JSCOM Appendix V Criticisms of Joseph Smith and the Book of Abraham
I. Key to the Science of . . . 1
Joseph Smith's work as a translator of the Egyptian texts that came into his possession in 1835 has been "exposed" by a variety of critics. They range from the supreme amateur Egyptologists of the late 19th and early 20th century to certain evangelical Christians and what can only be described as professional anti-Mormons. Since criticisms leveled at Joseph Smith and the book of Abraham are often criticisms of the character or mental state of Joseph Smith, it is of some importance to examine the credentials of critics and their motivations. Aside from that, we will select a few points most frequently brought up about the book of Abraham: there is no attempt to be comprehensive here, but we hope to hit some of the high spots.
The book of Abraham has been a periodic target of anti-Mormon writers since the 1850s. Generally, the critics have aimed their unfavorable observations at more or less the same points. That is, they focus on Joseph Smith's alleged errors as a translator in relation to the "facsimiles." Additionally, some of Joseph Smith's critics censure his supposed involvement with those documents that they claim to be his working tool for the translation effort behind the book of Abraham, known popularly as the "Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar." Naturally, the word "translation" is used by such persons in a sardonic sense.
We now consider some of the arguments of book of Abraham critics. Many of these criticisms date from virtually the time of first publication. They seem to never go away no matter how often refuted. So here are the simple steps, that in the eyes of many critics, show Joseph Smith was anything but someone who knew what he was talking about:
The book of Abraham claims to be (or at least Joseph Smith claims it to be) the translation of an autograph 2 of Abraham, which autograph came into Joseph Smith's possession, this autograph having been written by Abraham while he was in Egypt. (Genesis chapter 12.)
The Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar (more properly the wider collection of materials known as "The Kirtland Egyptian Papers" - KEP), demonstrate that Joseph Smith thought the book of Abraham was contained in a small papyrus (a book of breathings text). Some fragments of this text, among those of other papyri, are currently in the possession of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and have been published by them at various times, beginning in the February 1968 Improvement Era magazine, two months after they were returned to the Church by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. The particular fragments usually said to be relevant by critics are those traditionally numbered I, X and XI. Some unauthorized copies of photos of the papyri have circulated in various Mormon and anti-Mormon circles since then- the reader is referred to the original published versions to assure accuracy.
Fragments I, X and XI come from a copy of an Egyptian "book of breathings." and fragment I is clearly Facsimile No.1 in Smith's book of Abraham and was connected to the breathings text at some time before being cut off by Smith and company.
These fragments have been translated and are shown to have nothing to do with Abraham. Here the argument becomes more subtle and many critics become confused with the details. However, here are the essential ideas behind their claims:
(A) We have the Egyptian text from which the book of Abraham must have come.
(B) The book of Abraham [Joseph Smith's version] is not what comes out when you translate this [Egyptian!] "book of Abraham." Many of Joseph Smith's critics claim to be shocked by this and expect the Mormons to feel the same.
The breathing permit of Hor fragment, reattached to Papyrus Joseph Smith 1 [hereafter P. JS 1] looks like this:
Thus Joseph Smith was deceived or was a deceiver in claiming that he had translated an ancient text about Abraham from these bits of papyrus because these fragments contain nothing about Abraham [see 4]. For most Mormons of course it really is irrelevant which one of these alternatives might be true. We will see that an addendum is added to this argument: P. JS is 2000 years too late to be an autograph of Abraham.
Joseph Smith's more scholarly critics often add that this supports the humanist rejection of supernaturalism and hence that there are no such persons as "prophets" who can, by supernatural means, discern the meaning of ancient documents in a language they do not know. Joseph Smith's religious critics believe the same conclusion but generally do not say so. [Recall the reaction Joseph Smith received when he first told a certain preacher he had seen a vision.]
Finally the key step: Therefore Joseph Smith was not a prophet.
Some of Joseph Smith's critics add the following agenda:
6a. Mormons should repudiate Mormonism and adopt some form of Protestant fundamentalism. (3)
6b. Join the fight against Joseph Smith's deception by donating to some organization or other. [Perhaps the one kind enough to have informed us about such errors.]
One other group of critics exists. These are what we could call the amateurs or dabblers who may want to be classed as scholars but who have no credentials or who don't really know how to deal with the available sources. It is more time consuming to discuss the writings of this group since it almost always requires a long journey through the elementary. We will not spend that time here except to observe one or two instances in the notes.
With points 1-6 on their side, some critics are astounded to find that the Mormons are not dropping like flies in the DDT (4) and engage in various speculations about the psychology of Mormons.
Those who don't add 6a,b to their list of propositions often have a different ending in mind. Among them are those individuals formerly steeped in the faith and who have a more than superficial knowledge of the tradition of the LDS Church. Having given up the faith, in an attempt to assuage guilt or to satisfy a strange fascination with their abandoned religious feelings/traditions, they choose to study Mormonism as a way of mimicking the authoritative voice without bearing the burden of responsibility. In fact, the goal of this group is to remold the faith in their own secular humanist or perhaps "new age" image. After this is accomplished, it is not clear what would come next. Perhaps the conversion of LDS temples into expensive condos to be turned over to the working church-leader-scholars? We're only joking of course. But whatever tortured inner self this class may be dealing with in their efforts at "critical methodology," and "objective examination" (5) of Mormonism it is another story which deserves to be told, (6) but not here. However we must note one little irony: Protestant fundamentalist critics of Joseph Smith and the book of Abraham solemnly accept the declarations of some scholars and historians when they are critical of Joseph Smith's productions, but manage to put on the mental blinders to cleverly avoid noticing that the bludgeoning they think so devastates Mormonism, necessarily (we mean it in the logical sense) jettisons things awfully near and dear to the hearts of these religious critics. (7)
We mentioned above that another argument is now typically included as part of points 3 and 4 above, augmented it seems by the rediscovery of P. JS. (8) ) and generally runs like this:
(a) Facsimile No.1 of the book of Abraham comes from Joseph Smith's book of breathings papyrus which he acquired from Chandler. [See historical notes of JSCOM for the story.]
(b) Facsimile No. 1 is directly referenced in the book of Abraham text as an illustration from the life of Abraham. (9)
(c) Facsimile No. 1 and its ilk date from after 600 BCE. [P. JS probably dates from about a few hundred years before beginning of the common era.]
(d) Figures in Facsimile No. 1 are shown to be unrelated to the text of the book of Abraham by Egyptologists.
(e) Facsimile No.1 was damaged either by Joseph Smith or his cohorts or before it came into his possession and was improperly restored by him. [So Joseph Smith was not inspired.]
(f) Abraham lived [probably] before 1700 BCE.
(g) Facsimile No. 1 could not be authored by Abraham, or be part of a copy of an Abrahamic document because of the dating problems- and P. JS I attachment to the breathings text, combined with its reference in the text offered by Joseph Smith as the book of Abraham shows that he thought (or tried to claim) that the book of Abraham text came from the breathings text. Moreover, critics point to guesses by some Egyptologists that Facsimile No. 3 was attached to the end of the breathings text, with P. JS I at the beginning, so the book of Abraham text must have been thought [or cleverly made out] by Joseph Smith to be in the middle.
See point 6 above for the conclusion to this argument.
Another related argument is applied to Facsimile No. 2 of the book of Abraham:
(h) Facsimile No. 2 [a hypocephalus] is found redrawn among the KEP.
(i) The drawing shows that portions of the hypocephalus were damaged [missing from the original].
(j) Joseph Smith filled in the missing portions with nonsense material [copied figures from the book of breathings fragments.]
(k) Hence, Joseph Smith didn't understand Egyptian.
(l) Therefore Joseph Smith had no prophetic insight, etc.
These items will be referenced as 3(a) - 3(l).
Variations on these themes could be added, but they form the essential core of most critics' work on Joseph Smith and the book of Abraham.
Joseph Smith's critics tend to ignore nearly all of the scholarship done on the book of Abraham during the last thirty years. This is convenient because it allows them to concentrate on rehashing arguments that have circulated for more than a century prior to that scholarship.
Answering criticisms like those above will never satisfy some who have already concluded that Joseph Smith could not have been what he claimed to be.
Nevertheless, effective answers can be given to the arguments above. Furthermore, we think that the points above actually state the case of most critics in a much clearer fashion than they have done. But let us get down to looking at these arguments in some detail.
II. Tackling Those Tackling Dummies or Joseph Smith and Multivalued Logic
First, consider assertion 1.
The book of Abraham headnote or preface, [not evidently a portion claimed to be translated by Joseph Smith (10) ] states:
"A Translation of some ancient Records, that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. - The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand upon papyrus."
This is the current introduction to the book as found in the Pearl of Great Price. However, in the version edited by Joseph Smith himself we have
"A Translation of Some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands, from the Catecombs[sic] 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." (11)
That is, Joseph Smith very carefully designates the papyrus as one which purports to be an autograph of Abraham, a very common claim of ancient manuscripts which are yet far removed from the original author. (12) While some critics claim a distinction without difference here, that demonstrates simple bias or a lack of training. Smith himself makes no claim that the documents he had were autographs. (13) They were copies from the land of copyists. (14) Critics like to point to Josiah Quincy's record of his interview with Joseph Smith, where he has Joseph claim that various papyri contain signatures of Moses and other ancients as proof that Joseph Smith thought or claimed that he had autographs. However it is clear that Quincy was exaggerating for effect. Another diarist present at the same interview tells us that Joseph Smith made no such claim. (15)
Next, 2). Did Joseph Smith actually think he (or did he try to tell his gullible drones (16) that he) obtained the Abraham text from the little breathings papyrus? Critics claim this since some manuscripts of the text have some characters from the breathing text written beside some paragraphs from the book of Abraham on pages of the manuscript (17) . This is supposed to show that the scribes thought they were deriving, or (apparently by reading minds), that Joseph Smith claimed he had derived, from the single character, the juxtaposed text. Critics point out then how foolish such an assertion is -- deriving paragraphs from a single character--of course it would not have been obvious to someone like Oliver Cowdery or Warren Parrish who at least had some familiarity with Hebrew.
And we must believe that a relatively well educated man like W. W. Phelps never questioned such a scheme. (18) At least one Egyptologist now recognizes that the assertion that the breathings text was thought or is thought now to be the source of the book of Abraham is incorrect. (19) The only way scribes like Phelps and Cowdery might have believed such a proposition is that they knew revelation was involved, not a standard translation effort. Anyone vaguely familiar with the Book of Mormon translation events would recall that the KEP is just the sort of thing Cowdery might try or encourage others to try with the already translated text in hand, given the reasons for his own failure in contributing beyond scribal work to the Book of Mormon translation. (20)
The Egyptian materials (aside from the P. JS collection) which appear to be related to the book of Abraham and held by the LDS Church can be inventoried as:
Inventory of Book of Abraham and Egyptian Manuscripts in the possession of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Church Historical Dept. Salt Lake City, Utah),
[ca. 1837 indicates that a ms could not be produced after that - most were probably produced well before this -probably between July 1835 and Dec. 1835)] (21)
Egyptian manuscripts (contain copied Egyptian characters with some English except # 10):
Egyptian Mss. # 1, (KEPE#1) ca. 1837. 1 vol. 31 x 20 cm. Ms. Manuscript entitled "Grammar & aphabet [sic] of the Egyptian language," in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps and Warren Parrish.
Egyptian Mss. # 2, (KEPE#2) ca. 1837. 2 leaves. 33 x 2O cm. Ms. Manuscript entitled "Egyptian counting," in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps. Characters with English explanations.
Egyptian Mss. # 3, (KEPE#3) ca. 1837. 4 leaves. 32 x 2O cm. Ms. Manuscript entitled "Egyptian alphabet," in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps.
Egyptian Mss. # 4. (KEPE#4) ca. 1837. 9 leaves. 33 x 20 cm. Ms. Manuscript entitled "Egyptian alphabet," Text by Oliver Cowdery and another hand. (Does not contain odd explanations of # 3.)
Egyptian Mss. # 5, (KEPE#5) ca. 1837. 4 leaves. various sizes. Ms. Manuscript in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery. Top has deteriorated, similarity between Mss. 4 and 5 indicates it was probably titled "Egyptian alphabet."
Egyptian Mss. # 6, (KEPE#6) ca. 1837. 1 vol. 20 x l3 cm. Ms. Titled "Valuable discovery of hiden [sic] records . . . (this title apparently in the handwriting of Joseph Smith. It seems that this is the only internal item in the collection that indicates the presence of Joseph Smith22) English contents are in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery.
Egyptian Mss. # 7, (KEPE#7) ca. 1837. 1 vol. 2O x 16 cm. Ms. English contents in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery. Back cover has "F.G.W." and "Williams" on it.
Egyptian Mss. # 8, (KEPE#8) ca. 1837. 1 leaf. (1 fold.) 32 x 40 cm. Ms. Egyptian characters and hieroglyphs.
Egyptian Mss. # 9, (KEPE#9) ca. 1837. 1 leaf. 33 x 19 cm. