Question: What criticisms are associated with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers?

Table of Contents

Question: What criticisms are associated with the Kirtland Egyptian Papers?

The following critical claims relate to the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP)

  1. It is asserted that the KEP were produced prior to the Book of Abraham, and that they therefore represent the "translation working papers" for Abraham 1:1-3. A chronology of events related to the production of the Book of Abraham produced by Edward Ashment is used by critics to support this claim;
  2. It is asserted that the KEP are intended to deal with the Egyptian language, and that they demonstrate that Joseph did not understand Egyptian;
  3. It is asserted that the KEP demonstrate that the Sensen Papyrus was believed to be the source for the Book of Abraham, and that since the Sensen Papyrus is in fact not the Book of Abraham but an Egyptian Book of Breathings, whatever else the Book of Abraham may be, it is not an accurate translation of an ancient Egyptian text.
  4. It is asserted that the purpose of the KEP was to provide a visible prop in order to convince people that Joseph could indeed translate Egyptian.

The KEP likely represents an attempt to "reverse engineer" the translation by matching Egyptian characters from the papyri to the revealed text

All of the critical claims rely on the assertion that the KEP were created before the Book of Abraham text was produced. Critics wish to portray the KEP as a set of "working papers" used in the production of the Book of Abraham. However, the evidence indicates that the KEP was produced after the Book of Abraham text was written, and that they represent a likely attempt to "reverse engineer" the translation by matching Egyptian characters from the papyri to the revealed text in an attempt to create a dictionary of the Egyptian language. This is also the position taken by the Church: "Some evidence suggests that Joseph studied the characters on the Egyptian papyri and attempted to learn the Egyptian language. His history reports that, in July 1835, he was “continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.” This “grammar,” as it was called, consisted of columns of hieroglyphic characters followed by English translations recorded in a large notebook by Joseph’s scribe, William W. Phelps. Another manuscript, written by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, has Egyptian characters followed by explanations." [1]

Notes

  1. "Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham," Gospel Topics on LDS.org (8 July 2014)