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

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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 Book of Abraham Facsimile 1 agree with what Egyptologists say about the figures?

The Angel of the Lord (Figure 1)

Angels or heavenly messengers were frequently represented by birds in Egyptian literature. This is an element more contemporary to a later redactor and/or copyist of the Book of Abraham. The Egyptian word for angel is " 'ḫ". The Greek word for angel is "ἄγγελος". 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 [Egyptian 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 [Egyptian 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 terms 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 sacrifice 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 Muhelstein and John Gee, "An Egyptian Context for the Sacrifice of Abraham"

Kerry Muhelstein 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."[29]

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. There has also been another papyrus located that associates Abraham with a 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. [30]

Another lion couch scene has been discovered which actually includes Abraham's name. It should be noted that the article that this papyri was included in 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. It is very arguable, however, that with the preposition ("epi" meaning things ranging from "at", to "near" to "upon") and the circling of Abraham's name that this is an identification of Abraham as the figure on the couch in some form. This can simply not be demonstrated conclusively. [31]

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.[32]

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. Along with the commentary of scholars below, Hugh Nibley has shown how the names of these deities would be associated with the canopic jars depicted here in his book "An Approach to the Book of Abraham".

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. 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. A connection with K?reš the name of the Persian king Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28), is also possible. [33]

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. [34]

Hugh Nibley (framing his thought process in an imaginary dialogue) regarding how the four canopic jars could be both Mesopotamian gods and the four quarters of the earth (as found in Fac 2) argued:

. . . 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" enjoy a conspicuous display, and why 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[35]

[. . .]

It has been found that all these combinations have one thing in common--what Professor Constant de Wit calls the "quaternary 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[36] 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[37]

[. . .]

Mr. Jones: The animal heads seem to have been borrowed by the Egyptians in the first place. Originally the canopic vases didn't have the animal heads; they were just plain jars[38] Scholars believe "that the theriomorphic vase in Egypt, as elsewhere can be traced to an origin in North Syria."[39] 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.[40] 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[41]

Dick: But only four of them?

Mr. Jones: That was a concession to the system. 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[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]

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 Babylonian 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[45] corresponding closely to the four great gods of the Egyptian four directions.[46]

The idolatrous God of Pharaoh (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.” [47]

Abraham in Egypt (Figure 10)

Foreigners in Egypt, like Abraham was, are often represented by a Lotus Flower (sometimes referred to alternatively as a water lily), the figure depicted here, as argued by Dr. Hugh Nibley. Nibley cites Waltraud Guglielmi, a non-LDS Egyptologist, to support 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.[48] 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[49]. [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 bullock-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[50]. 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.[51]. It would now seem that these tall and narrow Egyptian ritual stands originated in Canaan.[52]

[. . .]

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"[53] 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.[54] "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.[55] 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.[56].

[. . .]

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 presentation of a lotus to the host was obligatory [. . .]; 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, proffered by the king himself as guardian of the border.[57]

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’. [58]

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. [59]

"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[60]


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 Book of Abraham 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.[61]


Question: Should the restoration of Book of Abraham 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.[62]


Question: Was the original head of the priest in Book of Abraham 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. Those performing rituals often donned a mask impersonating a particular god for theological effect.[63]

John Gee has written:

The discussion about figure 3 has centered on whether the head should be that of a jackal or a bald man. Whether the head is a jackal or a bald man in no way affects the interpretation of the figure, however, since in either case the figure would be a priest.

His footnote here reads as follows:

The argument for the identification runs as follows:
(1) Assume for the sake of argument that the head on Facsimile 1 Figure 3 is correct. What are the implications of the figure being a bald man? Shaving was a common feature of initiation into the priesthood from the Old Kingdom through the Roman period. Since “Complete shaving of the head was another mark of the male Isiac votary and priest” the bald figure would then be a priest.

(2) Assume on the other hand that the head on Facsimile 1 Figure 3 is that of a jackal, as was first suggested by Theodule Devéria. We have representations of priests wearing masks, one example of an actual mask, [and] literary accounts from non-Egyptians about Egyptian priests wearing masks. . . . Thus, however the restoration is made, the individual shown in Facsimile 1 Figure 3 is a priest, and the entire question of which head should be on the figure is moot so far as identifying the figure is concerned. (John Gee, “Abracadabra, Isaac, and Jacob,” Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 7/1 [1995]: 80–82)[64]

Gee gives an example of this of a bald priest donning the head of Anubis at the temple of Dendara. The first image is an actual drawing created during the Ptolemaic period from Dendara of the priest putting on the mask. The second is an example of such a mask that would be placed on them.

An actual drawing from the Temple at Dendara of a priest putting on an Anubian mask
An actual Anubian mask


  • 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 Book of Abraham Facsimile 1 holding a knife or was it 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.'"[65] 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.'"[66]

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 in Book of Abraham Facsimile 1 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).[67]

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.” [68]


Question: What are the criticisms related to Book of Abraham 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,"[69] which refers to those who "speak evil" of the king or of his policies.[70] 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."[71] 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.[72] 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.[73]


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.[74]


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.[75] 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.[76]


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.” [77]


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?

FIGURE 1

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...First in government, the last pertaining to measurement of time

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

Figure one is the God Amun. As 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."[78].. . .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. But before all else we are dealing with creation and birth. So, it is enlightening to note that the Prophet Joseph begins his explanation of this figure as "the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the 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.

[. . .]

The central figure of most hypocephali has four rams' heads on one neck. Herodotus was intrigued by the representation of Amun with the head of a ram, as in our figures 1 and 2. First of all, he makes it clear that the Egyptians did not for a moment "think that is th way he really was"[79] And he proceeds to explain that Zeus was determined that not even Hercules should see his true appearance, but he at least granted him the indulgence of "displaying himself wearing the fleece of a ram which he had skinned and beheaded." And that is why the Egyptian images of Zeus have a ram's head. They got the idea from the Ammonite Egyptian colonists, whose name for Zeus was Amun. The center of his cult in Egypt was in Mendes[80] Because the Egyptian word for ram, ba, is the same as the wod for soul, the Ram at Mendes also became assocated with both Osiris and Re[81] There are also a four-headed ram-god was thought to combine the attributeds of Re, Shu, Geb, and Osiris, and thenw as extended to include "the ba of every god."[82]

Turning to the famous Mendes Stela, we view "the great god Mendes, the life of Re, the male potency of gods and mankind, who appears in the region of light (or as an akh), the divine issue of the Ran . . . elest son of the Creator of All, who sits on the throne of the first of the gods . . . a prince in the womb, a ruler at the breast whom the potency of his father, the Ram of Mendes, made strong as a king, victorious, etc."[83] This fulsome description is well summed up in Joseph Smith's economical explanation as "the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or residence of God. First in government." (Fac. 2, fig. 1 explanation).

We all know thathe ram is the bellwheter who leads out the flock. Aries the Ram leads out the year in the Zodiac--the god Janus (after whom the month January is named) has the horns of Aries the Ram (see p. 397, fig. 48). As Min he always has got's horns and as Min-Amun he is the rejuvenanted prowess of ram, got, and lion . . . he with the four faces on one neck, the 777 ears, millions of eyes, and hundreds of thousands of horns[84] As to the horns, Amun shares two types with Khnum as primal king and creator. There are the long, twisted horizontal horns of figure 2 and the new breed which appeared in the New Kingdom of he well-known curly horned beast associated with Amun. And yet the god continues to wear both types of horns together as he does on most of the hypocephali.(fig. 28).[85]

[86]

The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit.[87]

Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "One Day to a Cubit"

Hollis R. Johnson,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (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 (and Michael Rhodes):

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 sorts 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 revealed 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 edifice. . . a World-Image that first the many levels, and all of it kept in order by strict measure."[88]

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."[89] 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.[90]

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

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

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[91]

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.[92] [. . .]

"The original letters of the Tetragrammaton," Phineas Mordell concludes, "were [Hebrew word] instead of [Hebrew word],"[93] which corresponds to Joseph Smith's j-a-o-e (yod, ayin, waw, aleph)[94]
Regarding all of Fac 2 Fig 1, Michael Rhodes writes:

A seated deity with two (or in most hypocephali, four) ram's heads. He is holding in his hand the symbols of life (onu), dominion (was) and stability (jd). On either side of the god are two apes (numbers 22 and 23) with horned moon-disks on their heads, in an attitude of adoration. There are also two serpents, one on either side of the seated deity. The god is sitting at the center of the hypocephalus, which, as was mentioned above, represents the world. This seated figure represents god as the creator, either Amon-Re or Khnum. When thus depicted with four heads, this god united within himself the attributes of the gods Re (the sun), Shu (light), Geb (the earth), and Osiris (god of the next world and the resurrection), and represented the primeval creative force. Joseph Smith says that this is “Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God.” This agrees well with the Egyptian symbolism of god endowed with the primeval creative force seated at the center of the universe. The name Kolob is right at home in this context. The word most likely derives from the common Semitic root QLB, which has the basic meaning of “heart, center, middle” (Arabic قِلب (qalb) “heart, center”; Hebrew קֶרֶב (qereb) “middle, midst”, קָרַב (qārab) “to draw near”; Egyptian m-qab “in the midst of”). In fact, قِلب forms part of the Arabic names of several of the brightest stars in the sky, including Antares, Regulus, and Canopus. The apes can represent Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom, as well as the moon, but due to their curious habit of holding up their hands to receive the first warming rays of the sun after the cold desert night as if worshiping the sun at its rising, they are often found in connection with the sun. Besides these solar and lunar associations, apes are also found associated with stars and constellations. Joseph Smith says they are stars receiving light from Kolob, which is in harmony with our understanding of their symbolism in Egyptian.

In his explanation of figure 1, Joseph Smith says that the earth is called Jah-oh-eh by the Egyptians. In the Times and Seasons he defined Jah-oh-eh as “O the Earth.” This would be reasonable rendering of the Egyptian i ae.t, “O Earth” (assuming that Joseph used the biblical convention of rendering a Semitic Yod with an english J).[95]

Stands next to Kolob...the next grand governing creation near to...the place where God resides; holding the key of power (figure 2)

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

This figure, as Joseph Smith explains it, "stands next to Kolob . . . the next grand governing creation near to . . . the place where God resides" (Fac 2, fig. 2, explanation). Compare this to figure 1, which is "Kolob. . .the first creation, nearest to . . . the residence of God" (Fac 2, fig. 1 explanation). With this gradation of glory goes precedence in time, figure 1 "the first creation." and beyond that, steps in degrees of authority, with figure 2, "te next grand governing creation." Neither one is the center of everything. Figure 1, to be sure, is the center facing in all directions around whom all else revolves. Abraham is told that "Kolob is set. . . to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest" (Abraham 3:9). Moses was rebuked for wanting an immediate view of what the ancients and Paul called [Greek script] (pleroma)--absolutely everything (see Colossians 2:9); the Lord told him to hold on and be satisfied with this world, the only world which concerned him at present (Moses 1:30-36).

Note also that figure 2, the second in order, is "holding the key of power also pertaining to other planets." On some hypocephali this figure is labeled both Re and Amun-Re, the same power at different levels. He stands at the zenith of the year and the moon of the day at his greatest moment of power--the sun, the ruler of the solar system, but everything about him reminds us that he is motion. What about the rest of his journey, passing through the underworld from west to east? WE are referred to the ley, the Wepwawet, "Opener of the Ways," which lets us out of the underworld.

In the small Nash hypocephalus (see appendix 7A), figures 1 and 2 are combined and their identify clearly established: In the top panel, wearing the two tall feathers of Amun, the two-headed figure, but here he is situated on the throne, holding the scepters exactly like the four-headed Amun on other hypocephali [96] In this case proximity is the main idea; we are near the center but moving out from it. Among the ancients and moderns, proximity to Divinity both in place and time was a direct measure of blessedness. This "Kolob" ideas is set forth vividly in the Book of Abraham: "the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me." (Abraham 3:3). It is "nearest to the celestial, or residence of God" (Fac 2. fig 1, explanation). A most significant feature of figure 2 is the crown the god-figure is wearing combining both ram's horns and the two tall features. It is the Ta-Tjenen crown (see Fac. 3 fig. 1) with the ram's horns that bring Re and Osiris together in a symbol of eternal beginning.[97]

Striding forth boldly on his eternal rounds, figure 2 is designated on a bronze hypocephalus as "Amun Lord of Heaven in his aspect of coming forth."[98] You will notice that our figure 2 is not "residing" anywhere--he is on the move, right at the top of the circle. His feathers usually touch and often protrude above the confining edge to show him, as one scholar puts it, "here at the vertex of the universe, the Ram comes first of al in order, appearing at the head of the universe and the beginning of light."[99] He is by all accounts a true two-faced Janus figure; classical writers, as we have seen, associated Amun;s ram horns with the constellation Aries the Ram, the Opener of the Year[100] Let us recall further that some Egyptian inscriptions label our figure 2 as past and future, "I know," and "I shall know," explaining that "the one is Osiris who is Yesterday, and the other is Re who is Tomorrow."[101]

The holy Egyptian feather which Shu wears signifies light traversing the space between heaven and earth and is represented by the god of that name;[102] "Its filaments symbolized the rays of the sun."[103] It is te famous atef-crown, designated by Joseph Smith as "emblematical of the grand presidency in heaven," and indeed the two feathers are the prime emblems of celestial light and spirit. Significantly, the shw-feather is not a theological but an astronomical symbol, as Rudolf Anthes sees it; the god's name is never written with the familiar divinity sign; rather it represents the actual sunshine or light and energy that traverses and fills the space between heaven and earth,[104] a light (to quote Joseph Smith) "pertaining to other planets." The sign of the two feathers enjoyed a very wide range of interpretation among the Egyptian scribes[105]

As to the staff and or scepter, which god carries as his staff of office and the emblem of his power, it is of the utmost importance. It signifies specifically the power to move or progress. It is the standard of the dog Wepwawet, whose image appears on it--the faithful dog who leads his majesty into the realm of the unknown. "The true character of Wepwawet is still far from being clearly defined, by the Pyramid texts show him intimately related to the mystery of the rising sun and the resurrection of the king. . . that is why he is in the prow of the solar bark and always leads the parade."[106] All these ideas come together in the figure on the staff of the character who bears it.

