Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife)/Chapter 17

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Response to "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 17 - Facsimile #1

A FairMormon Analysis of: For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife), a work by author: Anonymous
Chart LTMW facsimile 1.png

Response to claims made in "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 17 - Facsimile #1

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Response to claim: "Common burial artwork depicts Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the after life, preparing those recently deceased for their journey to the afterlife"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Joseph incorrectly filled-in the missing portion of papyrus...Common burial artwork depicts Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the after life, preparing those recently deceased for their journey to the afterlife. Joseph appears to have incorrectly filled-in the missing portion of the papyri he purchased from Mr. Chandler.

FairMormon Response

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

The missing portions of Facsimile #1 were filled in prior to their publication in the newspaper. Either Joseph Smith or Reuben Hedlock, the engraver, filled in these missing portions. The content of the missing sections appears to have been copied from other, intact, sections of the papyri. In this case, it appears that the head of the figure on the table was used to restore the missing head of the priest. There is no evidence that the content of these restorations have an sort of revelatory origin: they were done simply to make the images look better for publication.

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Question: Was the original head of the priest in Facsimile 1 actually the jackal head of Anubis?

The high-resolution photos show evidence that the head of the priest was originally the jackal-head of Anubis

The head of the priest in the Hedlock restoration appears to simply copy the head of the reclining figure. An examination of the papyrus, however, shows evidence that the head was originally that of Anubis. In this case, the Larson restoration appears to be correct.

  • Note that there is a portion of the back of Anubis's headdress visible in the original.
  • It is more likely that the back of the headdress showed hair rather than a solid as represented in the Larson image.
Larson.restoration.anubis.2.jpg


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith translation: 4. The altar for sacrifice by the idolatrous priests...Modern Egyptologists translation: 4. A "lion couch." ... simply a funeral bier seen in many funeral scenes in ancient Egyptian art"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

compared to modern Egyptologists’ translation of the image, Joseph’s interpretation of each section contains errors. ...
  • Joseph Smith translation: 4. The altar for sacrifice by the idolatrous priests...
  • Modern Egyptologists translation: 4. A "lion couch." A simply (sic) a funeral bier seen in many funeral scenes in ancient Egyptian art.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The image shown in Facsimile 1 has a number of significant differences from other such "lion couch" scenes, including the ones referenced by the author.

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Question: Is Joseph Smith papyri Facsimile 1 common and similar to other such scenes?

Joseph Smith papyri Facsimile 1 has a number of unique features that are not present in other lion couch scenes

Although many similar lion couch scenes exist, this one has quite a few unique features:

  • No other lion couch scene shows the figure on the couch (Osiris) with both hands raised. (There is a dispute regarding whether or not two hands are represented. See below)
  • No other lion couch scenes show the figure lying on the couch clothed in the manner shown in Facsimile 1. In most other lion couch scenes, the reclining figure is either completely nude or fully wrapped like a mummy. There is one known scene in which the figure is wearing a loin cloth. None to date show the type of clothing being worn by the figure in Facsimile 1.
  • No other lion couch scenes to date have shown the reclining figure wearing anklets or foot coverings.
  • No other lion couch scenes show a crocodile beneath the couch.
  • The original of Facsimile 1 shows the couch behind the priest's legs, and the reclining figure's legs are shown in front of the priest's. The figure was transferred on to the woodcut prior to publication in the Times and Seasons. The wood cut attempted to correct this odd perspective by placing the legs of the priest behind the lion couch.
  • No other such scenes have hatched lines such as those designated as "Expanse" or "Firmament" in Facsimile 1.
  • No other such scenes are known to have the twelve gates or pillars of heaven or anything like them.
  • No other such scenes show a lotus and an offering table. These items are common in other Egyptian scenes, but do not appear in the lion couch scene.

Therefore, we do not agree that it is the "same funeral scene." Facsimile 1 actually depicts the resurrection of Osiris. The figure on the couch is alive. The figures to which it is compared all show the preparation of a mummy.

Mummy.fac.1.comparison.jpg
Photograph of "lion couch" carving displayed at the Louvre in Paris. Note that there is only a single bird shown. (click to enlarge)


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith translation: 4. The altar for sacrifice by the idolatrous priests...Modern Egyptologists translation:...Human sacrifice was never practiced in Egypt"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

compared to modern Egyptologists’ translation of the image, Joseph’s interpretation of each section contains errors. ...
  • Joseph Smith translation: 4. The altar for sacrifice by the idolatrous priests...
  • Modern Egyptologists translation: 4. ... Human sacrifice was never practiced in Egypt.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Human sacrifice could be performed on foreigners who lived beyond the boundaries of Egypt.

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Muhlestein and Gee: "It is now apparent that human sacrifice did indeed occur in ancient Egypt"

Abraham noted that the attempt to sacrifice him "was done after the manner of the Egyptians" (Abraham 1:11). Egyptologists Kerry Muhlestein and John Gee note that evidence has been uncovered of the practice of human sacrifice in ancient Egypt,

[A]rchaeologists have discovered evidence of human sacrifice. Just outside the Middle Kingdom fortress at Mirgissa, which had been part of the Egyptian empire in Nubia, a deposit was found containing various ritual objects such as melted wax figurines, a flint knife, and the decapitated body of a foreigner slain during rites designed to ward off enemies. Almost universally, this discovery has been accepted as a case of human sacrifice.20 Texts from this and similar rites from the Middle Kingdom specify that the ritual was directed against "every evil speaker, every evil speech, every evil curse, every evil plot, every evil imprecation, every evil attack, every evil rebellion, every evil plan, and every evil thing,"[1] which refers to those who "speak evil" of the king or of his policies.[2] The remains in the deposit are consistent with those of later ritual texts describing the daily execration rite, which was usually a wax figure substituting in effigy for a human sacrifice: "Bind with the sinew of a red cow . . . spit on him four times . . . trample on him with the left foot . . . smite him with a spear . . . decapitate him with a knife . . . place him on the fire . . . spit on him in the fire many times."[3] Again we see that the use of a knife was followed by burning. The fact that the site of Mirgissa is not in Egypt proper but was part of the Egyptian empire in Nubia informs us that the Egyptians extended such practices beyond their borders.

In fact, throughout time we find that ritual violence was often aimed at foreign places and people.[4] Their very foreignness was seen as a threat to Egypt's political and social order. Hence many of the known examples of ritual slaying are aimed at foreigners, such as those at Mirgissa or Tod. All three examples we have shared involve protecting sacred places and things, such as the boundary of a necropolis, a temple, or even Egypt itself.[5]


Muhlestein: Sacrifice could be extended to foreigners who lived beyond the boundaries of Egypt

The attempted sacrifice of Abraham, who was not Egyptian, occurred outside of Egypt. (Abraham 1:1, Abraham 1:10 and Abraham 1:20).[6] There is now evidence that foreigners could be sacrificed outside of the boundaries of Egypt.

Just outside the Middle Kingdom fortress at Mirgissa, which had been part of the Egyptian empire in Nubia, a deposit was found containing various ritual objects such as melted wax figurines, a flint knife, and the decapitated body of a foreigner slain during rites designed to ward off enemies. Almost universally, this discovery has been accepted as a case of human sacrifice.20 Texts from this and similar rites from the Middle Kingdom specify that the ritual was directed against "every evil speaker, every evil speech, every evil curse, every evil plot, every evil imprecation, every evil attack, every evil rebellion, every evil plan, and every evil thing,"21 which refers to those who "speak evil" of the king or of his policies.22 The remains in the deposit are consistent with those of later ritual texts describing the daily execration rite, which was usually a wax figure substituting in effigy for a human sacrifice: "Bind with the sinew of a red cow . . . spit on him four times . . . trample on him with the left foot . . . smite him with a spear . . . decapitate him with a knife . . . place him on the fire . . . spit on him in the fire many times."23 Again we see that the use of a knife was followed by burning. The fact that the site of Mirgissa is not in Egypt proper but was part of the Egyptian empire in Nubia informs us that the Egyptians extended such practices beyond their borders.[7]


Response to claim: "Modern Egyptologists translation: 5,6,7,8. There are no gods named "Elkenah," "Libnah," "Mahmackrah," or "Korash" in Egypt's recorded history"

{{IndexClaimItemShort |title=compared to modern Egyptologists’ translation of the image, Joseph’s interpretation of each section contains errors. ...

  • Joseph Smith translation: 5. The idolatrous god of Elkenah. 6. The idolatrous god of Libnah. 7. The idolatrous god of Mahmackrah.. 8. The idolatrous god of Korash.
  • Modern Egyptologists translation: 5,6,7,8. There are no gods named "Elkenah," "Libnah," "Mahmackrah," or "Korash" in Egypt's recorded history.

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

They may not be found in Egyptian history, however, there are correlations with the names of ancient deities.

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Question: Do the names "Elkenah," "Libnah," "Mahmackrah," and "Korash" in Facsimile 1 have any correlation to known ancient deities?

