Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Letter to a CES Director/Book of Abraham Concerns & Questions

Table of Contents

Response to "Letter to a CES Director: Book of Abraham Concerns & Questions"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Letter to a CES Director, a work by author: Jeremy Runnells
Chart CES Letter book of abraham.png

Response to section "Book of Abraham Concerns & Questions"

Summary: The author notes that, "Egyptologists have found the source material for the Book of Abraham to be nothing more than a common pagan Egyptian funerary text for a deceased man named “Hor” in 1st century AD. In other words, it was a common Breathing Permit that the Egyptians buried with their dead. It has absolutely nothing to do with Abraham or anything Joseph claimed in his translation for the Book of Abraham."

Jump to Subtopic:

Citation Abuse in Jeremy Runnells' Response and Rebuttal to Brian M. Hauglid's Rational Faiths Essay

Response to claim: "scholars have found the original papyrus Joseph translated"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

scholars have found the original papyrus Joseph translated

FairMormon Response

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

Scholars have found fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri. Among the fragments is the original for Book of Abraham Facsimile 1. The original papyri containing Facsimile 2 and Facsimile 3 is not among them. One cannot conclude that what we have today is the portion of the papyrus that Joseph translated.

Jump to Detail:

Question: What is the relationship of the Joseph Smith Papyri to the Book of Abraham?

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,"[1] 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.

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.

Other than the vignette represented in Facsimile 1, the material on the papyri does not include the actual text of the Book of Abraham

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.


Question: What happened to the papyri after Joseph's death?

The original papyri were thought to have been completely destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871, but some fragments were discovered in 1966

After Joseph's death, the collection was eventually sold and split up. The original papyri were thought to have been completely destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871. Fragments, however, including the illustration represented in Facsimile 1, were discovered in 1966 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, who gave them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November 1967.


Question: What do the Joseph Smith papyri fragments consist of?

There are eleven fragments of the original papyrus owned by Joseph Smith. The initial labels given the fragments came from Hugh Nibley's work.

The fragments that exist and their source are described in the table below, as are other materials of interest to students of the Book of Abraham:

Fragments Source Comments
  • The Hor Breathing permit
  • Facsimile 3 was part of this text; the original is not extant.
  • Sometimes called "Horus" instead of Hor.
  • N/A
  • The Hypocephalus of Sheshonk
  • II
  • V
  • VI
  • VII
  • VIII
  • IX (Church Historian's Fragment)
  • Most of IV
  • The Book of the Dead belonging to the lady Tshenmin.
  • Fragment IX was not in the papyri returned to the Church by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; it was discovered in the Church Archives and is sometimes called the "Church Historian's Fragment."
  • IIIa
  • IIIb
  • The Book of the Dead belonging to the musician of Amon Re, Neferimub.
  • This is a single vignette, but has been cut into two pieces; hence the designation as (a) and (b) fragments.
  • N/A
  • Another copy of Book of the Dead.


Response to claim: "scholars...have dated it in first century AD, nearly 2,000 years after Abraham could have written it"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

scholars...have dated it in first century AD, nearly 2,000 years after Abraham could have written it.

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 papyri fragments recovered date to after the Abrahamic period. The biggest thing to differentiate is a text and a manuscript. An original text may be ancient or have elements that date to an earlier date and a manuscript may be a copy of a copy of a copy that go to a later date.

Jump to Detail:

Gospel Topics: "The phrase can be understood to mean that Abraham is the author and not the literal copyist"

"Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.
....
Joseph Smith, or perhaps a colleague, introduced the published translation by saying that the records were “written by his [Abraham’s] own hand, upon papyrus.” The phrase can be understood to mean that Abraham is the author and not the literal copyist. [2]


Question: Why does the Book of Abraham state that it was written by Abraham's "own hand upon papyrus" if the papyri date to after the Abrahamic period?

"called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus"

When the Prophet Joseph Smith published the first installments of the Book of Abraham in 1842, the caption in the Times and Seasons read as follows:

"A translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands, from the Catacombs of Egypt, purporting to be the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus."[3]

Kirtland Egyptian Paper (KEP) - A1 likewise has the following caption:

“Translation of the Book of Abraham written by his own hand upon papyrus and found in the catacombs of Egypt.”[4]

The papyri donʼt date to Abrahamʼs time

The phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” has drawn a number of investigative remarks. Critics have alleged that the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” must necessarily be indicating that Joseph Smith thought that the papyrus he obtained was written by the hand of Abraham himself. The problem, however, is that the papyri donʼt date to Abrahamʼs time. Critics have argued that this is, therefore, another point against Joseph Smith and the authenticity of the Book of Abraham.

LDS scholars have approached this issue from a number of perspectives

LDS scholars have approached this issue from a number of perspectives. There are two underlying LDS scholarly approaches that have been advanced in evaluating the significance of this phrase in the heading for the Book of Abraham. These approaches are:

  1. “By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus” as an Egyptian Title
  2. “By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus” as a 19th Century Redaction

Whether or not one accepts that the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” is an ancient or modern redaction to the text, a few things are certain. [5]

First, if the phrase was a part of the ancient title of the text then there is no justification from the Egyptological evidence that the phrase requires a holographic nature of the papyri. The ancient Egyptians who used the phrase or ones like it never mandated that such be viewed as implying holographic claims.

Second, if the phrase is a 19th century redaction to the text then this is an issue concerning not the Book of Abraham's authenticity but the assumptions of Joseph Smith and his associates. If Joseph Smith did in fact harbor such assumptions, that has nothing to do with the authenticity of the actual Book of Abraham itself. Likewise, unless it can be shown that Joseph Smith’s views of the nature of the authorship of the papyri came by revelatory means, then one cannot hold the Prophet to an impossible standard of perfection (one that the Prophet never established for himself) and criticize him for merely doing what humans do; have opinions and speculations.

Thirdly, if the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” is a 19th century redaction and if Joseph Smith assumed a holographic nature of the papyri, then the whole issue is one of assumption. If one believes that Prophets must be right about everything or they are false prophets, then such an assumption reflects only the thoughts and background of the person holding the assumption. The same for those who hold no such assumption and acknowledge the fallibility of Prophets. We should therefore be careful to not impose our own assumptions on those figures in the past who may not have shared such assumptions or standards.

In each of these three cases, the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” cannot be used as evidence against the authenticity of the Book of Abraham.

Regardless of which approach may be correct, it is clear that the assumptions of those critical of the authenticity of the Book of Abraham are unfounded in this regard.[6] Either option resolves the issue; both would have to be untenable for the critics to have a case.


Question: Is the phrase "by his own hand upon papyrus" an Egyptian title?

The case for the phrase “By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus” as an Egyptian title

Hugh Nibley, writing in 1981, suggested that “the statement "written by his own hand, upon papyrus"... is actually part of the original Egyptian title: "called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus"—that was Abraham's own heading. This is important, since much misunderstanding has arisen from the assumption that the Joseph Smith Papyri were the original draft of Abraham's book, his very own handiwork.”[7] Nibley, quoting himself from an earlier article,[8] goes on to explain the following, reproduced here at length:

Two important and peculiar aspects of ancient authorship must be considered when we are told that a writing is by the hand of Abraham or anybody else. One is that according to Egyptian and Hebrew thinking any copy of a book originally written by Abraham would be regarded and designated as the very work of his hand forever after, no matter how many reproductions had been made and handed down through the years. The other is that no matter who did the writing originally, if it was Abraham who commissioned or directed the work, he would take the credit for the actual writing of the document, whether he penned it or not.

As to the first point, when a holy book (usually a leather roll) grew old and worn out from handling, it was not destroyed but renewed. Important writings were immortal—for the Egyptians they were "the divine words," for the Jews the very letters were holy and indestructible, being the word of God. The wearing out of a particular copy of scripture therefore in no way brought the life of the book to a close—it could not perish. In Egypt it was simply renewed (ma.w, sma.w) "fairer than before," and so continued its life to the next renewal. Thus we are told at the beginning of what some have claimed to be the oldest writing in the world [the Shabako Stone], "His Majesty wrote this book down anew. . . . His Majesty discovered it as a work of the Ancestors, but eaten by worms. . . . So His Majesty wrote it down from the beginning, so that it is more beautiful than it was before." It is not a case of the old book's being replaced by a new one, but of the original book itself continuing its existence in a rejuvenated state. No people were more hypnotized by the idea of a renewal of lives than the Egyptians—not a succession of lives or a line of descent, but the actual revival and rejuvenation of a single life.

Even the copyist who puts his name in a colophon does so not so much as publicity for himself as to vouch for the faithful transmission of the original book; his being "trustworthy (iqr) of fingers," i.e., a reliable copyist, is the reader's assurance that he has the original text before him. An Egyptian document, J. Spiegel observes, is like the print of an etching, which is not only a work of art in its own right but "can lay claim equally well to being the original . . . regardless of whether the individual copies turn out well or ill." Because he thinks in terms of types, according to Spiegel, for the Egyptian "there is no essential difference between an original and a copy. For as they understand it, all pictures are but reproductions of an ideal original." . . . This concept was equally at home in Israel. An interesting passage from the Book of Jubilees [a text unknown before 1850] recounts that Joseph while living in Egypt "remembered the Lord and the words which Jacob, his father, used to read from amongst the words of Abraham." Here is a clear statement that "the words of Abraham" were handed down in written form from generation to generation, and were the subject of serious study in the family circle. The same source informs us that when Israel died and was buried in Canaan, "he gave all his books and the books of his fathers to Levi his son that he might preserve them and renew them for his children until this day." Here "the books of the fathers" including "the words of Abraham" have been preserved for later generations by a process of renewal. [Joseph's own books were, of course, Egyptian books.]

In this there is no thought of the making of a new book by a new hand. It was a strict rule in Israel that no one, not even the most learned rabbi, should ever write down so much as a single letter of the Bible from memory: always the text must be copied letter by letter from another text that had been copied in the same way, thereby eliminating the danger of any man's adding, subtracting, or changing so much as a single jot in the text. It was not a rewriting but a process as mechanical as photography, an exact visual reproduction, so that no matter how many times the book had been passed from hand to hand, it was always the one original text that was before one. . . .

But "written by his own hand"? This brings us to the other interesting concept. Let us recall that that supposedly oldest of Egyptian writings, the so-called Shabako Stone, begins with the announcement that "His Majesty wrote this book down anew." This, Professor Sethe obligingly explains, is "normal Egyptian usage to express the idea that the King ordered a copy to be made." Yet it clearly states that the king himself wrote it. Thus when the son of King Snefru says of his own inscription at Medum, "It was he who made his gods in [such] a writing [that] it cannot be effaced," the statement is so straightforward that even such a student as W. S. Smith takes it to mean that the prince himself actually did the writing. And what could be more natural than for a professional scribe to make an inscription: "It was her husband, the Scribe of the Royal Scroll, Nebwy, who made this inscription"? Or when a noble announces that he made his father's tomb, why should we not take him at his word? It depends on how the word is to be understood. Professor Wilson in all these cases holds that the person who claims to have done the work does so "in the sense that he commissioned and paid for it." The noble who has writing or carving done is always given full credit for its actual execution; such claims of zealous craftsmanship "have loftily ignored the artist," writes Wilson. "It was the noble who 'made' or 'decorated' his tomb," though one noble of the Old Kingdom breaks down enough to show us how these claims were understood: "I made this for my old father. . . . I had the sculptor Itju make (it)." Dr. Wilson cites a number of cases in which men claim to have "made" their father's tombs, one of them specifically stating that he did so "while his arm was still strong"—with his own hand!

Credit for actually writing the inscription of the famous Metternich Stele is claimed by "the prophetess of Nebwen, Nest-Amun, daughter of the Prophet of Nebwen and Scribe of the Inundation, 'Ankh-Psametik,'" who states that she "renewed (sma.w) this book [there it is again!] after she had found it removed from the house of Osiris-Mnevis, so that her name might be preserved." The inscription then shifts to the masculine gender as if the scribe were really a man, leading to considerable dispute among the experts as to just who gets the credit. Certain it is that the Lady boasts of having given an ancient book a new lease on life, even though her hand may never have touched a pen.

Nest-Amun hoped to preserve her name by attaching it to a book, and in a very recent study M. A. Korostovstev notes that "for an Egyptian to attach his name to a written work was an infallible means of passing it down through the centuries." That may be one reason why Abraham chose the peculiar Egyptian medium he did for the transmission of his record—or at least why it has reached us only in this form. Indeed Theodor Böhl observed recently that the one chance the original Patriarchal literature would ever have of surviving would be to have it written down on Egyptian papyrus. Scribes liked to have their names preserved, too, and the practice of adding copyists' names in colophons, Korostostev points out, could easily lead in later times to attributing the wrong authorship to a work.

But whoever is credited with the authorship of a book remains its unique author, alone responsible for its existence in whatever form.[9]

Thus, according to this line of reasoning, considering how the ancient Egyptians viewed the nature of their texts, namely, that there was no real difference between an original and a copy but simply a renewal of the original text, the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” need not warrant the assumption that the text is holographic in nature.

The idiom “by his own hand” in Egyptian thought has a parallel to the Israelite view of the nature of their sacred texts. It has been noted that “it is obvious from reading the Hebrew Bible that the phrase by his own hand is a Hebrew idiom beyadh, which means “by the authority of,” as we can clearly see in the Stuttgartensian Hebrew text that Kohlenberger translates. He renders Exodus 9:35 as “just as the Lord said through Moses,” while the Hebrew has beyadh, that is “by the hand of.” Clearly it was the Lordʼs hand—the Lordʼs authority, which had led Moses against Pharaoh, that is, by the Lordʼs authority. Though we donʼt get it that way in the English, the Hebrew definitely has “by the hand of.”[10]

In addition, we see that “at 1 Samuel 28:15 we see another example—the English translation reads that God would not appear to Saul either by the prophets or by dreams. In the Hebrew we again find beyadh, “by the hand of,” or in other words, by the prophetʼs authority from God. In other words, Abraham may not even have touched the documents that bear his name, the very ones that fell into Josephʼs hands in the 1830s, since Abraham could have had them commissioned and written for him. Yet for all this, the documents would still bear his signature, since they were authorized by him, “by his own hand,” even though a scribe may have written it instead of Abraham.”[11]

It need not be assumed that the phrase “by his own hand” indicates a holographic nature of the Book of Abraham

Thus, it need not be assumed that the phrase “by his own hand” indicates a holographic nature of the Book of Abraham. As Professor John Gee reminds us, there is a difference between the date of a text and the date of a copy of a text. [12] The two are not the same. Thus, while the date of the text of the Book of Abraham could have dated from Abrahamʼs time,[13] the copy of the Book of Abraham received by Joseph Smith could have a later copy dated to the Ptolemaic Era.[14]

The critics scoff at this suggestion. They insist that the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” must absolutely be speaking about Abraham literally writing on the papyrus that Joseph Smith possessed. Likewise, they question as to whether the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” can even be read as being a part of the ancient title of the text, as proposed by Nibley, since it is not capitalized like “the Book of Abraham” is in the caption.

However, these criticisms are problematic for a number of reasons. It must be remembered that there was no standardized capitalization of letters in Egyptian as there is in English. Thus, if the phrase was a part of the ancient text, the title would have read something along the lines of the following: “the book of abraham written by his own hand upon papyrus”. The capitalization and punctuation would have been the work of the 19th century scribes, who may not have realized that such was the entire title and thus only capitalized the “Book of Abraham” portion of the title since such was most familiar with their 19th century understanding.[15]

It is not a question of what the modern critics think, but what the ancient Egyptians thought

Furthermore, the critics also demand that the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” can mean nothing but that the Book of Abraham claims to be a holograph from Abraham. Such an argument, however, is nothing more than a presentist fallacy when analyzed in the light of the Egyptological evidence. It is not a question of what the modern critics think, but what the ancient Egyptians thought.

In 2007, Professor Gee published an article with the Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists. In it, Dr. Gee explored whether or not the ancient Egyptians considered their sacred texts to be divinely written. In reference to the tale of Setne, Dr. Gee notes that “in this text, the book is said to be written "by his own hand” upon papyrus, which need not be taken as indicating anything more than authorship.”[16]

This newly published evidence bolsters the LDS apologetic claim that the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” need not be construed as meaning an autographical nature for the text. As argued by Nibley and Shirts, it could merely be indicative of attributing authorship to Abraham. It is possible that the phrase, indeed the entire title, was redacted by the 2nd century copyist scribe working with the text, assuming that, as argued by Professor Gee, there was in fact a portion of papyri that contained a text like the Book of Abraham. Considering the nature of Egyptian texts, as explained by Nibley, it wouldnʼt have been out of place for an Egyptian, or, as Kevin Barney has argued,[17] a Jewish redactor of the text to insert the phrase. And if this is the case, from the ancient Egyptian perspective the phrase wouldn’t automatically indicate a holographic nature of the text.


Question: Is the phrase "by his own hand upon papyrus" a 19th century redaction?

The case for "by his own hand upon papyrus" as a 19th century redaction

If Hugh Nibley is incorrect in suggesting that the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” was a part of the original title of the ancient text, then it follows that the phrase is a 19th century redaction by either Joseph Smith, or the two scribes in whose handwriting the documents are written in, viz., W. W. Phelps and Willard Richards, respectively. This is bolstered, as mentioned earlier, by the addition of the phrase “and found in the catacombs of Egypt” that appear in KEPA 1. It is obvious from the historical data that Joseph Smith and the early brethren considered the scroll of Horos to be the source of the Book of Abraham (though not, as is argued by the critics, necessarily the Book of Breathings text). It seems likely that the early brethren, when working with the papyrus, would have assumed a holographic nature of the papyrus. In other words, they would have thought that Abraham himself physically wrote on the papyrus in their possession. As Michael Ash explained, “it seems reasonable to conclude that Joseph may have believed that Abraham himself, with pen in hand, wrote the very words that he was translating... Joseph, by way of revelation, saw that the papyri contained scriptural teachings of Abraham and it would have been natural, therefore, to assume that Abraham wrote the papyri.”[18]

The late Luke Wilson, of the decidedly anti-Mormon Institute for Religious Research, came to similar conclusions, albeit for more polemical purposes against the Latter-day Saints. After making his case that Joseph Smith claimed to be translating a holographic Book of Abraham, Wilson concludes that “the weight of evidence from the testimony of Joseph Smith and his contemporaries is clearly” in favor of such.[19]

If these claims are correct,[20] then it would explain why Joseph Smith and his associates included the phrase “by his own hand upon papyrus” in the caption of the manuscript of the text. They would have thought just that, namely, that Abraham himself penned the text that Joseph Smith was translating. In this case then, the phrase “by his own hand” would therefore be interpreted in the most literal sense possible.

Furthermore, if in fact the phrase is a 19th century redaction, then the Book of Abraham itself wouldnʼt be claiming an autographical nature. Such would be an assumption about the Book of Abraham by the 19th century brethren, who inserted the phrase. Based on no evidence within the text itself can the critics decry the Book of Abraham as claiming a holographic nature.


Question: Did Joseph Smith believe that Abraham wrote the text on the papyrus himself?

Joseph Smith believed that the writing on the papyrus was done by Abraham himself

Is it troubling that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries may have assumed an autographical nature of the text? Not necessarily, there is a lot of the papyri that we don't currently have. This may easily resolve the issue. Another potential way to approach the issue is to consider notions of prophetic fallibility.

There is a lot of papyri that we don't have

It must be remembered that we don't have all the papyri that was in Joseph Smith's position. The associated text of the Book of Abraham and other things mentioned by early sources of the papyri may be contained by documents we don't currently have in our possesion. For more information on that, see this link.


There is no evidence that Joseph Smithʼs understanding of the dating of the papyrus came from any intense revelatory process or divine means

In order to establish that Joseph Smithʼs prophetic abilities are hampered or called into question by this possible assumption of his, one must first cite evidence that Joseph Smithʼs understanding of the nature of the papyrus (namely, whether or not it dated to the time of Abraham) came from revelatory or divine means. Only then can one question Joseph Smith. It would be folly to criticize Joseph the Prophet when merely Joseph the speculator or Joseph the assumer was speaking. If the Prophet Joseph Smith never claimed on a prophetic or revelatory basis to know if the papyri was a holograph of Abraham, then one cannot attack him for a position he never took.

The Prophet may have had a mistaken speculation

If the Prophet did base his belief on a holographic nature of the papyri on purely human speculation or thought, then it only necessitates that the Prophet had a mistaken speculation. As Michael Ash has demonstrated at length, Prophets, especially those of the LDS tradition, have never claimed infallibility. If one acknowledges the fact that Joseph Smith never himself claimed infallibility or omniscience then this is all much ado about nothing. Returning to Ash’s article:

"Now this issue is very similar to that of Book of Mormon geography. It is very likely that Joseph Smith believed in a hemispheric Book of Mormon geography--it made sense to his understanding of the world around him. Such a misinformed belief or most likely misinformed belief, according to modern scholarship, makes him no less a prophet. It simply provides us with an example of how Joseph, like any other human, tried to understand new information according to his current knowledge. So, likewise, with the Abrahamic papyri.[21]

Joseph Smith's assumptions about the dating of the papyri may likely be independent of the actual authenticity of the Book of Abraham

Furthermore, Joseph Smith’s own assumptions or thoughts about whether or not the papyri was holographic in nature is independent of the actual authenticity of the Book of Abraham. Regardless of what Joseph Smith or others may have thought as per the nature of the text (if it be holographic or not) such has no implications for what the text itself actually claims or whether Joseph Smith was able to actually translate such by the gift and power of God.

Thus, the whole question can revolve more around one’s assumptions about Prophets than the actual Book of Abraham. For more on the nature of revelation see this link.


Response to claim: "Egyptologists have found the source material for the Book of Abraham to be nothing more than a common pagan Egyptian funerary text"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Egyptologists have found the source material for the Book of Abraham to be nothing more than a common pagan Egyptian funerary text for a deceased man named “Hor” in 1st century AD. In other words, it was a common Breathing Permit that the Egyptians buried with their dead.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: The author words his statement in such a way as to make it sound as if this is a recent event, and that this discovery was forced to light by non-Mormon Egyptologists. This is not the case.The facts: The Church announced in 1968 that the papryi fragments contained a funerary text in the official magazine, the Improvement Era.