Staff and Key

Joseph Smith calls the staff a key, "the key of power". The Hebrew word for key [Hebrew script] (miptah), means literally "opener," while the Egyptian name of the god who bears this staff is Wp-w3.wt = Opener of the Ways. The Egyptian obsession with "the Way" as the course of life here and hereafter, eloquently expressed in the First Psalm and in the preaching of the great high priest Petosiris--"I will show you the Way of Life"--has been discussed at length by scholars such as Oswald Spengler and Gerturd Thausing[107] Peter is one who has the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). Janus also is the god "who holds a staff in his left and a key in his right,"[108] "the one who holds the key (clavigerus),"[109] and the one who is "the gatekeeper of the heavenly courts (coelestins ianitor aulae)."[110] 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.[111]

Michael Rhodes regarding all of Fac 2 Fig 2:

A two-headed deity wearing the double-plumed crown of Amon, with ram's horns mounted on it. On his shoulders are jackal heads, and he is holding the jackal standard of the god Wepwawet. To his right is an altar with offerings on and around it. In most hypocephali, he is holding the ankh, or symbol of life, in his right hand. Also to his right is a line of hieroglyphs reading: “The name of this Mighty God.”

This is Amon-Re, the chief god of the Egyptian pantheon; the two heads illustrate the hidden and mysterious power of Amon (his name in Egyptian means “the Hidden One”) combined with the visible and luminous power of Re. This is clearly the god mentioned in chapter 162 of the Book of the Dead (the chapter describing the construction and use of the hypocephalus), who wears the double plumed crown. The jackals on his shoulders as well as the jackal standard he holds are symbols of the god Wepwawet, the Opener of the Way, i.e. of the year, of the king in his conquests, of the dead through the dangers of hereafter to the throne of Osiris where they would be judged, or any other way that needs opening. Joseph Smith says, “Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides: holding the key of power.” The symbol of life held by this god was considered as a symbol of a god's power. A good example is the god Aton, who is represented by a sun disk with numerous rays emanating from it that all end in a hand holding the symbol of life. I can find no obvious word in Egyptian that matches with Oliblish, but this puts it in the same category as many of the strange names found in the 162nd chapter of the Book of the Dead, which seem not to be Egyptian but some foreign language.

Joseph also says this figure pertains to the plan of God's creations as revealed to Abraham as he was making a sacrifice. This agrees exactly with the Apocalypse of Abraham account as described above, as well as with the Egyptian concept of the hypocephalus representing all that the sun encircles.[112]

Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed (figure 3)

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

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.[113] "Clothed with power," however, is a palpable hit; for the big was-scepter that the king holds stands for "dominion," according to Raymond Faulkner[114] and for "dominion, lordship," according to Alan H. Gardiner; [115][116]

[. . .]


The main activity in this panel on most hypocephali is the handing around of the wedjat-eye. Thus we find the ape presenting the eye to the sun-god; [117] or the ape in a shrine wearing the solar disk receiving the wedjat from another ape who also wears upon his head yet another solar disk containing another wedjat-eye; [118] or an ape in the shrine receiving the wedjat-eye; [119] or a giant wedjat-eye held by an ibis-headed Thoth and worshipped by two apes; [120] or an ape presenting the eye to the sun-god—facing to the right as in our figure 3—between them a scarab labeled Khepri; [121] or a large ape in a shrine receives the eye from another ape—the infant rides up in the bow; [122] or the sun-god and the apes flank a Khepri-scarab to whom the ape is offering the eye.[123] Quite often the ape offers the eye to the crowned ape in the shrine; [124] the ape and the eye alone in the boat; [125] or the ape in a shrine faced by an ape with two wedjat-eyes.[126] Thus Khepri, the scarab, changes his position from hypocephalus to hypocephalus with the greatest freedom—he moves all over the place, as is proper for one who is the very embodiment of change. We go on with these seemingly endless permutations to indicate what a hive of activity figure 3 represents, a lively exchange of position and powers with a full display of “power and authority, . . . the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood” being passed around, here represented as visual symbols, as we know it descended to “Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed.”

The cast of characters is very limited in the Joseph Smith version, but the idea is fully represented by the presence of the most potent symbol of all, the two wedjat-eyes flanking Horus-Re. They must be considered in the context of figure 7...[127]

Michael Rhodes:

A hawk-headed god Re with the sun disk on his head, seated on the solar bark. On either side of him is a Wedjat-eye. In his hand he holds the was-scepter, symbol of dominion, and in front of him is an altar with a lotus blossom on it.

Re seated in his bark represents the sun in its daily journey across the sky and symbolizes resurrection and rebirth, since the sun was thought to die and be reborn each day. The lotus on the altar in front of him is also symbolic of rebirth and the rising sun. The Wedjat-eye was symbolic of light and protection (among other things) and is thus not out of place in this context.

Joseph Smith said this represented God, sitting upon his throne clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light on his head. The was-scepter, as I mentioned above, represents power and authority, and the sun certainly qualifies as a crown of eternal light. He also said that it represented the grand key words of the priesthood. The Greek writer Plutarch explained that the Wedjat-eye of Osiris represented pro/noia “divine providence” (literally “foreknowledge”), the divine wisdom by which God oversees and cares for all of his creations. It is not unreasonable to see in this “the grand key words of the priesthood” (“The glory of God is intelligence,” D&C 93:36).[128]

Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens; also a numerical figure, in Egyptian signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of time of Oliblish, which is equal to Kolob in its revolution and in its measuring of time (Figure 4)

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

Our figure 4 goes back to the earliest Egyptian iconography, found on an ivory tomb belonging to King Djet (serpent) from the First Dynasty; on it has been drawn "a boat beneath which two wings representing the sky are spread."[129] 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"[130]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[131] The bird in the boat is sometimes exchanged for the sky-goddess Nut, whose outstretched wings are the symbol of protection, [132]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.[133][134]

[. . .]

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,"[135] The Thousand Souls are stars, and she is so called because the stars are her children; 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 the 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. . . 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 counter heaven."[136] 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."[137][138]

[. . .]

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.[139][140]

Michael Rhodes:

A hawk in mummy wrappings with outspread wings, seated upon a boat. This can represent either Horus-Soped or Sokar, both hawk gods, which are symbolized by a mummiform hawk. One outstanding feature of this figure is its outspread wings, which are not normally found in representations of these two gods. The wings show a clear connection with Horus, the personification of the sky, as well as emphasizing the emerging of the the hawk from his mummy bindings in the resurrection. The association with Sokar, the ancient god of Memphis, is even more interesting. In the festival of Sokar, which was celebrated in many parts of Egypt, a procession was held in which the high priest would place the Sokar-boat on a sledge and pull it around the sanctuary. This procession symbolized the revolution of the sun and other celestial bodies. Joseph Smith sees here symbolism for the expanse or firmament of the heavens, which concept, as stated above, the Egyptians often represent by the hawk-god Horus. Joseph's explanation that this figure represents the revolutions of Kolob and Obilish agrees favorably with what we know of the use of the Sokar-boat in the festival of Sokar to represent the revolutions of the sun and other celestial bodies. Joseph also says that it is a numerical figure in Egyptian signifying one thousand. While this is not the standard hieroglyph for one thousand, there is a clear connection between the number one thousand and the ship of the dead. For example, in the Coffin Texts we read, “He takes the ship of 1000 cubits from end to end and sails it to the stairway of fire.” On the sarcophagus of the princess Anchenneferibre is found a description of the “Khabas in Heliopolis” and “Osiris in his ship of a thousand.” The term Khabas means “A Thousand is her souls” and refers to the starry hosts of the sky, confirming again Joseph Smith's explanation that it represents the expanse of the heavens.[141]

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

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

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[142]. As early as the Old Kingdom, the cow appears "as the female equivalent of Re."[143] 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[144]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. [145][146]

...which governs fifteen other fixed planes or stars...

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

In his discussion of the Book of the Cow in the royal tombs, Charles Maystre pays special attention to the Tutankhamun version, the most carefully executed of the Heavenly Cow pictures (see p. 324, fig. 38): “Along the belly of the cow are stars.” [147] These are set in a line; at the front end is the familiar solar-bark bearing the symbol of Shemsu, the following or entourage, and at the rear end of the line is another ship bearing the same emblem. Both boats are sailing in the same direction through the heavens. The number of stars varies among the cows; in the instructions contained in the tomb of Seti I, it is specified that there should be nine, though the three groups of three strokes each can, and often do, signify an innumerable host.[148]

The number here plainly belongs to the cow, but what about the fifteen stars? “The number fifteen cannot be derived from any holy number of the Egyptians,” writes Hermann Kees, and yet it presents “a surprising analogy” with the fifteen false doors in the great wall of the Djoser complex at Saqqara, which was designed by the great Imhotep himself, with the Festival of the Heavens of Heliopolis in mind, following the older pattern of the White Wall of the Thinite palace of Memphis.[149] Strangely enough this number fifteen keeps turning up all along, and nobody knows why, though it always represents passing from one gate or door to another. Long after Djoser, Amenophis III built a wall for his royal circumambulation at the sed-festival, marking the inauguration of a new age of the world; it also had fifteen gates.[150] In the funeral papyrus of Amonemsaf, in a scene in which the hawk comes from the starry heavens to minister to the mummy, “the illustration . . . is separated into two halves by the sign of the sky ” —the heaven above and the tomb below (fig. 31). Between the mummy and the depths and the hawk in the heaven, there are twelve red dots and fifteen stars.[151] Again, twelve is the best-known astral number, but why fifteen? One Egyptologist wrote years ago that “The author’s impression is that these [the fifteen stars] are purely theological features without astronomical significance.” [152] “The ‘great Ennead which resides in Karnak’ swelled to fifteen members.” [153] It was structured in three phases: one became two, two became four, four became eight, which is fifteen altogether. Étienne Drioton associates this with the dividing of eternity in the drama of Edfu into years, years into months, and months into fifteen units, these units into hours, and they into minutes.[154] Furthermore the idea of fifteen mediums or conveyors may be represented on the fifteen limestone tablets of the Book of the Underworld found by Theodore Davies and Howard Carter in the tomb of Hatshepsut.[155] Let us recall that the basic idea, as Joseph Smith explains it, is that “fifteen other fixed planets or stars” act as a medium for conveying “the governing power.” Coming down to a later time of the Egyptian gnostics, we find the fifteen helpers (παραστάται, parastatai) of the seven virgins of light in the Coptic Pistis Sophia, who “expanded themselves in the regions of the twelve saviors and the rest of the angels of the midst; each according to its glory will rule with me in an inheritance of light.” [156] In an equally interesting Coptic text, 2 Jeu, there are also fifteen parastatai who serve with “the seven virgins of the light” who are with the “father of all fatherhoods, . . . in the Treasury of the Light.” [157]. They are the light virgins who are “in the middle or the midst (μέσος, mesos),” meaning that they are go-betweens.[158] Parastatai are those who conduct one through a series of ordinances, just as the fifteen stars receive and convey light.

In all this we never get away from cosmology and astronomy. In the Old Slavonic Secrets of Enoch, “four great stars, each having one thousand stars under it,” go with “fifteen myriads of angels,” <re>Secrets of Enoch 11:4–5.</ref> all moving, to quote Joseph Smith, together with “the Moon, the Earth, and the Sun in their annual revolutions.” In the Book of Gates, one of those mystery texts reserved for the most secret rites of the greatest kings, we see, as Gustave Jéquier describes it, “a long horizontal bar with a bull’s head at either end, supported by eight mummiform personages, and carrying seven other genies” (fig. 32).[159]These fifteen figures are designated as carriers or bearers (f.w), and the bar is the body of the bull extended to give them all room. A rope enters the bull’s mouth at one end and exits at the other, and on the end of this rope there is a sun-bark being towed by a total of eight personages designated as stars.[160] Just as the ship travels through the fifteen conveyor stars on the underside of the cow, the two heads of the bull make him interchangeable with the two-headed lion Aker, or Ruty, who guards the gate. “Aker,” writes Jéquier, “is a personification of the gates of the earth by which the sun must pass in the evening and in the morning.” [161] He is the same as the two-headed Janus, the gate-god, whom we have already met.[162]

Michael Rhodes regarding all of Fig 5:

A cow wearing a sun disk and double plumes with a menit-necklace (symbol of Hathor, Ihet, etc.). This is the cow Ihet mentioned in chapter 162 of the Book of the Dead, which should be drawn on a piece of new papyrus to make a hypocephalus. Hence this picture of a cow is common to almost all hypocephali. Ihet is a form of Hathor, a personification of the original waters from which the whole of creation arose and the one who gave birth to the sun. She is also connected with Mehweret (Greek methyr), another cow goddess who symbolized the sky and is the celestial mother by whom the sun is reborn each day. The name Mehweret (Me-wr.t) means, “Great fullness,” i.e., the primeval waters from which Re, the Sun, first arose. Standing behind the cow is the goddess Wedjat who is holding a lotus blossom, the symbol of rebirth, here indicating the daily and annual renewal of the sun. Joseph Smith's explanation that this is the sun is in agreement with the Egyptian symbolism. Of various names used here by Joseph, I can find an equivalent only for Hah-ko-kau-beam, which is recognizable as the Hebrew הַכּוֹכָבִים (hakôkābîm) “the stars.” But again as stated above, strange, incomprehensible names are typical of this class of Egyptian religious documents.[163]

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.[164]

LDS Scholars have also cited the work of Maarten Raven, a non-LDS Egyptologist, to support Joseph's explanation. [165]

Michael Rhodes:

These four standing, mummy-like figures are the four Sons of Horus. They were the gods of the four quarters of the earth and later came to be regarded as presiding over the four cardinal points. They also were guardians of the viscera of the dead, and their images were carved on the four canopic jars into which the internal organs of the dead were placed.

Joseph Smith is right again describing these figures as representing “this earth in its four quarters.”

To the right of these four figures is the name of a god written with a lotus blossom, a lion, and a ram (Egyptian srpt-mai-sr). These three signs are thought to symbolize the gods of the rising, midday, and setting sun, i.e. Re, Khepri, and Atum. This same god is found in several different passages of the late Egyptian demotic papyrus, which refers to Abraham. Joseph Smith gives no explanation of this hieroglyphic name, but it is clearly associated with Abraham in this ancient document.[166]

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 God Min appears to have been "made to represent God sitting upon his throne" while the wedjat eye was used to represent the power of the Priesthood, and Nehebkau, the bird-like/serpent-like God being made to represent the Holy Ghost. See John Gee's discussion above for the adaptation of birds to represent angels or other heavenly messengers:

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

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[167] They are also signs of procreation. Min was intimately related to the god Amun, and Amun was probably derived from him.[168]. "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."[169] The Greeks and Romans associated him with Pan and Priapus [170] 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."[171]

[. . .]

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 heaven. [172] The eye was, according to Griffiths, the Eye of Horus[173]

The eye fills the king completely;[174] it purifies him[175] it gives him special knowledge, visionary power. [176] It exalts the king and places him at the head of the Greater and Lesser Councils.[177] [. . .] 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 through the middle chamber of stars into a room in which heaven was scenically depicted."[178] It is the ultimate supreme power over men and gods [179] Its power is especially protective, encircling the king[180] [. . .] 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[181] and as the very precious oil used in the ordinances of anointing the brow or breast, specifically to bestow authority ad power.[182] It is the anointing which transforms the nature of the individual.[183] All this is in the wedjat eye itself, which by anointing imparts soul and body, restoration, joy, and thankfulness with its obligation of obedience.[184]

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.[185] It is the strength given by sacramental food.[186] [. . .]

By now it should be clear to any Latter-day Saint reader that the elusive wedjat-eye, intimately familiar yet strangely elusive, is a symbol of that equally common all-but-indefinable power called the priesthood.[187]

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.

[The wedjat eye can also symbolize] healing, light, totality, protection, glory, and even riches.[188]

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 (and Michael Rhodes):

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 hieroglyphs 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[189] from the time of (10) the creation.[190] O Mighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, (9) of the hereafter, and of his great waters,[191] (8) may the soul of Osiris[192]Shishaq[193] be granted life.

As stated above, this is a prayer or plea of Shishaq, the owner of the hypocephalus, to Osiris, the god of the dead, who is the Lord of all things, to grant him eternal life.[194]

Michael Rhodes:

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. [Figures 8-11 should actually be read from Figure 11 to Figure 8. Altogether it reads, "(Fig.11) O God of the Sleeping Ones from the time of the creation. (Fig.10) O Mighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, (Fig.9) of the hereafter, and of his great waters, (Fig.8) may the soul of the Osiris Shishaq be granted life."][195]

Figures 16, 17...will be given in the own due time of the Lord

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

There are other such sentiments, but none of them at all like that in the Joseph Smith hypocephalus. These two passages take the form of half a dozen formulae in the various hypocephali consistent with their position at the very bottom of the world: (1) The theme of light coming into the darkness, the best known of all; (2) a warning to one in danger; (3) the assurance “you are secure” (written with the djed-column); (4) the stock flame-under-the-head statement; (5) snatches from conventional statements found in hypocephali in general such as “you go where you want,” etc. (6) But the Joseph Smith readings are the most interesting, backed up as they are by the carefully composed Leiden and Ashmolean hypocephali.

The clue to these two lines is a recent study by Hans Goedicke. Most of line 17 is taken up by the significant expression b pn ḥnʿ nb=f. This particular formula, as Goedicke points out, citing examples, emphasizes “the continuous company between man and his ba . . . [and] reflects a continuous link.”[196] For example: “When I hurry to the caves, may my ba be still with me”[197]and “While I sleep my ba watches over my body.”[198] Just so Re watches over the sleeping Osiris. The idea of course is that the ba continues after death “to remain in contact with its former lord.” To achieve that unbroken contact between spirit and body against the moment of resurrection is of course the main purpose of the hypocephalus; or as Goedicke puts it, “the implicit motive for the desired contact between ba and corpse is the hope for a reunification of the disintegrated person in a physical rebirth.” [199] The subject of Goedicke’s special study is the famous “Lebensmüde,” or as Goedicke renders it, “The Report about the Dispute of the Man with his Ba” —perhaps the most impressive of all Egyptian theological compositions. Though the idea here treated “occurs repeatedly in all periods of Egyptian culture,” the “Lebensmüde” is the earliest and most moving exposition.[200] But the Joseph Smith version carries the theme farther. The whole inscription reads: (17) (16) (17) ḥ.t th.t, n nth.tw, (16) nn tḥ.tw b pn ḥnʿ nbf m dw.t ḏ.t (17) May this tomb never be desecrated,[201] (16) and may this soul and its owner never be desecrated in the hereafter.

The word ḥ.t refers to the tomb [202] or, more precisely, the tomb shaft.[203]Most hypocephali bear the name of their owner at least once, and it is his tomb that this passage is supposed to protect. The next word is thἰ, to overstep, transgress; desecrate.[204] The concern here is that the deceased body which is in the tomb as well as his spirit (ba) which is in the netherworld, not be disturbed or desecrated, which would prevent their ultimate reuniting in a resurrection. As Coffin Texts explain, all the parts of the physical body will be brought together with the soul, and the person will be “reestablished” in his original form.[205] The eternity motif means that the person is not stuck in the netherworld forever, but rather the body and spirit are reunited, and the person can “live forever.” [206][207]

Figure...18...will be given in the own due time of the Lord

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

Another tradition suggested by the rim is the significance of the solar circle as the year-circle or shenen, the course of the sun in his rounds. Alan H. Gardiner explains, “Strictly speaking, the loop would be round. . . . The Egyptians called the cartouche šnw from a verb-stem šnἰ, ‘encircle,’ and it seems not unlikely that the idea was to represent the king as ‘ruler of all that which is encircled by the sun,’ a frequently expressed notion.”[208]

The commonest Egyptian sign for eternity is read nḥḥ , a solar disk between two twisted hanks of hemp. ḥḥ is the common root for “many,” “very many,” “a million”; with the sun-disk (the time element) added it means eternal and eternally in the end formula of countless inscriptions, nḥḥ ḥnʿ ḏ.t, “for time and eternity.”[209] The point of all this is that the combination of šn and ḥḥ with vowels supplied can be read as Shinehah, which according to Joseph Smith designates “Shinehah, which is the sun,” with reference to its motion relative to that of the other heavenly bodies (Abraham 3:13) and signifies “one eternal round.”

The Amun inscriptions encircling the hypocephali deal with the transmission of heat, light, and power. In the Meux hypocephalus rim inscription Amun states, “I have come forth from the wedjat-eye. . . . I have come forth from the netherworld with Re (the sun),” [210] the hypocephalus itself being the means by which light and heat are transmitted from their celestial source to the individual whose head rests upon it. Amun is commonly implored in the rim inscriptions to “turn his face toward the body of so-and-so,” [211] to warm and preserve it through the virtue of Re. The hypocephalus as a transmitter of both heat and light was to make available to one in the netherworld the life-giving force of the sun.[212]

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

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

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. [213]

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.[214]

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.

Hugh Nibley (and Michael Rhodes):

Inseparable from our figure 1 are the reverential apes on either side of him—figures 22 and 23 (see appendix 2). On other hypocephali they are sometimes two in number, sometimes four, six, or eight; sometimes standing and sometimes seated. They are identified as stars. As early as the Pyramid Texts, they are designated as “the Beloved Sons” of Sothis/Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.[215]. It is assumed that the position of the apes shows them warming their hands as they greet the rays of the rising sun after the cold desert night and seeming to shield their eyes from the glory of the sunrise. So they are stars receiving light from a greater star, as Joseph Smith’s explanation declares. There was nothing to indicate to Joseph Smith that they are stars, yet along with the Pyramid Texts we have a vignette in the 17th chapter of the Book of the Dead in which each of these apes is preceded by a star (fig. 22).[216]

[. . .]

Horopollo tells us that the special office of the apes was to function as timekeepers or time-reckoners.[217]The sitting cynocephalus, according to him, at each equinox urinates twelve times a day and twelve times a night; during the rest of the year he gives a cry twelve times a day on the hour, every hour.[218]The seated ape, then, is in charge of both the water clock and scales (fig. 24). In the Ptolemaic period the Egyptians wrote the determinative of the word for “hour,” wnw.t , by a heart-shaped plumb bob suspended from a carpenter’s square (see p. 253, fig. 26).[219]. The purpose of this was to make sure that the post supporting the scale was perfectly upright, as is shown in Joseph Smith Papyrus IV. This new element suggests that the apes which face each other, worshipping the central figure both on the morning side and the evening side on all hypocephali (Fac. 2, figs. 22 and 23), establish among other things a sense of perfect balance in the universe—time, space, and matter are all measurably related. Finally, each of our apes is crowned with a disk and a crescent, the meeting of the sun and the moon at the New Moon marking the beginning of the month; the best-known office of the cynocephalus apes is in representing Thoth as the moon-god (see color plate 2).[220]

Hah-Ko-kau-beam (Fig 23)

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.

Michael Rhodes on Fig 22 and 23:

A seated deity with two (or in most hypocephali, four) ram's heads. He is holding in his hand the symbols of life (onu), dominion (was) and stability (jd). On either side of the god are two apes (numbers 22 and 23) with horned moon-disks on their heads, in an attitude of adoration. There are also two serpents, one on either side of the seated deity. The god is sitting at the center of the hypocephalus, which, as was mentioned above, represents the world....

The apes can represent Thoth, the god of writing and wisdom, as well as the moon, but due to their curious habit of holding up their hands to receive the first warming rays of the sun after the cold desert night as if worshiping the sun at its rising, they are often found in connection with the sun. Besides these solar and lunar associations, apes are also found associated with stars and constellations. Joseph Smith says they are stars receiving light from Kolob, which is in harmony with our understanding of their symbolism in Egyptian.

[The writing near Fig. 22 reads:] The name of this Mighty God.... The Egyptians believed that every god and goddess had a secret name. If anyone could find out this name, he would have power over the god or goddess.[221]


Abraham and the Temple Endowment (Themes of Facsimile 2 and especially figures 8-20)

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 the 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 [222]


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. [223]

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? [224]

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. [225]

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 [226], 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. [227]

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. [228]


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. [229]

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."[230]

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)." [231] 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 [232]

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. [233]

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 by politeness of the King (Fig 1)

The Qisas includes an account of Abraham being seated next to a king. [234]

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.[235]

Hugh Nibley:

But who would sit on Pharaoh’s own throne while he was alive and standing by? “No Pharaoh of Egypt,” cried one of Joseph Smith’s learned critics, “would have resigned his throne, even temporarily, to Abraham or any other person—hence . . . this would be an ‘impossible occurrence.'”[236] But it has since been shown that there was ample precedent in Egypt for just such an event. It goes back to the very ancient title of “Rpʿt on the Throne of Geb,” Geb the earth-god representing the principle of royal patriarchal succession here below. As Helck has unraveled it, we may begin with the Sed festival, marking the end of one reign and the beginning of another in a single rite: The old king is dead on the scene—it is his funeral—but his successor has not yet ascended the throne, which is therefore still his. Because of his condition, however, somebody must act for the late king until the new one takes over, and that one is the Rpʿt, originally the son himself “in his expectation of the throne,” in his role of Horus and therefore “like his father a descendant of Geb.”[237] Following the example of the Sed rites, the prince could represent his father on various missions, bearing the title “for specific assignments as substitute (Stellvertreter) for the king, authorized to give commands” in his name, and called the Son of Geb to proclaim his legitimate station.[238] With the growing business of the empire the king would need more substitutes than one, and at a very early time important court officials not of royal blood were detailed to represent royalty on various missions and given the title in a “truly patriarchal” spirit to show they were acting for the king and as the king.[239] The great Imhotep, a man of genius but for all that a commoner, held the title of Rpʿt on the Throne of Geb in the Third Dynasty;[240] that other wise man, Amenophis son of Hapu, boasts that he played “rpʿt in the drama of the Sed festival,”68 even as the official Ikhernofret had the honor of being the king’s understudy in playing the role of Horus.

