Book of Abraham/Joseph Smith Papyri
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|The Book of Abraham|
Joseph Smith Papyri:
Book of Abraham content:
|FAIR Wiki Topical Guide|
|FAIR web site|
|FARMS web site|
There are a number of criticisms related to the recovered fragments of the Joseph Smith papyri. These criticisms are addressed below.
An example of what I am talking about is the recent discovery of the papyrus scrolls from which Joseph Smith was presumed to have translated the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Modern scholars, looking at the scrolls, found nothing they considered to be similar to that book. I remarked at the time that such a finding didn't bother me in the least. God doesn't need a crib sheet in the form of a papyrus scroll to reveal Abraham's thoughts and words to Joseph Smith, with any degree of precision He considers necessary for His purposes. If the only function of the scrolls was to awaken the Prophet to the idea of receiving such inspiration, they would have fulfilled their purpose.
—Henry Eyring, Reflections of a Scientist, p. 46
Joseph Smith had in his possession three or four long scrolls, plus a hypocephalus (Facsimile 2). Of these original materials, only a handful of fragments were recovered at the Metropolitan Museum. The majority of the papyri remains lost, and has likely been destroyed. Critics who claim that we have all, or a majority, of the papyri possessed by Joseph Smith are simply mistaken.
The Egyptian characters on the recovered documents are a portion of the "Book of Breathings," an Egyptian religious text buried with mummies that instructed the dead on how to successfully reach the afterlife. This particular Book of Breathings was written for a deceased man named Hor, so it it usually called the Hor Book of Breathings.
Other than the vignette represented in Facsimile 1, the material on the papyri received by the Church, at least from a standard Egyptological point of view, does not include the actual text of the Book of Abraham. This was discussed in the Church publication, the New Era in January 1968.
The following articles explore more detail regarding various aspects of the Book of Abraham.
- Identity and nature of the papyrus in the Church's possession—
In July 1835, Joseph Smith purchased a portion of a collection of papyri and mummies that had been discovered in Egypt and brought to the United States. Believing that one of the papyrus rolls contained, "the writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt," and "purportedly written by his own hand, upon papyrus," Joseph commenced a translation. The Book of Abraham was the result of his work. The translated text and facsimiles of three drawings were published in the early 1840s in serial fashion in the LDS newspaper Times and Seasons. The entire work was published in 1852 in England as part of The Pearl of Great Price, which was later canonized as part of LDS scripture. (Link)
- When did the Church disclose that the Joseph Smith Papyri were an Egyptian funerary text?—
Critics often assert that the Church did not identify the Joseph Smith Papyri as an Egyptian funerary text until after Egyptologists examined them. They also claim that the Church is hiding or "covering up" the papyri's actual contents. Both assertions are incorrect. In fact, the Church ran a multi-part series with color pictures of the papyri in the Improvement Era (the predecessor to the Ensign) less than two months after they were received from the Metropolitan Museum. The series repeatedly affirmed that the recovered papyri contained Egyptian funerary materials and not the text of Book of Abraham. Although the article erroneously identified the papyrus as the Egyptian "Book of the Dead," it was later correctly identified as a "Book of Breathings." (Link)
- Dating of the Joseph Smith Papyri—
Joseph said that "one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham," and his scribes quoted him as saying the scroll was "written by his [Abraham's] own hand, upon papyrus." The problem is that most modern scholars (including LDS scholars) date the papyri to a few centuries before Christ, whereas Abraham lived about two millennia before Christ. Obviously, Abraham himself could not have penned the papyri. The phrase "by his own hand" can simply mean that Abraham is the author of the book. Similarly, we could hold a modern printed Bible in our hands, point to 1 Corinthians, and say, "This was written by the Apostle Paul." Joseph was translating the writings of Abraham, so it is quite possible that he believed that the actual scroll in his possession was written by Abraham himself. There is no evidence, however, that this belief was based on revelation. (Link)
