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

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

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

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

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

Many Latter-day Saint scholars believe that the scroll was damaged after Joseph translated the vignette and some evidence seems to support this view. One early Latter-day Saint who saw the papyri in 1841, for instance, described them as containing the scene of an altar with "'a man bound and laid thereon, and a Priest with a knife in his hand, standing at the foot, with a dove over the person bound on the Altar with several Idol gods standing around it.'"[1] 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.'"[2]

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.

Notes

  1. 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.
  2. 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.