With a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgement in his hand. (Fig 1) (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

Hugh Nibley:

In most compositions resembling Facsimile 3, the seated majesty wears the same crown as is worn by figure 1. Sometimes the person on the throne and the one being presented to him both wear it.[241] Both the whiteness and the feathers are symbolic of the heavenly light that burst upon the world at the coronation,[242] the “luminous” quality of the one who mounts the throne.[243] The two feathers are both the well-known Maat feathers, “feathers of truth,” and Shu feathers, symbolic of the light that passes between the worlds.[244]Osiris “causes brilliance to stream forth through the two feathers,” says the famous Amon-Mose hymn, “like the Sun’s disk every morning. His White Crown parted the heavens and joined the sisterhood of the stars. He is the leader of the gods . . . who commands the Great Council [in heaven], and whom the Lesser Council loves.”[245] What clearer description could one ask than Joseph Smith’s designation of the crown “as emblematical of the grand Presidency in heaven”? He tells us also that this crown is “representing the priesthood.” The “most conspicuous attribute” of the godhead, according to Jaroslav Černý, was power;[246]the Egyptians, wrote Georges Posener, “did not worship a man” in the Pharaoh, “but ‘the power clothed in human form.'”[247] One shared in the power, Siegfried Morenz explains, by achieving “the maximal approach of the individual to the ‘divine nature,’ symbolized by his wearing an atef crown.”[248]The atef is the crown in our Facsimile 3, and anyone in a state of sanctification could wear it, but it emphasized, according to Morenz, a sacral rather than a kingly capacity, i.e., it “represented the priesthood” of the wearer.[249]

With the crown go the crook and flail, the receiving of which was a necessary part of the transmission of divine authority. Percy E. Newberry, in a special study, concluded that both crook and flail are “connected with the shepherd,” the former “the outward and visible sign of . . . authority,” marking the one who bore it as “chief shepherd”; by it “he rules and guides . . . and defends” his flock.[250] The flail was a contraption shepherds used to gather laudanum, according to Newberry’s explanation (which, however, has met with no enthusiastic acceptance by other scholars). Ancient sources tell us what it signified, as when the official who bears it at the archaic festival of Sokar is described as “drawing the people of Tameri [the Beloved Land, Egypt] to your lord under the flail,” suggesting the cattle driver, as does the prodding and protecting crook of the shepherd.[251] And like the crook, the whip also serves to protect the flocks: “Men and animals and gods praise thy power that created them,” says Anchesneferibre addressing Osiris, “there is made for thee a flail [nkhakha], placed in thy hands as protection.”[252] As symbolic of the power that created, it is held aloft by the prehistoric Min of Coptos, being the whip of light or of power, bestirring all things to life and action.[253]

In their administrative and disciplinary capacities both crook and scourge are indeed symbolic of Pharaoh’s “justice and judgment.” But in the hands of a commoner? Wolfhart Westendorf calls attention to “claims to royal prerogatives” found in the “tombs of the monarchs and dignitaries, who took over the whip, crook, scepter, and other elements of the king’s garb, in order to be completely equipped in death with all the attributes of Osiris.”[254] Gardiner claimed that those who appear in the trappings of our figure 1 were imitating not Osiris but the living king.[255] But it is all the same: The man on the throne holding “the sceptre of justice and judgment in his hand” is not necessarily either the king or Osiris, though he aspires to both priesthood and kingship. A scene from the Temple of Karnak shows Amon on the throne handing his crook and whip to the living king, who kneels before him; but the king already holds his own crook and flail (fig. 76), while Chonsu standing behind the throne in the garb of Osiris also holds the crook and flail.[256] The freedom with which the sacred symbols could be thus handed around shows that Abraham would not have to grasp Pharaoh’s own personal badges of office, but like many another merely be represented with the universal emblems to indicate the king recognized his supreme priesthood, as the Abraham legends recount.[257][258]

King Pharaoh (Fig 2) Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt (Fig 4)

Hugh Nibley:

Anyone wishing to demolish Joseph Smith’s interpretation of Facsimile 3 with the greatest economy of effort need look no further than his designating as “King Pharaoh” and “Prince of Pharaoh” two figures so obviously female that a three-year-old child will not hesitate to identify them as such. Why then have Egyptologists not simply pointed to this ultimate absurdity and dismissed the case? Can it be that there is something peculiarly Egyptian about this strange waywardness that represents human beings as gods and men as women? We have already hinted at such a possibility in the case of Imhotep in which, to carry things further, we see both his wife and mother dressed up as goddesses, the latter as Hathor herself (fig. 70).[259] Even more surprising, Dietrich Wildung notes an instance in which “we can identify Anat [the Canaanites’ version of Hathor] as ʾAnat of Ramses [the king] himself in the shape of a goddess” (fig. 71).[260] There you have it—the Lady Hathor, who is figure 2 in Facsimile 3, may be none other than Pharaoh himself. The two ladies in the Facsimile, figures 2 and 4, will be readily identified by any novice as the goddesses Hathor and Maat. They seem indispensable to scenes having to do with the transmission of power and authority. The spectacle of men, kings, and princes at that, dressed as women, calls for a brief notice on the fundamental issue peculiar to the Egyptians and the Book of Abraham, namely, the tension between the claims of patriarchal vs. matriarchal succession.

[. . .]

Since Hathor installs the king “as guarantor of the world order,” it is not surprising that she is also identified with Maat (our figure 4 in Facsimile 3) at the coronation, hailed as “Hathor the Great, the Lady of Heaven, the Queen of the Gods and Goddesses, Maat herself, the female son [sic] . . . Maat who brings order to the world at the head of the Sun-bark, even ‘Isis the Great,’ the Mother of the Gods."[261] In the prehistoric shrine of Cusae “Maat was like the double [Ka] of Hathor”;[262] the two always operate together at coronations: “Maat is before him and is not far from his majesty. . . . Hathor the Great One is with him in his chapel.”[263]To signify his own wholeness of heart, the king presents the Maat-image to Hathor.[264] Maat (the female son) is the younger of the two—indeed, who is not younger than the primordial mother? While “Isis the divine mother” says at the coronation, “I place my son on the throne,” the younger goddess standing by as Nephthys “the Divine Sister” says, “I protect thy body my brother Osiris.”[265]Here the two ladies as Isis the venerable and Nephthys the maiden appear as mother and daughter,[266] standing in the same relationship to each other as “Pharaoh” and “Prince of Pharaoh,” whom they embody in Facsimile 3 (figures 2 and 4 respectively).

[. . .]

All this switching of sexes is understandable, if unsettling, in a symbolic sense—after all, Job says of the righteous man, “his breasts are full of milk” (Job 21:24). But Facsimile 3 is supposed to be an actual scene in the palace; would the family-night charades go so far? Granted that a bisexual nature was the rule for Egyptian divinities, who could freely change their outward appearance to match special functions,[267] still in a purportedly historical scene in which men are represented as women we need something more specific. To begin with, Hathor and Maat were always known for the masks that represent them, these masks being regularly worn by men. The horned Hathor mask, originally life-sized, was carried hanging around the neck of the officials and was gradually reduced in size for convenience, though even in the later period it is still quite large—plainly meant to be worn originally as a mask (fig. 73).[268] In the Old Kingdom, the son of Cheops wore the Hathor mask in his office of Intendant of the Palace, and other high officials wore it too; in the Middle Kingdom it was still the mark of men serving the king’s most intimate needs as his personal attendants.[269] The Egyptian chief judge, as he mounted the bench to represent the king, would suspend a large Hathor mask from his neck to signify that the court was formally in session, just as lawyers and judges in England submerge their personal identities in wigs and robes.[270] This Hathor mask seems to have been at all times interchangeable with the Maat-symbol, usually a huge greenstone feather that is sometimes shown in ritual scenes taking the place of the Lady’s face and head. The symbols are so freely applied that Budge identified the “cow-headed goddess” in the presentation scene of the Kerasher Papyrus, which is very closely related to our Facsimile 3, as “either Isis-Hathor or Maat” (fig. 74).[271]

The wearing of these two amulets or masks means complete identification: “Maat places herself as an amulet at thy neck [fig. 75A]; . . . thy right eye is Maat, thy left eye is Maat, thy flesh is Maat, . . . and thy members; . . . thy bandelette is Maat, thy garment . . . is Maat.”[272] The reference here is specifically to clothing; plainly the new king, the young one, is all dressed up as Maat—”she embodies him in her person in spite of sex.”[273] So let no one be shocked by figure 4. She is “the female Horus, the youthful, . . . Isis, the great, the mother of God, born in Dendera on the eve of the child in its cradle (the New Year).”[274] That is, she is not Pharaoh, but the “Prince of Pharaoh,” the new king. On the other hand, from a Pyramid Text it is clear that the king wore not only the horned headdress of the royal mother Hathor, but her complete outfit as well—combined with the Maat feathers: “His royal robe is upon him as Hathor, while his feather is a falcon’s feather,”[275] signifying both Horus (the falcon) and Maat as his “double.”172[276]

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.[277] 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[278]. [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[279]. 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.[280]. It would now seem that these tall and narrow Egyptian ritual stands originated in Canaan.[281]

[. . .]

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"[282] 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.[283] "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.[284] 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.[285].

[. . .]

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.[286]

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 of Jasher 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 Jerahmeel 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 Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, "Shulem, One of the King’s Principal Waiters"

John Gee,  Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship, (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

Hugh Nibley:

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).[287]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.[288] 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.[289]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.[290] 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.[291]


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. [292]


Response to claim: "86% of Book of Abraham chapters 2, 4, and 5 are King James Version Genesis chapters 1, 2, 11, and 12."

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

5. 86% of Book of Abraham chapters 2, 4, and 5 are King James Version Genesis chapters 1, 2, 11, and 12. Sixty-six out of seventy-seven verses are quotations or close paraphrases of King James Version wording. – An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins , p.19


The Book of Abraham is supposed to be an ancient text written thousands of years ago “by his own hand upon papyrus.” What are 17th century King James Version text doing in there? What does this say about the book being anciently written by Abraham?

FairMormon Response

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

There are significant textual and narratological differences between the accounts. The creation narrative does follow the KJV rendering generally but adds important differences in the text and narrative. The account of Abraham's travels is markedly different both textually and narratological. Both narratives contain earmarks of antiquity. We have already responded to the author's question about "by his own hand on papyrus".

Jump to Detail:

Question: What are the differences between Genesis 11-12 and Abraham 2?

There are a number of significant differences between the two texts, differences supported by Abrahamic lore in many cases, that make an accusation of simple plagiarism farfetched

Some critics have claimed that Abraham 2 is simply a copy of Genesis 12. There are a number of differences between the two texts, supported by ancient Abrahamic lore in many cases, that make an accusation of simple plagiarism farfetched. Below we list the differences:

  • The Book of Abraham is cast in the first-person. This changes a lot of the textual correspondence between the two books significantly.
  • The Book of Abraham refers to him by his covenant name with the added “ha”
  • The Book of Abraham records that Haran died in the famine (2:1)
  • The Book of Abraham records that he and his family named Haran (2:4)
  • The Book of Abraham records that Terah, after repenting of his idolatry, went back to it. (2:5)
    • Abü al-Fida' 2, pp. 433—34
    • Al—Kisä’i 72, p. 388
    • Al-T‘aban‘ 252—70241; 325—2621, pp. 343, 349
    • Apocalypse of Abraham 26:3, p. 60
    • Book of Jasher 12:68, p. 149[293]
    • Chronicles of Jerahmeel 35:1, p. 133
    • Ibn al-Tayyib 7:6, pp. 254-55
    • Qur'an 60:4, p. 296
    • Tanna debe Eliyahu 8, pg.
    • Zohar: Genesis 77b, 78b, pp. 155-56, 157-58
  • The Book of Abraham emphasizes that Abraham sought God diligently (2:12)
    • Al-Kisa‘fi' 51, pp. 386—87
    • Al-Mas‘u‘di, Meadows 4:1, p. 352
    • Al-Rabghu'zi 16, p. 438
    • Al-T_abari 252—7028—10, p. 336
    • Al-Tha‘labi 2:10, pp. 364—65
    • Apocalypse of Abraham 7:12; 8:3, pp. 56, 57
    • Armenian Paraphrase of Genesis: after Genesis 11:30, versions A and B, pp. 284—85
    • Augustine, City of God 10.32, p. 200
    • Book of Jasher 11:14, p. 140 [294]
    • Clementine Recognitions 33, p. 186
    • Falasha Story 2, pp. 485—86
    • George Hamartolos, pp. 237—38
    • Gregory of Nyssa, pp. 187—88
    • Ibn Isha‘q 5—6, pp. 304—5
    • Jubilees 11:17, p. 15[295]
    • Kebra Nagast 14, pp. 278—79
    • Medieval Testament of Naphtali 10:2, p. 128
    • Michael the Syrian 2.6.2, p. 263
    • Other Muslim Traditions: Prophet Abraham 5, pp. 460—61
    • Pcsikta Rabbati 3323a, p. 80
    • Philo of Alexandria, De Abrahamo 68, p. 39
    • Pirqe dc Rabbi Eliewr 26, pp. 45—46
    • Zohar: Genesis 76b, 86a, pp. 155, 160—61
  • The Book of Abraham records that God saved Abraham by an angel from the priest of Elkenah (2:13)
    • AI-Baidäwi 4:8, 11, pp. 431—32
    • Al-Kisa"i 52, 88, 138—39, 142, pp. 387, 389, 393, 394
    • Al-Rabghu‘zi 35, 38, 42, pp. 443, 444
    • Al-Tabari 252—7031, 33—34, pp. 341-42
    • Al-Tarafi 93—96, p. 378
    • Al-Tha‘labi 2:10, pp. 364—65
    • Al-Zamakhshari 2:578, pp. 412—13
    • Babylonian Talmud Pesahim 118a, p. 120
    • Chronicles of Iorahmecl 34:13; 35:3, pp. 133, 134
    • Falasha Story 4, pp. 486—87
    • Ibn al—Athir 10—11, pp. 425—26
    • Ibn al-Iawzi 2, pp. 419—20
    • Ibn Isha’q 13—14, pp. 307—8
    • Ibn Kathir 27—30, p. 457
    • Isha’q ibn Bishr 168B23—4, 8, 11, p. 323
    • Ka‘b al-Ahbär 13, p. 301
    • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 44:13, p 99; Exodus 18:5, p. 103; Song of Songs 1:12.1; 3:11.1, pp. 116-17
    • Other Muslim Traditions: Prophet Abraham 6, p. 461
    • Ra‘wandi 4, 6, pp. 415, 416
    • Story of Abraham . . . with Nimrod 32, p. 174
    • Study (Mz'drash) of Abraham Our Father 4, p. 179
  • The Book of Abraham records that Abraham was 62 years old instead of 75 years old when he left Haran (2:14).
    • Al-Mas‘u‘di, News 2, p. 353
    • Babylonian Talmud A‘bodalz Zarah 9a, p. 122
    • Genesis Commentary: 4QcommGen A, p. 31
    • Georgius Cedrenus 3, p. 270
    • Pesikta Rabbati 42:3a, pp. 81—82
    • Sa‘id ibn Batriq (Eutychius) 3, p. 246
    • Contrast Isha‘q ibn Bishr 169A216, p. 324
  • The Book of Abraham records that, prior to entering Canaan, his family passed through the land of Jershon. This connection to Jershon is not contained in the Bible. (2:16)
  • The Book of Abraham records that Abraham built an altar in the land of Jershon and made an offering (2:17)
  • The Book of Abraham records that Abraham offered sacrifice in the plains of Moreh (2:18)
  • The Book of Abraham records that the Lord was the one to command Sariah to tell the Egyptians that she was Abraham’s sister. (2:22)
    • Bakhayla M1k“a"él (Zo‘srm‘a‘s) 17b.1, p. 283
    • Genesis Apocryphon XIX, 14-21, pp. 26—27
    • Isha‘q ibn Bishr 169B:17—170A:1, p. 325
    • Zohar: Genesis 81b, 82a, p. 159
    • Contrast Zohar: Genesis 82a, p. 159; see al-Tarafi 115, pp. 379—80

By simply sampling the differences, we can see the accusations of plagiarism here are going to be stretched. Below is a word for word reproduction of the two accounts with changes in bold. Since there are far more textual differences, mainly the narratological elements will be highlighted for convenience:

Genesis 11-12 Abraham 2
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

32 And the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran.

Chapter 12 1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:

2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

4 So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.

5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

6 ¶ And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.

7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.

8 And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.

9 And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south.

10 ¶ And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land.

11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon:

12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive.

13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

14 ¶ And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.

15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house.

16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife.

18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.

20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had.

1 Now the Lord God caused the famine to wax sore in the land of Ur, insomuch that Haran, my brother, died; but Terah, my father, yet lived in the land of Ur, of the Chaldees.

2 And it came to pass that I, Abraham, took Sarai to wife, and Nahor, my brother, took Milcah to wife, who was the daughter of Haran.

3 Now the Lord had said unto me: Abraham, get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee.

4 Therefore I left the land of Ur, of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and I took Lot, my brother’s son, and his wife, and Sarai my wife; and also my father followed after me, unto the land which we denominated Haran.

5 And the famine abated; and my father tarried in Haran and dwelt there, as there were many flocks in Haran; and my father turned again unto his idolatry, therefore he continued in Haran.

6 But I, Abraham, and Lot, my brother’s son, prayed unto the Lord, and the Lord appeared unto me, and said unto me: Arise, and take Lot with thee; for I have purposed to take thee away out of Haran, and to make of thee a minister to bear my name in a strange land which I will give unto thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession, when they hearken to my voice.

7 For I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains—Depart hence—and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly.

8 My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee.

9 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure, and make thy name great among all nations, and thou shalt be a blessing unto thy seed after thee, that in their hands they shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations;

10 And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father;

11 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.

12 Now, after the Lord had withdrawn from speaking to me, and withdrawn his face from me, I said in my heart: Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee;

13 Thou didst send thine angel to deliver me from the gods of Elkenah, and I will do well to hearken unto thy voice, therefore let thy servant rise up and depart in peace.

14 So I, Abraham, departed as the Lord had said unto me, and Lot with me; and I, Abraham, was sixty and two years old when I departed out of Haran.

15 And I took Sarai, whom I took to wife when I was in Ur, in Chaldea, and Lot, my brother’s son, and all our substance that we had gathered, and the souls that we had won in Haran, and came forth in the way to the land of Canaan, and dwelt in tents as we came on our way;

16 Therefore, eternity was our covering and our rock and our salvation, as we journeyed from Haran by the way of Jershon, to come to the land of Canaan.

17 Now I, Abraham, built an altar in the land of Jershon, and made an offering unto the Lord, and prayed that the famine might be turned away from my father’s house, that they might not perish.

18 And then we passed from Jershon through the land unto the place of Sechem; it was situated in the plains of Moreh[296], and we had already come into the borders of the land of the Canaanites, and I offered sacrifice there in the plains of Moreh, and called on the Lord devoutly, because we had already come into the land of this idolatrous nation.

19 And the Lord appeared unto me in answer to my prayers, and said unto me: Unto thy seed will I give this land.

20 And I, Abraham, arose from the place of the altar which I had built unto the Lord, and removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched my tent there, Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east; and there I built another altar unto the Lord, and called again upon the name of the Lord.

21 And I, Abraham, journeyed, going on still towards the south; and there was a continuation of a famine in the land; and I, Abraham, concluded to go down into Egypt, to sojourn there, for the famine became very grievous.

22 And it came to pass when I was come near to enter into Egypt, the Lord said unto me: Behold, Sarai, thy wife, is a very fair woman to look upon;

23 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see her, they will say—She is his wife; and they will kill you, but they will save her alive; therefore see that ye do on this wise:

24 Let her say unto the Egyptians, she is thy sister, and thy soul shall live.

25 And it came to pass that I, Abraham, told Sarai, my wife, all that the Lord had said unto me—Therefore say unto them, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee.

As can be seen, the narrative of the Book of Abraham contains key textual and narratological differences that make accusation of simple plagiarism farfetched.

Aside from the differences, why might there be similarities between the KJV textual rendering of the Abraham account and the Book of Abraham?

Four possibilities exist:

  1. The account we have in Genesis is generally a clean rendition of the account left by Abraham, and scribal errors/interpolations have not entered the account.
  2. The Genesis writers and the scribes/editors/redactors of the Book of Abraham may have been contemporary to one another
  3. Joseph/The Lord decided that the KJV rendering of the text was sufficient to render the general meaning left in the Book of Abraham.
  4. Some combination of 2 to all 3 of the above.

Further text critical research of the Book of Abraham will need to be performed to establish what might come from which. Until then, FairMormon remains neutral as to how members see the text as currently canonized.


Question: What are the differences between the Genesis account of creation and that of the Book of Abraham?

There are several key differences in the accounts.

Many critics posit that the Book of Abraham creation account is the same as that found in the Bible. Just a few key differences include

  1. The Genesis account frames the creator of the earth as “God”. In the Book of Abraham it is “Gods”. The audience for this account was the ancient Egyptians, who actually worshipped multiple gods, and whose creation accounts typically featured multiple gods. This is strengthened by the council of Gods motif.
  2. The Genesis account and the Abrahamic account differ in terminology to describe the creative periods-“days” in Genesis and “times” in the Book of Abraham. Wording describing the periods differs between the two accounts.
  3. The two scriptural accounts differ in how each deal with the end of every division of time. In Genesis, most divisions contain a statement like “And God saw the light, that it was good” (Genesis 1:4). Only once does the Book of Abraham say that the Gods saw “that their plan was good” (Abraham 4:21). Instead, the Book of Abraham contains a parallel statement about obedience: “And the Gods saw that they were obeyed.” (Abraham 4:18). This implies that they had to observe the heavenly bodies for an extended period of time to determine if they were actually following their ordered motions which determined “the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time” (Abraham 3:9)
  4. The two accounts differ in how they depict matter. The Genesis account states that it was “created” whereas the Book of Abraham is clear about it being “organized”. The Book of Abraham is careful to specify this.
  5. The two accounts differ in views of creation. The Genesis account seems to read as spontaneous creation of life where as the Book of Abraham states that God prepared the earth to bring forth different forms of life. This difference has been noted for its openness to the possibility of biological evolution.
  6. The Genesis account states that God created the “firmament” whereas the Book of Abraham states that they formed the “expanse” (The facsimile 1 explanations do mention the "firmament over our heads").
  7. The Book of Abraham account includes Abraham’s observation about reckoning. This is illuminated more by reading the work of Hugh Nibley on facsimile 2.
  8. The Genesis account states that god called the waters which he had made “Seas” whereas the Book of Abraham calls them the “Great Waters”.
  9. The Book of Abraham is consistent in using the future tense to describe the actions of the Gods in creation.
  10. The Book of Abraham account ties themes of pre-existence into the account (Abraham 3). There are traditions about Abraham which state that he saw the premortal spirits:
  • Al-Kisä’i 28, p. 384
  • Al-T'abari‘ 216, p. 333
  • Al-T'arafi‘ 32, p. 373
  • Apocalypse of Abraham 19:6—7; 21:7—22:5, pp. 57, 58—59
  • Book of Jasher 12:38, p. 146[297]
  • Clementine Recognitions 33, p. 186
  • Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis 4.18.1, p. 479
  • Medieval Testament of Naphtali 9:5, p. 127
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 14:6, pp. 89—90; Ecclesiastes 3:112, p. 113
  • Philo of Alexandria, De Cherubim 4, p. 35
  • Scfer Yetzirah Long 6:8;
  • Saadia 8:5, pp. 87—88
  • Symeon Logothetes 2, pp. 250-51
  • Vettius Valens,
  • Anthologla‘e 2.29.1—6, pp. 476—77


Even more differences can be noted as one compares the accounts. Below is a side by side comparison of the accounts:

Genesis 1-2 Abraham 4-5
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

6 ¶ And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

9 ¶ And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

14 ¶ And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

24 ¶ And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 ¶ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

[Chapter 2]

1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

4 ¶ These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

8 ¶ And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

18 ¶ And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.


1 And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.

2 And the earth, after it was formed, was empty and desolate, because they had not formed anything but the earth; and darkness reigned upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of the Gods was brooding upon the face of the waters.

3 And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light.

4 And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness.

5 And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night. And it came to pass that from the evening until morning they called night; and from the morning until the evening they called day; and this was the first, or the beginning, of that which they called day and night.

6 And the Gods also said: Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and it shall divide the waters from the waters.

7 And the Gods ordered the expanse, so that it divided the waters which were under the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so, even as they ordered.

8 And the Gods called the expanse, Heaven. And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and this was the second time that they called night and day.

9 And the Gods ordered, saying: Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the earth come up dry; and it was so as they ordered;

10 And the Gods pronounced the dry land, Earth; and the gathering together of the waters, pronounced they, Great Waters; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.

11 And the Gods said: Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass; the herb yielding seed; <and> the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind, whose seed <is> in itself yieldeth its own likeness upon the earth; and it was so, even as they ordered.

12 And <the> the Gods organized the earth to bring forth grass from its own seed, and the herb to bring forth herb from its own seed, yielding seed after his kind; and the earth to bring forth the tree from its own seed, yielding fruit, whose seed could only bring forth the same in itself, after his kind; and the Gods saw that they were obeyed.

13 And it came to pass that they numbered the days; from the evening until the morning they called night; and it came to pass, from the morning until the evening they called day; and it was the third time.

14 And the Gods organized the lights in the expanse of the heaven, and caused them to divide the day from the night; and organized them to be for signs and for seasons, and for days and for years;

15 And organized them to be for lights in the expanse of the heaven to give light upon the earth; and it was so.

16 And the Gods organized the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; with the lesser light they set the stars also;

17 And the Gods set them in the expanse of the heavens, to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to cause to divide the light from the darkness.

18 And the Gods watched those things which they had ordered until they obeyed.

19 And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that it was night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that it was day; and it was the fourth time.

20 And the Gods said: Let us prepare the waters to bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that have life; and the fowl, that they may fly above the earth in the open expanse of heaven.

21 And the Gods prepared the waters that they might bring forth great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters were to bring forth abundantly after their kind; and every winged fowl after their kind. And the Gods saw that they would be obeyed, and that their plan was good.

22 And the Gods said: We will bless them, and cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas or great waters; and cause the fowl to multiply in the earth.

23 And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning that they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and it was the fifth time.

24 And the Gods prepared the earth to bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind; and it was so, as they had said.

25 And the Gods organized the earth to bring forth the beasts after their kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after its kind; and the Gods saw they would obey.

26 And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness; and we will give them dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.

28 And the Gods said: We will bless them. And the Gods said: We will cause them to be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And the Gods said: Behold, we will give them every herb bearing seed that shall come upon the face of all the earth, and every tree <in the> which shall have <there is> fruit upon it; yea, the fruit of the tree yielding seed to them we will give it; <to you> it shall be for their meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, behold, we will give them life, and also we will give to them every green herb for meat, and all these things shall be thus organized.

31 And the Gods said: We will do everything that we have said, and organize them; and behold, they shall be very obedient. And it came to pass that it was from evening until morning they called night; and it came to pass that it was from morning until evening that they called day; and they numbered the sixth time.

[Chapter 5]

1 And thus we will finish the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them.

2 And the Gods said among themselves: On the seventh time we will end our work, which we have counseled; and we will rest on the seventh time from all our work which we have counseled.

3 And the Gods concluded upon the seventh time, because that on the seventh time they would rest from all their works which they (the Gods) counseled among themselves to form; and sanctified it. And thus were their decisions at the time that they counseled among themselves to form the heavens and the earth.

4 And the Gods came down and formed these <are> the generations of the heavens and of the earth, when they were formed in the day that the Gods formed the earth and the heavens,

5 According to all that which they had said concerning every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew; for the Gods had not caused it to rain upon the earth when they counseled to do them, and had not formed a man to till the ground.

6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

7 And the Gods formed man from the dust of the ground, and took his spirit (that is, the man’s spirit), and put it into him; and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

8 And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed.

9 And out of the ground made the Gods to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food; the tree of life, also, in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

10 There was a river running out of Eden, to water the garden, and from thence it was parted and became into four heads.

[The narrative about the names of the rivers is removed here]

11 And the Gods took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden, to dress it and to keep it.

12 And the Gods commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,

13 But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the time that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Now I, Abraham, saw that it was after the Lord’s time, which was after the time of Kolob; for as yet the Gods had not appointed unto Adam his reckoning.

14 And the Gods said: Let us make an help meet for the man, for it is not good that the man should be alone, therefore we will form an help meet for him.

[Verses 19 and 20 from the Genesis narrative are placed at the end of the Abraham narrative.]

15 And the Gods caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and he slept, and they took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in the stead thereof;

16 And of the rib which the Gods had taken from man, formed they a woman, and brought her unto the man.

17 And Adam said: This was bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; now she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of man;

18 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.

19 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

20 And out of the ground the Gods formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof.

21 And Adam gave names to all cattle, <and> to the fowl of the air, <and> to every beast of the field; and for Adam, there was <not> found an help meet for him.

As can be seen, the Book of Abraham contains several key narratological, theological, and textual differences.

Aside from the differences, why might there be similarities between the KJV textual rendering of the Abraham account and the Book of Abraham?

Three possibilities exist:

  1. The account we have in Genesis is generally a clean rendition of the account left by Abraham, and scribal errors/interpolations have not entered the account.
  2. The Genesis writers and the scribes/editors/redactors of the Book of Abraham may have been contemporary to one another
  3. Joseph/The Lord decided that the KJV rendering of the text was sufficient to render the general meaning left in the Book of Abraham.
  4. Some combination of the 2 to 3 of the above.

Further text critical research of the Book of Abraham will need to be performed to establish what might come from which. Until then, FairMormon remains neutral as to how members see the text as currently canonized.


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[298].

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. [299]: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[300]. Conversely, elements such as an adaptation of Osiris to represent Abraham are more contemporary to a later copyist or redactor[301]. 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." [302] 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." [302]

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." [303]


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.[304] —(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.[305] —(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[306]. It is true that the very existence of the scenes upon which the facsimiles are based are, at this moment[307], 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[308].

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 [299]: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[309]. Conversely, elements such as the adaptation of Osiris as Abraham are more contemporary to a later copyist or redactor[310]. 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: Are the statements of Abraham 1:12,14 about the altar and Gods at the “beginning of the record” significant for the Book of Abraham?

The earliest manuscripts of Abraham 1:12,14 have the text squeezed either between lines of the text or in the upper margin of the manuscript.

There are several criticisms that attach themselves to Abraham 1:12,14. It is postulated that they require that Abraham be familiar with the facsimiles themselves, that they complicate the missing papyrus theory, and so on.

The earliest manuscripts of Abraham 1:12 and 14 have the text squeezed either between lines of text or in the upper margin of the earliest manuscript of these verses. Abraham 1:12 is in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, one of Joseph's scribes.

Furthermore, reading the text of the Book of Abraham becomes smoother with the omission of these phrases. The translation retains coherency even without the textual insertions. These insertions were likely later additions to the text—perhaps even with the approval of Joseph Smith. Thus they are not significant to the integrity of the Book of Abraham.[311]


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[312] 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.”[313]


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[314]

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.[315]

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 [316], 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,[317] 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. [318]

It is also known that two of Dick's books were available in the Manchester Library, [319] although none of the Smith family were actually members of the library and were unlikely to have had access to its resources.[320] 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

It should first be noted that commentary on Abraham in Philosophy of a Future State does not mention him in any context that is similar to the Book of Abraham. There are references to "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob"[321], to Abraham living as an intelligent being in another state at the time of Moses at the burning bush[322], to Abraham "giving up the ghost" and being "gathered to his people"[323] to Abraham being buried at Machpelah[324], to the ability to sit with "Abraham , and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."[325], and to Abraham's "[expectation] of a future city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God." and that "He obtained no such city in the earthly Canaan; and therefore we must necessarily suppose, that his views were directed at the mansions of perpetuity beyond the confines of the present world."[326]. With regards to Moses, he is not mentioned in a context similar to that of the Book of Moses. There is reference to Moses being animated by the conviction of a future world and life [327], reference to Moses "being gathered to his people" as an evidence for the doctrine of afterlife in the Old Testament.[328] A reference to "holy intelligences" singing praises to God with the song of Moses--a reference to Revelations 15:3[329], another reference to the same verse on page 225, a reference to Moses as a possible messenger to John regarding the "New Jerusalem" mentioned in revelations,[330] and a reference to moses and others hypothetically forming "something approaching to a paradise on earth[331]. 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.[332][333]


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.[334] Dick believed God was of "a spiritual uncompounded substance, having no visible form."[335] 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.[336]

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...[337] 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... [338]
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.[339] 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.[340] God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens![341]
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.[342] 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. [343]
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?[344] 33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy;[345]

Regarding the claimed similarity between "The Throne of God" Edward T. Jones, in a comprehensive review of Dick's and Joseph's theology wrote.

What of the references to the "Throne of God?" The solution to this seems to be found in statements referring to Him who "sits on the throne of the universe," or "upon the throne of universal nature.,,[346]These statements seem only to imply that the universe is God's throne. This position is further defensible from several other statements Dick makes in an introduction he wrote in 1845. He referred to "the majesty of Him who sits on the throne of the universe. [347].He later refers to "him who 'sitteth on the circle of the heavens." There cannot be a geographic center of the universe, for that would require boundaries to be placed on the infinite, a concept which, as previously indicated, was rejected by Dick, There cannot be a 'spiritual' center at which place God resides—He does not possess a body either physical or spiritual; He is omnipresent, existing everywhere. He is a Spirit which fills every bit of the universe, as has been determined earlier. Thus, Dick would appear to be speaking metaphorically when he refers to a center of the universe or to a Throne of God.

[. . .]

Though she does not state it explicitly, Mrs. Brodie infers that the concept of Kolob being near the throne of God (as taught in the Book of Abraham) came from Thomas Dick. Having referred to this relationship between Kolob and the Throne of God in the body of the text, she then states in a footnote: Compare the Book of Abraham with Dicks "The Philosophy of a Future State." As has already been observed, the concepts of God held by those two theologians are quite in contrast to each other. For Joseph Smith, God was "an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens."[348] For Thomas Dick, God was an uncompounded spiritual substance who "sits upon the throne of universal nature."[349]. It is true that Dick does in one place state that there may be a grand center about which the planetary systems revolve. But God Himself fills the immensity of space, and cannot therefore be located in any single spot; certainly not upon a throne in the sense the Prophet uses the term (and if the definitions agree, similarities are impossible. The terms may be the same, but if they stand for different things, there can be no equating of one to the other). For the latter the throne of God was a glorified or celestialized earth, upon which God, an "exalted man," dwelt. For Dick the throne constituted no planetary body, though there may be a geographical location at which spot Jesus and the holy angels reside, God Himself is every where, yet nowhere. God, as a physical, tangible being, does not exist. As a spiritual Essence, pervading the universe He does exist. Hence, to say that the planets revolve around the throne of God is meaningless, unless it is understood that God "sits upon the throne of universal nature." In this sense God takes on a character not unlike Joseph Smith's concept of the Light of Christ (with distinctions, of course,) It would appear that on this point Mrs, Brodie is again mistaken. It is true that Joseph's thinking may have been aided by some of the concepts he may have read in Dick's writings. But it appears to be a small probability that he was influenced by what Dick taught. If the Prophet "had recently been reading" Dick's works it would appear that he rejected most of that which Dick believed most strongly, while retaining that which Dick seemed to reject. There are several references in the Old Testament to the throne of God. These are referred to, and quoted by Dick, Joseph Smith could likewise have gained knowledge from the Old Testament, not to mention the Book of Mormon. Again, the

possibility for influence is present, though small.[350]

Additional differences can be noted by reading Dr. Jones' thesis. The connection is specious at best.


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.” [351]


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.[352]


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.[353]


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.[354]


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.[355]—(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.[356]

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. [357]

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.[358]

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."


LDS Truth Claims: The Book of Abraham

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. In his review of the Gospel Topics Essay published by the Church in 2014, Robert Ritner retracts these comments and makes a distinction between "human sacrifice" and "capital punishment". Latter-day Saint scholars have responded that they were one and the same.
  30. 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.
  31. See John Gee, Research and Perspectives: Abraham in Ancient Egyptian Texts on lds.org (July 1992)
  32. Barney, Kevin L. "On Elkenah as Canaanite El," Journal of Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture 19, no. 1 (2010)
  33. Michael D. Rhodes, “Teaching the Book of Abraham Facsimiles,” Religious Educator 4, no. 2 (2003): 115–123
  34. 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. Tvedtnes 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).
  35. Constant De Wit, "Les genies des quartre vents au temple d'Opet," CdE 32 (1957):35-37.
  36. IE 71 (February 1968): 40-G.
  37. 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.
  38. Kurt Sethe, Zur Geschichte der Einbalsamierung bei den Agypten und einiger damit verbunderer Brauche (Berlin: Akaemie der Wissenschaften, 1934), 217.
  39. S.R.K. Glanville, "Egyptian Theriomorphic Vessels in the British Museum," JEA 12 (1929): 57.
  40. Adolf Rusch, Die Entwicklung der Himmelsgottin Nut zu einer Totengottheit (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1922), 46.
  41. Leopold Cohn, "An Apocryphal Work Ascribed to Philo of Alexandria," JQR 10 (1898): 316-17
  42. Eugene Lefebure, "Les quatre races au jugement denier," Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology 4 (1876): 44-48.
  43. 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
  44. A bibliography of works relevant to this subject may be found in the footnotes 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).
  45. 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.
  46. 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.
  47. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections on That Letter to a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
  48. Kurt H. Sethe, Urkunden des alten Reichs, 4 vols. (Leipzig:Hinrichs, 1932)1:111
  49. Nibley, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," IE 72 (September 1969: 89-93)
  50. Budge, Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Hunefer)34.
  51. Aylward H. Blackman, "A Study of Liturgy Celebrated in the Temple of Aton at El-Amarna," in Recuel d'etudes Egyptologiques dediqué a la memoire de Jean Francois Champollion (Paris: Champion, 1922), 517, 521.
  52. Samuel Yeivin, "Canaanite Ritual Vessels in Egyptian Cultic Practices," JEA 62 (1976): 114.
  53. Waltraund Guglielmi, "Zur Symbolik des 'Dargringes des StrauBes der sh.t'" ZAS 103 (1976): 108.
  54. Ibid., 110-11
  55. Ibid., 111-12
  56. Ibid
  57. See Nibley, Hugh "Abraham in Egypt" FARMS: Provo, UT (1981) PRINT p.444-450
  58. 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
  59. 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.
  60. "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 Phoenician 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 the 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.
  61. (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.
  62. (non Mormon) Egyptologist Lanny Bell, "The Ancient Egyptian 'Books of Breathing,'", p. 29.
  63. 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."
  64. John Gee, "A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri" (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2000) 36-9, 66
  65. 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.
  66. 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.
  67. Michael D. Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002), 19 (18–23).
  68. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (8 July 2014).
  69. 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.
  70. PT 23 §16.
  71. 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.
  72. 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.
  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. The Apocalypse of Abraham, off-site
  75. 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)"
  76. 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)
  77. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference.
  78. Renouf "Two-sided Hypocephalus," 144-46, plate 2
  79. Herodotus, Histories 2.46
  80. Ibid., 2.42
  81. Bonnet, Reallexikon, 870.
  82. Ibid., Kurt Sethe, Hieroglyphische Urkunden der griechisch-romischen Zeit, Urkunden des agyptiscen Altertums 2 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1904-16), 51.
  83. Mendes Stela, in Sethe, Hieroglyphische Urkunden der griechisch-romischen Zeit, 28
  84. Das Buch von der Abwehr des Bosen, in Seigfried Schott, Urkunden mythologischen Inhalts, Urkundedn des agyptiscen Alterums 6 (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1929), 74-75.
  85. Bonnet, Rallexikon, 868.
  86. Nibley, Hugh "One Eternal Round" pp. 236, 238; Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship: Provo, UT. Edited by Michael Rhodes (2010) PRINT.
  87. Robert Ritner has called the linking of one day to a cubit "specious" (See A Complete Guide to the Egyptian Papyri pg. 221). This was written before this article from Hollis Johnson. Perhaps this may satisfy some skepticism.
  88. De Santilana and von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill, 8
  89. Ibid.
  90. Nibley "One Eternal Round" p. 256
  91. 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.
  92. Eliyahu Rosh-Pinnah, "The Sefer Yetzirah and the Original Tetragrammaton," JQR 57 (1967): 223.
  93. Phineas Mordell, "The Origin of Letters and Numerals According to the Sefer Yezirah," JGR 2 (1912): 567.
  94. Nibley "One Eternal Round" 256-258; Ritner has disputed this thusly: "Apologists Michael Rhodes and John Gee have sought to defend Smith's xplanation of "Jah-oh-eh" as "O the earth", although this is impossible both by phonetics (with three hs) and sense (3ht "arable field" is not used to indicate the whole earth),..." Ritner's assessment seems to lack room for assessing what system of transliteration Joseph is using for this. Also, if we see the figure again it reads "called by the Egyptians" not "meaning, in ancient Egyptian." What Egyptians are we using as a reference point? What language are they speaking? Regarding Ritner's comments specifically about "arable land", what else does Joseph have to render it as? This etymology from Hugh Nibley disregards Egyptian entirely and proposes one in Semitic roots, moving in a different direction from Gee and Rhodes. This may open better lines of inquiry.
  95. Michael Rhodes "An Interpretation of Facsimile 2" <http://www.scottwoodward.org/scripture/PGP_Abraham_facsimile2_interpretation.html> (accessed 13 March 2019)
  96. Renouf, "Two-sided Hypocephalus," 144-46.
  97. Henri Fankfort, Kingship and te Gods: A Study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948), 202-3
  98. BM 37330
  99. Gasto Maspero, "Sur l'ennéade: Bulletin critique de la religion égyptienne," Revue de l'histoire des relgions 25 (1892): 1.
  100. August von Pauly and Georg Wissowa, Paulys Real-Encyclopodiae der classichen Altertumswissenschaft, 1st and 2nd ser., 33 vols. (Stuttgary; Metzler, 1893-1978), 1.2:1855
  101. BD 17, English translation in Faulkner, Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, 44.
  102. Rudolf Anthes, ". . . in seinem Namen und im Sonnenlicht. . .," ZAS 90 (1963):4.
  103. Alexandre Moret, Le ritual du culte divin journalier en Egypte d'apres les papyrus de Berlin et les textes du temple de Seti ler, a Abydos(Paris: Leroux, 1902), 148-9.
  104. Anthes, ". . . in seinem Namen und im Sonnenlich. . .," 4.
  105. BD 17, English translation in Faulkner, Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, 44.
  106. Renouf "Two-Sided Hypocephalus," 144-46, plate 2.
  107. Oswalrd Spengler, Der Unergang des Abendlandes: Umrisse eitnerMorphologie der Weltgeschichete, 2 vols. (Leipzig: Braumuller, 1918-22); Gertrud Thausing and Traudl Kertszt-Kratschmann, Das grosse ayptische Totenbuch (Papyrus Reinish) der Papyrussammling der osterreichischen Nationalbibliothick (Cairo: Osterreichisches Kulturinstitut, 1969), 19-22.
  108. Ovid, Fasti 1:99
  109. Ovid, Fasti 1:228
  110. Ovid. Fasti 1:139
  111. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 268
  112. Rhodes, "An Interpretation..."
  113. Nibley wasn't referring to Ritner, but as a fun example, Robert Ritner wrote the following in "A Complete Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri": "Smith's statement that Amon (Fig 7.) is 'God sitting upon his throne' was an easy guess." In his references attached to it we read "Also used in the explanation of the intrusive "Fig. 3"
  114. Raymond O. Faulkner, A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), 54.
  115. Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3rd ed. rev. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957), 559. See also Allen, James P. (2014-07-24). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University Press. p. 579. ISBN 9781139917094.; Wikipedia "Was-sceptre" <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Was-sceptre> (accessed 11 November 2018)
  116. Ritner protests that Nibley may not have known that the figure was copied from either papyri on page 219 of his book "A Complete Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri". Yet, Nibley addressed it first thing as part of his discussion of Figure 3 in "One Eternal Round". While it may be true that Nibley did not acknowledge this in his early work, he most certainly did in later work.
  117. Philadelphia 29-86-436.
  118. P. Louvre N. 3525 A1/3.
  119. BM 37095 (formerly 8445a).
  120. Cairo SR 10695.
  121. Brussels E 6319 (see appendix 6 of Nibley's book)
  122. Brussels E 6319 (see appendix 6 of Nibley's book)
  123. Brussels E 6319 (see appendix 6 of Nibley's book)
  124. Brussels E 6319 (see appendix 6), P. Louvre N. 3181, P. Louvre N. 3525 A1/3, P. Louvre N. 2526, Edinburgh 1956-48, Leiden AMS 62 (see appendix 5).
  125. Torino 16347.
  126. Ashmolean 1982-1095; Leiden AMS 62 (see appendix 5).
  127. Nibley "One Eternal Round" Ch 7 "Reading the Hypocephalus: Part 1, Fiures 1-4, 22-23"
  128. Rhodes "An Interpretation..."
  129. 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-disk 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.
  130. Hermann Kees, Der Gotterglaube im alten Agypten (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1941) 42-43
  131. Notice the reference to stars here. This ties with Abraham and his covenant seed.
  132. Alexandre Piankoff, the Shrines of Tut-Ankh-Amon (New York: Pantheon Books, 1955), 96-98
  133. PT 434 (SS784-85)
  134. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 279-81;
  135. Erik Hornung, Tal der Konige, 135; see Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, CWHN 14:65, fig. 12
  136. Constantin E. Sander-Hansen, Die relgiosen Texte auf dem Sarg der Anchenesferibre (Cop enhagen: Levin and Munksgaard, 1937), 36-37.
  137. Wb 3:230, 1.
  138. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 282-83; This argument has been disputed by Robert Ritner. He rebuts thusly "Nibley sought to defend Joseph Smith's 'explanation' of this figure by reference to the solar boat (not the depicted Sokar barque) as being 'a ship of 1000 cubits' and thus 'a numeral figure, in Egyptian signifying a thousand' Neither barque, however, is used in Egyptian texts as a 'numeral figure' and the more common designation of the solar boat is in fact 'the barque of millions'--not 1000. As elsewhere, Nibley did not evaluate Smith's statements objectively; but sought out any possible defense, no matter how farfetched." Ritner's assessment does not seem to take into account Nibley's statements about Nut even though "One Eternal Round" is cited here where Ritner makes his counterargument. Here we have examples from Nibley where the barque was, in a sense, used as a numeral figure to mean "A thousand.." in Egyptian texts--as an epithet of the Goddess Nut
  139. Philippe Derchain, "La peche de l'oreil et les mysteres d'Osiris a Dendara," RdE (1963): 13-14
  140. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 283"
  141. Rhodes, "An Interpretation..."
  142. Bonnet, Reallexikon der agyptischen Religionsgeschichte, 281.
  143. Ibid., 280
  144. 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.
  145. Gustave Jequier, Considerations sur les religions egyptiennes (Neuchatel: Baconniere, 1946),219.
  146. Nibley "One Eternal Round"
  147. Charles Maystre, “Le Livre de la Vache du Ciel dans les tombeaux de la Vallée des Rois,” Bulletin de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 40 (1941): 109.
  148. Naville, “La destruction des hommes par les dieux,” plate B, col. 45.
  149. Hermann Kees, “Die 15 Scheintüren am Grabmal,” ZÄS 88 (1963): 110–11.
  150. Ibid., 111.
  151. Alexandre Piankoff, “The Funerary Papyrus of the Shieldbearer Amon-m-saf in the Louvre Museum,” Egyptian Religion 3 (1935): 134
  152. Herbert Chatley, “Egyptian Astronomy,” JEA 26 (1941): 125.
  153. W. J. Murnane, United with Eternity: A Concise Guide to the Monuments of Medinet Habu (Cairo: Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, 1980), 61–62.
  154. Étienne Drioton, Le texte dramatique d’Edfu (Cairo: IFAO, 1949), 23.
  155. Described by Siegfried Schott, Die Schrift der verborgenen Kammer in Königsgräbern der 18. Dynastie: Gliederung, Titel und Vermerke (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1958), 323.
  156. Pistis Sophia, 86, 194.
  157. Second Jeu 44, in Carl Schmidt, The Books of Jeu and the Untitled Text in the Bruce Codex (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 105.
  158. Pistis Sophia, 86, 194.
  159. Jéquier, Considérations sur les religions égyptiennes, 172–73.
  160. Ibid.
  161. Ibid., 173; see Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, 2nd ed., CWHN 16 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 2005), 394, fig. 126.
  162. Nibley, "One Eternal Round"
  163. Rhodes, "An Interpretation..."
  164. E.A. Wallis Budge, Egyptian Magic (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1958),90-91
  165. 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. Ritner has sought to dismiss this explanation thusly "In keeping with Smith's interpretation of the hypocephalus as an astronomical document, he explains the four sons of Horus (Fig. 6) as simply 'the earth in its four quarters.' While any group of four can have directional relevance, that is hardly the pivotal significance of these protectors of the embalmed viscera (lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines)." Ritner recognizes that many, if not most, Egyptologists recognize that these four gods can have directional significance. The four Sons of Horus were associated with cardinal direction points , so that Hapi was the north, Imsety the south, Duamutef the east and Qebehsenuef the west. (Lurker, Manfred (1974). Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter (in German). Bern: Scherz. ) [2].
  166. Rhodes, "An Interpretation..."
  167. Bonnet, Reallexikon der agyptischen Religionsgeschichte, 461.