- Why is the Book of Abraham text not on the papyri?—
We do not claim to know why the text of the Book of Abraham (or the missing Book of Joseph) is not in evidence on the fragments of papyrus that were recovered. Critics, of course, simply assume this to be conclusive evidence that Joseph was a fraud. From a believer's perspective, however, there are several possible theories to account for this: 1) The text was revealed much in the same manner as that of the Book of Mormon, without the need for the actual papyri, 2) The text was present on portions of the papyri that are missing, and 3) The Book of Abraham manuscript was attached to the Book of Breathings manuscript and was lost. 4) Perhaps there was a way of understanding the Egyptian ideograms anciently that is unknown to Egyptology in our day, yet to be discovered, deciphered or acknowledged, that could yield an interpretation of a text that is different than the standard Egyptological reading. (Link)
- The "Revealed Text" theory—This theory assumes that the Book of Abraham was not on the papyri; he received the text by revelation, with the papyri acting as a catalyst. This is a possibility because Joseph used the word "translation" to mean several things, including the process of receiving pure revelation. (Joseph Smith's revelations call his revision of the Bible a "translation" (D&C 73:4; 76:15; 90:13; 94:10; 124:89), even though he didn't use any Hebrew of Greek manuscripts. Also, DC 7: is a revealed translation of a lost record written by the Apostle John.) (Link)
- The "Missing Papyrus" theory—This theory assumes that the Book of Abraham was on the papyri in Joseph Smith's possession, but the portion recovered from the Metropolitan Museum doesn't include it. This is a possibility because the recovered portion is less than 13% of the total material held by Joseph. Eyewitnesses also reported that the length of the papyri in Joseph's possession was much more extensive than the fragments now held by the Church. (Link)
- The "Jewish Redaction" theory—This theory assumes that the Book of Abraham was on a scroll which is no longer extant. While it's true that the extant portions of the JSP are from the Book of the Dead and the Book of Breathings and do not, according to Egyptologists, translate to anything like the LDS Book of Abraham, this doesn't necessarily mean that the translation didn't derive from Joseph's papyri. There are other scenarios that are compatible with Joseph's claims. We know from other sources, for instance, that sometimes scrolls were attached together. (Link)
- The "Double Entendre" theory, or Multiple Meanings—There are several flavors of this theory, but it assumes that (1) even if significant portions of the papyri are missing, key pieces of the papyri are NOT missing and (2) there are multiple meanings to be found in the text of the extant papyri. Some versions of this theory employ the idea that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers represent some sort of "key" of understanding. Some versions of this theory draw upon others listed above, bringing in elements of the catalyst idea, or the Jewish redaction idea, while rejecting the idea that the key portions of the papyrus that represent the text, or that represent the ideas on which the text is based, are missing. (Link)
- The Kirtland Egyptian Papers—
Among the early Book-of-Abraham-related-manuscripts that have survived from the days of Joseph Smith are a number of papers collectively referred to as the "Kirtland Egyptian Papers" (KEP). These pages were written while the Saints lived in Kirtland, Ohio, and were recorded in the general time frame that Joseph was translating the Book of Abraham. They are in the same handwriting of several of Joseph's scribes. Critics charge that the KEP represent Joseph's attempt to translate the hieroglyphics from those portions that are still extant, noting that Egyptologists tell us that the alleged "translations" do not accurately reflect the meanings of the hieroglyphics. In some cases, several paragraphs of the English translation of the Book of Abraham are associated with Egyptian characters from the Joseph Smith papyri. In some instances, one Egyptian character seems to yield several sentences of English text. From what may be surmised from the "Kirtland Egyptian Papers" the surviving Egyptian papyri are claimed by critics to be the source for the Book of Abraham. Critics point out that Egyptologists agree that these papyri are part of a collection of Egyptian funerary documents known as the Book of Breathings and do not deal with Abraham. (Link)
- Facsimiles in the Book of Abraham—
