Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dishonesty by Mormon Apologists, Case #2: Michael Rhodes

One common argument that I hear from Mormons, regarding Facsimile 1 from the Book of Abraham, is that similar scenes have been found on other papyri with Abraham's name on it. In a recent debate, I asked the Mormon making such a claim to provide a reference. After weeks of waiting, I used Google to find the origin of his claim. In the article, The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus . . . Twenty Years Later, Michael Rhodes states:
Two demotic papyri discovered in Thebes in the early 1800s are of special interest...One of the papyri shows the drawing of a mummy lying on a lion couch with a figure of the god Anubis standing over it, quite similar to the scene depicted in Facsimile 1 of the Book of Abraham. Beneath this drawing are the words in Greek: Αβρααμ ὁ ἐπὶ . . .,” Abraham who upon . . .” (the remainder of the sentence is damaged but could be something like “the couch.”
In speculating on how the remainder of the sentence might continue, Mr. Rhodes is attempting to show independent support of Joseph Smith's claim that Abraham is the figure lying on the lion couch in Facsimile 1. Mr. Rhodes' reference is to a book called "The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation" and the pertinent parts of that book can be previewed on Google Books at the link. On page 171 of the book, you'll find the referenced lion couch scene and this paragraph referring to Abraham:
...AIDIO ORICH THAMBITO, Abraham who at ... PLANOIEGCHIBIOTH MOU ROU and the whole soul for her, NN [whom NN bore] ... the female body of her, NN [whom NN bore], I conjure by the ... [and] to inflame her, NN whom [ NN bore].
Notice that the author of the book translates the partial text to say "Abraham who at...", while Michael Rhodes claimed it translated to "Abraham who upon..." and then speculated that it could continue to say "the couch" in a blatant attempt to put Abraham on the lion couch. But perhaps both translations are valid, so let's look at the context of the paragraph. I find it very curious that Mr. Rhodes would ignore the multiple references to a female, including the mention of a female body, in order to allow for some connection to Abraham. However, it is strange that the name Abraham appears in the text, so what might explain that? On the top of page 62 of the same text, you'll find a spell for driving out "daimons", which begins by saying "Hail, God of Abraham; hail, God of Isaac; hail, God of Jacob..." A quick word search of the book reveals that the name Abraham was used frequently in spells. On page 268, a spell reads "I conjure you all by the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ..."  On page 191, another translated portion of text reads "...for I have received the power of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob..."  There are several other references to Abraham found in pages not available for preview, but the existing quotes provide a very simple explanation for the name Abraham on the papyrus. Unfortunately, Michael Rhodes didn't find it expedient to provide that explanation to his readers.
Does Rhodes' behavior make him dishonest? I believe so, but the reader can decide for himself or herself. At the very least, it demonstrates that he is willing to take evidence out of context to support his arguments. Like John Gee, Michael Rhodes' characterization of evidence is suspect and should be verified at the source.

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