  168. Gerald A. Wainwright, "The Emblem of Min," JEA 17 (1931): 185
  169. Wainwright, Emblem of Min," 170.
  170. Ibid., 464.
  171. Ibid., 463
  172. PT 356 (579)
  173. Griffiths, "Remarks on the Mythology of the Eyes of Horus," 191.
  174. PT 198 (114)
  175. PT 258 (308); 259 (312).
  176. PT 638 (1805)
  177. PT 468(901); 523 (1231).
  178. Spiegel "Das Auferstehungritual der Unaspyramide," 389-93; PT 301 (451); see Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, CWHN 16:119, fig. 30.
  179. PT 200-221 (195)
  180. PT 200-221 (195)
  181. PT 74-76 (51)
  182. PT 621 (1754); 637 (1803); 639 (1809)
  183. PT 72-73 (50); 74-76 (51); 77 (52)
  184. PT 687 (2074-77)
  185. PT 199 (115)
  186. PT186-90 (107-8) and PT 197 (113)
  187. Nibley "One Eternal Round"
  188. Rhodes, "An Interpretation..."
  189. I.e., the dead; see Wb 4:392, 9.
  190. Literally "the first time." See Wb 3:438, 1.
  191. 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.
  192. On the identification of the dead with Osiris, see Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion, 103-5; Robert Ritner in his translation renders "soul" as "ba-spirit" (See "A Complete Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri" pg. 222) the translation is accurate, yet distinction does not bare significant weight to interpretation. "Ba" was simply apart of the Egyptian pronunciation for "soul". The ancient Egyptians believed that a soul (kꜣ/bꜣ; Egypt. pron. ka/ba) was made up of many parts[3].
  193. Shishaq or Sheshonq was the name of several Egyptian pharaohs of the Twenty-first Dynasty, the Libyan Dynasty.
  194. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 327
  195. Rhodes, "An Interpretation..."
  196. Hans Goedicke, The Report about the Dispute of a Man with His Ba, papyrus Berlin 3024 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970), 33.
  197. CT 249 in Adriaan de Buck, The Egptian Coffen Texts, 7 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1935-61), 3:323g-324a
  198. CT 229, in de Buck, Egyptan Coffin Texts, 3:296i
  199. Goedicke, Report about the Dispute of a Man with His Ba, 33
  200. Ibid. 58
  201. Emending o nn th.tw h3.t tn. Similar passages, but even more garble, are found in th British Museum hyocephalid BM 35875 (8445c), BM 37908 (3445f), and BM 37909(8445d).
  202. Wb 3:12, 19; Faulkner, Concise Dictionary of MIddle Egytian, 160.
  203. Rainer Hannig, Grosses Handworterbuch Agyptisch-Beutsch: Die Sprache der Pharaonen (2800-950 v. Chr.) (Mainz: von Zabern, 1995), 503.
  204. Ibid., 937
  205. CT 20, in de Buck, Egyptian Coffin Txts, 1:56-58
  206. PT 11 (8)
  207. Nibley "One Eternal Round"
  208. Alan H. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957),74.
  209. See Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papri, CWHN 16:228-32; 229, fig 68.
  210. Burssels E 6319
  211. E.g., Florence hyocepalus, Bologna B2025, BM 36188 (8445e), P. Louvre AF 1936
  212. Nibley "One Eternal Round"
  213. dd.wy is a disbe adjective formation of Dd.w, Busiris, a cult center of Osiris in the Delta, and thus used as an epithet of Osiris. Cf. Wb 5:630, 7.
  214. Nibley "One Eternal Round" pg. 345; This translation is retained in Ritner "A Complete Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri" pg. 220.
  215. PT 569 (1437)
  216. BD 17; see vignette in Raymond O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Book of he Dead, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1985)
  217. Horapollo, Hieroglyphica 1.16
  218. Ibid.
  219. Wb 1:316; see Ludwig Borchardt, Die altagyptische Zeitmessung, Band 1, Liefeung B of Die Geschicht der Zeitmessung und derUhren, hrg. Ernst von Bassermann-Jordan (Berlin: de Gruyetr, 1920), 52B, Abb. 24 (plumb bob glyphs).
  220. Nibley "One Eternal Round"
  221. Rhodes, "An Interpretation..."
  222. Nibley, Hugh The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri': An Egyptian Endowment. 2d ed. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book; Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2002
  223. Kerry Muhlestein, "Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: Some Questions and Answers," Religious Educator, vol. 11 no. 1 (2010) off-site
  224. Stephen Smoot, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham: An Interview with Egyptologist Kerry Muhlestein," Student Review (November 2013) off-site
  225. Michael D. Rhodes, "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus . . . Twenty Years Later" off-site
  226. John Gee, “Towards an Interpretation of Hyppocephali,” 334
  227. Michael Rhodes, in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., "Book of Abraham," Encyclopedia of Mormonism off-site
  228. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, "Facsimile 3 and Book of the Dead 125," Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant, Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
  229. 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."
  230. 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.
  231. JNES, p. 162
  232. 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
  233. 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
  234. 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.
  235. 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.
  236. Robert C. Webb, pseud., Joseph Smith as Translator (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1936), 113.
  237. Helck, “Rpʿt auf dem Thron des Gb,” 430—31.
  238. Ibid., 432—33.
  239. Ibid., 418—21; David Lorton, review of Recherche sur les messagers (wpwtyw) dans les sources égyptiennes profanes, by Michel Valloggia, Bibliotheca Orientalis 34 (1977): 49.
  240. Helck, “Rpʿt auf dem Thron des Gb,” 416; Lorton, review of Recherche sur les messagers (wpwtyw), 49.
  241. Cf. László Kákosy, “Selige und Verdammte in der spätägyptischen Religion,” ZÄS 97 (1971): 100.
  242. S. Mayassis, Mystères et intiations dans la préhistoire et protohistoire de l’anté-Diluvien à Sumer-Babylone (Athens: BAOA, 1961), 299—304.
  243. Ibid., 301; cf. Pyramid Text 437 (§800); 459 (§865); 513 (§1172).
  244. Theodor Hopfner, Plutarch über Isis und Osiris, 2 vols. (Prague: Orientalisches Institut, 1941), 1:70.
  245. Günther Roeder, Urkunden zur Religion des alten Aegypten (Jena: Diederichs, 1915), 24.
  246. Jaroslav Černy, Ancient Egyptian Religion (New York: Hutchinson’s University Library, 1952), 59.
  247. Posener, Divinité du pharaon, 102.
  248. Morenz, “Problem des Werdens,” 81.
  249. Ibid.
  250. Percy E. Newberry, “The Shepherd’s Crook and the So-called ‘Flail’ or ‘Scourge’ of Osiris,” JEA 15 (1929): 85—87.
  251. Ricardo A. Caminos, Late-Egyptian Miscellanies (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), 420.
  252. Constantin Sander-Hansen, Die religiösen Texte auf dem Sarg der Anchnesneferibre (Copenhagen: Levin and Munksgaard, 1937), 105—6.
  253. Cf. Eugène Lefébure, “Le Cham et l’Adam Égyptiens,” BE 35 (1912): 7.
  254. Westendorf, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture of Ancient Egypt, 84.
  255. Gardiner, review of The Golden Bough, 124.
  256. Georges A. Legrain, Les temples de Karnak (Brussels: Vromant, 1929), 217, fig. 129.
  257. Nibley, “A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price,” IE 72 (May 1969): 88.
  258. Nibley, Hugh "Abraham in Egypt" (FARMS: Provo, UT 2000) Ch. 9 under "Crown and Scepter" online at <https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1093&index=13>
  259. Dietrich Wildung, Egyptian Saints: Deification in Pharaonic Egypt (New York: University Press, 1977), 63.
  260. Ibid. Emphasis added
  261. Gertrud Thausing, “Der ägyptische Schicksalsbegriff,” Mitteilungen des deutschen archäologischen Instituts zu Kairo 8 (1939): 53; Bergman, Ich bin Isis, 170, 177.
  262. Bernhard Grdseloff, “L’insigne du grand juge égyptien,” ASAE 40 (1940): 197.
  263. Constant de Wit, “Inscriptions dédicatoires du temple d’Edfou,” CdE 36 (1961): 65.
  264. Jacques Vandier, “Iousâas et (Hathor) Nébet-Hétépet,” RdE 16 (1964): 143.
  265. Cf. de Wit, “Inscriptions dédicatoires du temple d’Edfou,” 277.
  266. Ibid., 278.
  267. Bergman, Ich bin Isis, 275—79.
  268. Grdseloff, “L’insigne du grand juge égyptien,” 185—202.
  269. Ibid., 199—200.
  270. Ibid., 194.
  271. E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Hunefer) (London: Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1899), 34
  272. Moret, Rituel du culte divin journalier en Égypte, 141—42.
  273. Bergman, Ich bin Isis, 216.
  274. Thausing, “Ägyptische Schicksalsbegriff,” 60.
  275. Pyramid Text 335 (§546).
  276. Hugh W. Nibley "Abraham in Egypt" (FARMS: Provo, UT 2000) Ch. 9: "All the Court's a Stage". Online [4]
  277. Kurt H. Sethe, Urkunden des alten Reichs, 4 vols. (Leipzig:Hinrichs, 1932)1:111
  278. Nibley, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," IE 72 (September 1969: 89-93)
  279. Budge, Book of the Dead (Papyrus of Hunefer)34.
  280. 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.
  281. Smuel Yeivin, "Canaanite Ritual Vessels in Egyptian Cultic Practices," JEA 62 (1976): 114.
  282. Waltraund Guglielmi, "Zur Symbolik des 'Dargringes des StrauBes der sh.t'" ZAS 103 (1976): 108.
  283. Ibid., 110-11
  284. Ibid., 111-12
  285. Ibid
  286. See Nibley, Hugh "Abraham in Egypt" FARMS: Provo, UT (1981) PRINT p.444-450
  287. Bernhard Beer, Leben Abraham’s nach Auffassung der jüdischen Sage (Leipzig: Leiner, 1859), 194 n. 853.
  288. Hall, Hieroglyphic Texts from Egyptian Stelae, 3.
  289. Jubilees 39:6.
  290. Kaplony, “Vorbild des Königs unter Sesostris III,” 405—6.
  291. Hugh W. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, "All the Court's a Stage: Facsimile 3, a Royal Mumming," (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute)
  292. Hugh W. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, "All the Court's a Stage: Facsimile 3, a Royal Mumming," (Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute) off-site
  293. Like the Book of Abraham, the Book of Jasher mentions as well that Haran was the only place suitable for raising livestock. In the Book of Jasher it reads that the land was exceedingly good for "pasture" while the Book of Abraham reads that "there were many flocks in Haran". Regarding Terah's repentance, the Book of Jasher records that Abram spoke to Terah. It has a 4 verset quadrant where Abram exhorts Terah to repentance. The Book of Abraham only has a passing reference to this. This part of the Book of Abraham was also translated before the publication of the Book of Jasher in 1840.
  294. ref>The Book of Jasher reads "And Abram knew the Lord, and he went in his ways and instructions, and the Lord his God was with him". The Book of Abraham reads "Now, after the Lord had withdrawn from speaking to me, and withdrawn his face from me, I said in my heart: They servant has south thee earnestly; now I have found thee;"
  295. This verse in the Book of Jubilees states that Abraham "...began to pray to the Creator of all so that he might save him from the straying of the sons of men," and so that his portion might not fall into straying after the pollution and scorn."
  296. Some have claimed that the “plains of Moreh” is a mistranslation of the original Hebrew text and should instead read “oak” of Moreh or something similar. Both would be acceptable here. This has been addressed well in a Wikipedia article.
  297. The Book of Jasher reads only that "...and it is he who created the souls and spirits of all men..." It does not give any more detail.
  298. 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.
  299. 299.0 299.1 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).
  300. 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
  301. Barney, “Semitic Adaptation”
  302. 302.0 302.1 Stephen E. Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought (Spring 1995)
  303. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Footnote 35, Gospel Topics, LDS.org. off-site
  304. Paul Y. Hoskisson, "Research and Perspectives: Where Was the Ur of Abraham?", Ensign (July 1991)
  305. John Gee, "Has Olishem Been Discovered?," Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture Vol. 22, Num. 2 (2013)
  306. See Franklin S. Spalding, Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator (Salt Lake City: Arrow, 1912).
  307. This article was redacted 11/10/2018 and edited the same date
  308. <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.
  309. 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
  310. Barney, “Semitic Adaptation”
  311. John Gee, An Introduction to the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2018) 144-46.
  312. This article was redacted 11/10/2018 and edited on the same date
  313. Daniel C. Peterson, "Some Reflections On That Letter To a CES Director," 2014 FairMormon Conference
  314. This article was redacted 11/10/2018
  315. 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
  316. John Gee, "The Larger Issue", 2009 FAIR Conference. off-site
  317. 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.
  318. Kenneth W. Godfrey, "A Note on the Nauvoo Library and Literary Institute," BYU Studies 14, no. 3 (1974) off-site
  319. Robert Paul, "Joseph Smith and the Manchester (New York) Library," Brigham Young University Studies 22 no. 3 (1982), 333–356.
  320. John Brooke, The Refiner's Fire (Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 207.
  321. Dick, Thomas "Philosophy of a Future State" (William Collins: South Frederick Street, Glasgow, Paternoster Row, London. 1830) 121 off-site(accessed 17 December 2018)
  322. Ibid
  323. Ibid.
  324. Ibid.
  325. Ibid, 123
  326. Ibid, 119
  327. Ibid., 119
  328. Ibid., 121
  329. Ibid., 125
  330. Ibid., 276
  331. Ibid., 279
  332. 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
  333. Jones, pp. 94-6.
  334. Edward T. Jones, The Theology of Thomas Dick and its Possible Relationship to that of Joseph Smith, Master's Thesis, 1969, p. 27.
  335. Thomas Dick, The Philosophy of a Future State (New York: R. Shoyer, 1831) p. 188.
  336. Dick, p. 212.
  337. Dick, p. 192.
  338. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977) p. 350.
  339. Dick, p. 52.
  340. Dick, p. 188.
  341. Smith, p. 345.
  342. Dick, p. 183.
  343. Smith, p. 345.
  344. Dick, p. 214
  345. 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
  346. Dick, Philosophy of Religion, 38, and Philosophy of a Future State. 204.
  347. "Introduction", to Burritt. XV
  348. Smith, 305
  349. Dick, Philosophy of a Future State, 204
  350. Jones, Edward T., "The Theology of Thomas Dick and its Possible Relationship to that of Joseph Smith" (1969). All Theses and Dissertations. 4839. https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/etd/4839
  351. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics" on LDS.org (2014).
  352. Letter to the Editor dated 5 February 1838, Painesville Republican, 15 February 1838, Vol. II, No. 14–15
  353. "John Whitmer, History, 1831–circa 1847," The Joseph Smith Papers
  354. Wilford Woodruff, Journal, 19 February 1842
  355. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics (8 July 2014)
  356. Jay M. Todd, "Egyptian Papyri Rediscovered," Improvement Era (January 1968), 12–13. off-site (emphasis added)
  357. B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, Volume Two, 138.
  358. 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