In the Book of Abraham, Joseph included three facsimiles of illustrations from the papyri, along with commentary about what the images and their individual parts represented. Some of Joseph's interpretations are similar to those of trained Egyptologists, but most are not. A number of criticisms relate to the three facsimiles associated with the Book of Abraham.It is noted that Joseph Smith's translation of the facsimiles does not agree with that provided by Egyptologists, and that some missing portions of the facsimiles were incorrectly restored before they were published. (Link)
- Facsimile 1—It is claimed that facsimile 1 is simply a typical funerary scene and there are many other papyri showing the same basic scene, and that the missing portions of the drawing were incorrectly restored. It is also claimed that Abraham has never been associated with the lion couch vignette such as that portrayed in Facsimile #1 of the Book of Abraham. (Link)
- Facsimile 2—The illustration represented by Facsimile 2 is a hypocephalus, a disc made of linen, papyrus, or bronze, covered with inscriptions and images which relate to one of the last spells in the Book of the Dead. Joseph Smith's notes to Facsimile 2 identify it as representing God sitting in the heavens among the stars and others of his creations. (Link)
- Facsimile 3—The following are common criticisms associated with Facsimile 3: 1) The scene depicted is a known Egyptian vignette which some Egyptologists claim has nothing to do with Abraham, 2) Joseph indicated that specific characters in the facsimile confirmed the identities that he assigned to specific figures, 3) Joseph identified two obviously female figures as "King Pharaoh" and "Prince of Pharaoh." (Link)
- Restoration of the missing portions of the facsimiles—Part of the drawings (vignettes) on the papyri have been destroyed. Before the facsimiles were published, the missing sections were filled in. While it appears that Joseph or someone else "restored" these missing parts, non-LDS Egyptologists do not recognize these restorations as accurate. Critics charge that the sections that were filled in are incorrect, and that this proves that Joseph Smith was not a prophet. (Link)
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:235, 236, 348–351. 236, 348 BYU Studies link
- [note] John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," 2007 FAIR Apologetics Conference (Sandy, Utah). (Link forthcoming.)
- [note] The 11-part series, written by Dr. Hugh Nibley and entitled "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price", began in the January 1968 Improvement Era and ran in every issue until May 1970 (with the exception of December 1969 and February 1970). Nibley's series has been available as a FARMS reprint (N-NEP) since 1990, and several chapters became part of Nibley's book Abraham In Egypt.
- [note] Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:236. BYU Studies link
- [note] Michael H. Marquardt, "A Book Note — Hugh Nibley's Abraham in Egypt" (2000).
- [note] John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, 23.
- [note] "In 1906, while visiting Nauvoo, President Joseph F. Smith related to Preston Nibley his experience as a child of seeing his Uncle Joseph in the front rooms of the Mansion House working on the Egyptian manuscripts. According to President Smith, one of the rolls of papyri "when unrolled on the floor extended through two rooms of the Mansion House." This would have been sometime between 1843 when the Mansion House was completed and the prophet's death in June 1844, one or two years after other parts of the papyri had been cut up and placed under glass. - See Hugh Nibley, "Phase I," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3 no. 2 (Summer 1968), 101. See also Hugh Nibley, "New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," Improvement Era 71 (March 1968), 17–18. and Hugh Nibley, "Judging and Prejudging the Book of Abraham," Nibley archive, 1979, 6-7; reprinted as an appendix in Robert L. and Rosemary Brown, They Lie in Wait to Deceive, vol. 1, ed. Barbara Ellsworth, rev. ed. (Mesa, AZ: Brownsworth, 1982), 236—245.
- [note] John Gee, "Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts," Ensign (July 1992), 60–?.; John Gee, "Abracadabra, Isaac and Jacob (Review of The Use of Egyptian Magical Papyri to Authenticate the Book of Abraham: A Critical Review by Edward H. Ashment)," FARMS Review of Books 7/1 (1995): 19–84. off-site PDF link
- [note] Hugh W. Nibley, "Phase One," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3 no. 2 (Summer 1968), 101. off-site
- [note] Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, 12–13.
- [note] John Gee, "Facsimile 3," lecture given at the FARMS Book of Abraham Conference (16 October 1999), personal notes of conference talks by Michael Ash; see also, John Gee, "The Ancient Owners of the Joseph Smith Papyri" (Provo: FARMS, 1999), 1.
FAIR wiki articles
The Book of Abraham. An inspired translation of the writings of Abraham. Joseph Smith began the translation in 1835 after obtaining some Egyptian papyri. The translation was published serially in the Times and Seasons beginning March 1, 1842, at Nauvoo, Illinois.
—Introduction, Pearl of Great Price (2013 edition). off-site
Production of the Book of Abraham
A timeline of events related to the Book of Abraham and Kirtland Egyptian Papers (Link)
- "By his own hand"—
Critics claim that the Book of Abraham's claim to have been written by Abraham's "own hand upon papyrus" is falsified since the papyrus dates to after the Abrahamic period. (Link)
- Joseph Smith Papyri—
Joseph Smith had in his possession three or four long scrolls, plus a hypocephalus (Facsimile 2). Of these original materials, only a handful of fragments were recovered at the Metropolitan Museum. The majority of the papyri remains lost, and has likely been destroyed. (Link)
- Book of Abraham plagiarism accusations—
Critics claim that contemporary sources were used by Joseph Smith as sources for the Book of Abraham. (Link)
Content of the Book of Abraham
- Astronomy and the Book of Abraham—
The Book of Abraham makes several references to astronomy which draw criticism. These articles address specific issues related to Book of Abraham astronomical concepts. (Link)
Evidences of the Book of Abraham
- Evidence for antiquity—
What did the Book of Abraham get right that Joseph couldn't have known? (Link)
FAIR web site
|FAIR Book of Abraham materials|
- FAIR Topical Guide: Book of Abraham FAIR link
- FAIR Topical Guide: Kirtland Egyptian Papers FAIR link
- Michael Ash & Kevin Barney, "The ABCs of the Book of Abraham" (2004 FAIR Conference presentation) FAIR link
- Michael Ash, "Book of Abraham 201: Papyri, Revelation, and Modern Egyptology" (2006 FAIR Conference presentation) FAIR link YouTube link
- John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," 2007 FAIR Apologetics Conference (Sandy, Utah) YouTube link
- Brian Hauglid, "Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers: Myths and Realities" (2006 FAIR Conference presentation) YouTube link
|Book of Abraham on-line materials|
- Kevin L. Barney, "The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources," Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 3), John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, eds., (Provo: FARMS, 2006): 107–30. off-site
- E. Douglas Clark, "A Powerful New Resource for Studying the Book of Abraham (Review of Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham)," FARMS Review 15/1 (2003): 91–95. off-site PDF link
- John Gee, "Abracadabra, Isaac and Jacob (Review of The Use of Egyptian Magical Papyri to Authenticate the Book of Abraham: A Critical Review by Edward H. Ashment)," FARMS Review of Books 7/1 (1995): 19–84. off-site PDF link
- John Gee, "'Bird Island' Revisited, or the Book of Mormon through Pyramidal Kabbalistic Glasses: Review of Written by the Finger of God: A Testimony of Joseph Smith's Translations by Joe Sampson," FARMS Review of Books 7/1 (1995): 219–228. off-site PDF link
- John Gee, "One Side of a Nonexistent Conversation (Review of: The Papyri of Abraham: Facsimiles of the Everlasting Covenant)," FARMS Review 15/1 (2003): 81–85. off-site PDF link
- John Gee, "A Method for Studying the Facsimiles; Review of: A Study Guide to the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 347–353. off-site PDF link wiki
- John Gee, "Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts," Ensign (July 1992), 60–?. off-site
- John Gee, "New Light on the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 19/2 (2007): 245–260. off-site PDF link wiki
- John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FARMS Review 20/1 (2008): 113–138. off-site PDF link wiki
- John Gee, "Telling the Story of the Joseph Smith Papyri (Review of The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham: A Study of the Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri by James R. Harris)," FARMS Review of Books 8/2 (1996): 46–59. off-site PDF link
