Criticism of Mormonism/Books/By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri/Chapter 3

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 3: Charges and Rebuttals"

A FairMormon Analysis of: By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri, a work by author: Charles M. Larson

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The author(s) of By His Own Hand upon Papyrus make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that the three facsimilies in the Book of Abraham are "copies of rather common Egyptian funerary documents."

FairMormon Response

Response to claim: 25 - Some elements of the facsimilies "appeared....to be guesswork, probably incorrect restorations of missing sections of the original papyri"

The author(s) of By His Own Hand upon Papyrus make(s) the following claim:

Some elements of the facsimilies "appeared....to be guesswork, probably incorrect restorations of missing sections of the original papyri."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

This is correct. Whoever filled in the missing pieces of the facsimilies to prepare them for publication simply copied elements that were present elsewhere in the papyri. Note, however, that Joseph Smith never provided explanations for any of the filled in portions.



Question: How were the missing portions of the Joseph Smith Papyri facsimiles restored?

It is likely that Joseph Smith or Reuben Hedlock (the engraver) simply filled in the lacunae in the papyri the best he could for purposes of publication

The facsimiles in the Joseph Smith papyri contain some missing sections. Before the facsimiles were published, the missing sections were filled in. Critics charge that the sections that were filled in are incorrect, and that this proves that Joseph Smith was not a prophet.

It is not known who performed the "restoration" of the missing sections. It is likely that Joseph Smith or Reuben Hedlock (the engraver) simply filled in the lacunae in the papyri the best he could for purposes of publication. Modern documentary editing standards would require that any holes or gaps in the papyri be represented as such, but the Book of Abraham was published long before the rise of such standards. Just as it was the practice of the day to edit out infelicities rather than to preserve them (as modern scholars do), so it would have been thought inaesthetic to publish incomplete or marred facsimiles. If this is the correct explanation, one need not suppose that the textual repair for purposes of publication was the result of revealed insight.


Response to claim: 29 - Egyptologists claim that the priest in Facsimile 1 should have the head of Anubis rather than a "strangely un-Egyptian" human head

The author(s) of By His Own Hand upon Papyrus make(s) the following claim:

Egyptologists claim that the priest in Facsimile 1 should have the head of Anubis rather than a "strangely un-Egyptian" human head.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

It should be noted that the head of the priest in Facsimile 1 appears to be a direct copy of the head of the reclining figure, which appears in the original papryus. This would, at the very least, disqualify the head as being "un-Egyptian." There is evidence in the original papyrus that the head of of the priest was indeed the jackal head of Anubis.



Question: What portions of the image were missing from Facsimile 1?

Examination of the extant papyri fragments reveals that portions of Facsimile 1 (the only facsimile that survived) are damaged

For a number of years, scholars have debated whether the facsimile was damaged before or after Joseph acquired the papyri. It seems that the Book of Breathings scroll (containing Facsimile 1) was marred by a lacuna—a missing portion—that had torn off the scroll. The debate over the date of the lacuna directly relates to the images on Facsimile 1. This vignette—as shown in the LDS Book of Abraham—shows a figure (interpreted as Abraham) lying on a lion couch with arms raised as if attitude of pleading or prayer. The figure standing over Abraham is a bald man (presumably an Egyptian priest) with a knife in one hand—as if he was about to kill Abraham. Flying just above Abraham is a hawk (or falcon) with outstretched wings. The scroll's lacuna extends over an area which includes the Egyptian priest's head, the knife, and one of Abraham's supplicating arms.

Photograph of Facsimile 1 from the recovered Joseph Smith Papyri
This photo of a lion couch scene was taken at the Louvre. Note the mummy-like appearance of the figure on the couch. The two legs are wrapped, unlike those of the figure in Facsimile 1. Also note that there is only one bird.
An overlay of the existing facsimile over the restoration.
In the penciled in restoration, the knife is in the priest's right hand, and the face is viewed from the front.


Question: Was the head of the priest in Facsimile 1 incorrectly restored?

The head of the priest may have been restored simply by copying the head of the figure lying on the lion couch

Since Facsimile 1 appears to be a fairly typical scene from Egyptian funerary texts, the critics note that other similar Egyptian motifs depict the priest (an embalmer) with the head of Anubis (an Egyptian god) rather than a bald, human head. Other comparable Egyptian embalming scenes do not show the priest holding a knife, they do not show any man pleading or praying, and they generally show two hawks.

Joseph interpreted this figure to be "The idolatrous priest of Elkenah attempting to offer up Abraham as a sacrifice." This figure is normally represented in lion couch scenes as having the jackal head of Anubis. If the portion of the priests head was indeed missing at the time that the facsimile was copied prior to its publication in the Times and Seasons, it may have been restored simply by copying the head of the figure lying on the lion couch. Unlike standards that would be following in publishing today, it was not considered acceptable at that time to publish a figure with missing gaps.

Joseph correctly interpreted the figure as a priest

Joseph correctly interpreted the figure as a priest. Whether the priest has a human head or is wearing the mask of Anubis makes no difference to the interpretation.


Notes