We will discuss later in the essay why this is a problematic approach, but it is important to note early on that even the author of this essay know that the Book of Abraham is a massive problem for the authenticity of the church. This section has no bearing on whether or not the Book of Abraham is an authentic translation.
It is simply an overview of the contents of the book to distract you from the problems that this essay was created to address. According to the book of Abraham, the covenant began before the foundation of the earth and was passed down through Adam, Noah, and other prophets. The book of Abraham clarifies several teachings that are obscure in the Bible.
The Book of Abraham actually has a lot of teachings that help align the church to Joseph Smith's teachings. Prior to coming to earth, individuals existed as spirits. It is also worth noting that the Book of Abraham was integral in the ban on black members of the church from the priesthood and temple through the following scriptures:.
Books on the Cross of Christ - An Annotated List by Dr. J. Ligon Duncan | Monergism
The powerful truths found in the book of Abraham emerged from a set of unique historical events. In the summer of , an entrepreneur named Michael Chandler arrived at Church headquarters in Kirtland, Ohio, with four mummies and multiple scrolls of papyrus. Due partly to the exploits of the French emperor Napoleon, the antiquities unearthed in the catacombs of Egypt had created a fascination across the Western world.
These artifacts had been uncovered by Antonio Lebolo, a former cavalryman in the Italian army. Lebolo, who oversaw some of the excavations for the consul general of France, pulled 11 mummies from a tomb not far from the ancient city of Thebes. Lebolo shipped the artifacts to Italy, and after his death, they ended up in New York. By the time the collection arrived in Kirtland, all but four mummies and several papyrus scrolls had already been sold.
A group of Latter-day Saints in Kirtland purchased the remaining artifacts for the Church. They actually turned out to be the funerary scrolls of a man named Hor and a woman named Ta-shert-min, plus fragments from the document of a third person, which Joseph also mistook for part of the Book of Abraham.
We now know a great deal about the owner of the Abraham scroll and its real purpose. When the church realized this they erased the penis from the facsimile, but eventually restored it in later printing. Egyptologists know enough about Hor that they have reconstructed his family tree.
Nobody Like Jesus
We know who his grandparents were as well as his parents, siblings and descendents Hor was actually buried with two versions of the Book of the Dead. Many church apologists claim that the missing portion could have contained the actual Book of Abraham. It did not. It contained more funerary texts and the illustration that we now call Facsimile 3.
Robert K. Joseph Smith worked on the translation of the book of Abraham during the summer and fall of , by which time he completed at least the first chapter and part of the second chapter. Below is Facsimile 3, which occupied the portion of the Hor scroll that is now missing. Joseph numbered the figures in this illustration and gave us translations and explanations for each. Another problem is that Joseph identified Fig.
Joseph correctly deduced that the names of the characters are written in the columns above their heads, yet he entirely failed in his claims of translating those names. This level of inaccuracy is repeated in the other two facsimiles as well.
It should also be noted that Facsimile 2 is totally unrelated to the other two and comes from a completely different document, made at a different time and for a different person, someone named Sheshonk. Yet Joseph identifies all of them as the Book of Abraham. Facsimile 2 is actually a hypocephalus, an extract from the Book of the Dead that serves as magical document that is placed under the head of a mummy to help guide him or her through the underworld.
Above is a reproduction of Facsimile 2 indicating some of the missing portions of the papyrus that were reconstructed by Joseph Smith. Joseph simply borrowed hieratic characters an older form of Egyptian writing than what appears in the rest of the document from another papyrus, the Hor Book of Breathings, and mixed them randomly and without any apparently strategy among the demotic characters on the hypocephalus, sometimes even copying the characters upside down, demonstrating a lack of understanding of what they said while then attempting to provide translations of them.
Incidentally, demotic script did not appear until about years after Abraham.
The Annotated Fall
So, besides the Book of Abraham text, Joseph produced translations of many other Egyptian characters from the facsimiles that are now reproduced in the Pearl of Great Price, and in the case of these restored characters, he translated the same characters in two places with entirely different meanings. In these inspired translations, Joseph Smith did not claim to know the ancient languages of the records he was translating.
Some of his translations, like that of the Book of Mormon, utilized ancient documents in his possession. This is again church narrative that has been forced to change lately. Instead, he peered at a 'seer stone' in a hat that was pressed tightly against his face Other times, his translations were not based on any known physical records. It is also telling that his largest addition in his Bible translation was to write a prophecy about himself into the Bible.
JST, Genesis — But all of this is beside the point because Joseph clearly and repeatedly claimed that he translated the Book of Abraham from the papyrus, which is claimed to have been written by the hand of Abraham. Some evidence suggests that Joseph studied the characters on the Egyptian papyri and attempted to learn the Egyptian language. Another manuscript, written by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, has Egyptian characters followed by explanations.
The translations are completely wrong when compared to actual Egyptian translation. Whatever the role of the grammar book, it appears that Joseph Smith began translating portions of the book of Abraham almost immediately after the purchase of the papyri.
He soon knew what they were. Phah ho e oop - A king who has universal dominion. Tish Zi hoe oop sater: The glory of the Celestial Kingdom. They are completely made up, and with them being the only source that we have to confirm Joseph Smith's abilities, are a major problem for the credibility of the church.
After the Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo, the Egyptian artifacts remained behind. The papyri were divided up and sold to various parties; historians believe that most were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of Fortunately the Book of Abraham and the Book of Joseph scrolls were among the papyri that survived. BYU professor Hugh Nibley was chosen to perform the translation even though some Egyptologists had already done so , but it never appeared in the magazine.
Rather than providing the translation, Nibley proceeded to write a series of general articles about Abraham. Why would this be the case if Nibley believed that Joseph Smith had been proven authentic? Nibley admitted. The fragments included one vignette, or illustration, that appears in the book of Abraham as facsimile 1.
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. 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.
There are slight variations between the translations by various scholars, as would be the case with any translated document, but there is absolutely no confusion about what they are and what they say. Scholars have unanimously identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies from sometime between the third Century BC.
There are no scholars that believe Joseph Smith's translations are correct on any level, no matter how many ways the essay tries to leave wiggle room. Ancient records are often transmitted as copies or as copies of copies. The record of Abraham could have been edited or redacted by later writers much as the Book of Mormon prophet-historians Mormon and Moroni revised the writings of earlier peoples.
They are common pagan prayers and embalming instructions. These documents were very important rituals that were central to the Egyptian religion, and it is impossible to believe the meaning could be changed so much that it would turn the scrolls from a story about Abraham to funerary texts.
Books on the Cross of Christ - An Annotated List by Dr. J. Ligon Duncan
Moreover, documents initially composed for one context can be repackaged for another context or purpose. The opposite could also be true : illustrations with no clear connection to Abraham anciently could, by revelation, shed light on the life and teachings of this prophetic figure. Apologists here are literally throwing every possibility at the wall and hoping that something sticks. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page.