Michael Rhodes (2003):

The names of the idolatrous gods mentioned in facsimile 1 provide another example of the validity of the Prophet Joseph’s explanations. If Joseph Smith had simply made up the names, the chances of their corresponding to the names of ancient deities would be astronomically small. The name Elkenah, for example, is clearly related to the Hebrew ttt ‘el q?n?h/ q?neh “God has created / the creator.” Elkenah is found in the Old Testament as the name of several people, including Samuel’s father (see 1 Samuel 1:1). The name is also found as a divine name in Mesopotamian sources as dIl-gi-na / dIl-kí-na / dÉl-ké-na.[21] Libnah may be related to the Hebrew leb?n?h “moon” (see Isaiah 24:23) from the root l?b?n “white.” A city captured by Joshua was called libn?h (see Joshua 10:29). The name Korash is found as a name in Egyptian sources.[22] A connection with K?reš the name of the Persian king Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28), is also possible. [8]


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith translation: 9. The idolatrous god of Pharaoh...Modern Egyptologists translation: 9. The god Sobek is often portrayed in the form of a crocodile"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

compared to modern Egyptologists’ translation of the image, Joseph’s interpretation of each section contains errors. ...
  • Joseph Smith translation: 9. The idolatrous god of Pharaoh
  • Modern Egyptologists translation: 9. The god Sobek is often portrayed in the form of a crocodile.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Joseph actually wasn't far off the mark on this one.

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Peterson: "the identification of a crocodile as the idolatrous god of Pharaoh...Unas’ pyramid texts, includes the following: 'The king appears as the crocodile god Sobek'"

Daniel C. Peterson:

One noteworthy element of the religious situation portrayed in the Book of Abraham is the identification of a crocodile as the idolatrous god of Pharaoh, right there underneath the lion couch. That’s a kind of odd thing to come up with if you’re a yokel farm-boy from upstate New York. Is that the first thing that comes to your mind? “Oh, idolatrous god of Pharaoh!”

Although this may have seemed strange in Joseph Smith’s day, discoveries in other ancient texts confirm this representation. Unas or Wenis, for example, was the last king of the fifth dynasty, around 2300 B.C., and his pyramid still stands at Saqqara, south of modern Cairo. Utterance 317, Unas’ pyramid texts, includes the following: “The king appears as the crocodile god Sobek, and Unas has come today from the overflowing flood. Unas is Sobek, green plumed, wakeful, alert….Una arises as Sobek, son of Neith. One scholar observes that “the god Sobek is … viewed as a manifestation of Horus, the god most closely identified with the kingship of Egypt” during the Egyptian Middle Kingdom era (around 2000 B.C., maybe a little later), which includes the time period that tradition indicates is Abraham’s time.

Intriguingly, Middle Kingdom Egypt saw a great deal of activity in the large oasis to the southwest of modern Cairo known as the Faiyum. Crocodiles were common there. You know what the name of the place was to the Greeks? The major town there was called “Crocodileopolis.” [9]


Notes

  1. Berlin execration texts section p 1–9, in Kurt Sethe, Die Ächtung feindlicher Fürsten, Völker und Dinge auf altägyptischen Tongefässscherben des Mittleren Reiches (Berlin: Verlag der Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1926), 71–72.
  2. PT 23 §16.
  3. P. Louvre 3129 B 44–48, in Siegfried Schott, Urkunden mythologischen Inhalts (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1929), 5; compare P. Bremner Rhind 22/2, 9, 17, 23–24, 23/5, 12, in Raymond O. Faulkner, Papyrus Bremner-Rhind (Brussels: La Fondation Égyptologique Reine Élisabeth, 1933), 42–47. See Gee, "History of a Theban Priesthood," 67–69, and Gee, "Execration Rituals," 67–80.
  4. See Kerry Muhlestein, "Violence in the Service of Order: The Religious Framework for Sanctioned Killing in Ancient Egypt" (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2003), all of chapter 10.
  5. Kerry Muhlestein and John Gee, "An Egyptian Context for the Sacrifice of Abraham," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 20/2 (2011)
  6. Abraham 1:1 - In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers..."; Abraham 1:10 - "Even the thank-offering of a child did the priest of Pharaoh offer upon the altar which stood by the hill called Potiphar’s Hill, at the head of the plain of Olishem."; Abraham 1:20 - "Behold, Potiphar’s Hill was in the land of Ur, of Chaldea."
  7. Kerry Muhlestein and John Gee, "An Egyptian Context for the Sacrifice of Abraham," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 20/2 (2011)
  8. Michael D. Rhodes, “Teaching the Book of Abraham Facsimiles,” Religious Educator 4, no. 2 (2003): 115–123
  9. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference.