because either the person telling the joke or the audience does not know enough about Mesopotamia to pull it off (usually the former). Sometimes, however, it works: I thought this was funny.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The "Real" Reasons Youth Drop Out of Church?

I recently stumbled across this article by Ed Stetzer about why youth drop out of church. It came out about the same time as my own series of blog posts on the subject, but is from a Pentecostal perspective and uses a different set of research data. According to this source, for Pentecostals:
About 70 percent of young adults ages 18 to 22 stopped attending church regularly for at least one year.
And it should be noted that we found almost two-thirds of those who left in our Protestant study were back in church by the end of the study.
So they kept 30% of their youth and 70% went missing but almost two-thirds of those (which would be 46% of the original) come back. This would be something under 76%. The NSYR classifies Pentecostals with Conservative Protestants. According to the NSYR, Conservative Protestants retain about 64% of their youth through college. Perhaps Pentecostals have slightly better retention than Conservative Protestants; perhaps the NSYR caught more of their people before they returned.

The article also reported:
We also asked young adults why they dropped out of church. Of those who dropped out, about 97 percent stated it was because of life changes or situations.
This is partly in line with what the NSYR reported although it is broken down a bit differently.

Stetzer also reported a break-down of the reasons that youth gave for leaving:
  • They simply wanted a break from church (27 percent).
  • They had moved to college (25 percent).
  • Their work made it impossible or difficult to attend (23 percent).
About 58 percent of young adults indicated they dropped out because of their church or pastor. When we probed further, they said:
  • Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical (26 percent).
  • They didn't feel connected to the people at their church (20 percent).
  • Church members were unfriendly and unwelcoming (15 percent).
Fifty-two percent indicated some sort of religious, ethical or political beliefs as the reason they dropped out. In other words, about 52 percent changed their Christian views. Maybe they didn't believe what the church taught, or they didn't believe what they perceived others in the church to believe.

Firsthand faith leads to life change and life-long commitment. More specifically, 18 percent disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues, 17 percent said they were only going to church to please others anyway, and 16 percent said they no longer wanted to identify with church or organized religion.
One of the things to notice is that reasons overlapped. Respondents gave multiple reasons for dropping out. The Pentecostal study has different aims and categories of analysis than the NSYR. I would categorize the responses as falling into one of the following categories:
  • A major change in their life broke their routine (48%)
  • They were offended (58%)
Only a small percentage (18%) left for what might be categorized as intellectual issues, but the survey categorized them as political or social reasons. That strikes me as a more useful assessment. The survey apparently did not question whether sin or the desire to sin played a role in the decision to leave.

What we see again is that there are multiple reasons for leaving and that intellectual issues are not a very big reason for youth leaving.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Report from the ICE XI XVI

The last couple of days have been fairly busy and I have not kept up on reporting highlights of the International Congress of Egyptologists. Again, I am highlighting one or two specific points made in various presenters' talks. I am not trying to summarize their arguments. I am also highlighting what I think are good points or important points though I will not necessarily be describing them as the authors would have. These are things that I think are of good report or praiseworthy. I am also not reporting on every presentation I went to and certainly not private conversations. When I was chairing a session, I usually did not have time to make good notes.

On Friday Daniel M. Mendez Roderiguez argued that the Book of Caverns, which is typically described as a funerary text, was used by the living.

Yvonne Vosman discussed the rise of Neo-Egyptian objects in Europe. These she described as Egyptosophical objects with a spiritual function. She described the proliferation of these objects as a result of the invisibility of religion in European society for the last thirty years. Religion in Europe has been removed from the public sphere and into the privacy of one's own home. As a result religion has been transformed into a popular spirituality, and Egypt is seen as being the home of ancient, exotic, and mysterious wisdom, so there has been a large European market for vaguely Egyptian wares with alleged wondrous powers.

Brett McClain talked about how, if you consider a temple as a book, the Karnak temples of Ramses III provide an excellent model for seeing how redaction actually worked in the ancient Near East. He further noted that the only inscription in these temples that has been studied is the "tablet of gold".

Jan Moje talked about bilingual texts from Elephantine. He mentioned that there were a number of bilingual Aramaic and demotic texts but he concentrated on the bilingual Greek and Demotic ones. He noted that when there is a dominant language, it is usually put first.

