Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Thoughts from Relatives

The following thought was written by my ninth cousin twice removed when he visited Heidelberg:
I went often to look at the collection of curiosities in Heidelberg Castle, and one day I surprised the keeper of it with my German. I spoke entirely in that language. He was greatly interested; and after I had talked a while he said my German was very rare, possibly a "unique"; and wanted to add it to his museum.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In Case You Were Wondering

In the announcement in the Deseret News for the new volume of the Joseph Smith Papers, there are a number of nice pictures. The first one is a picture of a papyrus, one I have looked at a number of time. It is P. Joseph Smith XI. Unfortunately, the papyrus is shown upside down. Oops.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

But It Goes

The following was spotted just outside the Church at St. Wendel during the Easter Market:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

America and the Bible 2017

The Barna group has their 2017 report on American engagement with the Bible. There are a few interesting things to come out of the report:
  • The general attitude toward the Bible has been more or less constant since 2011 with a couple of exceptions: Skepticism towards the Bible has nearly doubled in that time, but is down from the past couple of years. There has been a more or less corresponding drop among those who are friendly toward the Bible, but most of that came between 2011 and 2012.

  • More than three quarters of those who are skeptical of the Bible are actually better categorized as hostile towards the Bible. The number of those who are skeptical of the Bible is less than the number of Americans who regularly read the Bible.

  • Almost a third of Americans never read the Bible.

  • Despite the increased use of various electronic scriptures, most people would rather read a Bible in print.
Although the report did not correlate the categories, it might not be coincidental that the number of people skeptical of the Bible may be a subset of those who never read it.

Monday, April 3, 2017

William Kelly Simpson

My Doktorvater William Kelly Simpson recently passed away. (You can find his obituary in the New York Times.) I remember a number of his kindnesses to me during my time at Yale. He first became professor of Egyptology at Yale in 1958 and served as my committee chair forty years later at an age when most professors have already retired. He let me take the Late Egyptian Stories class rather than forcing me to retake the beginning hieroglyphs class. He let the students have keys to his office and access to his library, which was mostly better stocked than the University's, on the understanding that we were not allowed to remove books. He had standing orders on almost all major series though he thought that many of them were overpriced. He very kindly gave me credit for a new reading on one of the Illahun papyri in a review that he published. He also gave me a copy of his Festschrift as a wedding gift, and a complete set of the Yale Egyptological Studies published up to that point.

One story: We were reading in class the account of Wenamun (a longish Late Egyptian account of the misfortunes of an Egyptian official who is reporting on the problems he had while on a foreign assignment). Wenamun was waxing eloquent about the greatness of Amon-Re and Professor Simpson remarked that "He sounds just like a Mormon missionary." I replied, "No wonder I like him so much." He took it in good humor.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Note on the Vatican Obelisk

Last week, after my meetings in the Vatican, I had the chance to wander around St. Peter's Square. In the middle of that plaza stands an Egyptian obelisk. Of all the inscriptions on the obelisk I was most struck by three. The first is this Egyptian inscription, on the south side:
The south face of the Vatican Obelisk
This needs to be read in conjunction with the Latin inscription on the base of the north side:
The inscription on the base of the north side of the obelisk
This inscription from 1586 explains the Egyptian one on the other side. To understand the rest of the Latin inscription, you need to consider this view of the obelisk, which explains the second line:
The Vatican obelisk from the northeast
All of this is fairly discouraging, and about makes one want to weep. Fortunately, there is an another inscription on the west side of the base:
The inscription on the west end of the base of the obelisk

That inscription is the only encouraging inscription on the obelisk.

(Now, before you complain that you cannot read any of the inscriptions, I will point out that competence in Latin used to be required in order to get into college. As far as the Egyptian inscription, if you can't read it, I can't help you there.)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Today's Maxwell Quote

From Things As They Really Are:
Satan is very apt at using any momentum he has in order to make it look as though he has already prevailed. No wonder obvious exceptions irritate him so! Though he postures as a nonconformist, my, how the adversary likes his lemmings to line up and march—toward self-destruction—to the most conforming cadence caller of them all!

In the classic confrontation with Korihor, the agnostic, both Satan and his arguments finally collapsed. He admitted that he taught certain falsehoods because they were "pleasing unto the carnal mind." (Alma 30:53.) Korihor also said, by playing to the galleries, that he received so much reinforcement that he finally deceived himself. He was neither the first nor the last individual to be taken in by himself while being cheered on by a manipulated majority.

The truths of the gospel, or things as they really are, confront not just the Korihors, but all of us. The lazy individual meets, head on, truths about the essentialness of work. The selfish and idle rich meet, head on, the truths about our need to share: they must also ponder the need to accept, one day, the law of consecration. The selfish and idle poor collide with the harsh truths about covetousness and envy. The salacious must come to grips with the truths about the need to avoid both actual and mental sexual immorality. The "eat, drink, and be merry" crowd is confronted with the truths about personal accountability and the inevitable judgment.

Those who are addicted to the honors and praise of the world meet up with the gospel truths about how hearts so set upon the things of the world must be broken. Ungrateful children bump into the truths about their obligations to parents. Abortionists meet the truths about our individual identity as spirits and the nearness of the imposing sixth commandment.

None of these confrontive truths is "pleasing unto the carnal mind." Instead, each is jarring, disconcerting, and irritating to the carnal mind.