Jump to Detail:

Gospel Topics on LDS.org: "Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham"

"Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

The discovery of the papyrus fragments renewed debate about Joseph Smith’s translation. The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1. Long before the fragments were published by the Church, some Egyptologists had said that Joseph Smith’s explanations of the various elements of these facsimiles did not match their own interpretations of these drawings. Joseph Smith had published the facsimiles as freestanding drawings, cut off from the hieroglyphs or hieratic characters that originally surrounded the vignettes. The discovery of the fragments meant that readers could now see the hieroglyphs and characters immediately surrounding the vignette that became facsimile 1.

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments.[22]—(Click here to continue)


Question: What is the relationship of the Joseph Smith Papyri to the Book of Abraham?

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,"[23] 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.

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.

Other than the vignette represented in Facsimile 1, the material on the papyri does not include the actual text of the Book of Abraham

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.


Question: What happened to the papyri after Joseph's death?

The original papyri were thought to have been completely destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871, but some fragments were discovered in 1966

After Joseph's death, the collection was eventually sold and split up. The original papyri were thought to have been completely destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871. Fragments, however, including the illustration represented in Facsimile 1, were discovered in 1966 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, who gave them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in November 1967.


Question: What do the Joseph Smith papyri fragments consist of?

There are eleven fragments of the original papyrus owned by Joseph Smith. The initial labels given the fragments came from Hugh Nibley's work.

The fragments that exist and their source are described in the table below, as are other materials of interest to students of the Book of Abraham:

Fragments Source Comments
  • The Hor Breathing permit
  • Facsimile 3 was part of this text; the original is not extant.
  • Sometimes called "Horus" instead of Hor.
  • N/A
  • The Hypocephalus of Sheshonk
  • II
  • V
  • VI
  • VII
  • VIII
  • IX (Church Historian's Fragment)
  • Most of IV
  • The Book of the Dead belonging to the lady Tshenmin.
  • Fragment IX was not in the papyri returned to the Church by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; it was discovered in the Church Archives and is sometimes called the "Church Historian's Fragment."
  • IIIa
  • IIIb
  • The Book of the Dead belonging to the musician of Amon Re, Neferimub.
  • This is a single vignette, but has been cut into two pieces; hence the designation as (a) and (b) fragments.
  • N/A
  • Another copy of Book of the Dead.


Response to claim: "It has absolutely nothing to do with Abraham or anything Joseph claimed in his translation for the Book of Abraham"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

[The Joseph Smith papyri] has absolutely nothing to do with Abraham or anything Joseph claimed in his translation for the Book of Abraham.

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 existing fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri are not related to the Book of Abraham with the exception of the original for Facsimile 1, a fact that the Church noted in 1968 in the official church magazine, the Improvement Era. There is evidence that helps us associate the to Abraham and traditions about him.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Was the Church forthright in identifying the rediscovered papyri prior to their examination by non-LDS Egyptologists?

The January 1968 issue of the Improvement Era demonstrates that the Church was very forthright about this issue

The Church announced that the fragments contained a funerary text in the January 1968 Improvement Era (the predecessor to today's Ensign magazine). Of the 11 fragments, one fragment has Facsimile 1, and the other 10 fragments are funerary texts, which the Church claimed from the moment the papyri were rediscovered. There is no evidence that the Church has ever claimed that any of the 10 remaining fragments contain text which is contained in the Book of Abraham.

The critics are telling us nothing new when they dramatically "announce" that the JSP contain Egyptian funerary documents. The Church disseminated this information as widely as possible from the very beginning.

The timeline of events

A review of the time-line of the papyri demonstrates that the Church quickly publicized the nature of the JSP in the official magazine of the time, The Improvement Era.

There were 11 fragments discovered and given to the church. The Church was very quick in releasing this information to the membership and the world.

November 27, 1967
Church receives papyri.
December 10–11, 1967
Deadline to submit material for the January 1968 Improvement Era.
December 26–31, 1967
January 1968 Improvement Era issue mailed to subscribers.[24]
February 1968
Another fragment was discovered in the Church historian's files, and publicized in the February 1968 Improvement Era.[25]
Cover of the January 1968 issue of the Improvement Era, the Church's official magazine of the time. Note the color photograph of the recovered Facsimile 1.


Improvement Era (January 1968): "Often the funerary texts contained passages from the 'Book of the Dead,' a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world"

Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968):

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[26]


Question: What did the Church announce in 1968 when the Joseph Smith papyri fragments were discovered?

The Church noted that the papyri fragments did not contain the Book of Abraham, except for Facsimile 1

The Improvement Era described the papyri, but never claimed they represented the source for the Book of Abraham, except the original of Facsimile 1:

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[27]

Egyptian.papyri.rediscovered.funeral.documents.improvement.era.jan.1968.p12.jpg


Question: How long did the Church know about the papyri before they published information about them?

The Church immediately published an article in their official magazine less than two months after the papyri were discovered

When the papyri were rediscovered in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and donated to the Church on 27 November 1967, the Church immediately published an article in their official magazine less than two months later. A follow-up article on an additional papyrus fragment was published the following month, complete with photos:

  • Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–16. off-site
  • Jay M. Todd, "New Light on Joseph Smith's Egyptian Papyri: Additional Fragment Disclosed," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40. off-site
  • Jay M. Todd, "Background of the Church Historian's Fragment," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40A–40I. off-site

LDS scholar Hugh Nibley began a series of articles in the January 1968 edition which ran for months. Nibley was not hesitant in explaining what was on the papyri in the Church's possession. In August 1968, he repeatedly emphasized that much of the text was the Egyptian Book of the Dead:

  • "...the texts of the 'Joseph Smith Papyri' identified as belonging to the Book of the Dead" (p. 55)
  • "...The largest part of the Joseph Smith Papyri in the possession of the Church consists of fragments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the fragments having been recently translated and discussed by no less a scholar than Professor John A. Wilson." (p. 57)
  • "These points can be illustrated by the most easily recognized section of the Joseph Smith papyri, namely, the fragment with the picture of a swallow, Chapter 86 of the Book of the Dead..."(p. 57)
  • "..we may take the best-known picture from the Book of the Dead, the well-known judgment scene or 'Psychostasy,' a fine example of which is found among the Joseph Smith papyri." (p. 59)

Lest the reader miss this claim in the small print, it was reprinted in large bold type across two pages:

The Church's official magazine did not hide Nibley's conclusion about the papyrus fragments rediscovered in 1968.
  • "The largest parts of the...papyri in possession of the Church consists of fragments from the Egyptian Book of the Dead..." (pp. 56-57) See image (680 KB).


Response to claim: Facsimile 1 "The Abraham scene is wrong"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The Abraham scene is wrong.

FairMormon Response

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

Facsimile 1 is one of the most studied and best attested of the facsimiles in antiquity.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Do any of Joseph's explanations of Facsimile 1 agree with what Egyptologists say about the figures?

Facsimile 1 is the most studied and best attested of the facsimiles

Facsimile 1 is the most studied and best attested of the facsimiles. Below we list the evidences for Joseph's interpretations.

The Angel of the Lord (Figure 1)

Angels or heavenly messengers were frequently represented by birds in Egyptian literature. This element is more contemporary to a later redactor of the Book of Abraham. The Egpytian word for angel is " 'ḫ". The Greek word for angel is "ἄγγελος". Both terms are used. In the respective lore, they could potentially turn into birds and bring messages from God. Additionally, see above for traditions that mention the appearance of an angel to Abraham.

The Egyptian term for angel is 'ḫ. The term “designates entities or beings . . . [and] their

(spirit-)state and the power emanating from them.” It was part of a larger spiritual world. The Egyptian spirit world was generally divided into three classes: gods [egpytian and greek translation included], angels [Egyptian and greek translation included], and demons [Egyptian and Greek translation included]. The larger category of these beings was the spirit [Egyptian and Greek translation included]. When an individual died, his or her soul [Egpytian and Greek translation included] either became an angel [Egyptian and Greek Translation included] or a demon [Egyptian and Greek translation included] depending on whether the proper rites had been performed, and whether he or she had lived properly.

[. . .]

These are all features of the 'ḫ, who had power over the damned, and the living, could cause health, sickness, childbirth, financial distress, or general malady. They could also send dreams, lead men and women, do work, fight demons, light lamps, kill, move ships, transform themselves into lotuses, barley, falcons, phoenixes, herons, geese, swallows, ibises, vultures, other birds, bulls, crocodiles, snakes, spirits, gods, fire, air, whatever form desired, and in that form they could appear in various places, to whomever they wished.They open doors, travel through fire, loose bonds, drive away crocodiles, snakes, vultures, pigs, cockroaches, and other undesirable creatures, control water, winds, fire, and enemies, brings bread, water, beer, and other foods.

As shown in the following table, the descriptions overlap considerably showing that the Roman period

description is a continuation of previous pharaonic understandings, and that both ἄγγελος and [other Greek term] are attempts to render the Egyptian term 'ḫ into Greek.[28]

Human sacrifice for upsetting standing religious order (Figures 2, 3, and 4)

Human sacrifice is well attested in ancient Egypt. It was common to those who rejected the standing religious order as a human sacrifices to the Gods as form of capital punishment. This was virtually unknown during Joseph Smith's day. He could only have learned this information from revelation.

Kerry Muhlestein and John Gee, "An Egyptian Context for the Sacrifice of Abraham"

Kerry Muhlestein and John Gee,  Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, (2010)
The existence of human sacrifice in ancient Egypt has been variously debated and denied. While Egyptologists generally admit that the practice existed in the formative periods of Egyptian society, opinions among Egyptologists for later time periods range from claiming that "there is no certain evidence for the practice of human sacrifice . . . from the Old Kingdom onwards" to asserting that there is "indisputable evidence for the practice of human sacrifice in classical ancient Egypt." However difficult it may be for modern societies to accept that a practice we detest, such as human sacrifice, occurred in past civilizations we admire, further research and discoveries necessitate a reassessment of the possibility of this practice within Egyptian culture. While there is not a universally accepted definition of human sacrifice, for the purposes of this paper we will define human sacrifice as the slaying of a person in a ritual context.

Click here to view the complete article

Of interest in this publication is the citation of Dr. Robert Ritner (the most vocal critic of the Book of Abraham) in support of human sacrifice in ancient Egypt. His quote: "[there is] indisputable evidence for the practice of human sacrifice in classical ancient Egypt."

Abraham fastened upon an altar (Figure 2)

Traditions about Abraham confirm that he was nearly sacrificed and that he was bound upon an altar. See above for the extrabiblical traditions that testify to this. Additionally, scholars have found links between Abraham and Osiris in Semitic adaptations of Egyptian lore and the name of Abraham as been associated with another lion couch scene.

Kevin Barney:

The adaptation of an Egyptian psychostasy vignette from chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead in the judgment scene of the Testament of Abraham, the adaptation of the Egyptian original underlying the Demotic Story of Setna in a Jewish popular version (replacing Osiris with Abraham), and the adaptation of a hypocephalus in the Apocalypse of Abraham provide a stunning glimpse of how J-red, living and working in the same era, may have adapted vignettes from a Book of Breathings and a hypocephalus as illustrations of the Book of Abraham, which had come under his care as a part of the ancient transmission of the text. In my view, the Semitic Adaptation theory turns the facsimiles and their interpretations from a perceived weakness of the Book of Abraham into a real strength.[29]

Another lion couch scene has been discovered which actually includes Abraham's name. It should be noted that it does not claim that Abraham is the figure on the lion couch, and notes that "[t]he figure on the lion couch in this papyrus is a woman." That is very clear from looking at the papyrus. However, the wording under the figure states "Abraham upon..." ("Abraham epi" in Greek)and then it becomes unintelligible so scholars are at a stand-still as to knowing if the circling of the name of Abraham in that phrase is the identification of the figure as Abraham. [30]

Photo appearing in John Gee, “Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts,” Ensign, Jul 1992, 60 Caption "A lion couch scene appears in Leiden Papyrus I 384 (PGM xii). The outline marks Abraham’s name, written in Greek. (Courtesy of Rijksmuseum van Oudheden.)" (click to enlarge)

The idolatrous God of Elkenah and an association with sacrifice (Figures 3, 4, and 5)

Kevin Barney:

We began by examining the Book of Abraham text to see what it tells us about the figure Elkenah. Based on an assumption that the El- element in the name is Semitic ʾel, we identified a number of possible linguistic structures for an ancient El combination. We then reviewed six concrete proposals for Elkenah, concluding that the strongest possibilities, “El of Canaan” and “El the Creator,” both point in the direction of the same deity: Canaanite El.

This deity compares favorably with the information set forth in the Book of Abraham text regarding Elkenah. In particular, the type of sacrifice described in Abraham 1 fits a cultic setting in Syro-Palestinian or Canaanite territory much more readily than it fits a Mesopotamian or AssyroBabylonian scenario. More to the point, the scene on Facsimile 1, with its representation of a human sacrifice on an Egyptian lion couch, fits extremely well with Egyptian Middle Kingdom evidence for

the cultic ritual of human sacrifice. Although there is much more work to be done (including similar studies of the other names in the Book of Abraham onomasticon), both the name Elkenah and the cult described in the text seem to point to a Syro-Palestinian context for Abraham 1. Consistent with Lundquist’s study, I believe that future research should focus on this region as a prime location for the possible setting of the text.[31]

The idolatrous Gods of Libnah, Korash, and Mahmackrah (Figures 6, 7, and 8)

The idolatrous Gods of Libnah, Korash, and Mahmakrah have been identified as Gods worshipped by ancient Mesopotamians.

Michael Rhodes:

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. [32]

John Tvedtnes:

John Gee and others have more recently reexamined the names and come to similar conclusions. John M. Lundquist also noted that each of the gods or idols mentioned in Abraham 1:17 appears in the compilation of some 3,800 Mesopotamian deities published in 1950 by Anton Deimel. Many of these names are Akkadian a Semitic language related to Hebrew and more distantly to Egyptian.[33]

Hugh Nibley (framing his thought process in an imaginary dialogue) wrote with regards to the four canopic jars representing the four quarters of the earth and Mesopotamian gods:

. . . As far as the Egyptians were concerned, the four quarters of the earth were people. If the Book of Abraham wants to think of the four canopic jars as representing idolatrous gods and the four regions at the same time, this is entirely in keeping with the way the Egyptians thought about it, Now right here in the temple of Opet where we are so much at home "the genies of the four winds" enj a conspicuous display, and whay are they there? The four winds, according to our handbook, head the list of more than fifty ritual appearances of the sacred four---it all began with the four winds and the four directions, represented as early as the Pyramid Texts by the four canopic vases[34]

[. . .]

It has been found that all these combinations have one thing in common--what Professor Constant de Wit calles the "quarternary principle"; he suggests that the whole business originally goes back to the four winds and probably started at Heliopolis.

Dick: Naturally

Mr. Jones: On good evidence. Even one of the Joseph Smith Papyri shows that.

Jane: Which one?

Mr. Jones: Fragment No. 8 in the Era listing, corresponding to chapter 5 of the Book of the Dead[35] Allen has rendered it: "His nose is open in Busiris. He rests in Heliopolis. . . . If north winds come, he sits in the south; if south winds come, he sits in the north; if west winds come, he sits in the east; if east winds come, he sits in the west[36]

[. . .]

Mr. Jones: The animal heads seem to have been borrowed by the Egyptians in the first palce. Originally the canopic vases didn't have the animal heads; they were just plain jars[37] Scholars believe "that the theriomorphic vase in Egypt, as elsewhere can be traced to an origin in North Syria."[38] Yet the four heads are already canonically prescribed in the Pyramid Texts, so that it is suggested that their appearance in Egypt in the Nineteenth Dynasty was actually a return to the old idea.[39] The idea behind the canopic figures was certainly familiar to Canaan, where, according to the rabbis, the princes of the various nations were typified by animals, just as were the princes of Israel[40]

Dick: But only four of them?

Mr. Jones: That was a concession to the sytem. Thus, though from time immemorial the Egyptians spoke of the other nations as the "Nine Bows," they believed that at the judgement the four races of mankind would stand in their proper positions[41] Professor Georges Posener has shown that the Egyptians named the peoples and countries of the world after their directions and hence conceived of the four cardinal directions; to each of the cardinal directions they also gave cardinal colors--red,white, black, and green.</ref>Georges Posener, "Sur l'orientation et l'orde des joints cardinaux chex les Egyptiens," in Gottinger Vortrage vom Agyptologischen Kolloquium der Akademie am 25, un 26. August 1964</ref> They knew that there were many countries, of course, but they insisted on fitting everything into the system--a sort of cosmic plan that seems to have hypnotized many ancient people.[42]

Dick: So nobody had to borrow from anybody.

Mr. Jones: So the various ideas could easily meet and fuse--in Canaan, especially, the newly found Brooklyn Papyrus shows the people familiar with the same ideas: "The invoking of the four Babyolonian deities is certainly evidence of the presence of a Babylonian cult in this area." The four gods in question happen to be Bel, Nabu, Shamash, and Nergal[43] corresponding closely to the four great gods of the Egyptian four directions.[44]

The idolatrous God of Pharoah (figure 9)

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.”[45]

Abraham in Egypt (Figure 10)

Foreigners in Egpyt, like Abraham was, are often represented by a Lotus Flower, the figure depicted here, as argued by Dr. Hugh Nibley. Nibley cites Waltraud Guglielmi, a non-LDS Egyptologist whose work supports his assertion specifically referencing divine and human visitors in Egypt.

The lotus, perhaps the richest of all Egyptian symbols, can stand for the purest abstraction, as when it indicates nothing but a date in one tomb or a place in another.[46] In Facsimile 3 we are told that it points to two things, a man and a country, indicating the special guest-to-host relationship between them. Most of the time the lotus announces a party situation, adding brightness to the occasion; etiquette required guests to a formal party to bring a lotus offering to the host--hence the flower served as a token both of invitation and admission[47]. [E.A. Wallis Budge] observed how in the Kerasher Manuscript, in which the person being presented wears exactly the same peculiar lotus headdress as our Shulem (figure 5), "instead of the bullok-skin dripping with blood, which is generally seen suspended near the throne of the god, masses of lotus flowers are represented, giving a totally different aspect to the scene[48]. Yet, while the lotuses "seem to have figured prominently" in formal occasions, according to Aylward Blackman, we still do not understand the flower offerings, any more than we do the combination of lotus stands and small libation vessels such as our figure 3.[49]. It would now seem that these tall and narrow Egyptian ritual stands originated in Cannan.[50]

[. . .]

The lotus is definitely a welcome to Egypt from the king to human and divine visitors; the divinity who received the token reciprocated by responding to the king "I give thee all the lands of thy majesty, the foreign lands to become they slaves. I give thee the birds, symbols of thine enemies"[51] In receiving a lotus, the king in return ritually receives the land itself, while the god in accepting a lotus from the king promises him in return the reverent obedience of his subjects.[52] "The flowers are mostly heraldic plants . . . associated with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt," for in some the main purpose of the lotus rites is to "uphold the dominion of the King" as nourisher of the land.[53] Moreover, its significance is valid at every level of society, the louts being a preeminent example of how mythological themes and religious symbolism were familiarly integrated into the everyday life of the Egyptians.[54].

[. . .]

The numerous studies of the Egyptian lots design are remarkably devoid of conflict, since this is one case in which nobody insists on a single definitive interpretation. The points emphasized are (1) The abstract nature of the symbol, containing meanings that are far from obvious at first glance (2) the lotus as denotin high society, especially royal receptions, at which the presnetation of alotus to the host was obligatory and whoed that the bearer had been invted; to be remiss in lotus courtesy was an unpardonable blunder; to be remiss in lotus courtesy was an unpardonable blunder, for anyone who refuests the lotus is under a curse, (3) the lotus as the symbol of Lower Egypt, the Delta with all its patriotic and sentimental attachments ; (4) the lotus as Nefertem, the defender of the border; (5) the lotus as the king or rule, defender, and nourisher of the land; (6) the lotus as the support of the throne at the coronation. It is a token of welcome and invitation to the royal court and the land, proferred by the king himself as guardian of the border.[55]

Pillars of Heaven (Figure 11)

Kevin Barney:

In Hebrew cosmology, the raqîa’ or “firmament” was believed to be a solid dome, supported by pillars.57 The raqîa’ in turn was closely associated with the celestial ocean, which it supported.58 In the lower half of Facsimile 1, we have the raqîa’ (1) connected with the waters, as with the celestial ocean, (2) appearing to be supported by pillars, and (3) being solid and therefore capable of serving itself as a support, in this case for the lion couch. The bottom half of Facsimile 1 would have looked to J-red very much like a microcosm of the universe (in much the same way that the divine throne chariot of Ezekiel 1—2, which associates the four four-faced fiery living creatures with the raqîa’ above their heads on which God sits enthroned, is a microcosm of the universe). The Egyptian artist’s perspective is not necessarily a limitation on J-red. The stacking effect of waters apparently both being supported and acting as a support would have suggested to J-red the Hebrew conception of the raqîa’.[56]

Firmament over our heads (Figure 12)

The Hebrew term "Raukeeyang" is a transliteration of the word "raqîa’". In Figure 12, Joseph Smith describes "Raukeeyang" as the firmament over our heads and a crocodile swims through it. This makes sense in light of modern scholarship that identifies Egyptian's conception of heaven as a "Heavenly Ocean" with this figure. LDS Scholars have cited Non-LDS egyptologist Erik Hornung whose work supports this. [57]

"Shamau" is presented as related to samayim, a dual form meaning "heaven(s)" "Shaumahyeem" using the Sephardic Hebrew transliteration Joseph learned from Joshua Seixas as opposed to the Ashkenazic method.

Louis Zucker, a Jewish scholar from the University of Utah wrote:

Another such word is Shaumahyeem [exactly the Seixas pronunciation], heavens, in the sense of Genesis 1; Shaumau is an invented singular, unknown to the Bible[58]


Response to claim: "The following image is what Facsimile 1 is really supposed to look like"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

[The Charles Larson restoration] is what Facsimile 1 is really supposed to look like, based on Egyptology and the same scene discovered elsewhere in Egypt.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The Charles Larson restoration has a number of inaccuracies.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Does Facsimile 1 show a hand, or does it show the wing of a second bird?