Verena Lepper discussed the Elephantine papyri scattered throughout a number of Institutions. There are more than 350 boxes of these papyri in museums that have never been looked at and she discussed her efforts to make the material accessible. She mentioned that these papyri were in hieroglyphs, hierative, demotic, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Coptic, Arabic, and even Phonecian and Punic.

On Saturday, Alexa Rickert discussed terms for New Years Day in the Temple of Dendara. She made a distinction between theological cardinal points and geographical cardinal points, which at Dendara are 90 degrees off of each other. (Thus "theological" north is "geographical" west.)

Felicitas Weber talked about a Book of the Dead papyrus in Dresden, most of whose texts and some of whose vignettes are unknown from other manuscripts of the Book of the Dead. At the end she made the statement that it was "worth looking at manuscripts closely because usually it is not just another Book of the Dead."

Mykola Tarasenko looked at the iconography of one scene in one vingette in the Book of the Dead and discussed the range of variations in that scene through the New Kingdom.

Silvia Einaudi discussed an noteworthy manuscript of the Book of the Dead in the Louvre. (I have seen it before and it is quite remarkable.) It is a Ptolemaic manuscript which is 19.44 meters long and has some 1700 columns of text. Sometimes the space for the name is left out, and after a certain point, there are spaces for vignettes but no illustrations have been drawn.

Suzanne Topfer discussed a number of unpublished papyri from Tebtunis. She remarked how strange it seemed to have texts of rituals for the protection of the Pharaoh long after there had ceased to be Pharaohs in Egypt.

Sandrine Vuilleumier discussed the phenomenon of adapting ritual texts for individuals in the late period. These were originally rituals for the king or the gods which were then reused as funerary texts.

Finally, Jacqueline Williamson talked about how her excavations at Tell el-Amarna have forced her to rethink some of the standard theories about religion during the Amarna period. (The archaeological and epigraphic evidence that she has unearthed certainly do not square with what I was taught in graduate school about the topic.)

The organizers of the congress did well on a number of things that I would like to highlight: The student helpers were competent, involved, and enthusiastic. They were easy to spot in their bright yellow polo shirts, unfailingly helpful, and managed to solve every problem within minutes. The sturdy name badges on the lanyards had good maps printed on the back showing the location of all the conference venues. There were large signs on site to help one locate the venues. Communication of changes were posted in a central location and sent via email. The wifi in the venue was good. The breaks were long enough to talk to people without being too rushed but not too long. The food provided was sufficient and there was a good variety of things other than coffee to drink (impressive considering that there were supposedly 800 people there). The papers were generally of good quality. I would like to thank them for these things (and others) which they did well.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Report of the ICE XI XV

The photo shows a new demotic graffito presented at the International Congress of Egyptologists. This extremely important graffito obviously revolutionizes our study of ancient Egypt.

Report from ICE XI XIV

This morning Frederico Contardi described newly identified fragments of the Opening of the Mouth ritual from Drovetti's finds. He noted that the ritual was used for both humans and gods. The use for gods was previously attested only for the Greco-Roman period but these new fragments show that that use goes back to the New Kingdom, over a thousand years earlier.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why You Should Go Into Mormon Studies

According to this article if you get a degree in Religious Studies (of which Mormon Studies is a subset) you can look forward to the following:
  • You might get really lucky and make $32,000 dollars a year; of course you are just as likely to earn $23,000 dollars a year (that's below the poverty level for a family of four).

  • 35% of graduates will be employed in jobs that they did not even need a college degree for.

  • 58% of graduates will be employed in low wage service jobs (waiting tables, janitors, maids, cashiers, etc.; on the bright side, those are honorable professions).

  • It is a little unclear but it looks like only 7% of Religious Studies majors find employment in the field. You could be that one in fourteen who actually makes it (comparatively) big.

  • You will be competing with over 54,000 people for that job.

  • A Religious Studies major is more likely to find employment than someone in Mormon Studies.

  • The faceless person who sets your insurance premiums will likely start out at at least double your salary. 
Good luck!

Report from the ICE XI XIII

This morning and afternoon a number of reports were given on digital databases and tools dealing with Greek loanwords, hieratic paleography, demotic paleography, and a new dictionary project.

This afternoon, A. Legowski told about an abbreviated Book of the Dead in Athens. He noted that it had unique vignettes and that the vignettes did not always match the text they were placed with.

Nicolaus Leroux discussed some hitherto unknown priestly regulations at Dendara.

Report from ICE XI XII

M. Di Teodoro gave a fascinating synthesis of the system of conscripted labor in the Middle Kingdom. Basically households were obliged to provide a number of individuals for a few months to work on government projects. (For those in the US think three months mandatory unremunerated jury duty involving hard labor.) She used labor records to show how the system worked in practice.

Report from ICE XI XI

This morning Richard Jasnow discussed a group of hieratic/demotic commentaries of the Book of the Fayyum that he and Horst Beinlich are preparing for publication. Interesting features include hieratic text interspersed with demotic commentary, and descriptions of and commentary on pictures that are not in the text itself (but are in the hieroglyphic versions).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Report from ICE XI X

I have a lot to catch up on:

Yesterday afternoon, James K. Hoffmeier showed that the great hymn to the Aten, which is normally thought to be a composition from late in Akhenaten's reign had to have come earlier in the reign, before year 9.

Lucia Diaz-Iglesias Llanos discussed the Book of the Dead found in the tomb of Djehuty, an early Eighteenth Dynasty official. She made the case that there were at least three different scribes in the tomb. She also discussed the numerous sorts of textual errors made by the copyists.

Holger Kockelmann discussed the gate guardians in temples and amassed material from the early dynastic period through Coptic times (and even into medieval times) on his subject.

This morning E. Liptay showed how Sed-Festival imagery was used in certain Twenty-First Dynasty Coffins.

Corina van den Hoven discussed he coronation ritual at Edfu and brought forth evidence that not only were officials anointed in ancient Egypt, but that kings were probably as well.

Angus Graham discussed coring work at Luxor and his team's attempt to reconstruct the floodplain in the area. He showed that based on the work they have been able to do so far, most of what Egyptologists have assumed about the placement of the river is likely wrong.

This afternoon, Alessandra van Lieven discussed how a number of the Coffin Texts (which are usually regarded as funerary) have to have been used by the living. She also discussed one of them in particular, which was a ritual for the prolonging of one's life that was performed every New Year.

Melanie Flossmann-Schutze discussed her project at Tuna el-Gebel and how they are trying to integrate archaeological and textual sources to understand the history of the site.

There were some other good papers that I chose not to highlight, and some not so good papers that I am skipping over. So far it has been a good conference with lots of interesting papers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Report from ICE XI VIII

I am principally interested in noting things that are of good report or praiseworthy. One less praiseworthy thing is that unfortunately some Egyptologists still pay no attention to the second half of Egyptian history.

Report from ICE XI VII

Laurent Coulon gave an interesting overview of chapels of Osiris around Karnak. One of the interesting things he pointed out is that these chapels, which are called temples but are rather small, tend to be located along processional routes.

Report from ICE XI VI

Grzegorz First gave an impressive presentation on the so-called pantheistic deities in ancient Egypt. He argued that Egyptologists have misused the term "pantheistic" since the so-called pantheistic deities were not pantheistic in the conventional sense. He supported the suggestion that they be called polymorphic instead. He also argued that polymorphic deities could refer to Christ. (Unfortunately I can not reproduce his argument here.)

He also noted that it is very difficult to interpret these figures because they generally lack inscriptions.

Report from ICE XI VI

This morning G. Gestoso Singer talked about love and gold in the El Amarna texts. She noted that love was used three ways in the texts: (1) as an expression of brotherhood, (2) as an expression of loyalty, (3) as a rationale for exchanging gifts (mainly gold) as a means of enhancing a ruler's prestige among foreign ambassadors.

Report from ICE XI V

This morning Roberto Gozzoli discussed how Egyptology is an insular discipline that would benefit from interaction with other disciplines (he emphasized particularly history). He noted that most Egyptian histories are merely a concatenation of summaries of the texts.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Report from ICE XI IV

I am only posting select comments on papers that I thought were good and points that I thought were interesting. I am not especially summarizing arguments.

This afternoon Dawn McCormack discussed her excavation of what she currently thinks is a Thirteenth Dynasty royal tomb complex at Abydos. Unfortunately she can only guess who it might have been intended for.

Report from ICE XI III

This afternoon at the International Congress of Egyptologists Jennifer Babcock discussed her work on certain illustrations and noted the difficulty in figuring out what the scene was about our reconstructing the story when all one had were the pictures.

Report from ICE XI II

This morning Silke Caßor-Pfeiffer discussed scenes of offering milk and swaddling clothes in the southern chapel of the Opet temple at Karnak. She talked about how the Opet temple rituals on one level provide for the basic needs of Horus as an infant but the inscriptions also specify that these rituals serve to establish Horus as the king. She was able to draw enough parallels to show that the southern chapel served as the Mammisi of the Opet temple.

Report from ICE XI I

This morning at the eleventh International Congress of Egyptologists, Guo Dantong gave a summary of between Egypt and the Levant during the Middle Kingdom / Middle Bronze Age. She did a good job considering that English is not her native language. One point which she mentioned that probably has not been emphasized enough is that Egyptian access to the northern Levant was over seas while access to the southern Levant was over land. She also noted that archaeological evidence from Tell el-Da'ba indicated that in the late Middle Kingdom had closer contact with the northern Levant than with the south.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Basic Rules for Book of Mormon Geography

As a scholar, I often am asked by individuals to give my opinion on various proposed Book of Mormon geographies. So I have looked at a number of proposed Book of Mormon geographies. For many people, Book of Mormon geography is a gospel hobby. For those who have this gospel hobby, any disagreement with their particular geography proposal is somehow a rejection of the gospel, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. It is not.

Various proposals about Book of Mormon geography are guesses. That's right, your favorite Book of Mormon geography (if you have one) is a guess. The question is whether it is a good guess or a bad guess. How do you know? I have a few rules of thumb that I use to check proposed Book of Mormon geographies:

  1. It needs to actually match the Book of Mormon and all geographic references in the Book of Mormon. If it does not match the text of the Book of Mormon, it does not matter what else it does match; it cannot be right. So, if your geography fits perfectly except your narrow neck of land stretches from San Francisco to New York, that is not by any stretch of the imagination a narrow neck and it just doesn't work.

  2. Statements by Joseph Smith and other Church leaders about Book of Mormon geography do not overrule the text itself. Joseph Smith was the translator of the text, not the author. If he were the author he would be the ultimate authority on Book of Mormon geography, diction, history, everything. If we take the Book of Mormon as historical, then the ancient authors were the experts and the modern translator may not necessarily be an expert on any particular detail of the text or set of details in the text. Church leaders may know more about the text than I do, so their statements should be taken seriously, but they are not more authoritative than the scriptural text itself. If the prophet gets revelation on the subject, he will identify it as revelation.

  3. Careful readers of the text deserve more credence than careless readers of the text.

  4. Individuals who are making or soliciting money from their proposed geography are suspect.
    "He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion. Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing. . . . But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish." (2 Nephi 26:29–31)
    Individuals who are trying to make money off their geography are in into Book of Mormon geography for the wrong reasons. They should not be trusted.

  5. Individuals who chose a geography because of some sense of national pride or because of bigotry against some culture, nationality or ethnic group are not paying attention to the Book of Mormon.
    "Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of God." (1 Nephi 17:35)
    The Book of Mormon provides numerous examples of individuals who invited those of other nationalities to partake of the gospel message. So if you are using the Book of Mormon as an excuse to puff up your prejudices against some ethnic group then you are missing the forest for the trees and you need to repent.

There are really only two reasons that I can think of why Book of Mormon geography matters:
  1. The Book of Mormon is historical and actually took place, which means it took place someplace.

  2. The geographic and cultural setting can potentially provide more insight into the text and make it more meaningful. 
If the geographic and cultural setting does not provide more insight into the text are we really all that much better off knowing exactly where things took place?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For

A certain individual here begs for a certain BYU official to apply a certain standard to publications and calls for the censorship of certain views. Does he realize that by his own criteria he would require that his own vociferous views be suppressed and censored?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Legal Notice

Blogger has been sending around the following notice:
European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies.

You are responsible for confirming this notice actually works for your blog, and that it displays. If you employ other cookies, for example by adding third party features, this notice may not work for you. Learn more about this notice and your responsibilities.
I have checked and if you are viewing this from an EU country then an ugly banner informing you of Blogger's  use of cookies does indeed cover the header of the site.

For those curious I know of the following cookies that blogger uses (explanations come from here, and here; different browsers may get different sets of cookies):
  • TL
  • S
  • SID
  • HSID
  • SSID
  • _utmt
  • _utma
This cookie is used to determine new and returning visitors.  It has an expiration time of 2 years.  If the ga.js library is executed and no _utma cookie exists, this will be recorded as the users’ first visit and a _utma cookie will be set.  If a _utma cookie is already in place, the expiration time is reset and the user is recorded as a return visitor.
So let’s go through a quick run through of what the string of numbers means.  The string starts with a domain hash, this defines which domain the cookie relates to and is unique for every domain.  The Unique Identifier is what defines the user/browser. The time stamp refers to the visits the user makes to your website and the number of sessions refers to how many times they have visited your website.
This cookie is what’s called a “persistent” cookie, as in, it never expires (technically, it does expire…in the year 2038…but for the sake of explanation, let’s pretend that it never expires, ever). This cookie keeps track of the number of times a visitor has been to the site pertaining to the cookie, when their first visit was, and when their last visit occurred. Google Analytics uses the information from this cookie to calculate things like Days and Visits to purchase.
  • _utmb
This cookie is used to determine a new session.  The cookie is set when the ga.js library executes and there is no _utmb cookie in place.  It has an expiration time of 30 minutes, therefore if a user is inactive for a period longer than this, a new cookie will be set when the library executes and the interaction will be recorded as a new session.
The _utmb cookie contains the same domain hash as above.  This cookie records information about this particular session. 
  • _utmc
The B and C cookies are brothers, working together to calculate how long a visit takes. __utmb takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor enters a site, while __utmc takes a timestamp of the exact moment in time when a visitor leaves a site. __utmb expires at the end of the session. __utmc waits 30 minutes, and then it expires. You see, __utmc has no way of knowing when a user closes their browser or leaves a website, so it waits 30 minutes for another pageview to happen, and if it doesn’t, it expires.
  • _utmz
This cookie is used to determine the traffic source, medium, campaign name and campaign term which delivered the user to your website.  It is created when the javascript library executes and expires after 6 months.  This helps Google collect the data which can then help them to determine which traffic sources assist conversions within the multi-channel section of Analytics.
Again the domain is the same as the above cookies as it refers to the same domain.  From this cookie we are able to determine the campaign source, campaign name, campaign medium and campaign terms.
Mr. __utmz keeps track of where the visitor came from, what search engine you used, what link you clicked on, what keyword you used, and where they were in the world when you accessed a website. It expires in 15,768,000 seconds – or, in 6 months. This cookie is how Google Analytics knows to whom and to what source / medium / keyword to assign the credit for a Goal Conversion or an Ecommerce Transaction. __utmz also lets you edit its length with a simple customization to the Google Analytics Tracking code.
  • GoogleAccountsLocale_session
  • GAPS
This stands for Google Apps Password Sync and according to here:
Google Apps Password Sync (GAPS) automatically keeps your users' Google Apps passwords in sync with their Microsoft® Active Directory passwords. Whenever a user's Active Directory password is changed, GAPS pushes the change to Google Apps immediately.
GAPS never changes your Active Directory passwords; it only syncs Active Directory password changes to Google Apps.
If you object to these cookies you should be able to change the settings on your browser to accept or reject them or to have them expire at the end of a session.

I have not set any cookies on this site although Blogger has.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

On Deliberate Obtuseness

Someone sent me the following link where an individual going under the name of jonathan3d (apparently Jonathan Neville) takes issue about something I published in 1998. At the time I stated:
Biographies like the book under review are deliberate, intentional acts; they do not occur by accident. Ferguson is largely unknown to the vast majority of Latter-day Saints; his impact on Book of Mormon studies is minimal. So, of all the lives that could be celebrated, why hold up that of a "double-acting sour-puss?"  . . .

With the deliberate inclusion of this material and the deliberate suppression of the fuller picture of Ferguson, [the author] demonstrates an interest in fashioning propaganda. With this book [the author] advocates (perhaps unintentionally) the view that Latter-day Saint doubters should mouth pieties in public and do as they please in private, and, most particularly, that they should covertly seek to undermine the faith of the weak and faltering. I am not convinced that this is unintentional, since [the author] (1) attempts to marshal as many reasons to create doubt as he can, (2) introduces controversies and arguments brought forth after Ferguson's death, and (3) consistently misrepresents the arguments of supporters of the Book of Mormon or the Book of Abraham. In an attempt to subvert the weak, weigh down the hands that hang down, and weaken the feeble knees, [the author] has carefully fashioned the hagiography of a hypocrite.
(John Gee, "The Hagiography of Doubting Thomas," FARMS Review of Books 10/2 (1998): 159-60. At the time of writing this entire issue is missing from the Maxwell Institute website ).
I included a footnote to explain what I meant by Ferguson being largely unknown, noting that the Comprehensive Annotated Book of Mormon Bibliography "lists four books and four articles by Ferguson out of 6,338 items published before 1994." I was addressing the issue of why write a biography of Ferguson and emphasize his Book of Mormon work since Ferguson was not exactly a Book of Mormon heavy-weight.

Our pseudonymous author (Jonathan Neville(?)) wrenches one sentence out of context and complains:
Finally, Gee asserts Ferguson's impact has been minimal, a claim that is easily rebutted by a simple Internet search where the Ferguson case is frequently cited by former, inactive, and anti-Mormons. (I realize Gee referred to the "vast majority of Latter-day Saints," but the "vast majority" is hardly synonymous with "active." Many former/inactive LDS have followed the same trajectory as Ferguson but have not remained in the Church after concluding the archaeological evidence in Mesoamerica does not substantiate the Book of Mormon. It's an ongoing and unnecessary tragedy when there is such an abundance of evidence in North America that does substantiate the Book of Mormon.
When I wrote the passage jonathan3d complains about Google did not yet exist, so his complaint is misplaced.

jonathan3d seems to think that Ferguson is the acme of Mesoamericanist Book of Mormon scholars. He was not. Both jonathan3d and Ferguson seem to me to have naive understandings of the Book of Mormon and what it means to situate the Book of Momon in Mesoamerica. But really if jonathan 3d thinks that North America is a better fit than Mesoamerica or a hemispheric model, he should state his case rather than take statements out of context to take pot-shots at others. After all, he claims:
I'd rather focus on the information and the logic of the arguments than the personalities.
If that is where he would rather focus, he is welcome to do so and doing so would certainly be welcome.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A Time to Choose:
Adults would do well to distinguish between our secular accomplishments and our spiritual commitments. The former is subject to question—as a possibly atrophying "arm of flesh"—while the latter is both what we most cherish and what gives us certitude. A simultaneous defense of the American economic system and the reality of modern revelation is unwise even when we believe in both, because the one is changing and managed by frail mortals while the other is unchanging and managed by God.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Today's Maxwell Quote

From A More Excellent Way (1967):
In almost every leadership situation we are working against the clock—in terms of time as well as facts and feelings. Joseph in Egypt knew through divine revelation that food must be stored for the years of famine. He was ready, and Egypt was ready, when the famine struck. He worked against the clock and finished his work on time. In just as real a sense—though on a smaller scale—a bishop who is striving to get a young man ready for a mission faces a chronological deadline even though it may not be a formal deadline or a stated deadline. A Scoutmaster, too, is facing a psychological clock, when he is preparing young men to receive their Eagle Scout awards. For the statistical evidence is plain, the Eagle award is almost always achieved by a certain age, or not at all. A commitment to temple marriage is usually made by young people in advance of their serious courting, or not at all. Not all leadership situations have this kind of time pressure but this is increasingly true in our kind of mobile society.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Parental Role in the Loss of Faith in Youth

A few months ago, I looked at the sociological data from the National Survey of Youth and Religion (NSYR) on the loss of faith in youth:
By request, here I am going to look at one area where parents help bring about the loss of faith in youth. This is not to say that parents are the only factor, just where they are one factor.

The NSYR used qualitative comparative analysis to look at "combinations of causal factors most likely shifting the more highly religious teenagers into the least religious emerging adult religious groups within five years" (Smith and Snell, Souls in Transition, 230). They found three different combinations of factors (or pathways) to loss of faith.

The first combination of factors is:
  • lower parental religious service attendance and importance of faith
  • lower importance of religious faith for the teen
  •  the teen prays and reads scriptures less frequently
  • the teen has some doubts about their faith
  • the teen has few adults in the congregation to whom he or she can turn for help
The second pathway is:
  • lower parental religious service attendance and importance of faith
  • lower importance of religious faith for the teen
  • the teen has fewer personal religious experiences 
  • teen prays and reads scriptures frequently
  • the teen has many adults in the congregation to whom he or she can turn for help
The third combination of factors is:
  • lower parental religious service attendance and importance of faith
  • lower importance of religious faith for the teen
  • the teen has fewer personal religious experiences
  • the teen prays and reads scriptures less frequently
  • the teen has no doubts about their faith
(Smith and Snell, Souls in Transition, 230.)
The NSYR notes:
Altogether, 60 percent of teens who experienced one of these three combinations of factors ended up as emerging adults in the low religious categories. And 56 percent of all those higher religious teenagers who did end up as emerging adults in a low religion category got there by following one of these three paths.
(Smith and Snell, Souls in Transition, 230.)
Two factors appear in all pathways: (1) religion and church attendance is not that important to the parents, and (2) it is not all that important to the teen. The two factors are probably related.

My concern is with what parents do or can do for their youth. What does it mean for parents to have lower religious service attendance and importance of faith? In a Latter-day Saint context it might be manifest by the following (not an exhaustive list by any means):
  • Using Stake or General Conference as an excuse for a vacation.

  • Giving athletic events a higher priority than attendance at a young men's or young women's activity.

  • Not holding family home evening if it is not convenient.

  • Treating Youth Conference as an optional activity.
This is not to say that there might not be legitimate reasons to miss Stake Conference or family home evening, or a young women's meeting. But when it becomes a regular occurrence, parents might ask themselves what sort of message they are sending to their children. Elder Jeffery R. Holland gave another example in a General Conference talk in 2003:
Parents simply cannot flirt with skepticism or cynicism, then be surprised when their children expand that flirtation into full-blown romance. If in matters of faith and belief children are at risk of being swept downstream by this intellectual current or that cultural rapid, we as their parents must be more certain than ever to hold to anchored, unmistakable moorings clearly recognizable to those of our own household. It won’t help anyone if we go over the edge with them, explaining through the roar of the falls all the way down that we really did know the Church was true and that the keys of the priesthood really were lodged there but we just didn’t want to stifle anyone’s freedom to think otherwise. No, we can hardly expect the children to get to shore safely if the parents don’t seem to know where to anchor their own boat. Isaiah once used a variation on such imagery when he said of unbelievers, “[Their] tacklings are loosed; they could not … strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail.”
I think some parents may not understand that even when they feel secure in their own minds regarding matters of personal testimony, they can nevertheless make that faith too difficult for their children to detect. We can be reasonably active, meeting-going Latter-day Saints, but if we do not live lives of gospel integrity and convey to our children powerful heartfelt convictions regarding the truthfulness of the Restoration and the divine guidance of the Church from the First Vision to this very hour, then those children may, to our regret but not surprise, turn out not to be visibly active, meeting-going Latter-day Saints or sometimes anything close to it.
Not long ago Sister Holland and I met a fine young man who came in contact with us after he had been roaming around through the occult and sorting through a variety of Eastern religions, all in an attempt to find religious faith. His father, he admitted, believed in nothing whatsoever. But his grandfather, he said, was actually a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “But he didn’t do much with it,” the young man said. “He was always pretty cynical about the Church.” From a grandfather who is cynical to a son who is agnostic to a grandson who is now looking desperately for what God had already once given his family! What a classic example of the warning Elder Richard L. Evans once gave.
Said he: “Sometimes some parents mistakenly feel that they can relax a little as to conduct and conformity or take perhaps a so called liberal view of basic and fundamental things—thinking that a little laxness or indulgence won’t matter—or they may fail to teach or to attend Church, or may voice critical views. Some parents … seem to feel that they can ease up a little on the fundamentals without affecting their family or their family’s future. But,” he observed, “if a parent goes a little off course, the children are likely to exceed the parent’s example.”
To lead a child (or anyone else!), even inadvertently, away from faithfulness, away from loyalty and bedrock belief simply because we want to be clever or independent is license no parent nor any other person has ever been given. In matters of religion a skeptical mind is not a higher manifestation of virtue than is a believing heart, and analytical deconstruction in the field of, say, literary fiction can be just plain old-fashioned destruction when transferred to families yearning for faith at home. And such a deviation from the true course can be deceptively slow and subtle in its impact
Now, this covers a majority of the cases, but forty percent do not follow the three pathways. What factors were present in those cases, the NSYR did not specify; we cannot know whether or not parental attendance at Church was a factor; but in at least three out of five cases it was. Parents would be foolish not to take it into consideration.

This brings to mind the famous quote of William Law:
If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.