- John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors (Review of By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri by Charles M. Larson," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 93–119. off-site PDF link
- Brian M. Hauglid, "Nibley's Abraham in Egypt: Laying the Foundation for Abraham Research," FARMS Review 15/1 (2003): 97–90. off-site PDF link
- Larry E. Morris, "The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking (Review of: “The ‘Breathing Permit of Hor’ Thirty-four Years Later.” Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 97–119)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 355–380. off-site PDF link
- Hugh W. Nibley, "Approach to John Gee, Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Review of: A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri)," FARMS Review of Books 13/2 (2001): 63–64. off-site PDF link
- Hugh W. Nibley, "The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers," Brigham Young University Studies 11 no. 1 (Summer 1971), 350–399. off-site PDF link
- Michael D. Rhodes, "The Book of Abraham: Divinely Inspired Scripture (Review of By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri by Charles M. Larson)," FARMS Review of Books 4/1 (1992): 120–126. off-site PDF link
- Michael Dennis Rhodes, "A Translation and Commentary of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (1977), 259. PDF link
- Michael D. Rhodes, "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus...Twenty Years Later." PDF link
- Kerry Shirts, "Abraham, Father of the Faithful, Or Osiris, Pagan Egyptian God?", Mormonism Researched (accessed 6 October 2005). off-site
- Kerry A. Shirts, "On Anubis, Masks, and Uniqueness of Facsimile #1 in the Book of Abraham." off-site
- Kerry A. Shirts, "On Wings & Thumbs & Other Things" off-site
- John A. Tvedtnes, "The Use of Mnemonic Devices in Oral Traditions, as Exemplified by the Book of Abraham and the Hor Sensen Papyrus," Newsletter and Proceedings of the SEHA 120 (April 1970): 2–10.
- Benjamin Urrutia, "The Joseph Smith Papyri," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 4 no. 2 (Summer 1969), 129–134. off-site
|Book of Abraham print materials|
- Richley Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes, "A Study of the Hor Sensen Papyrus." Newsletter and Proceedings of the SEHA 109 (25 October 1968): 1–6.
- Richley Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes. "The Hor Sensen Papyrus as a Mnemonic Device: A Further Study." Newsletter and Proceedings of the SEHA 114 (2 June 1969): 6–13.
- John Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence of the Joseph Smith Papyri," The Disciple As Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., Stephen D. Ricks, Donald W. Parry, and Andrew H. Hedges (Provo: FARMS, 2000).
- John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000), 1. ISBN 0934893543.
- Hugh W. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 2nd edition, (Vol. 14 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by Gary P. Gillum, Illustrated by Michael P. Lyon, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2000), 1. ISBN 157345527X.
- Hugh Nibley, "The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Sunstone 4:5-6 no. (Issue #17.18) (December 1979), 49–51. off-site
- Hugh W. Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd edition, (Vol. 16 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John Gee and Michael D. Rhodes, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2005), 1. ISBN 159038539X. 1st edition GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
- Hugh W. Nibley, "Phase One," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3 no. 2 (Summer 1968), 101. off-site
- H. Donl Peterson, The Story of the Book of Abraham: Mummies, Manuscripts, and Mormonism (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1995); ISBN 0875798462, ISBN 978-0875798462.
- Edwin Goble, The Nail of Heaven: LDS Cosmology, Metaphysics and Science, pp. 4-7, 92-94, 105, 119-193 (2011)
- FARMS Studies in the Book of Abraham series
- John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds., Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 1) (Provo: FARMS, 2001). ISBN 0934893594.
- Michael D. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 2) (Provo: FARMS, 2005). ISBN 0934893632.
- John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, eds., Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant (Studies in the Book of Abraham, No. 3) (Provo: FARMS, 2006). ISBN 0934893764. off-site