The high-resolution photos of the papyri clearly show that it was a hand, not a wing

The Larson restoration presumes that the upper hand represented in Facsimile 1 is instead the wing of a bird. There are several elements which disprove this.

  • It is clear that the Egyptian artist drew wings in a specific manner, as can be observed by the wing of the bird on the right.
  • The two hands have distinct thumbs.
  • The assumption that ink spots on the hand represent spots on the birds wing is disproven by close examination of the original, which shows ink traces that indicate that the lines were originally connected.
  • It is also clear that the missing ink correlates with cracks in the papyri. Note that the cracks extend across all fingers, and that the ink has flaked off along the cracks.
  • Note that the index finger (the one next to the thumb) is continuous in the original, but was broken into two parts in the Larson restoration.
Larson.restoration.comparison.to.original.hand.detail.1.jpg
Hand.wing.comparison.1a.jpg


Bell: "the questionable traces above the head of the Osiris figure are actually the remains of his right hand"

(non-Mormon) Egyptologist Lanny Bell

Let me state clearly at the outset my conviction that the questionable traces above the head of the Osiris figure are actually the remains of his right hand; in other words, Joseph Smith was correct in his understanding of the drawing at this point. Ashment 1979, pp. 36, 41 (Illustration 13), is very balanced in his analysis of the problem, presenting compelling arguments for reading two hands; Gee 1992, p. 102 and n. 25, refers to Michael Lyon in describing the "thumb stroke" of the upper (right) hand; cf. Gee 2000, pp. 37-38; and Rhodes 2002, p. 19, concludes: "... a careful comparison of the traces with the hand below as well as the tip of the bird's wing to the right makes it quite clear that it is the other hand of the deceased."...An important clue is provided in the orientation of the thumbs of the upraised hands toward the face. This is the expected way of depicting the hands of mourners and others when they are held up to (both sides of) their heads or before their faces.[59]


Question: Should the restoration of Facsimile 1 include a phallus?

The Larson restoration adds a phallus on the reclining figure, something that is never seen on a clothed Osiris figure

The Larson restoration adds a phallus on the reclining figure, something that is never seen on a clothed Osiris figure.

  • The assumption appears to be that the hash marks on the legs represent breeches. One can also observe this assumption on the Hedlock restoration contained in the Book of Abraham. However, an examination of the original papyrus shows that the legs of the figure were drawn, and that a wraparound Egyptian kilt was then drawn over them. The clothing is not a pair of breeches. This detail is not even in the Larson image, as the two lines distinguishing the legs and the kilt are merged into a single, fat line.
  • It can be seen in the closeup detail that the hash lines of the kilt extend beyond the lines of the leg, intersecting the outer line of the kilt.
  • It can also be seen that the kilt is curved, whereas the legs are straight.
  • The Larson restoration adds a phallus (which we have chosen to obscure) in the location of the figure's navel, based upon the location of the intersection of the legs and an estimate of where the top of the kilt would appear.
Larson.restoration.comparison.to.original.skirt.detail.jpg


Bell: "there would not be enough available space to restore the hand of Anubis, the erect phallus of the Osiris, and the body and wings of Isis"

(non Mormon) Egyptologist Lanny Bell:

[T]he representation of an ithyphallic figure wearing a kilt would not be unparalleled. However, judging from the position of the erect phallus of the reclining kilted earth god Geb in a cosmological scene on Dynasty 21 Theban coffins now in Turin and Bristol, there would not be enough available space to restore the hand of Anubis, the erect phallus of the Osiris, and the body and wings of Isis in P.JS I: Anubis would have to be grasping the phallus himself and assisting Isis in alighting on it—which is unimaginable. . . .In this area, I believe the Parker-Baer-Ashment reconstruction (with its "implied" erect phallus) is seriously flawed.[60]


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. Theologically, it would not matter to scenes such as this one. Ancient art depcting religious situations such as this frequently had other people impersonating other Gods. Thus, even if this is an incorrect restoration, it would not matter to the overall message of the scene portrayed.

The priest of Elkenah likely could have been wearing an Anubian headdress while performing this scene and the interpretation would still be, for all intents and purposes, correct. [61]


  • 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


Question: Was the priest depicted in Facsimile 1 holding a knife or some other object?

In typical representations of the "lion couch" scene, the priest is holding an object

Since Facsimile 1 appears to be a fairly typical scene from Egyptian funerary texts, it is noted that other similar Egyptian motifs do not show the priest holding a knife. A proposed restoration of Facsimile 1 by egyptologist Lanny Bell, for example, shows the priest holding a cup in his hand over the figure on the lion couch.

Eyewitnesses, one of whom was an anti-Mormon, described a man bound and laid on the lion couch, and a priest with a knife in his hand

Many Latter-day Saint scholars believe that the scroll was damaged after Joseph translated the vignette and some evidence seems to support this view. One early Latter-day Saint who saw the papyri in 1841, for instance, described them as containing the scene of an altar with "'a man bound and laid thereon, and a Priest with a knife in his hand, standing at the foot, with a dove over the person bound on the Altar with several Idol gods standing around it.'"[62] Similarly, Reverend Henry Caswall, who visited Nauvoo in April 1842, had a chance to see some of the Egyptian papyri. Caswall, who was hostile to the Saints, described Facsimile 1 as having a "'man standing by him with a drawn knife.'"[63]

Due to the damage to the papyrus, it is impossible to determine what the priest is holding in his hand

It is not possible through an examination of the original papyrus to determine what the priest is holding in his hand.

A comparison of objects that are presumed to have been held by the priest in Facsimile 1 of the Book of Abraham. The original facsimile is missing this detail. Egyptologist Lanny Bell assumes that the priest was holding an object. Charles Larson shows the priest holding nothing, with the wing of the proposed second bird occupying the space. Joseph Smith indicated that the priest was holding a knife.


Response to claim: "The following images show similar funerary scenes which have been discovered elsewhere in Egypt"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The following images shows the same funeral scene which has been discovered elsewhere in Egypt. (April 2013)

The following images show similar funerary scenes which have been discovered elsewhere in Egypt. (October 2014)

Notice that the jackal-headed Egyptian god of death and afterlife Anubis is consistent in every funerary scene.

FairMormon Response

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

The mistake: Facsimile 1 does not portray the preparation of a mummy by Anubis - the figure on the "lion couch" is alive and is wearing clothes.The facts: This type of scene is interpreted as the resurrection of Osiris. It therefore is not the "same funeral scene" that is illustrated elsewhere.

Jump to Detail:

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)


Question: What does the lion couch scene normally represent?

The lion couch vignette usually represents the embalming of the deceased individual in preparation for burial

Photograph of Facsimile 1 from the recovered Joseph Smith Papyri

The papyrus with the illustration represented in Facsimile 1 (view) is the only recovered item that has any connection to the text of the Book of Abraham.

This vignette is called a "lion couch scene" by Egyptologists. It usually represents the embalming of the deceased individual in preparation for burial. However, this particular lion couch scene represents the resurrection of Hor (figure 2), aided by the Egyptian god Anubis (3).[64]

Abraham 1:12 and the notes to Facsimile 1 identify it as representing Abraham being sacrificed by the priest of Elkenah in Ur.


Gospel Topics: "Joseph Smith’s explanations of the facsimiles of the book of Abraham contain additional earmarks of the ancient world"

"Facsimile 1 contains a crocodile deity swimming in what Joseph Smith called 'the firmament over our heads'"

Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

Joseph Smith’s explanations of the facsimiles of the book of Abraham contain additional earmarks of the ancient world. Facsimile 1 and Abraham 1:17 mention the idolatrous god Elkenah. This deity is not mentioned in the Bible, yet modern scholars have identified it as being among the gods worshipped by ancient Mesopotamians. Joseph Smith represented the four figures in figure 6 of facsimile 2 as “this earth in its four quarters.” A similar interpretation has been argued by scholars who study identical figures in other ancient Egyptian texts. Facsimile 1 contains a crocodile deity swimming in what Joseph Smith called “the firmament over our heads.” This interpretation makes sense in light of scholarship that identifies Egyptian conceptions of heaven with “a heavenly ocean.” [65]


Question: What are the criticisms related to Facsimile 1?

Facsimile 1 from the Book of Abraham

The following claims are made regarding Facsimile 1:

  • That facsimile 1 is simply a typical funerary scene and there are many other papyri showing the same basic scene.
  • It is claimed that the missing portions of the drawing were incorrectly restored:
    • The head of the priest should have been that of Anubis.
    • The priest should not have been holding a knife.
    • The portion portrayed as Abraham's second hand should have been the wing of a second bird.
  • It is claimed that Abraham has never been associated with the lion couch vignette such as that portrayed in Facsimile #1 of the Book of Abraham.


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,"[66] which refers to those who "speak evil" of the king or of his policies.[67] 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."[68] 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.[69] 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.[70]


The Apocalypse of Abraham: "Go out from thy father Terah, and get thee out from the house, that thou also be not slain"

The Apocalypse of Abraham is a Jewish document composed between about 70–150 AD. The Apocalypse of Abraham describes the idolatry of Abraham's father in detail, and talks of how Abraham came to disbelieve in his father's gods:

VIII. And it came to pass while I spake thus to my father Terah in the court of my house, there cometh down the voice of a Mighty One from heaven in a fiery cloud-burst, saying and crying: “Abraham, Abraham!” And I said: “Here am I.” And He said: “Thou art seeking in the understanding of thine heart the God of Gods and the Creator; I am He: Go out from thy father Terah, and get thee out from the house, that thou also be not slain in the sins of thy father’s house.” And I went out. And it came to pass when I went out, that before I succeeded in getting out in front of the door of the court, there came a sound of a [great] thunder and burnt him and his house, and everything whatsoever in his house, down to the ground, forty cubits.[71]


Book of Jubilees 12:1-8: "Abram said to Terah his father...What help and profit have we from those idols which thou dost worship...And his father said unto him...Keep silent, my son, lest they slay thee"

Jubilees 12:1-8:

1. And it came to pass in the sixth week, in the seventh year thereof, that Abram said to Terah his father, saying, 'Father!' 2. And he said, 'Behold, here am I, my son.' And he said,'What help and profit have we from those idols which thou dost worship, And before which thou dost bow thyself? 3. For there is no spirit in them, For they are dumb forms, and a misleading of the heart. Worship them not: 4. Worship the God of heaven, Who causes the rain and the dew to descend on the earth And does everything upon the earth,And has created everything by His word, And all life is from before His face. 5. Why do ye worship things that have no spirit in them? For they are the work of (men's) hands,And on your shoulders do ye bear them, And ye have no help from them, But they are a great cause of shame to those who make them, And a misleading of the heart to those who worship them: Worship them not.' 6. And his father said unto him, I also know it, my son, but what shall I do with a people who have made me to serve before them? 7. And if I tell them the truth, they will slay me; for their soul cleaves to them to worship them and honour them. 8. Keep silent, my son, lest they slay thee.' And these words he spake to his two brothers, and they were angry with him and he kept silent.


Muhlestein and Gee: "Sacrifice was a penalty for desecrating the sacred house of an Egyptian god"

Abraham rejected his father's worship of idols, and may have tried to destroy some of them.[72] A human sacrifice was the penalty for desecrating the sacred house of an Egyptian god.

That the penalty of human sacrifice (including burning) was carried out in some circumstances can be shown from a historical account left by Sesostris13 I (1953–1911 BC).14 Sesostris I recounts finding the temple of Tod in a state of both disrepair and intentional desecration, something he attributed to Asiatic/Semitic interlopers he thus deemed as enemies.15 In response, he submits the purported perpetrators to varying punishments: flaying, impalement, beheading, and burning. He informs us that "[the knife] was applied to the children of the enemy (ms.w ḫrwy), sacrifices among the Asiatics."16 Sesostris intended a sacrificial association to be applied to the executions he had just enacted.17 This point is augmented by the fact that some temple sacrifices were consumed by fire.18 While a lacuna makes it impossible to be certain, some of the victims may even have been stabbed with a knife before being burned. In other eras of Egyptian history, this practice of burning seems to have been carried out when ritually slaying a human.19 Clearly, when the sacred house of a god had been desecrated, the Egyptian king responded by sacrificing those responsible.[73]


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.” [74]


Response to claim: "a side-by-side comparison of what Joseph Smith translated in Facsimile #2 versus what it actually says according to Egyptologists"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The following ["mormoninfographic"] is a side-by-side comparison of what Joseph Smith translated in Facsimile #2 versus what it actually says according to Egyptologists and modern Egyptology.

FairMormon Response

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

We don't know everything about facsimile 2 and how it was supposed to be translated. For now, we see that Joseph appears to have gotten a few things right.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Did Joseph Smith identify any elements of Facsimile 2 that are in agreement with what Egyptologists say they represent?

Many authentic and ancient motifs are related to the explanation of this figure.

Kolob...nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God.

John Tvedtnes:

The star named Kolob, and it’s called a star, I know that there are some websites that say the Mormons are crazy they think God lives on a planet called Kolob. The passage never says it’s a planet and never says God lives there either; it says it’s closest to where he lives. Anyway the star named Kolob is so-called “because it is near unto me” (Abr. 3:3) or near “the residence” (Fac. 2, Fig. 1) or “throne of God” (Abr. 3:9). Facsimile 2, Fig. 1 describes it as “nearest to the celestial.” This explanation is attractive because it creates a wordplay in the Book of Abraham; a feature known from the underlying Hebrew of both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. The wordplay being between “near” and “Kolob” because in fact the word for Kolob can mean near; there are several possibilities to explain and I’m going to talk about those now.

Janne Sjodahl was the first to compare the name with the Arabic qalb “core, marrow, heart, intelligence”, however because ‘l’ and ‘r’ often interchange in Semitic languages, one should also note Arabic QRB “proximity, near, midst” which is cognate to Hebrew qārōb “near” or “close.” Robert F. Smith prefers the latter and notes that it appears in the sense of “near one” as a title of God in Psalm 119:151 where it parallels the word qedem which means the “primeval one” or the “ancient one” (that’s in verse 152). Smith notes that the cognate Ugaritic qurb often refers to the dwelling place of El, the chief God, in the Canaanite pantheon in the expression “midst of the source of the two deeps” where the word rendered “midst” is in fact this same word qurb meaning “near”. Another possible Hebrew etymology is the Hebrew KLB “dog” originally pronounced kalb just as it is in Arabic. This is used to denote the star Regulus in Arabic while the Syriac, which is also kalb denotes the star Sirius, the brightest star in the heavens. There’s a wonderful article that Dan Peterson, and John Gee, and Matt Roper (I think), were the three who (if I left something off that you can fill it in later) but they wrote a really nice article on Kolob and its place in the sky and what it meant for Abraham.4 In Arabic, this term KLB “dog” also denotes the constellation of Canis Major which is Latin meaning “Great Dog”, we call it the Big Dipper but that’s not what is was called anciently, as the brightest star in the constellation of the Big Dipper, Sirius is called Alpha Canis Majoris which is “number one big dog” or top dog I guess. Another name for the star is Canicula, a Latin word for ‘Little Dog’. Akkadian sources call Sirius (inaudible) the “dog of the sun”. In ancient Egypt the Nile began to rise at the helical rising of Sirius, that is when it came up just before the sun and bringing the annual torrent of Nile water laden with rich volcanic soil from the south and depositing it on the cultivated land. I should mention by the way you notice how the one has a ‘q’ the other has a ‘k’? That’s very important, at least in Arabic, it’s not as important in Hebrew but I always try to get my Hebrew students to pronounce the two differently. In Israel they pronounce the two ‘k’ just that- it’s just like a regular ‘k’ in English. But in ancient times they were pronounced quite differently. One is pronounced way in the back of the throat, the other is pronounced farther up and in Arabic they make a big distinction and my reasoning with my students was, if you don’t make the distinction and you speak in Arabic and you want to tell a girl, “I love you with all of my heart” which is the word that’s coming up next, you don’t want to end up saying “I love you with all of my dog.” (Laughter) I think that struck a note with most of them.

So, this is the other one I want to have QLB which is “heart” in Arabic. There are some Egyptian equivalents to that, I didn’t put them up here. There’s a couple of cognates that are related directly to that. In the Sumerian text known as the Descent of Inanna, one of the more ancient texts from the Middle East, the goddess Inana goes down into the Underworld to free her husband Dumuzi who is the god who brings rain during the season of rain, and on the way back to heaven she stops at a place called Kulab which is designated as a tree of some sort. We don’t know why this happens there but there Dumuzi gets to sit on his throne and puts on his royal apparel which he has not been wearing while he’s been in prison.

signifying the first creation

Hugh Nibley:

Figure one is the God Amun. As [non-LDS Egyptologist] Peter L. Renouf saw, "the great God, Lord of Heaven, the giver of light, lighting up the Heavens and earth with his rays . . . to give life to the universe."[75].. . .The staff held by figure 1, Amun, is a combination of the djed-column, signifying abiding firmness and stability, the was-scepter of power and authority, and he ankh-staff of life --the three things on which all certainty depends. BU before all else we are dealing with creation and birth. So it is enlightening to note that the Prophet Josep begins his explanation of this figure as "the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, te last pertaining to measurement of time," etc. It is not the celestial residence, but it is near to it, as the center of one great system, the large system known to Abraham, and though he is aware of the existence of worlds without number, he sees only a particular segment. Indeed, Moses was sharply rebuked when he asked to see it all: "Worlds without number have I created . . . for mine own purpose; . . . here is wisdom and it remaineth in me" (Moses 1:33,31). Moses is informed that he has all that he can handle in his own earthly mission and meekly apologizes, "Be merciful unto they servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, . . . and then they servant will be content" (Moses 1:36). The most sublime aspect of Amun is the way he brings all things together in one, just as science today looks for the Grand Unifying Theory (GUT). That is what Amun gives us and we should bear in mind that all the owners of hypocephali were priests and priestesses of Amun-RE, along with their associates. Abraham, viewing the tarry heavens, fund that he "could not see the end thereof" (Abraham 3:12); while Moses, who is given "only an account of this earth," is assured that worlds that now stand are "innumerable. . . unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them (Moses 1:35). As the doctrine of Min-Amun-RE, etc. proclaims, all the universe is full of life, sustained and rejuvenated in and by the One at the Center.[76]

...one day to a cubit...

Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "One Day to a Cubit"

Hollis R. Johnson,  Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (2013)
An investigation of ancient astronomy shows that a cubit was used not only as the metric of length (elbow to fingertip) but also as a metric of angle in the sky. That suggested a new interpretation that fits naturally: the brightest celestial object—the sun—moves eastward around the sky, relative to the stars, during the course of a year, by one cubit per day!.

Click here to view the complete article

One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth

Hugh Nibley:

Another statement of time--"one day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years" (Fac. 2, fig. 1)--demonstrates different times in different systems. That is the great year of the ancients. They worked out all sourts of cycles. The whole Kolob concept suggests that "archaic order: which today is being retrieved through the serious study of the oldest myths, monuments, and idols of the race. "As we follow the clues--stars, numbers," write de Santillana and von Dechend, "a huge framework of connections is revelaed at many levels. One is inside an echoing manifold, where everything responds and everything has a place and a time assigned to it. This is a true edieice. . . a World-Image that first the many levels, nd al of it kept in order by strict measure."[77]

The concept of unity and identity so prominent in the Egyptian text is well expressed in the Pearl of Great Price: "And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things which are in the heavens above and things which are of earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me" (Moses 6:63). Such is the "echoing manifold," with Kolob in control

In this huge framework of connections, the unit of measurement is, according to de Santillana and von Dechend, "always some form of time."[78] And it is the same in the Prophet's explanation of the multileveled "firmament of the heavens" which "answers to the measurement of time"--that is,of the revolutions or orbits of the heavenly bodies.[79]

….this earth which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh.

Hugh Nibley:

The Lord used this earth as the basis in the explanation of his creations to both Abraham and Moses (Abraham 3:4-7,9; Moses 1:35-36), "according to the measurement of the earth which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh" (Fac. 2, figs. 1,4, explanation). This, of course, suggests Jaoel, the angel who visits Abraham in the Apocalypse of Abraham who is easily identified by George H. Box as Jehovah[80]

What is that mysterious name, Jehovah, and its form? [. . .] The form we all know in common use, Jehovah or Yahweh, is held by the Jewish scholars to be "only meant for the masses" and not the true or real Tetragrammaton at al.[81] [. . .]

"The original letters of the Tetragrammaton," Phineas Mordell concludes, "were [Hebrew word] instead of [Hebrew word],"[82] which corresponds to Joseph Smith's j-a-o-e (yod, ayin, waw, aleph)[83]

the key of power (figure 2)

The Hebrew word for key (miptah), literally means "opener," while the Egyptian name of the god who bears this staff is Wp-w3.wt (Wepawet) = Opener of the Ways.[84] As Hugh Nibley has expressed :

The Egyptian is constantly concerned with being checked or blocked (h.sf) in his career. Only real power, the power of the key, can overcome his determined opponents. It shall become apparent that the key plays a major role both in the hypocephalus and in the Prophet's interpretation of it.[85]

Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head (figure 3)

Hugh Nibley:

Joseph Smith's critics have pointed out that his explanation of figure 3 so far--the throne, the sun-crown--would be an easy guess. "Clothed with power," however, is a palpable hit; for the big was-scepter that the king holds stands for "dominion," according to Raymond Faulkner[86] and for "dominion, lordship," according to Alan H. Gardiner; [87]

Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens; also a numerical figure, in Egyptian signifying one thousand

FIGURE 4 Regarding the "expanse, or firmament of the heavens" and its relationship to Sokar, the God depicted here:

Our figure 4 goes back to the earliest Egyptian iconography, found on an ivory tomb belonging to King Djet (serpen) from the First Dynasty; on it has been drawn "a boat beneath which two wings representing te sky are spread."[88] It is "the sun-sip on the wings of the sky, . . . the two outstretched wings above the earth, the sheltering wings of the sky-god, from which was later derived the idea of the hawk as the sky-god"[89]The inscription with the relief from Edfu adds: "the expanse [circumference] of the heavens is beneath his wings; . . . your body . . . is the sky which is adorned with its stars[90] The bird in the boat is sometimes exchanged for the sky-goddess Nut, whose outstretched wings are the symbol of protection, [91]their purpose being to enfold and embrace everything (fig. 30)...for Hans Bonnet the wings show that the woman is the bird "which is usually put in place of her." The best known Egyptian symbol of the sky, she controls not only the cycle of the stars but also that of the sun.[92][93]

Regarding the numerical figure, Hugh Nibley, citing non-LDS Egyptologist Erik Hornung, made the following argument:

So far so good for Smith; all that seems quite obvious, but what about the next statement: "Also a numerical figure in Egyptian signifying 1000"? Professional Egyptologists have protested to the author that there is nothing known to them to justify attributing the number 1000 to figure 4. Yet here, if ever, the Joseph Smith explanation is right on target. The woman Nu, the sky-goddess of the outspread wings, has a peculiar epithet, and it is the same name as that given to the ship in figure 4, which means literally "a Thousand Are Her Souls," or "The One with a Thousand Souls,"[94] The Thousand Souls are stars, and she is so called because the stars are herchildren; a Pyramid Text says, "You (Nut) have taken to yourself ever god who has his own ship ([egyptian script] hb3) and have instructed them in the starry sky ([egyptian script] h3-b3=s) so that they will not depart from you as stars. Do not let NN be moved far from you in your name of 'Heaven' ([Egyptian script] hr.t) And this takes us to Abraham. Not only was he asked to count the stars as a metaphorical measure of his progeny, but he meets us in Genesis 15:5 as both an observer ([Hebrew script] habbet) and counter ([Hebrew script] li-spor) of the stars. We also see him, according to Facsimile 3, "reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king's court" (Fac. 3, fig 1, explanation). Reasoning and counting are te same word in the famous stele of a great princess, a daughter of Psameticus II, which reads, "Behold ye Khabasu of Heliopolis . . . the God is born . .v. one who can take the helm. Osiris Anchnesneferibre (the princess) will reckon (calculate, reason, w3d) with you concerning the secret which is in the Great Hall (w3s.t, of the palace) of the gods and will take along Osiris in his Ship of a Thousand, even with the two heads, so that by it he can mount to heaven and to the counterheaven."[95] This is our figure 4. Even more impressive is the way the Joseph Smith explanation seems to parrot everything the Worterbuch says about the Khabasu. According to the Worterbuch, h3-b3. s means: "Literally, 'a thousand fold is her [the goddess of heaven] souls,' as a collective designation for the host of stars, the stars."[96][97]

...answering to the measuring of the time...

Hugh Nibley:

The third most significant thing about figure 4, according to Joseph Smith, is its office in "answering to the measure of time," namely by the cycles and revolutions of the heavens. Since all these figures mark both the completion and initiation of various life cycles, time is of the essence and the figure of the Sokar-ship is the most important agent of coordination. It was at the sed-festival or jubilee that the bird was borne forth in procession on his ship. It is specifically figure 4 that coordinates the funereal with the astral them by virtue by its "calendrical" significance--that is, as the primordial measurement of time.[98][99]

...and is said by the Egyptians to represent the Sun (Fig 5)

Hugh Nibley:

But Joseph Smith tells us that figure 5 is the Sun. No problem. From being the mother of the Sun with the new born disk rising between her horns--a design in evidence in prehistoric times--it was an easy step to becoming the Sun itself[100]. As early as the Old Kingdom, the cow appears "as the female equivalent of Re."[101] At Opet in Luxor, where the Mother-Cow was worshiped as Hathor of Coptus, she was called the Sun of the Two Worlds--that is, both of Horus the son of Osiris and Amun-Re the Sun of Thebes[102]Her horns, flanked by the same two feathers that our figure 2 wears as the Sun at the zenith, showing that the cow resurrects the Sun as well as the human race. [103]

Kokaubeam (Fig 5)

John Tvedtnes:

Abraham 3:13 defines Kokob as “star” and Kokaubeam as “stars, or all the great lights, which were in the firmament of heaven.” When first published in the Times & Seasons, the passage read “Kolob” in error. They’d written Kolob so many times that the typesetter thought that’s what belonged here. The manuscripts however have Kokob corresponding to the Hebrew word that we have written here kōkāb and denotes in the one singular and the other in the plural. The plural is also found two other times in the Book of Abraham and it’s called in Facsimile 2, Fig. 5 and also Abraham 3:16 it lists Kokaubeam or kōkābīm in Hebrew. The correct pronunciation (inaudible) means “the” so it’s “the stars.” Lundquist noted that one of the deities in Deimel’s list was Kakob meaning “star”. Similar, Kakkab is the name of one of the god’s mentioned in the Ebla records discovered in northwestern Syria.

Earth in its four quarters (Fig 6)

Joseph correctly identified the four canopic jars in figure 6 as the earth in its four quarters. Non-LDS Egyptologist E.A. Wallis Budge has translated it in the same way. As he wrote:

The four children of Horus played a very important role in the funeral works of the early dynasties; they originally represented the four supports of heaven, but very soon each was regarded as the god of one of the four quarters of the earth, and also of that quarter of the heavens which was above it.[104]

LDS Scholars have also cited Maarten Raven, a non-LDS Egyptologist whose work also supports Joseph's explanation. [105]

Represents god sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove (Figure 7)

The epithet of Min is "He of the upraised hand," and his identification is the flail and the erect phallus with which he appears in the oldest known Egyptian statue--he is always in human form[106] They are also signs of procreation. Min was intimately related to the god Amun, and Amun was probably derived from him.[107]. "Amun is the other self of Min; . . . his high priest was called 'The Opener of the Gates of Heaven,' while the high priest of Min at Letopolis was the 'Opener of the Mouth upon the Earth,' i.e., the mortals here on earth upon whom the heavenly power was conferred."[108] The Greeks and Romans associated him with Pan and Priapus [109] Min is the "Creator god who made the heaven and brought forth the gods, who made the earth and created men . . . and who keeps all things alive."[110]

Birds are frequently used as messengers in Egyptian inscriptions. See under Facsimile 1 for our discussion of it.

The wedjat eye that is between the birds hands and being passed to Min is representative of power. Hugh Nibley:

But most especially the eye belongs to the king and to kingship. Osiris gets the eye back after Horus has rescued it for him; he needs it to rule the kingdom below as Horus and Re need it to rule on earth and in haven.[111] The eye was, according to Griffiths, the Eye of Horus[112]

The eye fills the king completely;[113] it purifies him[114] it gives him special knowledge, visionary power. [115] It exalts the king and places him at the head of the Greater and Lesser Councils.[116] [. . .] In the Pyramid Texts the fusion of his king's nature with God of heaven takes place when his statue is crowned with the moon-eye of Upper Egypt and the sun-eye of Lower Egypt, and then is anointed, passing throuhg the middle chamber of stars into a room in which heaven was scenically depicted."[117] It is the ultimate supreme power over men and gods [118] Its power is especially protective, encircling the king[119] [. . .] With all its power, the wedjat is an important element in the ordinances. The functions of the wedjat-eye are combined in the anointing oil, both as the oil of heating that revives the smitten hero[120] and as the very precious oil used in the ordinances of anointing the brow or breast, specifically to bestow authority ad power.[121] It is the anointing which transforms the nature of the individual.[122] All this is in the wedjat eye itself, which by anointing imparts soul and body, restoration, joy, and thankfulness with its obligation of obedience.[123]

In other ordinances it is the food of the sacrament, the wedjat-eye is the power of the bread which fills, revives, and strengthens the king.[124] It is the strength given by sacramental food.[125] [. . .]

By now it should be clear to any Latter-day Saint reader that the elusive wedjat-eye, intimately familar yet strangely elusive, is a symbol of that equally common all-but-indefinable power called the priesthood.

Joseph's explanation fits nicely with these symbols.

Contains writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God; Ought not to be revealed at the present time; Also; Also. If the world can find out these numbers, so let it be. Amen (Figures 8-11)

Hugh Nibley:

Joseph Smith explained that the three lines of text, figures 8-11, contain "writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God" and "ought not to be revealed at the present time." These lines contain a prayer to Osiris, the god of the dead, to grant life to the owner of this hypocephalus. A common theme of all Egyptian funerary literature is the resurrection of the dead and their glorification and deification in the afterlife, which is certainly a central element of our own temple ceremony.

There follows a transcription, transliteration, and translation of figures 8-11. (11)[Series of Egyptian hieroglyphs from figure 11] (10) [Series of Egyptian hieroglyphs from figure 10] (9) [Series of Egyptian hieroglyps from figure 9] (8)[Series of Egyptian hieroglyphs from figure 8] (11) I ntr sdr. m sp (10) tpy, ntr '3 nb p.t, t3, (9) dw3.t, mw=f '3, (8) d3 'nh b3 Wsir Ssq. (11) O God of the Sleeping Ones[126] from the time of (10) the creation.[127] O Mighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, (9) of the hereafter, and of his great waters,[128] (8) may the soul of Osiris[129]Shishaq[130] be granted life.

As stated above, this is a prayer or plea of Shishaq, the ownder of the hypocephalus, to Osiris, the god of the dead, who is the Lord of all things, to grant him eternal life.[131]

Figures.....19, 20, and 21 will be given in in the own due time of the Lord

Hugh Nibley:

The text found in figures 19-21 are as follows: (21)[Egyptian hieroglyphs] (20)[Egyptian hieroglyphs] (19)[Egyptian hieroglyphs]

(21)iw wnn=k (20) m ntr pf (19) dd.wy.

(21) You shall ever be (20) as that God, (19) the Busirian.[132]

This continues the overall theme of the hypocephalus, and indeed Egyptian funerary literature in general. The deceased is promised that he will be like Osiris--he will be resurrected and live eternally as a god.[133]

Abraham and the Temple Endowment (Themes of Facisimile 2)

Hugh Nibley likened the temple endowment to the version of the Book of Breathings Made by Isis contained in the Joseph Smith papyri. The document is organized as follows:

  • The purpose of the document is given.
  • The individual is pronounced clean and enters the hall of justice
  • The individual enters the underworld with the setting sun and is divinized
  • The individual is resurrected and given personal permission to live among the gods.
  • The individual is assured of a fully functioning body and proceeds on the way of God.
  • The individual is given a name and allowed to partake of the offerings.
  • The gods escort the individual to various sacred places.
  • Various gods protect the individual from sickness
  • The individual is allowed to fellowship with the Gods
  • The individual is inducted into a chapel in the temple to celebrate a festival.
  • The individual will live by the fellowship permit he has received, and his enemies will no longer exist.
  • The gods tell the individual that because he is among the followers of god, his soul will live forever
  • The gods command that all doors be open to the individual
  • An offering formula is recited
  • Different gods are addressed, and the individual states that he is free from various sins. "He gave bread to te hungry, water to the thirsty, and clothing to the naked.
  • The individual is commanded to enter the next life with all the privileges of the gods.
  • Instructions for the deposition of the document are given [134]


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith said that this is 'God sitting on his throne'. It’s actually Min, the pagan Egyptian god of fertility or sex"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

One of the most disturbing facts I discovered in my research of Facsimile 2 is figure #7. Joseph Smith said that this is “God sitting on his throne…” It’s actually Min, the pagan Egyptian god of fertility or sex. Min is sitting on a throne with an erect penis (which can be seen in the figure). In other words, Joseph Smith is saying that this figure with an erect penis is Heavenly Father sitting on his throne.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: This is a point of mockery used by critics because they know that it offends 21st century sensibilities regarding the manner in which we ought to portray God.The facts: This wasn't a big issue as far as the Egyptians were concerned.

Jump to Detail:

Question: If modern Egyptologists say that this is a representation of Min, and Min is a “pagan” God, how could Joseph Smith say that it represents God sitting on his throne?

In the Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure 7, Joseph Smith identified the ithyphallic Egyptian god "Min" as representing "God sitting upon his throne"

Here is some commentary by Kerry Muhlestein:

[W]e cannot be sure that we should be looking to the Egyptians to know how to interpret these symbols in the Book of Abraham. What if Abraham’s descendants took Egyptian elements of culture and applied their own meanings to them? We know that his numerous offspring did so on many occasions. For example, Jesus himself did this when he gave the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, which clearly draws from the Egyptian tale of Setne-Kamwas. The Apocalypse of Abraham and Testament of Abraham are two more examples of Semitic adaptations of Egyptian religious traditions. Thus, is it not possible that we should look for a Jewish interpretation of the Egyptian drawings, rather than for an Egyptian interpretation? Or what if the drawings were originally done in Jewish/Israelite artistic style, but when they were recopied in the second century BC by an Egyptian, the Egyptian artist redrew them according to his artistic customs? Where should we then look to know how to interpret these drawings? It is apparent that there are serious problems with trying to verify or disprove Joseph’s explanations of the facsimiles by comparing them to Egyptological explanations. [135]

In a question/answer session, Muhlestein again reiterated these points:

[W]e do not know to what we really should compare the facsimiles. Was Joseph Smith giving us an interpretation that ancient Egyptians would have held, or one that only a small group of priests interested in Abraham would have held, or one that a group of ancient Jews in Egypt would have held, or something another group altogether would have held, or was he giving us an interpretation we needed to receive for our spiritual benefit regardless of how any ancient groups would have seen these? [136]

From Michael Rhodes:

A seated ithyphallic god with a hawk's tail, holding aloft a flail. This is a form of Min, the god of the regenerative, procreative forces of nature, perhaps combined with Horus, as the hawk's tail would seem to indicate. Before the god is what appears to be a bird presenting him with a Wedjat-eye, the symbol of all good gifts. In other hypocephali it can also be an ape, a snake, or a hawk-headed snake that is presenting the eye. This figure represents Nehebka, a snake god and one of the judges of the dead in the 125th chapter of the Book of the Dead. Nehebka was considered to be a provider of life and nourishment and as such was often shown presenting a pair of jars or a Wedjat-eye. As for the bird found in Facsimile 2, this could symbolize the Ba or soul (which the Egyptians often represented as a bird) presenting the Wedjat-eye to the seated god. Joseph Smith said this figure represented God sitting upon his throne revealing the grand key-words of the priesthood. The connection of the Wedjat-eye with “the grand key-words of the priesthood” was discussed above. Joseph also explained there was a representation of the sign of the Holy Ghost in the form of a dove. The Egyptians commonly portrayed the soul or spirit as a bird, so a bird is an appropriate symbol for the Holy Ghost. Joseph Smith explained that the remaining figures contained writings that cannot be revealed to the world. Stressing the secrecy of these things is entirely in harmony with Egyptian religious documents such as the hypocephalus and the 162nd chapter of the Book of the Dead. For example, we read in the 162nd chapter of the Book of the Dead, “This is a great and secret book. Do not allow anyone's eyes to see it!” Joseph also says line 8 “is to be had in the Holy Temple of God.” Line 8 reads, “Grant that the soul of the Osiris, Shishaq, may live (eternally).” Since the designated purpose of the hypocephalus was to make the deceased divine, it is not unreasonable to see here a reference to the sacred ordinances performed in our Latter-day temples. [137]

References in the figure are to Michael D. Rhodes, "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus . . . Twenty Years Later." off-site


Question: Is the representation of Min actually Egyptian "pornography"?

This attitude demonstrates not only an immaturity about sexuality, but it also a misunderstanding of ancient Egyptian religion

To answer this question about Facsimile 2 figure 7, the first thing we need to disabuse is that it constitutes "pornography" because it shows the deity with an erect phallus. This attitude demonstrates not only an immaturity about sexuality, but it also a misunderstanding of ancient Egyptian religion. The characterization of this as "pornography" is grossly inappropriate. The Egyptians would almost certainly have not conceived of this figure on the hypocephalus as "pornographic" in the way most people understand the word. This attitude reflected by some is a good example of how our modern, sexually-obsessed society can easily misinterpret religious art. We see an erect penis in a drawing and think "pornography," whereas an ancient Egyptian would have seen one and thought of fertility, virility and life. Hence the depiction of Min with an erection was a sign of his life-giving ability. We have analogies in Northwest Semitic depictions of God. (El is both called and depicted as a virile bull in the Ugaritic texts, both because of his procreative powers and his greatness over the other gods.)

Another thing to keep in mind is just how common syncretism of religious ideas and iconography was between Near Eastern cultures. We know ancient Hebrews and other Near Eastern people used a phallic God to depict “the God of the Bible” all the time. The Canaanite god Baal, for example, shares the same epithet with Yahweh ("cloud rider") in Psalm 68:4.


Question: Who is this Egyptian god "Min"?

Although it is true that one of Min's attributes was that of a fertility god, or a god of procreation, he had other traits that are analogous to the attributes of both the Northwest Semitic deities of El and Baal

Hugh Nibley treated Min in his magnum opus One Eternal Round, pp. 304-322. Although it is true that one of Min's attributes was that of a fertility god, or a god of procreation, he had other traits that are analogous to the attributes of both the Northwest Semitic deities of El and Baal. For one, he is often portrayed as a man sitting on a throne. Second, he is a god of Creation, the Father, Most High God, etc., as El is depicted in the Ugaritic texts, and later in the Hebrew Bible. He is also a harvest-vegetation god, and, like Baal, oversees the assurance of the renewal of animal and vegetation life through rains and floods, etc. To draw attention to only the fertility aspect of Min is a very myopic view. What's more, John Gee, in a very important article [138], has pointed out that the figure of Min is often simply called "the great god" by the Egyptians themselves.


Response to claim: Facsimile 3, "Joseph Smith’s translation of the papyri and facsimiles are gibberish"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Egyptologists state that Joseph Smith’s translation of the papyri and facsimiles are gibberish and have absolutely nothing to do with what the papyri and facsimiles actually are and what they actually say....Facsimile #3:


Joseph misidentifies the Egyptian god Osiris as Abraham.
Misidentifies the Egyptian god Isis as the Pharaoh.
Misidentifies the Egyptian god Maat as the Prince of the Pharaoh.
Misidentifies the Egyptian god Anubis as a slave.
Misidentifies the dead Hor as a waiter.


Joseph misidentifies – twice – a female as a male.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: The fact that Joseph deliberately identified two female figures as male should provide a clue to the fact that he was applying a parallel interpretation to the figure, and that it won't match what Egyptologists would produce.The facts: It is significant, however, that Joseph correctly notes two concepts that are present in other ancient texts: Abraham being seated next to Pharoah, and that Abraham taught the Egyptians astronomy. Another cool evidence for the Facsimile can be read about here.

Jump to Detail:

Question: What are the criticisms related to Facsimile 3?

The following are common criticisms associated with Facsimile 3

  • The scene depicted is a known Egyptian vignette which Egyptologists state has nothing to do with Abraham.
  • Joseph indicated that specific characters in the facsimile confirmed the identities that he assigned to specific figures.
  • Joseph identified two obviously female figures as "King Pharaoh" and "Prince of Pharaoh."

The majority of those who bring forth these issues are not experts on Egyptian writing or art, so you must choose which expert you want to believe

Like almost all of us, the majority of those who bring forth these issues are not experts on Egyptian writing or art. So, this presents an interesting problem--if we are going to take an "academic" or "intellectual" approach to the problem, both believers and critics must all decide to trust an expert. The problem that we immediately encounter is that there are multiple "experts," and these experts do not all agree. Therefore, we are left to decide which "expert" we will trust. There are LDS experts who believe the Book of Abraham is a genuine artifact, and that it testifies to Joseph Smith' status as a prophet. Non-LDS experts obviously do not agree with that.

Latter-day Saints, as believers unequipped to deal with Egyptology, are not able to really assess that information for ourselves. We would need 15-20 years of schooling to do it. So, we can either trust our spiritual future to the experts of our choice, or we can rely ultimately upon revelation.

Critics' claim that Facsimile #3 alone is enough to settle the question of whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet. This is very convenient for them, because it allows one to focus only on one (very complex) issue that only a few people have the tools to understand. It is, in a sense, to put the critic in an "unassailable position." The critics has made his or her choice, and does not want to debate it or be told he or she is wrong, or return to the question.

And, what the critic might consider a "slam dunk" or "vital point," might (from a believer's or some Egyptologist's point of view) really not be so conclusive OR so vital.


Question: What is the correct interpretation of Facsimile 3?

Rhodes: "It represents the judgment of the dead before the throne of Osiris"

According to Michael D. Rhodes in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,

Facsimile 3 presents a constantly recurring scene in Egyptian literature, best known from the 125th chapter of the Book of the Dead. It represents the judgment of the dead before the throne of Osiris. It is likely that it came at the end of the Book of Breathings text, of which Facsimile 1 formed the beginning, since other examples contain vignettes similar to this. Moreover, the name of Hor, owner of the papyrus, appears in the hieroglyphs at the bottom of this facsimile.

Joseph Smith explained that Facsimile 3 represents Abraham sitting on the pharaoh's throne teaching principles of astronomy to the Egyptian court. Critics have pointed out that the second figure, which Joseph Smith says is the king, is the goddess Hathor (or Isis). There are, however, examples in other papyri, not in the possession of Joseph Smith, in which the pharaoh is portrayed as Hathor. In fact, the whole scene is typical of Egyptian ritual drama in which costumed actors played the parts of various gods and goddesses.

In summary, Facsimile 1 formed the beginning, and Facsimile 3 the end of a document known as the Book of Breathings, an Egyptian religious text dated paleographically to the time of Jesus. Facsimile 2, the hypocephalus, is also a late Egyptian religious text. The association of these facsimiles with the book of Abraham might be explained as Joseph Smith's attempt to find illustrations from the papyri he owned that most closely matched what he had received in revelation when translating the Book of Abraham. Moreover, the Prophet's explanations of each of the facsimiles accord with present understanding of Egyptian religious practices. [139]

Gee and Hauglid: "most Books of Breathings Made by Isis show a man with his hands raised in adoration to a cow"

However, BYU Egyptologist John Gee challenges the notion that Facsimile 3 is associated with Book of the Dead 125,

[B]oth Facsimile 1 and Facsimile 3 are assumed to belong to the Book of Breathings Made by Isis because they accompanied the text in the Joseph Smith Papyri. Yet the contemporary parallel texts of the Book of Breathings Made by Isis belonging to members of the same family have different vignettes associated with them. Instead of a scene like Facsimile 3, most Books of Breathings Made by Isis show a man with his hands raised in adoration to a cow. This indicates that the facsimiles of the Book of Abraham do not belong to the Book of Breathings. [140]


Question: What have been the responses to Joseph's interpretations of Facsimile 3?

The identification of these obvious female figures as male does suggest that Joseph was using the existing image to illustrate a concept

Figure 2, identified by Joseph as "King Pharaoh" and figure 4, identified by Joseph as "Prince of Pharaoh" are obviously drawn as female figures. The fact that they are drawn as females is so obvious, in fact, that critics take this as evidence of Joseph's lack of ability to interpret the facsimiles in any fashion whatsoever. Since the figures would obviously have appeared as females even to Joseph's eye, why then are they interpreted as two of the primary male figures?

Regarding the identification of these figures, John Gee notes,

Facsimile 3 has received the least attention. The principal complaint raised by the critics has been regarding the female attire worn by figures 2 and 4, who are identified as male royalty. It has been documented, however, that on certain occasions, for certain ritual purposes, some Egyptian men dressed up as women. [141]

The identification of these obvious female figures as male does suggest that Joseph was using the existing image to illustrate a concept.

Ritner: "Smith’s hopeless translation also turns the goddess Maat into a male prince"

Robert K. Ritner, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago, states that "Smith’s hopeless translation also turns the goddess Maat into a male prince, the papyrus owner into a waiter, and the black jackal Anubis into a Negro slave."[142]

Larry E. Morris notes the following in response to criticism leveled by Professor Ritner at the Book of Abraham,

Furthermore, Ritner does not inform his readers that certain elements of the Book of Abraham also appear in ancient or medieval texts. Take, for example, Facsimile 3, which depicts, as Ritner puts it, "enthroned Abraham lecturing the male Pharaoh (actually enthroned Osiris with the female Isis)." [143] In what Ritner describes as nonsense, Joseph Smith claimed that Abraham is "sitting upon Pharoah's throne . . . reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy" (Facsimile 3, explanation).

Clearly, Joseph Smith's interpretation did not come from Genesis (where there is no discussion of Abraham doing such a thing). From Ritner's point of view, therefore, this must qualify as one of Joseph's "uninspired fantasies." But going a layer deeper reveals interesting complexities. A number of ancient texts, for example, state that Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians. Citing the Jewish writer Artapanus (who lived prior to the first century BC), a fourth-century bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius, states: "They were called Hebrews after Abraham. [Artapanus] says that the latter came to Egypt with all his household to the Egyptian king Pharethothes, and taught him astrology, that he remained there twenty years and then departed again for the regions of Syria."22

As for Abraham sitting on a king's throne—another detail not mentioned in Genesis—note this example from Qisas al-Anbiya' (Stories of the Prophets), an Islamic text compiled in AD 1310: "The chamberlain brought Abraham to the king. The king looked at Abraham; he was good looking and handsome. The king honoured Abraham and seated him at his side."23 [144]

Morris "Ritner may counter that such parallels do not establish the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. That is true, but certainly they deserve some mention"

Morris concludes,

Ritner may counter that such parallels do not establish the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. That is true, but certainly they deserve some mention. At the very least, these parallels show that "all of this nonsense" is not really an appropriate description of Joseph Smith's interpretation. Fairness demands that Ritner, in his dismissal of the content of the Book of Abraham, at least mention similarities between it and other texts about Abraham and point readers to other sources of information. [145]

Facsimile 3
Fig. 1. Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.
Fig. 2. King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.
Fig. 3. Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1.
Fig. 4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.
Fig. 5. Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.
Fig. 6. Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince.
Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court.


Question: Are there any known parallels between elements of Joseph's interpretation of Facsimile 3 with other ancient texts?

The following parallels exist between Joseph's interpretations and other ancient texts

Abraham sitting upon Pharoah's throne (Fig 1)

The Qisas includes an account of Abraham being seated next to a king. [146]

Other traditions that state that Abraham sat on a king's throne:

  • Al-Kisa'i 170, p. 396
  • Al-Rabhguzi 64-65, 69, pp. 449-50, 451-52
  • Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 108b, p. 122
  • Book of Jasher 15:22, p. 153
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 42:5, 55:6, pp. 97,101; Deuteronomy 2:33, p. 112; Ecclesiastes 4:14.1, p. 114
  • Tanna debe Eliyahu 8-9, p. 76

There is also evidence of semitic adaptation of Osiris to represent Abraham:

Kevin Barney:

The adaptation of an Egyptian psychostasy vignette from chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead in the judgment scene of the Testament of Abraham, the adaptation of the Egyptian original underlying the Demotic Story of Setna in a Jewish popular version (replacing Osiris with Abraham), and the adaptation of a hypocephalus in the Apocalypse of Abraham provide a stunning glimpse of how J-red, living and working in the same era, may have adapted vignettes from a Book of Breathings and a hypocephalus as illustrations of the Book of Abraham, which had come under his care as a part of the ancient transmission of the text. In my view, the Semitic Adaptation theory turns the facsimiles and their interpretations from a perceived weakness of the Book of Abraham into a real strength.[147]


With a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood (Fig 1)

Traditions about Abraham that speak of him holding the priesthood:

  • Al-Nisa'bu'ri 18:4, p. 404
  • Babylonian Talmud Nedarz'm 32b, pp. 120—21
  • Georgius Cedrenus 1, pp. 269—70
  • Kebra Nagast 105, p. 280
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 46:5; 55:6, pp. 100, 101; Leviticus 25:6, p. 105; Numbers 4:8; 10:1, p. 109; Song of Songs 5215.1, p. 117
  • Pesz‘kta Rabbati 40:6a, p. 81
  • Philo of Alexandria, De Abrahamo 98, p. 41

Traditions that speak to Abraham being heir to priesthood from fathers:

  • Ibn al-Tayyib 7:6, pp. 254—55
  • Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 25:6, p. 105; Numbers 4:8, p. 109
  • Mishnah Aboth 5:2, p. 62



Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1 (Figure 3)

Foreigners in Egypt, like Abraham was, are often represented by a Lotus Flower, the figure depicted here, as argued by Dr. Hugh Nibley. Nibley cites Waltraud Guglielmi, a non-LDS Egyptologist whose work supports his assertion specifically referencing divine and human visitors in Egypt.

The lotus, perhaps the richest of all Egyptian symbols, can stand for the purest abstraction, as when it indicates nothing but a date in one tomb or a place in another.[148] In Facsimile 3 we are told that it points to two things, a man and a country, indicating the special guest-to-host relationship between them. Most of the time the lotus announces a party situation, adding brightness to the occasion; etiquette required guests to a formal party to bring a lotus offering to the host--hence the flower served as a token both of invitation and admission[149]. [E.A. Wallis Budge] observed how in the Kerasher Manuscript, in which the person being presented wears exactly the same peculiar lotus headdress as our Shulem (figure 5), "instead of the bullok-skin dripping with blood, which is generally seen suspended near the throne of the god, masses of lotus flowers are represented, giving a totally different aspect to the scene[150]. Yet, while the lotuses "seem to have figured prominently" in formal occasions, according to Aylward Blackman, we still do not understand the flower offerings, any more than we do the combination of lotus stands and small libation vessels such as our figure 3.[151]. It would now seem that these tall and narrow Egyptian ritual stands originated in Canaan.[152]

[. . .]

The lotus is definitely a welcome to Egypt from the king to human and divine visitors; the divinity who received the token reciprocated by responding to the king "I give thee all the lands of thy majesty, the foreign lands to become they slaves. I give thee the birds, symbols of thine enemies"[153] In receiving a lotus, the king in return ritually receives the land itself, while the god in accepting a lotus from the king promises him in return the reverent obedience of his subjects.[154] "The flowers are mostly heraldic plants . . . associated with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt," for in some the main purpose of the lotus rites is to "uphold the dominion of the King" as nourisher of the land.[155] Moreover, its significance is valid at every level of society, the lotus being a preeminent example of how mythological themes and religious symbolism were familiarly integrated into the everyday life of the Egyptians.[156].

[. . .]

The numerous studies of the Egyptian lotus design are remarkably devoid of conflict, since this is one case in which nobody insists on a single definitive interpretation. The points emphasized are (1) The abstract nature of the symbol, containing meanings that are far from obvious at first glance (2) the lotus as denoting high society, especially royal receptions, at which the presnetation of a lotus to the host was obligatory and [signified] that the bearer had been invited; to be remiss in lotus courtesy was an unpardonable blunder, for anyone who refuses the lotus is under a curse, (3) the lotus as the symbol of Lower Egypt, the Delta with all its patriotic and sentimental attachments ; (4) the lotus as Nefertem, the defender of the border; (5) the lotus as the king or rule, defender, and nourisher of the land; (6) the lotus as the support of the throne at the coronation. It is a token of welcome and invitation to the royal court and the land, proferred by the king himself as guardian of the border.[157]

Abraham reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king's court (Bottom of explanations)

Traditions that state that Abraham learned astronomy from ancient records and from God:

  • 4 Ezra 3:14, p. 61
  • AI—Baidäwi 2:2, 13—14, 18, 20—21, pp. 427, 429—30
  • Al—Kisa"1‘ 51, pp. 386-87
  • Al—Maqdisi 53—54, pp. 355—56
  • Al-Nisa‘bu‘ri 1419—10, p. 399
  • Al-Rabghu’zi 4, 16, pp. 436, 438
  • A1—T_abari 252—7028—9, 16—17; 316—1721—5, pp. 336, 338, 345 A1—T.araf1‘ 31—32, 42—43, 52, pp. 373, 374
  • Al-Tha‘labi 2:1-2, pp. 360—61
  • Al-Ya‘qu'bi 1, p. 330
  • Alcuin, Epistola 83, p. 216
  • Anonymous Christian Chronicle 7, p. 228
  • Apocalypse of Abraham 19:3—9, p. 57
  • Armenian Paraphrase of Genesis: after Genesis 11:30, versions A and B, pp. 284—85 Babylonian Talmud Shabbath 156a—b, p. 119;
  • Yoma 28b, p. 120
  • Book ofIasher 9:17—18, p. 139
  • Book of the Cave of Treasures 25a.1, p. 192
  • Book of the Rolls 122a, pp. 209—10
  • Chronicles of[erahmeel 35:4, p. 134
  • Clementine Recognitions 32, pp. 185—86
  • De computo, p. 226
  • Eupolemus 3—4, p. 8
  • Falasha Story 2, pp. 485—86
  • Fimu'cus Matemus, Mathesis 4 Proem 5; 4.17.2, 5; 4.18.1; 8.35—84.14, pp. 478-84
  • George Hamartolos, pp. 237—38
  • George Syncellus 4, pp. 225
  • Gregory of Nyssa, pp. 187—88
  • Ibn al—Athir 4—5, pp. 422—23
  • Ibn a1~]awzi 1, pp. 418—19
  • Ibn Isha‘q 4—5, 7, pp. 304—5
  • lsha'q ibn Bishr 164A:13, 17; 164821—4, p. 316
  • Josephus, Antiquities of the Iews 1.7.1—2; 1.8.2, pp. 47-48, 49
  • luliilees 11:8; 12:17, pp. 15, 17
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 44:12; 48:6; 53:4, pp. 99, 100, 101; Exodus 38:6, p. 104; Numbers 2:12, 14, pp. 107—8
  • Orphica 27—29, pp. 12—13
  • Other Muslim Traditions: Turkish 5, p. 459
  • Pesikta Rabbati 11:4a; 43:1, pp. 78, 82
  • Philo of Alexandria, De Mutatione Nominum 67, 72, p. 36; De Sonmiis 53—54, p. 37; Quaestiones et Solutiones in Genesin 3.42—43, pp. 42—43
  • Pseudo-Philo 18:5, p. 24
  • Qiqel and Yahya 1, 7, pp. 488, 489
  • Qur’an 6:75, p. 292
  • Räwandi 2, p. 415
  • Sefer Yetzirah Gra-Ari 6:7; Short 6:4; Long 6:8, pp. 86—87
  • Sibylline Oracles 3218—28, p. 11
  • Symeon Logothetes 1—2, pp. 249—50 Vettius Valens, Anthologiae 2.29.1-6, pp. 476—77
  • Zohar: Genesis 80a, 86a, pp. 158, 160—61
  • Contrast Zohar: Numbers 148a, p. 163

Traditions that speak to Abraham teaching astronomy to Egyptians:

  • Anonymous Work, p. 10
  • Artapanus, p. 7
  • Eupolemus 8, p. 8—9
  • George Syncellus 5, pp. 225
  • Index A: Thematic 0 545
  • Ioannes Zonaras, p. 261
  • Josephus, Antiquities ofthe Jews 1.8.2, p. 49
  • Zohar: Genesis 83a, p. 160
  • Contrast Chronicles of lerahmeel 35:4, p. 134;
  • Mahbu‘b of Menbidj (Agapius) 4, p. 248

Shulem, one of the king's principal waiters (Fig 5)

Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "Shulem, One of the King’s Principal Waiters"

John Gee,  Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (2016)
Shulem is mentioned once in the Book of Abraham. All we are told about him is his name and title. Using onomastics, the study of names, and the study of titles, we can find out more about Shulem than would at first appear. The form of Shulem’s name is attested only at two times: the time period of Abraham and the time period of the Joseph Smith papyri. (Shulem thus constitutes a Book of Abraham bullseye.) If Joseph Smith had gotten the name from his environment, the name would have been Shillem.

Click here to view the complete article


Question: What are the criticisms regarding Joseph's interpretation of specific textual elements of Facsimile 3?

Characters in the facsimile

Critics focus on three specific interpretations which reference an interpretation of characters in the facsimile. Joseph Smith provides the following identifications for three of the figures in the facsimile:

  • Fig. 2. King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.
  • Fig. 4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.
  • Fig. 5. Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.

What is notable in these particular identifications is that Joseph isn't simply assigning an identify to each figure, but is indicating that characters located near each figure confirm the assignments. Egyptologists note that the characters have an entirely different meaning.

The name Shulem

We do not know why Joseph assigned the name "Shulem" to figure #5. Hugh Nibley notes,

But where does Abraham come in? What gives a "family-night" aspect to our Facsimile 3 is figure 5, who commands the center of the stage. Instead of his being Abraham or Pharaoh, as we might expect, he is simply "Shulem, one of the king's principal waiters." To the eye of common sense, all of Joseph Smith's interpretations are enigmatic; to illustrate his story best, the man on the throne should be Pharaoh, of course, and the man standing before him with upraised hand would obviously be Abraham teaching him about the stars, while figure 6 would necessarily be Abraham's servant (Eliezer was, according to tradition, a black man).252 But if we consult the Egyptian parallels to this scene instead of our own wit and experience, we learn that the person normally standing in the position of 5 is the owner of the stele and is almost always some important servant in the palace, boasting in the biographical inscription of his glorious proximity to the king. Hall's collection of biographical stelae includes a Chief of Bowmen, Singer of Amon, Chief Builder, Scribe of the Temple, Chief Workman of Amon, Fan Bearer, King's Messenger, Guardian of the Treasury, Director of Works, King's Chief Charioteer, Standard Bearer, Pharaoh's Chief Boatman, Intendant of Pharaoh's Boat-crew, Warden of the Harim, the Queen's Chief Cook, Chief of Palace Security, etc.253 All these men, by no means of royal blood, but familiars of the palace, have the honor of serving the king in intimate family situations and are seen coming before him to pay their respects at family gatherings. Some of them, like the King's Chief Charioteer, have good Syrian and Canaanite names, like our "Shulem"—how naturally he fits into the picture as "one of the King's principal waiters!" The fact that high serving posts that brought one into close personal contact with Pharaoh—the greatest blessing that life had to offer to an Egyptian—were held by men of alien (Canaanite) blood shows that the doors of opportunity at the court were open even to foreigners like Abraham and his descendants.

But why "Shulem"? He plays no part in the story. His name never appears elsewhere; he simply pops up and then disappears. And yet he is the center of attention in Facsimile 3! That is just the point: These palace servants would in their biographical stelae glorify the moment of their greatest splendor for the edification of their posterity forever after. This would be one sure means of guaranteeing a preservation of Abraham's story in Egypt. We are told in the book of Jubilees that Joseph in Egypt remembered how his father Jacob used to read the words of Abraham to the family circle.254 We also know that the Egyptians in their histories made fullest use of all sources available—especially the material on the autobiographical stelae served to enlighten and instruct posterity.255 Facsimile 3 may well be a copy on papyrus of the funeral stele of one Shulem who memorialized an occasion when he was introduced to an illustrious fellow Canaanite in the palace. A "principal waiter" (wdpw) could be a very high official indeed, something like an Intendant of the Palace. Shulem is the useful transmitter and timely witness who confirms for us the story of Abraham at court. [158]


Response to claim: "Why are there anachronisms in the Book of Abraham?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Why are there anachronisms in the Book of Abraham? Chaldeans? Egyptus? Pharaoh? Abraham refers to the facsimiles in 1:12 and 1:14. These facsimiles did not exist in Abraham’s time as they are 1st century CE pagan Egyptian funerary documents.

FairMormon Response

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

There are ways to understand alleged anachronisms in the Book of Abraham if we are open to it not representing, in every single respect, at this very moment, a holographic narrative of the prophet.

Jump to Detail:

Question: Why would the Book of Abraham contain anachronisms?

Anachronisms may simply mean that the text that we have now has a rich transmission history. All anachronisms in the Book of Abraham are problems only if we assume that the Book of Abraham must, in every instance, at this very moment, represent a holographic narrative of the prophet

Many critics speak about some supposed anachronisms in the Book of Abraham. Among those commonly cited are the scenes in the facsimiles, Egyptus, the name “pharaoh” given to an Egyptian king, and the mention of “Chaldeans”. Anachronisms in the Book of Abraham may not be everything that critics think they are. It may simply indicate that the manuscript has a rich textual history—with redactors, copyists, and other handlers adding their own interpolations to the text as they transmitted the data and found ways to explain their stories through the tools that they had available to them. In the case of the Book of Abraham, we can react to anachronisms in one of four ways:

  1. Deny that the anachronism exists and assert that, although it has not yet been attested in an extant source, the posited characteristic does indeed date back to the Middle Bronze Age.
  2. Acknowledge the anachronism, but assign it to Joseph Smith as a translator’s anachronism, which does not in and of itself compromise the Book of Abraham as a translation of an ancient source;
  3. Acknowledge the anachronism but assign it to an ancient redactor or copyist.
  4. Acknowledge the anachronism and assign it to Joseph Smith as the modern author of the text. This is generally the stance of our critics.

The Joseph Smith Papyri from which the Book of Abraham was translated date to about 200 B.C. during the Ptolemaic period in Egyptian history. To resolve this issue, it has been pointed out by many scholars that the Book of Abraham as we have it to date may very well be a later manuscript of an earlier text[159].

As is common of many texts, ancient redactors or copyists could have used contemporary tools and language to describe ancient elements that were contemporary to Abraham or to illustrate theological points. [160]:115-116. This is a challenge that scholars have today: what comes from Abraham’s time and what is more contemporary to redactors and copyists? By way of a small example, the Canaanite El was a deity more contemporary to Abraham and matches “the idolatrous God of Elkenah mentioned in Facsimile 1 Ex 1[161]. Conversely, elements such as an adaptation of Osiris to represent Abraham are more contemporary to a later copyist or redactor[162]. Though an earlier attestation of this isn’t entirely forgone, the more likely option seems to be that Joseph translated something that was more contemporary to a later copyist or redactor. This doesn’t mean that as researchers we should become complacent and not research the matters further, but that we simply recognize what explanation fits the data the best at this moment.

If we allow ourselves to keep our minds opened, we can discover new things that help us understand the nature of the text and its transmission history. Regardless of textual transmission and provenance of different elements found within the Book of Abraham, there is nothing that affects our core theology or compromises the validity of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. What should matter to us most, perhaps, is the ancient authenticity of the Book of Abraham and not the way in which the Book of Abraham is authentically ancient.


Question: Is the mention of "Ur of the Chaldees" in the Book of Abraham an anachronism?

The Chaldeens are mentioned a number of times in the Book of Abraham

The Chaldeens are mentioned a number of times in the Book of Abraham (Abraham 1:1, 8, 13, 20, 23, 29, 30, 2:4 and 3:1.) Abraham 3:1 states:

And I, Abraham, had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees

It is claimed that the mention of "Ur of the Chaldees" in the Book of Abraham is an anachronism. According to Stephen Thompson, "scholarly estimates for the age of the patriarchs range from 2200 to 1200 B.C." [163] The Chaldeans, on the other hand, did not appear until hundreds of years later. Thompson notes that, "anything occurring after 1500 B.C. is definitely anachronistic to Abraham's lifetime." [163]

An additional complication is that scholars today place "Chaldea" in southern Mesopotamia, which is too far away to have any Egyptian influence.

The phrase "Ur of the Chaldees" appears in the Old Testament in connection with Abraham (Abram) and his father Terah

The phrase "Ur of the Chaldees" appears in the Old Testament in Genesis 11:26-28 in connection with Abraham (Abram) and his father Terah:

26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.
27 ¶Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

The location of "Ur of the Chaldees" is not known

The location of "Ur of the Chaldees" is not known, although that has been much speculation among religious scholars concerning its possible location. It is noted by the Church that "Most scholars today locate “Chaldea” (or Ur) in southern Mesopotamia, removed from the area of Egyptian influence, but cogent arguments have been made for a northern location, within the realm of Egyptian influence." [164]


Paul Hoskisson (1991): "I will suggest an alternate location for the Ur of the Chaldees in the story of Abraham"

Paul Y. Hoskisson, "Research and Perspectives: Where Was the Ur of Abraham?", Ensign (July 1991)

Most people have an interest in the material settings of the scriptural accounts they hold sacred. Beyond this interest, physical settings become particularly important when scholars locate scriptural sites on present-day maps, because on this basis scholars augment and supplement our body of scriptural knowledge with facts from the indicated sites. For instance, many scholars place the site of Abraham’s Ur in southern Mesopotamia, and on that basis suggest that Abraham had contact with and was influenced by the dominant cult of that Ur, the cult of the moon god. With the aid of the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price, I will suggest an alternate location for the Ur of the Chaldees in the story of Abraham.[165] —(Click here to continue)


John Gee: "If Oylum Hoyuk is Olishem, the Ur of the Chaldees should be one of the dozens of Middle Bronze II sites in the Kilis plain"

John Gee,

If indeed tablets from Hittite from the site identify it as Ullis, the it is probably the Ulisum that Naram-Sin attacked and is a likely candidate for Olishem. If Oylum Hoyuk is Olishem, the Ur of the Chaldees should be one of the dozens of Middle Bronze II sites in the Kilis plain. We await further discoveries and publications. At present, given the many uncertainties, we can regard this identification as promising but not proven.[166] —(Click here to continue)


Question: Are the scenes contained in the facsimiles anachronistic to the time of Abraham?

Only if we assume that the Book of Abraham, in every respect, is holographic in nature does this become a problem for it

Reverend Franklin S. Spaulding of the Utah Episcopal Church was the first to make the claim of the scenes portrayed in the facsimiles being anachronistic to the Abraham of 2000 B.C. in his pamphlet “Joseph Smith jr. as translator” in the year 1912[167]. It is true that the very existence of the scenes upon which the facsimiles are based are, at this moment[168], anachronistic to the contemporaries of Abraham. However, this is only a problem if we assume that the Book of Abraham absolutely must, in every respect, represent a holograph from the prophet at this very moment.

In the case of the Book of Abraham, we should review our options for how we can react to anachronisms:

A) Deny that the anachronism exists and assert that, although it has not yet been attested in an extant source, the posited characteristic does indeed date back to the Middle Bronze Age.

B) Acknowledge the anachronism, but assign it to Joseph Smith as a translator’s anachronism, which does not in and of itself compromise the Book of Abraham as a translation of an ancient source;

C) Acknowledge the anachronism but assign it to an ancient redactor or copyist.

D) Acknowledge the anachronism and assign it to Joseph Smith as the modern author of the text. This is generally the stance of our critics.

In the case of the existence of facsimiles, we have options A and C since B only relates to translation and not to the mere existence of scenes such as those depicted in the facsimiles in Abraham’s time. Option C, at this moment, seems to be the best explanation for what we have going on with the Facsimiles. This requires some explanation.

The Joseph Smith Papyri from which the Book of Abraham was translated date to about 200 B.C. during the Ptolemaic period in Egyptian history. To resolve this issue, it has been pointed out by many scholars that the Book of Abraham as we have it to date is a later manuscript of an earlier text[169].

As is common of many texts, ancient redactors or copyists could have used existing scenes and the narrative from Abraham as they had it to describe ancient elements that were contemporary to Abraham [160]:115-116. This is the challenge that scholars have today: what comes from Abraham’s time and what is more contemporary to redactors and copyists? Should we interpret the facsimiles as coming from Ptolemaic Egyptians or Middle Bronze Age Egyptians? By way of a small example, the Canaanite El was a deity more contemporary to Abraham and matches “the idolatrous God of Elkenah mentioned in Facsimile 1 Ex 1[170]. Conversely, elements such as the adaptation of Osiris as Abraham are more contemporary to a later copyist or redactor[171]. Though an earlier attestation of this isn’t entirely forgone, the more likely option seems to be that Joseph translated something that came from sometime post-dating the life of Abraham.

The anachronistic nature of the scenes contained in the facsimiles to Abraham could be something similar. Option A could lead us to continue a path of more exploration until we can attest the scenes at an earlier time. Option C, at the moment, best explains the data and is something that we can be open to without feeling threatened since we can have an authentic translation with an authentic phenomenon that is commonly found in many ancient texts.


Question: Is the name "Pharaoh" anachronistic to the time of Abraham?

The office or function of pharaoh goes back to the time of Abraham, the name “pharaoh” does not. Only if we assume that the Book of Abraham must, under every circumstance, be a holographic narrative of the prophet’s life does this become problematic for its authenticity

It is claimed by many that the mention of pharaoh is anachronistic to the Book of Abraham. The first thing we should do is review our options about assessing anachronisms in the Book of Abraham.

A) Deny that the anachronism exists and assert that, although it has not yet been attested in an extant source, the posited characteristic does indeed date back to the Middle Bronze Age.

B) Acknowledge the anachronism, but assign it to Joseph Smith as a translator’s anachronism, which does not in and of itself compromise the Book of Abraham as a translation of an ancient source;

C) Acknowledge the anachronism but assign it to an ancient redactor or copyist.

D) Acknowledge the anachronism and assign it to Joseph Smith as the modern author of the text. This is generally the stance of our critics.

Options B and C, in light of current evidence[172] seem more likely.

As the Wikipedia article addressing “Pharoah” writes:

Pharaoh (/ˈfɛəroʊ/, US also /ˈfeɪroʊ/;[1] Arabic: فرعون Phar'aon or Fir'aun Coptic: ⲡⲣ̅ⲣⲟ Pǝrro) is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt from the First Dynasty (c. 3150 BCE) until the annexation of Egypt by the Roman Empire in 30 BCE,[2] although the actual term "Pharaoh" was not used contemporaneously for a ruler until Merneptah, c. 1200 BCE. In the early dynasty, ancient Egyptian kings used to have up to three titles, the Horus, the Sedge and Bee (nswt-bjtj) name, and the Two Ladies (nbtj) name. The Golden Horus and nomen and prenomen titles were later added.

Under scenario “B”, Joseph could have simply used the title of pharaoh to describe the then-king. Under scenario “C” an ancient copyist or redactor could have used the word for pharaoh to describe the then-king and then Joseph could have translated it as such. This view is strengthened by Abraham 1:20 which states “…and also in the court of Pharaoh; which Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood.” A curious thing to need to explain.

Under either scenario, neither the core story of the Book of Abraham, its authenticity, our theology, nor the validity of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith are threatened.

Other traditions speak about a man named “Pharaoh” as the Book of Abraham does

Other traditions having to do with Abraham speak about a man named “Pharaoh” similarly.

Pharaoh was a descendant of Ham but also of Canaan (Abraham 1:21-22, 24-25, 27)

  • Al-Baida’wi 2:1, p. 427
  • Al-Tarafi 4, 35, pp. 371, 373
  • Al-Tha‘labi 1:1, pp. 357—58
  • Eupolemus 9, p. 9
  • Jubilees 22:20-21, p. 20
  • Peskita Rabbati 21:22, p. 80
  • Story of Abraham . . . with Nimrod 7, p. 166

The first pharaoh, a good man, was blessed by Noah (Abraham 1:26)

  • Ibn al-Tayyib 6:1-2, pp. 252-53
  • Other Muslim Traditions: Turkish 1-2, pp. 458-59

The idolatrous God of Pharaoh (Facsimile 1 Fig 9)

Daniel C. Peterson has talked about "the idolatrous God of Pharaoh" and its inclusion in Joseph Smith's interpretation of Facsimile 1 (this may explain its presence in Abraham 1):

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.”[173]


Question: Is the mention of Egyptus anachronistic to Abraham?

The name is actually attested in founding myths of Egypt, though it is anachronistic to the time that Abraham is claimed to live. Only if we assume that the Book of Abraham must be, in all instances, a holographic narrative of the prophet’s life does this become problematic for its authenticity.

The Book of Abraham contains a founding myth of Egypt. A woman named Egyptus is claimed to have discovered Egypt while under water. The name Egyptus is more contemporary to a later redactor/copyist working on the Book of Abraham. The Joseph Smith papyri date to this time (around 200 B.C.) and founding myths such as these were common. In all instances in which a supposed anachronism appears in the Book of Abraham, we have one of four options to choose from when reacting to them:

A) Deny that the anachronism exists and assert that, although it has not yet been attested in an extant source, the posited characteristic does indeed date back to the Middle Bronze Age.

B) Acknowledge the anachronism, but assign it to Joseph Smith as a translator’s anachronism, which does not in and of itself compromise the Book of Abraham as a translation of an ancient source;

C) Acknowledge the anachronism but assign it to an ancient redactor or copyist.

D) Acknowledge the anachronism and assign it to Joseph Smith as the modern author of the text. This is generally the stance of our critics.

In this instance, only A and C are possible since this is addressing a specific person and what the Book of Abraham is trying to communicate about Egypt’s founding. Option C seems more likely given the evidence currently[174]

John Tvedntes spoke about Egyptus at the 2005 FairMormon Conference addressing how this is actually evidence of the Book of Abraham’s authenticity:

Abraham 1:23 and 25 notes that the founder of Egypt was the daughter of Noah’s son Ham named Egyptus. It has long been noted that in the earliest handwritten manuscripts the name is written Zeptah which you can see here. As A. Richards Durham noted some years ago both forms derive from one of the Egyptian names for the capital city of Lower Egypt Memphis which was ît-kA-Ptaú ' (if you don’t put in the right vowels) meaning the “Residence of the spirit of Ptaú”—the name appears even in that form on a Ugaritic tablet.

When the Greeks came to Egypt in the time of Alexander the Great, they had to modify the name in order to pronounce it in their own language. Greek had no ‘h’ sound so they simply dropped the consonant at the beginning and the end of the name itself. The ‘t’ had already been dropped from the end of the word for ‘residence’ which is how it is in Coptic—it’s ‘a’—often the feminine ending dropped off of those in later forms of the Egyptian language. Instead of unvoiced ‘k’ the Greeks used its voiced equivalent the ‘g’ sound. Finally they added the masculine singular suffix ‘os’, this gave them the form Aigyptos which became Aegyptus in Latin. And this is the origin of course of the name Egyptus as used in the printed versions of the Book of Abraham and the English form of the name of the country itself Egypt. Ptaú whose name appears as the last element in the Egyptian form was the creator god in the story told of the ancient city of Memphis. Zeptah, the form used originally by Joseph Smith, likely means “Son or daughter of Ptaú.” The Egyptian has it as, here I’ve written it as the masculine on the upper left hand side there you can see, (inaudible) which would be the feminine. The feminine however later on dropped the ‘t’ so it’s easier to pronounce it and they both look alike or both sound alike in later forms of Egyptian. But the Hebrew- if it has a Hebrew meaning it would’ve been understood as Zeh Ptaú “This is Ptaú”—in other words this is the god Ptaú or the discoverer of Egypt. Indeed earlier Egyptologists translated the ‘s’ as a ‘z’ and so if we pronounce this as the Egyptian, ‘zeh’ instead of ‘sa’ that would fit with the way they used to transliterate it. As in most Hebrew words, the feminine suffix was often dropped in later forms of Egyptian. In the Egyptian text known as Astarte and the Sea the goddess Astarte, corresponding to the Egyptian goddess Isis or Isis(?), is actually called (inaudible) in other words “the daughter of Ptaú” so she has that very title. The Semitic verb Ptah means to open, to discover. The Egyptians held that the Temple at Memphis was constructed on the first piece of land rising from the floodwaters and the same tradition was attached to various other spots where temples were built along the Nile. An Armenian text attributed to the 4th century A.D. Christian historian Eusebius declares that ‘Egypt is called Mizraim(?) by the Hebrews’—which is close, in Hebrew it’s Mitzraim but he came close considering that it was Greek translated into Armenian—‘and Mizraim lived not long after the flood for after the flood, Ham son of Noah begat Egyptus or Mizraim who was the first to set out to establish himself in Egypt at the time when the tribes began to disperse this way and that.’ Here we have Egyptus then being a man. A similar account is found in Abraham 1:23-24 except that here it’s a woman: 23 The land of Egypt being first discovered by a woman, who was the daughter of Ham, and the daughter of Egyptus, which in the Chaldean signifies Egypt, which signifies that which is forbidden; 24 When this woman discovered the land it was under water, who afterward settled her sons in it; and thus, from Ham, sprang that race. So, I should make one point here before we move on though because somebody is probably going to look at this and then say, ‘Well why is it that you said then- why does the Book of Abraham say that it means ‘forbidden’ in Chaldean? Well my guess is that it’s analogous to what happens in Russia. Does anybody know how the word ‘Mormon’ is used in Russia? They heard about the Mormons in the United States and these were bad people because all the books they ever had on it were anti-Mormon. We start sending missionaries to Russia, the Soviet Union almost- after 1989. These missionaries come in and they said, ‘We’re Mormons’ and people say, ‘Oh you’re those awful people.’ But other people in Russia have been called Mormons for some time, it’s a group of evil-doers they say and so they’ve used the term ‘Mormon’ meaning evil-doers instead of more good if some of you like that better explanation. Hugh Nibley has dealt with the Egyptian traditions about the goddess who discovered Egypt rising out of the floodwaters. In one text she is called ‘the daughter of Ptaú’ which, as noted above, is one possible meaning of the name ‘Zeptah’. In some accounts she is Isis, sister-wife to Osiris—both sister and wife—and mother of Horus the first king of Egypt making one wonder if Egyptus married her own brother, Mizraim who is the son of Ham mentioned in the Bible and after whom Egypt takes its name in Hebrew. Nibley draws attention to the account of Herakleides, which was unavailable to Joseph Smith, who wrote “It was first a woman named Aegyptia who established her son and introduced weaving. Because of her, the Egyptians set up an image of Athena,” the Greek goddess, “as Ephorus says in his work on Europa.”1 About 440 B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the Egyptian priests “told me that the first man who ruled over Egypt was Min, and that in his time all Egypt, except the Thebaic canton,” that’s Thebes, “was a marsh, none of the land below Lake Moeris then showing itself above the surface of the water.”2 In his Chronicle, the 6th century A.D. Christian historian John Malalas wrote that, “the first king of Egypt belonged to the tribe of Ham, Noah’s son, he was pharaoh who was called Neko.” While Malalas evidently confused the pharaoh of Abraham’s time with the pharaoh Neko of the 6th century B.C.—the time of King Josiah—it is interesting that Abraham 1:20-21 notes that “Pharaoh signifies king by royal blood. Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth.” One of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers notes that Abraham “was forewarned of God to go down into Ahmehstrah, or Egypt, and preach the gospel unto the Ahmehstrahans.” The word may be related to the Hebrew Mizraim—it sounds a bit like it. The name for Egypt and for one of Ham’s sons who is the eponymous ancestor of the Egyptians in Genesis 10 and 1 Chronicles 1. The Hebrew is actually a dual form, as reflected by the suffix ‘aim’—so Mizraim really means two Egypts if you will due to the fact that ancient Egypt was considered to be comprised of two parts—Upper and Lower Egypt—that were subsequently united. Eusebius declared that Mizraim was indeed the founder of the Egyptian race and from him the first Egyptian dynasty must be held to spring. As noted earlier, Eusebius also identified Egyptus with Mizraim. If, as the Book of Abraham says, Egyptus was a daughter of Ham rather than a son, it is possible that she married her brother just as the Egyptian traditions have. Isis marries her brother Osiris; and from them would derive the Hebrew name of Egypt. This would explain the Egyptian myths about Osiris the god who actually ruled Egypt anciently marrying his sister and that was followed by some of the pharaohs.

In fact some of the pharaohs in order to make sure that they were marrying into the royal line married not only their sisters but sometimes their daughters and I know of at least one case where one married his mother. It’s really a strange idea from our point of view but it was perfectly normal in their days, they wanted to preserve this particular line.[175]

Other traditions regarding Abraham that speak of the founding of Egypt

  • Al-Kisä’i 59—60, p. 387
  • Al-Mas‘u‘di, Meadows 3:1, pp. 351—52
  • Al-Rabghu’zi 9, p. 436
  • Al—T_abar1' 215; 216; 252—7025, 42, pp. 333, 335, 343
  • Al-Tha‘labi 1:1; 3:1, pp. 357—58, 367
  • Anonymous Christian Chronicle 16, p. 229
  • Armenian Question, p. 286
  • Artapanus, p. 7
  • Book ofthe Cave of Treasures 22b2, p. 189
  • Book of the Rolls 118b, pp. 207—8
  • Conflict ofAdam und Eve III, 23:4—8, pp. 219—20
  • Genesis Apocryphon XIX, 13, p. 26
  • Ibn al-T_ayyib 6:2, p. 253
  • Mahbüb of Menbidj (Agapius) 3, p. 248
  • Other Muslim Traditions: Turkish 1, p. 458
  • Targum Ionathan Genesis 1621, 5, p. 67
  • Zohar: Genesis 73a, pp. 154—55 Contrast Abu' al—Fida‘ 3, p. 433;
  • al-T‚abari 325—26:1, p. 349


Response to claim: "the sun gets its light from Kolob...The sun shines because of thermonuclear fusion; not because it gets its light from any other star"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Facsimile 2, Figure #5 states the sun gets its light from Kolob. (April 2013)

Facsimile 2, Figure #5 states the sun receives its “light from the revolutions of Kolob.” (October 2014)

We now know that the process of nuclear fusion is what makes the stars and suns shine. With the discovery of quantum mechanics, scientists learned that the sun’s source of energy is internal, and not external. The sun shines because of thermonuclear fusion; not because it gets its light from any other star as claimed by the Book of Abraham.

FairMormon Response

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

The Book of Abraham does not state that the sun "gets it light" or "receives its light" from Kolob or from "from any other star." It states that the sun will "borrow its light from Kolob". It is not talking about actual light in the form of photons. It is certainly not disputing the notion that photons are emitted from the Sun.

Jump to Detail:

Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

  • The author avoids the implications of the term "borrow," which has nothing to do with visible light in the form of photons.
  • The author incorrectly reinterprets the argument to the Sun "getting" or "receiving" light from Kolob.
  • The author refutes his own simplified assertion.

Question: What is the light which comes from the presence of God?

The Book of Abraham speaks of "light" which is "borrowed" from Kolob, which is a "governing power" over other planets

Joseph Smith provided this explanation in Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Figure 5:

one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions.

Kolob is said to be the planet nearest to the throne of God, "which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest." Abraham 3:9. The light and power of God extend from his throne to govern all things in the universe.

The light of Christ is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the light of the stars

DC 88:7-10:

7 Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made.

8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made;

9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made;

10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.

The light of Christ proceeds from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space, and governs all things

DC 88:11-13:

11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;

12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—

13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.


Question: Does the Book of Abraham state that the sun gets its photons from Kolob?

The Book of Abraham's reference to "light" is not referring to photons leaving the surface of the sun

The explanation for Facsimile 2, Figure 5 states that the Sun is said to "borrow it light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash":

Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed planets or stars, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions. This planet receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Hah-ko-kau-beam, the stars represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob.

These verses from Abraham admit a variety of interpretations. The suggestion that Abraham must have taught that the photons leaving the surface of the sun originally came from Kolob is completely unjustified.

A figurative and abstract description such as this cannot be forced into conformance with science

There are many scriptures or statements by the prophets that seem to have scientific implications. Unfortunately, they are never couched in modern scientific terms and their meanings are often very obscure. So it is hard to decide who is more foolish — the faithful saint, who interprets them in a way that forces them into agreement with some current view of science, or the faithless critic, who purposely interprets them in a way that is most at odds with current scientific thought. The Book of Abraham quote cited in the criticism above has inspired both kinds of nonsense, including the interpretation found on the web site where this criticism appeared. The wording of Joseph Smith’s explanation of Figure 5 in Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham is, in fact, very difficult to interpret.

To “borrow” means to receive with the intention of returning

First, to “borrow” means to receive with the intention of returning, especially said of a material object or substance. It may also mean to take and adopt as one’s own, especially said of abstractions or ideas, as in “the composer borrowed his harmonic structure from Bach’s Fugue in D Major.” So what does it mean for the sun to “borrow” its light from Kolob? Is light a material or an abstraction? Does the Sun intend to repay the light it borrowed?

"This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made"

What, in fact, is meant by 'light' in this context? Doctrine & Covenants 88:7–13, in wording strongly reminiscent of our Book of Abraham quote, states “7 ...this is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. 8 As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; 9 As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; 10 And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand. 11 And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; 12 Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space — 13 The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things (emphasis added).” These verses are clearly NOT talking about electromagnetic radiation. Does anyone have a convincing explanation of what they ARE talking about?

A “medium” can mean a material through which some signal propagates or a means or channel through which something is achieved

A “medium” can mean a material through which some signal propagates or a means or channel through which something is achieved. What does it mean here? Does it refer to a material or a means?

What is the "grand Key" called "Kae-e-vanrash"?

What is Kae-e-vanrash? The Book of Abraham says that it is a “grand Key,” or “governing power.” What does that mean? Is Kae-e-vanrash a term for nuclear reactions, gravitation, cosmic rays? Or is it a more spiritual medium such as priesthood or faith, or an organizational structure, or a means used for administrative communications?

This may have been a way to teach the Egyptians that Elohim, who dwells near Kolob, rules over than the sun-god, Amen-Re

And, finally, what are we to understand about the nature of Book of Abraham astronomy? Is it a revelation from God to Abraham explaining the structure of the universe as it would be seen by the astronomers of our day? Or should we remember that “The Lord said unto me: Abraham, I show these things unto thee before ye go into Egypt, that ye may declare all these words.” Abraham 3:15, so that, as John Gee has suggested [176], this is simply the teaching that would be easiest for the Egyptians to understand — one that would teach them that Elohim, who dwells near Kolob, rules over than the sun-god, Amen-Re?

Abraham did not teach the Egyptians that photons leaving the Sun came from Kolob

Until someone can make a convincing case that their interpretation of these things is the only reasonable one, any faith-promoting proof from Abraham’s astronomy is a flimsy house of cards and any faith-destroying attack on some straw-man interpretation is misguided. Among the misguided interpretations is the unjustified suggestion that Abraham taught that the photons leaving the surface of the sun originally came from Kolob.


Response to claim: "There’s a book published in 1830 by Thomas Dick entitled 'The Philosophy of the Future State'"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith owned a copy of the book [Thomas Dick's book Philosophy of a Future State.] and Oliver Cowdery quoted some lengthy excerpts from the book in the December 1836 Messenger and Advocate."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Joseph owned the book, but there is no evidence that it was used in the dictation of the Book of Abraham. Critics of the Church try to infer a connection without any evidence. There is, in fact, evidence of contrasting views.

Jump to Detail:

Logical Fallacy: False Cause—The author assumes that a real or perceived relationship between two events means that one caused the other.

  • The author notes that Joseph Smith owned a copy of Thomas Dick's book Philosophy of a Future State.
  • The author concludes that Joseph must have used the book in the creation of the Book of Abraham.

Question: Could Joseph Smith's theology as described in the Book of Abraham have been influenced by Thomas Dick's book The Philosophy of a Future State?

Fawn Brodie suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State

This criticism was advanced by Fawn Brodie, who suggested that Joseph Smith developed the theology described in the Book of Abraham by reading Thomas Dick’s The Philosophy of a Future State. An excerpt from Dick’s work was published by Oliver Cowdery in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate in December 1836,[177] therefore one could assume that Joseph had access to the book in the 1835-1836 timeframe during which the Book of Abraham was being produced. Dick's book was also in the possession of the Prophet by 1844, at which time he donated his copy to the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute. [178]

It is also known that two of Dick's books were available in the Manchester Library, [179] although none of the Smith family were actually members of the library and were unlikely to have had access to its resources.[180] Based upon this circumstantial evidence, Brodie not only assumes that the Prophet must have read the book, but that he incorporated Dick’s ideas into the Book of Abraham.

Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs, however, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick

Many of the ideas promoted by Thomas Dick were common Protestant beliefs and were therefore available without having to read Dick’s work. Joseph Smith never made any public or written statements indicating that he was aware of or that he had ever read Dick’s book. The only evidence that even suggests the possibility is circumstantial and is based upon the appearance of several passages from A Philosophy of a Future State in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. More importantly, Joseph Smith rejected or contradicted many of the ideas put forth by Dick in A Philosophy of a Future State. It is therefore unlikely, contrary to Brodie’s speculation, that Joseph had been “recently reading” Dick’s work and that it made a “lasting impression” upon the Prophet.[181][182]


Question: How do the theological concepts of Joseph Smith actually compare to those of Thomas Dick?

A comparison of several of the theological concepts of both Joseph Smith and Thomas Dick shows major contrasts

Thomas Dick was a Scottish born minister, writer, astronomer and philosopher, whose published works in the early 1800’s attempted to reconcile science with Christianity. Dick believed that "mind and matter" were the two basic principles of the universe.[183] Dick believed God was of "a spiritual uncompounded substance, having no visible form."[184] The reason for the existence of matter is to allow the mind to be able to focus on God through the observance of his creations.

According to Dick:

[F]or the Creator has ordained, as one part of their mental enjoyments, that they shall be furnished with the means of tracing the mode of his operations, and the designs they are intended to accomplish in the different departments of nature.[185]

The following is a comparison and contrast of several of the theological concepts of both Joseph Smith and Thomas Dick.


Concept Thomas Dick Joseph Smith
Creation None but that Eternal Mind which counts the number of the stars, which called them from nothing into existence, and arranged them in the respective stations...[186] Now, I ask all who hear me, why the learned men who are preaching salvation, say that God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing? The reason is, that they are unlearned in the things of God... [187]
Intelligences The Creator stands in no need of innumerable assemblages of worlds and of inferior ranks of intelligences, in order to secure or to augment his felicity. Innumerable ages before the universe was created, he existed alone, independent of every other being, and infinitely happy in the contemplation of his own eternal excellencies.[188] I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen. Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; (Abraham 3:21-22)
Nature of God a spiritual uncompounded substance, having no visible form.[189] God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens![190]
Ability to comprehend God But the eternity, the omnipresence, and the omniscience of the Deity, are equally mysterious; for they are equally incomprehensible, and must for ever remain incomprehensible to all limited intelligences.[191] It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth. [192]
Nature of Matter What successive creations have taken place since the first material world was launched into existence by the Omnipotent Creator? What new worlds and beings are still emerging into existence from the voids of space?[193] 33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;[194]

A comprehensive comparison of the theologies and response to this was done by Edward T. Jones, a BYU professor, in the form of a thesis published in 1969 that can be found here


Response to claim: "Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was directly asked about the papyri not matching the Book of Abraham in a March 2012 BBC interview"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (April 2013 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was directly asked about the papyri not matching the Book of Abraham in a March 2012 BBC interview:

Sweeney: Mr. Smith got this papyri and he translated them and subsequently as the Egyptologists cracked the code something completely different…

Holland: (Interrupts) All I’m saying…all I’m saying is that what got translated got translated into the word of God. The vehicle for that, I do not understand and don’t claim to know and know Egyptian.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

The spin: Critics of the Church constantly promote the idea that General Authorities are dishonest, yet they complain when one says "I don't claim to know".The facts: Elder Holland was asked this question and honestly answered that he didn't understand the exact method by which the Book of Abraham was produced.

Jump to Detail:

Question: How did Elder Holland respond during a BBC interview when asked how the Book of Abraham was translated?

Elder Holland responded that he did not know the method of translation, but that it was translated into the word of God

During a BBC interview with John Sweeney in March 2012, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was asked about the Book of Abraham:

Sweeney: Mr. Smith got this papyri and he translated them and subsequently as the Egyptologists cracked the code something completely different...

Holland: All I'm saying...all I'm saying is that what got translated got translated into the word of God. The vehicle for that I do not understand and don't claim to know and know Egyptian.

Critics of the Church accuse Elder Holland of lying on this point. However, the Church has known and publicly acknowledged since 1968 in the Improvement Era that the papyri fragments that the Church has in its possession do not match the text of the Book of Abraham since 1968. This has been known publicly for over 45 years. This isn't something new. Elder Holland knows this.

Elder Holland's statement is consistent with what the Church says about the translation of the Book of Abraham

Furthermore, Elder Holland's statement is consistent with what the Church itself says on this subject in the The Pearl of Great Price Student Manual. Elder Holland said "what got translated got translated into the word of God." The manual says, "The greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the book of Abraham is not found in an analysis of physical evidence nor historical background, but in prayerful consideration of its content and power."

One of the Church's new Gospel Topics essays, "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," reiterates both that the Book of Abraham is not found on the existing papyri fragments, and that Joseph produced the Book of Abraham through revelation, similar to the manner in which the Book of Mormon was produced:

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham...

Neither the Lord nor Joseph Smith explained the process of translation of the book of Abraham, but some insight can be gained from the Lord’s instructions to Joseph regarding translation. In April 1829, Joseph received a revelation for Oliver Cowdery that taught that both intellectual work and revelation were essential to translating sacred records. It was necessary to “study it out in your mind” and then seek spiritual confirmation. Records indicate that Joseph and others studied the papyri and that close observers also believed that the translation came by revelation. As John Whitmer observed, “Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records.” [195]


Parrish (1838): "I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Heiroglyphicks as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration of Heaven"

Warren Parrish:

I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Heiroglyphicks as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration of Heaven.[196]


John Whitmer: "Joseph the Seer saw these Record(s) and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records"

John Whitmer:

About the first of July 1835 there came a man having four Egyptian Mummies exhibiting them for curiosities, which was a wonder indeed! having also some r[e]cords connected with them which were found deposited with the Mummies, but there being no one skilled in the Egyptian language therefore could not translate the record, after this [e]xhibition Joseph the Seer saw these Record[s] and by the revelation of Jesus Christ could translate these records, which gavee an account of our forefathers, even Abraham Much of which was written by Joseph of Egypt who was sold by his brethren. Which when all translated will be a pleasing history and of great value to the saints.[197]


Woodruff (1842): "The Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam"

Wilford Woodruff:

Truly the Lord has raised up Joseph the Seer of the seed of Abraham out of the loins of ancient Joseph, & is now clothing him with mighty power & wisdom & knowledge....The Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam.[198]


Response to claim: "Is 'I don’t know and I don’t understand but it’s the word of God' really the best answer that a 'prophet, seer, and revelator' can come up with to such a profound problem?"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

Is “I don’t know and I don’t understand but it’s the word of God” really the best answer that a “prophet, seer, and revelator” can come up with to such a profound problem that is driving many members out of the Church?

FairMormon Response

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

The mistake: Elder Holland did not say anything equivalent to "I don’t know and I don’t understand but it’s the word of God."The facts: Elder Holland said that "what got translated got translated into the word of God," meaning that he knows that Joseph received the text of the Book of Abraham through revelation. Elder Holland then stated that he did not know or understand "the vehicle for that," meaning that he does not know the exact method by which the revelation of the Book of Abraham was accomplished. Elder Holland believes that the Book of Abraham was revealed to Joseph - he does not claim to know the mechanism by which this was done.

Logical Fallacy: Strawman—The author sets up a weakened or caricatured version of the opponent's argument. The author then proceeds to demolish the weak version of the argument, and claim victory.

  • Elder Holland stated "what got translated got translated into the word of God" and that he did not claim to know or understand "the vehicle" by which it was translated.
  • The author restates and simplifies Elder Holland's position as "I don't know and I don't understand but it's the word of God."

Response to claim: "The Church conceded in its July 2014 Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham essay that Joseph’s translations of the papyri and the facsimiles do not match what’s in the Book of Abraham"

The author(s) of Letter to a CES Director (October 2014 revision) make(s) the following claim:

The Church conceded in its July 2014 Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham essay that Joseph’s translations of the papyri and the facsimiles do not match what’s in the Book of Abraham

FairMormon Response

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

The mistake: The Church did not "concede" in its essay that "Joseph's translation of the papyri and the facsimiles do not match what's in the Book of Abraham."The facts: The Church noted that "Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham." The Church actually acknowledged this in 1968 in the official Church magazine, the Improvement Era, over 47 years ago. Since then it has received mention in the Ensign, it has been studied vigorously by scholars including Hugh Nibley, John Gee, Brian Hauglid, and others and published about in BYU studies, FARMS, and other organizations. Nibley's work has been available in Deseret Book. It's really not new.

Jump to Detail:

Gospel Topics on LDS.org: "Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham"

"Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org:

The discovery of the papyrus fragments renewed debate about Joseph Smith’s translation. The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1. Long before the fragments were published by the Church, some Egyptologists had said that Joseph Smith’s explanations of the various elements of these facsimiles did not match their own interpretations of these drawings. Joseph Smith had published the facsimiles as freestanding drawings, cut off from the hieroglyphs or hieratic characters that originally surrounded the vignettes. The discovery of the fragments meant that readers could now see the hieroglyphs and characters immediately surrounding the vignette that became facsimile 1.

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments.[199]—(Click here to continue)


Question: What did the Church announce in 1968 when the Joseph Smith papyri fragments were discovered?

The Church noted that the papyri fragments did not contain the Book of Abraham, except for Facsimile 1

The Improvement Era described the papyri, but never claimed they represented the source for the Book of Abraham, except the original of Facsimile 1:

Perhaps no discovery in recent memory is expected to arouse as much widespread interest in the restored gospel as is the recent discovery of some Egyptian papyri, one of which is known to have been used by the prophet Joseph Smith in producing the Book of Abraham.

The papyri, long thought to have been burned in the Chicago fire of 1871, were presented to the Church on November 27, 1967, in New York City by the metropolitan Museum of Art, more than a year after Dr. Aziz S. Atiya, former director of the University of Utah's Middle East Center, had made his startling discovery while browsing through the New York museum's papyri collection.

Included in the collection of 11 manuscripts is one identified as the original document from which Joseph Smith obtained Facsimile 1, which prefaces the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Accompanying the manuscripts was a letter dated May 26, 1856, signed by both Emma Smith Bidamon, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and their son, Joseph Smith, attesting that the papyri had been the property of the Prophet.

Some of the pieces of papyrus apparently include conventional hieroglyphics (sacred inscriptions, resembling picture-drawing) and hieratic (a cursive shorthand version of hieroglyphics) Egyptian funerary texts, which were commonly buried with Egyptian mummies. Often the funerary texts contained passages from the "Book of the Dead," a book that was to assist in the safe passage of the dead person into the spirit world. It is not known at this time whether the ten other pieces of papyri have a direct connection with the Book of Abraham.[200]

Egyptian.papyri.rediscovered.funeral.documents.improvement.era.jan.1968.p12.jpg


Citation abuse in Jeremy Runnells' Response and Rebuttal to Brian M. Hauglid's Rational Faiths Essay: B.H. Roberts comment on the Book of Abraham

Citation abuse in the "Letter to a CES Director":

"Elder B.H. Roberts, LDS Scholar and General Authority, Comprehensive History of the Church 2:138"

FairMormon Response


“That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.”

—Jonathan Swift

"

Question: Why did the author of the Letter to a CES Director take a quote from B.H. Roberts in which Roberts was paraphrasing someone with whom he disagreed, and then make it appear as if it were Roberts' own opinion?

The citation: B.H. Roberts: "If Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be proven discredited..."

Jeremy Runnells' Response and Rebuttal to Brian M. Hauglid's Rational Faiths Essay: "Jeremy Runnells and the Book of Abraham" presents a quote from B.H. Roberts in order to demonstrate that Roberts believed that if the translation of the papyri of the Book of Abraham was not validated by non-Mormon Egyptologists, that it would invalidate Joseph Smith's claim to have been a prophet. The author presents the quote as follows:

“If Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be proven discredited, and proven false, then doubt would be thrown also upon the genuineness of his translation of the Book of Mormon, and thus all his pretensions as a translator would be exposed and come to naught.” – Elder B.H. Roberts, LDS Scholar and General Authority, Comprehensive History of the Church 2:138

B.H. Roberts quote presented in Jeremy Runnells' Response and Rebuttal to Brian M. Hauglid's Rational Faiths Essay: "Jeremy Runnells and the Book of Abraham"

Note: The author of the Letter to a CES Director inaccurately transcribed the Roberts quote: The first occurrence of the word "proven" should not be there. The author appears to have simply copied it from another secondary source rather than examining the primary source.

The reality: B.H. Roberts: "The 'collapse of Mormonism' was confidently looked for in some quarters; for if Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be discredited...Nothing of this kind happened"

The quote from Roberts is actually a paraphrase of a criticism of the Book of Abraham offered in 1912 by the Rev. F. S. Spalding. This is not Roberts' opinion: it is Roberts phrasing of Spalding's opinion. Note in particular that Roberts was stating that Spalding's prediction that this would spell the "collapse of Mormonism" was unfulfilled:

[T]he "collapse of Mormonism" was confidently looked for in some quarters; for if Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be discredited, and proven false, then doubt would be thrown also upon the genuineness of his translation of the Book of Mormon; and thus all his pretensions as a translator would be exposed and come to naught. "It is the belief," wrote Bishop Spalding, "that the honest searchers for truth among the Latter-day Saints will welcome the opinions of authoritative scholars, and, if necessary, courageously readjust their system of belief, however radical a revolution of thought may be required, that the following judgments of the world's greatest Egyptologists have been ascertained." (Joseph Smith, Jun., as a Translator, p. 19). Nothing of this kind happened however, "Mormonism" was not moved a peg by the critique.

The full story

Here is Roberts' full quote, with the portion extracted by the author of the Letter to a CES Director highlighted in blue:

In 1912 a widespread interest was awakened in the Book of Abraham by the publication of a brochure, by Rt. Rev. F. S. Spalding, D. D. Episcopal Bishop of Utah, under the title Joseph Smith, Jun., as a Translator. The bishop submitted the facsimiles of some of the parchment pages from which the Book of Abraham had been translated, (copies of which accompany this chapter) to a number of the foremost of present day Egyptian scholars. These were Dr. A. H. Sayce, Oxford, England; Dr. W. M. Flinders Petrie, London University; James H. Breasted, Ph. D., Haskel Oriental Museum, University of Chicago; Dr. Arthur C. Mace, Assistant Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Department of Egyptian Art; Dr. John Peters, University of Penn., in charge of Expedition to Babylonia, 1888-1895; Rev. Prof, C. A. B. Mercer, Ph. D., Western Theological Seminary, Custodian Hibbard Collections, Egyptian Reproductions; two German scholars—Dr. Edward Meyer, University of Berlin; and Dr. Friedrich Freiheer Von Bissin, Professor of Egyptology in the University of Munich—eight in all. Speaking of the result obtained from the submission of these facsimiles to these foremost Egyptologists, Bishop Spalding says: "It will be seen that there is practically complete agreement as to the real meaning of the hieroglyphics, and that this meaning is altogether different from that of Joseph Smith's translation." (Joseph Smith, Jun., as a Translator, p. 19). He also says that "The opinions were obtained from the scholars themselves, and in no case did one man know the opinion of another" (Ibid).

The seeming triumph of the bishop's test of the "Mormon" Prophet's ability to translate ancient languages correctly by inspiration from God, was much commented upon throughout the United States, and especially by the religious press; and the "collapse of Mormonism" was confidently looked for in some quarters; for if Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be discredited, and proven false, then doubt would be thrown also upon the genuineness of his translation of the Book of Mormon; and thus all his pretensions as a translator would be exposed and come to naught. "It is the belief," wrote Bishop Spalding, "that the honest searchers for truth among the Latter-day Saints will welcome the opinions of authoritative scholars, and, if necessary, courageously readjust their system of belief, however radical a revolution of thought may be required, that the following judgments of the world's greatest Egyptologists have been ascertained." (Joseph Smith, Jun., as a Translator, p. 19). Nothing of this kind happened however, "Mormonism" was not moved a peg by the critique. So far as known there were not a score of Latter-day Saints whose faith was affected by the Spalding brochure. There were no Egyptian scholars in the church of the Latter-day Saints who could make an effective answer to the conclusions of the eight scholars who in various ways pronounced against the correctness of Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchments that so strangely fell into his hands; but a number of articles were written by elders of the church pointing out the bias of the scholars and some evident defects in the treatment of the subject; and also reviews of Bishop Spalding's arguments. [201]

Why does the author of the Letter to a CES Director consider B.H. Roberts a "scholar" in this case?

B.H. Roberts was the most notable LDS apologist of the early 20th-century

The author of the Letter to a CES Director, who considers all Latter-day Saint scholars merely "apologists" and not worthy of attention, calls B.H. Roberts a "scholar" in this case. Roberts was indeed a scholar, but he was also the most notable Latter-day Saint apologist of the early 20th-century.

Here's what the author of the Letter to a CES Director thinks of the distinction between "scholar" and "apologist" as he attacks Brian Hales' scholarship:

Hales is not a scholar. He's an anesthesiologist who hired Don Bradley to do his research for him. He then wrote 3 books using his employee's homework. Author? Sure. Apologist? Yes. Amateur? Yes. Scholar? No. He's an apologist disguising himself as a scholar. The real scholars in the field of polygamy have issues with many of Hales' conclusions and interpretations. Anyone with big bucks and writing skills can do what Brian did. All you have to do is hire guys like Don Bradley to do all the work for you and then you throw the stuff in a nice hardcover book with your name on it.[202]

Could it be because the author of the Letter to a CES Director in this case calls B.H. Roberts a "scholar" because thinks that Roberts said something that he agrees with...that is, after he modified Roberts' quote to remove the portions he disagreed with? Remember, B.H. Roberts, LDS Scholar and General Authority, said "The 'collapse of Mormonism' was confidently looked for in some quarters; for if Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptian parchment could be discredited...Nothing of this kind happened."


Notes

  1. 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 Volume 2 link
  2. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (8 July 2014)
  3. "The Book of Abraham," Times and Seasons 3 (1842): 704. KEPA 4, the manuscript used for publication of the first installments of the Book of Abraham and written in the hand of Willard Richards, likewise contains this caption used in the Times and Seasons.
  4. Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, edited by John Gee, Vol. 18 in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah: Deseret Book / FARMS, 2009), 546. ISBN 1606410547.
  5. This wiki article is based on a paper written by Stephen O. Smoot and included here with his permission. Given the nature of a wiki project, the original may have been edited, added to, or otherwise modified.
  6. Unless otherwise noted, the assumption underlying these theories run along the so-called “missing papyrus theory” as proposed by scholars such as Professor John Gee. This theory states that Joseph Smith owned a portion of physical papyri dating to the Ptolemaic Era that contained the text of the Book of Abraham as translated by the Prophet but that said papyri were subsequently destroyed and are no longer extant. See: Missing papyrus? for further details.
  7. Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 4. Reprinted in 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..
  8. Hugh Nibley, "As Things Stand at the Moment," Brigham Young University Studies 9 no. 1 (1968), 74-78. (needs URL / links)
  9. Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 4–7.
  10. Russell C. McGregor and Kerry A. Shirts, "Letters to an Anti-Mormon (Review of Letters to a Mormon Elder: Eye Opening Information for Mormons and the Christians Who Talk with Them)," FARMS Review of Books 11/1 (1999): 90–298. off-site See pages 82–83.
  11. Russell C. McGregor and Kerry A. Shirts, "Letters to an Anti-Mormon (Review of Letters to a Mormon Elder: Eye Opening Information for Mormons and the Christians Who Talk with Them)," FARMS Review of Books 11/1 (1999): 90–298. off-site, 82–83.
  12. John Gee, A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000), 25–28.
  13. This is falling in line with the traditional LDS understanding of the Book of Abraham. Namely, that it is not pseudepigraphical, but was written by Abraham himself. There are, it should be noted, some scholars who do theorize that the text translated by Joseph Smith was pseudepigraphical, dated to the Hellenic world. Other LDS scholars, such as Dr. Nibley, have even compared the text of the Book of Abraham to other Hellenic pseudepigrapha. Such an attempt at textual justification for an ancient Book of Abraham text, however, should not be seen as it is by some as equating the Book of Abraham with ancient pseudepigrapha.
  14. This assumes, of course, that Joseph Smith translated physical papyri and did not receive the Book of Abraham on purely revelatory means as per the “catalyst theory” for the Book of Abraham.
  15. Admittedly, the phrase “and found in the catacombs of Egypt” does cast doubt on the claim that “by his own hand” was a part of the ancient title as it is clearly 19th century editorializing. However, it is possible that it is just that; a 19th century editorializing of the text. It does not completely refute Nibley’s thesis entirely.
  16. John Gee, “Were Egyptian Texts Divinely Written?”, Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists, ed. J. C. Goyon, C. Cardin (Paris: Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oosterse Studies Leuven, 2007), 806. Parenthetically, this article has other implications for Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith Papyri studies, not the least of them being Professor Gee’s discussion of the fact that the so-called “Book of Breathings Made by Isis” text should actually be called the “Letter of Fellowship Made by Isis”. In light of Hugh Nibley’s studies of the Joseph Smith Papyri in 1975 and Professor Gee’s studies published in 2006, this new understanding advances the concept of the Letter of Fellowship text as an more of an initiatory text than an actual “funerary text”. See, respectively, Hugh W. Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 1st edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1975), 1. ISBN 0877474850. GospeLink (requires subscrip.), Reprinted as 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 GL direct link; John Gee, “The Use of the Daily Temple Liturgy in the Book of the Dead,” Sonderdruck aus Totenbuch-Forchungen, eds. B. Burkhard, I. Munro, S. Stöhr (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006), 73–86.
  17. Kevin L. Barney, "The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources," in Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant, edited by John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, (Provo: FARMS, 2005), 107–130. off-site
  18. Michael Ash, “Book of Abraham 201: Papyri, Revelation, and Modern Egyptology”, presented at the 2006 FAIR Conference. off-site.
  19. Luke Wilson, “Did Joseph Smith claim His Abraham Papyrus was an Autograph?”, (Grand Rapids: Institute for Religious Research, 2006), 12. It is not within the scope of this paper to attempt an engagement or refutation of Wilson’s main arguments. Needless to say, Wilson (p. 12) himself admits that “the nature of the evidence presented in this paper is circumstantial and inferential on a number of points.”
  20. This is by no means the consensus view. Several LDS scholars have likewise tackled this issue, and have come to different conclusions than Ash and Wilson. Ben McGuire, writing for FAIR, has critiqued Wilson on a number of points, including the assertions made by Wilson that Joseph Smith assumed a holographic nature of the text. See Ben McGuire, “Responding to Errors in an Anti-Mormon Film: “The Lost Book of Abraham: Investigating a Remarkable Mormon Claim” (Redding: Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research, 2002). PDF link.
  21. Ash, "Book of Abraham 201."
  22. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics (8 July 2014)
  23. 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 Volume 2 link
  24. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–16.
  25. Jay M. Todd, "New Light on Joseph Smith's Egyptian Papyri: Additional Fragment Disclosed," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40.; Jay M. Todd, "Background of the Church Historian's Fragment," Improvement Era (February 1968), 40A–40I.
  26. Jay M. Todd, ,"Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," The Improvement Era (January 1968)
  27. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–13. off-site (emphasis added)
  28. Gee, John "'There Needs No Ghost, My Lord, Come from the Grave to Tell Us This' Dreams and Angels in Ancient Egypt'; Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts Brigham Young University
  29. Barney, Kevin L. "Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant > The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources" see https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1098&index=10.
  30. See John Gee, Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts on lds.org (July 1992)
  31. Barney, Kevin L. "On Elkenah as Canaanite El," Journal of Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 19, no. 1 (2010)
  32. Michael D. Rhodes, “Teaching the Book of Abraham Facsimiles,” Religious Educator 4, no. 2 (2003): 115–123
  33. Tvedtnes, John "Authentic Ancient Names and Words in the Book of Abraham and Related Kirtland Egyptian Papers". FairMormon Conference 2005 https://www.fairmormon.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/2005-John-Tvedtnes.pdf. Tvednes cites this paper in support of his assertion: John Lundquist, “Was Abraham in Ebla?” in Studies in Scripture II: The Pearl of Great Price, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent Jackson (Salt Lake City: Randall, 1985).
  34. Constant De Wit, "Les genies des quartre vents au temple d'Opet," CdE 32 (1957):35-37.
  35. IE 71 (February 1968): 40-G.
  36. De Wit, "Les genies des quatre vents au temple d'Opet," 39; cf. IE 71 (February 1968): 40-G; translated by WIlson, "The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri," 75.
  37. Kurt Sethe, Zur Geschichte der Einbalsamierung bei den Agypten und einiger damit verbunderer Brauche (Berlin: Akaemie der Wissenschaften, 1934), 217.
  38. S.R.K. Glanville, "Egyptian Theriomorphic Vessels in the British Museum," JEA 12 (1929): 57.
  39. Adolf Rusch, Die Entwicklung der Himmelsgottin Nut zu einer Totengottheit (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1922), 46.
  40. Leopold Cohn, "An Aprocryphal Work Ascribed to Philo of Alexandria," JQR 10 (1898): 316-17
  41. Eugene Lefebure, "Les quatre races au jugement denier," Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 4 (1876): 44-48.
  42. A bibliography of works relevant to this subject may be found in the footnes in Hugh Nibley "Tenting, Toll, and Taxing," in The Ancient State, CWHN 10: 41-46, 76-83. See also Werner Muller, Die heilge Stadt Roma quadrata, himmlisches Jerusalem und die Mythe vom Weltnabel (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1961).
  43. Emil G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri (New York: Arno, 1969), 86; cf. De Wit, "Les genies des quarte vents au temple d'Opet," 31.
  44. Nibley, Hugh "An Approach to the Book of Abraham" (Provo, UT: FARMS) 2009. Print. [1]. Nibley's discussion of this is much longer--occupying 38 pages. Represented here are only parts that stood as the most prominent in reading the first few pages and the most useful to readers in the opinion of the author of this article. Readers are encouraged to see Nibley's entire discussion as it is very enlightening.
  45. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
  46. Kurt H. Sethe, Urkunden des alten Reichs, 4 vols. (Leipzig:Hinrichs, 1932)1:111
  47. Nibley, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," IE 72 (September 1969: 89-93)
  48. Budge, Book of the Dea (Papyrus of Hunefer)34.
  49. Aylward H. Blackman, "A Study of Liturgy Celebrated in the Temple of Aton at El-Amarna," in Recuel d'etudes Egyptologiques dediees a la memoire de Jean Francois Champollion (Paris: Champion, 1922), 517, 521.
  50. Smuel Yeivin, "Canaanite Ritual Vessels in Egyptian Cultic Practices," JEA 62 (1976): 114.
  51. Waltraund Guglielmi, "Zur Symbolik des 'Dargringes des StrauBes der sh.t'" ZAS 103 (1976): 108.
  52. Ibid., 110-11
  53. Ibid., 111-12
  54. Ibid
  55. See Nibley, Hugh "Abraham in Egypt" FARMS: Provo, UT (1981) PRINT p.444-450
  56. Barney, Kevin L. " Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant > The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources" https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1098&index=10
  57. Erik Hornung (non-LDS), “Himmelsvorstellungen,” Lexikon der Ägyptologie, 7 vols. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowit, 1977–1989), 2:1216. For these and other examples, see Peterson, “News from Antiquity”; Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 2009), 115–78; Nibley and Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 236–45; John Gee, “A New Look at the Conception of the Human Being in Ancient Egypt,” in “Being in Ancient Egypt”: Thoughts on Agency, Materiality and Cognition, ed. Rune Nyord and Annette Kjølby (Oxford, U.K.: Archaeopress, 2009), 6–7, 12–13.
  58. "Joseph Smith As a Student of Hebrew," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 3, no. 2 [Summer 1968]: 41-55, here, p. 51, emphasis added. The Hebrew (MT) does not use both "name" and "heavens" but rather "his name" alone. For instance, we read in the 1985 JPS Tanakh: "Sing to God, chant hymns to His name; extol Him who rides the clouds; the LORD is his name. Exult in His presence." Michael Dahood, then-Professor of Ugaritic and Phonecian Languages and Literature at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, rendered this verse as follows in his translation/commentary on the Psalter: "Sing, o gods, chant, O his heavens [note: not "his name] pave the highway for te Rider of the Clouds! Delight in Yahweh, and exult before him!" While it is true that some dispute the vocalization of this word in this verse, it is disputed due to grammatical/contextual reasons for preferring "his name" no a rejection of samaw being a true archaic singular form of "heavens". Instead of Joseph Smith simply cribbing from the Hebrew he studied under Joshua Seixas (and later, Alexander Neibaur) and blundering along the way (per Zucker), something more is going on as coincidence for this and many other issues is an unlikely explanation, especially in light of modern biblical scholarship and philology.
  59. (non-Mormon) Egyptologist Lanny Bell, "The Ancient Egyptian 'Books of Breathing,' the Mormon 'Book of Abraham,' and the Development of Egyptology in America," Egypt and Beyond: Essays Presented to Leonard H. Lesko upon his Retirement from the Wilbour Chair of Egyptology at Brown University June 2005, (ed. Stephen E. Thompson), Department of Egyptology and Ancient Western Asian Studies, Brown University, 2008, p. 28.
  60. (non Mormon) Egyptologist Lanny Bell, "The Ancient Egyptian 'Books of Breathing,'", p. 29.
  61. See Robert K. Ritner "Osiris-Canopus and Bes at Herculaneum". As Ritner writes herein: "Although the Herculaneum dancer probably represents a masked participant impersonating the god, the matter is theologically unimportant. The British Museum Bes statue, noted above, has been assumed to be a masked man because of his kilt, moderate belly and flattened face, but no clear cords or fittings indicate that the face is a mask. A Middle Kingdom mask of Bes does survive from Kahun proving the existence of Bes—masked priests, but statue ary of masked humans is more problematic than masked figures in religious scenes. A potentially more relevant sculpture derives from a far earlier period in Egyptian history, on a Fifth Dynasty relief also in the British Museum. Defying the general taboo on representing gods in Old Kingdom tombs, this relief (EA 994) includes a leonine Bes in profile carrying a wand within a scene of the 'd‘ance of the youths.' As in the Herculaneum fresco more than two millennia later, a priest masked as Bes performs at a ritual dance."
  62. William I. Appleby Journal, 5 May 1841, ms. 1401 1, pp. 71–72, LDS Church Archives; as quoted in Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence," 184.
  63. Rev. Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons: Or, Three Days at Nauvoo in 1842 (London: Rivington, 1842), 71-72., LDS Church Archives; as quoted in Gee, "Eyewitness, Hearsay, and Physical Evidence," 184.
  64. Michael D. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), 19 (18–23).
  65. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (8 July 2014).
  66. 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.
  67. PT 23 §16.
  68. 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.
  69. 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.
  70. 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)
  71. The Apocalypse of Abraham, off-site
  72. According to Muhlestein and Gee, "Many later sources also paint a picture that Abraham's life was sought because he had broken down or otherwise desecrated idols; see John A. Tvedtnes, Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds., Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham (Provo, UT: Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts, Brigham Young University, 2001)"
  73. 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)
  74. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference.
  75. Renouf "Two-sided Hypocephalus," 144-46, plate 2
  76. Nibley, Hugh "One Eternal Round" pp. 236, 238; Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: Provo, UT. Edited by Michael Rhodes (2010) PRINT.
  77. De Santilana and von Decehdn, Hamlet's Mill, 8
  78. Ibid.
  79. Nibley "One Eternal Round" p. 256
  80. George H. Box, ed. and trans., The Apocalypse of Abraham (New York: Macmillan, 1918), 16; but this angel was also called Metatron or Enoch; see Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 2nd ed., CWHN 14 ( Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2000), 44, fig 4.
  81. Eliyahu Rosh-Pinnah, "The Sefer Yetzirah and the Original Tetragrammaton," JQR 57 (1967): 223.
  82. Phineas Mordell, "The Origin of Letters and Numerals According to the Sefer Yezirah," JGR 2 (1912): 567.
  83. Nibley "One Eternal Round" 256-258
  84. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 268
  85. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 268
  86. Raymond O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 54.
  87. Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957), 559.
  88. Rudolf Anthes, "Egyptian Theology in the Third Millennium B.C.," JNES 18 (1959): 171; a full-scale photo is in Reginald Engelbach, "An Alleged Winged Sun-disck of the First Dynasty," ZAS 65 (1930): 115-16, plate opposite page 114; see Hugh Nibley, "A Pioneer Mother," in Abraham in Egypt, CWHN 14:509, fig. 86.
  89. Hermann Kees, Der Gotterglaube im alten Agypten (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1941) 42-43
  90. Notice the reference to stars here. This ties with Abraham and his covenant seed.
  91. Alexandre Piankoff, the Shrines of Tut-Ankh-Amon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1955), 96-98
  92. PT 434 (SS784-85)
  93. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 279-81
  94. Erik Hornung, Tal der Konige, 135; see Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, CWHN 14:65, fig. 12
  95. Constantin E. Sander-Hansen, Die relgiosen Texte auf dem Sarg der Anchenesferibre (Cop enhagen: Levin and Munksgaard, 1937), 36-37.
  96. Wb 3:230, 1.
  97. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 282-83
  98. Philippe Derchain, "La peche de l'oreil et les mysteres d'Osiris a Dendara," RdE (1963): 13-14
  99. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 283"
  100. Bonnet, Reallexikon der agyptischen Religionsgeschichte, 281.
  101. Ibid., 280
  102. Maxence de Rochemonteix, "Le temple d'Apte ou est engendre l'Osiris thebain," in Oeuvres diverses, ed. Gaston Maspero, BE 3 (Paris:Leroux, 1894),258.
  103. Gustave Jequier, Considerations sur les religions egyptiennes (Neuchatel: Baconniere, 1946),219.
  104. E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1958),90-91
  105. Maarten J. Raven, “Egyptian Concepts of the Orientation of the Human Body,” in Proceedings of the Ninth International Congress of Egyptologists (2007), 2:1569–70.
  106. Bonnet, Reallexikon der agyptischen Religionsgeschichte, 461.
  107. Gerald A. Wainwright, "The Emblem of Min," JEA 17 (1931): 185
  108. Wainwright, Emblem of Min," 170.
  109. Ibid., 464.
  110. Ibid., 463
  111. PT 356 (579)
  112. Griffiths, "Remarks on the Mythology of the Eyes of Horus," 191.
  113. PT 198 (114)
  114. PT 258 (308); 259 (312).
  115. PT 638 (1805)
  116. PT 468(901); 523 (1231).
  117. Spiegel "Das Auferstehungritual der Unaspyramide," 389-93; PT 301 (451); see Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, CWHN 16:119, fig. 30.
  118. PT 200-221 (195)
  119. PT 200-221 (195)
  120. PT 74-76 (51)
  121. PT 621 (1754); 637 (1803); 639 (1809)
  122. PT 72-73 (50); 74-76 (51); 77 (52)
  123. PT 687 (2074-77)
  124. PT 199 (115)
  125. PT186-90 (107-8) and PT 197 (113)
  126. I.e., the dead; see Wb 4:392, 9.
  127. Literally "the first time." See Wb 3:438, 1.
  128. The primeval ocean from which the sun rose on the day of creation and which surrounds the earth. See Henri Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961),114. A similar phrase is found in one of the Demotic magical papyri, r-wn n=y p3 t3 r-wn n=y t3 tw3.t r-wn n=y p3 nwn, "Open the earth for me, open the netherworld for me, open the primeval waters for me." F. Llewellyn Griffith and Herbert Thompson, The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (London: Grevel, 1905), line I 5.
  129. On the identification of the dead with Osiris, see Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion, 103-5
  130. Shishaq or Sheshonq was the name of several Egyptian pharaohs of the Twenty-first Dynasty, the Libyan Dynasty.
  131. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 327
  132. dd.wy is a disbe adjective formation of Dd.w, Busiris, a cult center of Osiris in the Dleta, and thus used as an epithet of Osiris. Cf. Wb 5:630, 7.
  133. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 345
  134. Nibley, Hugh The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri': An Egyptian Endowment. 2d ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002
  135. Kerry Muhlestein, "Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: Some Questions and Answers," Religious Educator, vol. 11 no. 1 (2010) off-site
  136. Stephen Smoot, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham: An Interview with Egyptologist Kerry Muhlestein," Student Review (November 2013) off-site
  137. Michael D. Rhodes, "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus . . . Twenty Years Later" off-site
  138. John Gee, “Towards an Interpretation of Hyppocephali,” 334
  139. Michael Rhodes, in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., "Book of Abraham," Encyclopedia of Mormonism off-site
  140. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, "Facsimile 3 and Book of the Dead 125," Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant, Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
  141. John Gee, "The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Footnote 17 states: 17. "More information on this will be forthcoming, but one readily available instance is recorded in Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11.8."
  142. Robert K. Ritner, “The Breathing Permit of Hor Among the Joseph Smith Papyri," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, (University of Chicago, 2003), p. 162, note 4. Dr. Ritner is one of Dr. John Gee's former professors at Yale. Ritner's article in the Journal of Near eastern Studies is highly critical of his former student's involvement with any LDS apologetic effort on the part of the Book of Abraham, specifically because he was not included in a peer review.
  143. JNES, p. 162
  144. 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
  145. 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
  146. Bradley J. Cook, "The Book of Abraham and the Islamic Qisas al-Anbiya< (Tales of the Prophets) Extant Literature," Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 127—46.
  147. Barney, Kevin L. "Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant > The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources" see https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1098&index=10.
  148. Kurt H. Sethe, Urkunden des alten Reichs, 4 vols. (Leipzig:Hinrichs, 1932)1:111
  149. Nibley, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," IE 72 (September 1969: 89-93)
  150. Budge, Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Hunefer)34.
  151. Aylward H. Blackman, "A Study of Liturgy Celebrated in the Temple of Aton at El-Amarna," in Recuel d'etudes Egyptologiques dediees a la memoire de Jean Francois Champollion (Paris: Champion, 1922), 517, 521.
  152. Smuel Yeivin, "Canaanite Ritual Vessels in Egyptian Cultic Practices," JEA 62 (1976): 114.
  153. Waltraund Guglielmi, "Zur Symbolik des 'Dargringes des StrauBes der sh.t'" ZAS 103 (1976): 108.
  154. Ibid., 110-11
  155. Ibid., 111-12
  156. Ibid
  157. See Nibley, Hugh "Abraham in Egypt" FARMS: Provo, UT (1981) PRINT p.444-450
  158. Hugh W. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, "All the Court's a Stage: Facsimile 3, a Royal Mumming," (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute) off-site
  159. name="gee">:28As Dr. John Gee (PhD, Egyptology, Yale) notes, "some of the texts in the Book of the Dead manuscripts from the same time as the Joseph Smith Papyri (and even later) are also attested in manuscripts that go back before the time of Abraham." This was a personal communication to FairMormon Answers Wiki editors, 10 August 2007, cited with permission.
  160. 160.0 160.1 Kevin L. Barney, “The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources,” in John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid (editors), Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 2006).
  161. Barney, Kevin L. (2010) "On Elkenah as Canaanite El," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol. 19: No. 1, Article 5. Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol19/iss1/5
  162. Barney, “Semitic Adaptation”
  163. 163.0 163.1 Stephen E. Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Spring 1995)
  164. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Footnote 35, Gospel Topics, LDS.org. off-site
  165. Paul Y. Hoskisson, "Research and Perspectives: Where Was the Ur of Abraham?", Ensign (July 1991)
  166. John Gee, "Has Olishem Been Discovered?," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture Vol. 22, Num. 2 (2013)
  167. See Franklin S. Spalding, Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator (Salt Lake City: Arrow, 1912).
  168. This article was redacted 11/10/2018 and edited the same date
  169. <name="gee">:28As Dr. John Gee (PhD, Egyptology, Yale) notes, "some of the texts in the Book of the Dead manuscripts from the same time as the Joseph Smith Papyri (and even later) are also attested in manuscripts that go back before the time of Abraham." This was a personal communication to FairMormon Answers Wiki editors, 10 August 2007, cited with permission.
  170. Barney, Kevin L. (2010) "On Elkenah as Canaanite El," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies: Vol. 19: No. 1, Article 5. Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/jbms/vol19/iss1/5
  171. Barney, “Semitic Adaptation”
  172. This article was redacted 11/10/2018 and edited on the same date
  173. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
  174. This article was redacted 11/10/2018
  175. John Tvedtnes "Authentic Ancient Names and Words in the Book of Abraham and Related Kirtland Egyptian Papers" FairMormon Conference 2005. Paper may be read in full here
  176. John Gee, "The Larger Issue", 2009 FAIR Conference. off-site
  177. Oliver Cowdery (editor), "ON THE ABSURDITY OF SUPPOSING THAT THE THINKING PRINCIPLE IN MAN WILL EVER BE ANNIHILATED," (December 1836) Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 3:423-425. (An extract from "Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State.") It should be noted that the November 1836 date given for this article given by Brodie in No Man Knows My History on page 171 is incorrect.
  178. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A Note on the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute," BYU Studies 14, no. 3 (1974) off-site
  179. Robert Paul, "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 3 (1982), 333–356.
  180. John Brooke, The Refiner's Fire (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 207.
  181. Hugh Nibley, No, Ma'am, That's Not History: A Brief Review of Mrs. Brodie's Reluctant Vindication of a Prophet She Seeks to Expose (Bookcraft: 1946). off-site
  182. Jones, pp. 94-6.
  183. Edward T. Jones, The Theology of Thomas Dick and its Possible Relationship to that of Joseph Smith, Master's Thesis, 1969, p. 27.
  184. Thomas Dick, The Philosophy of a Future State (New York: R. Shoyer, 1831) p. 188.
  185. Dick, p. 212.
  186. Dick, p. 192.
  187. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977) p. 350.
  188. Dick, p. 52.
  189. Dick, p. 188.
  190. Smith, p. 345.
  191. Dick, p. 183.
  192. Smith, p. 345.
  193. Dick, p. 214
  194. D&C 93. An interesting thing for this reference is that the revelation cited comes from the year 1833--nearly three years before he began any academic study of the Hebrew language
  195. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics" on LDS.org (2014).
  196. Letter to the Editor dated 5 February 1838, Painesville Republican, 15 February 1838, Vol. II, No. 14–15
  197. "John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847," The Joseph Smith Papers
  198. Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 19 February 1842
  199. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics (8 July 2014)
  200. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–13. off-site (emphasis added)
  201. B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, Volume Two, 138.
  202. Jeremy Runnells, author of the "Letter to a CES Director", Posted on "Who's the Real Amateur?," Ploni Almoni: Mr. So-and-So's Mormon Blog (16 July 2014) off-site


A FairMormon Analysis of:
Letter to a CES Director
A work by author: Jeremy Runnells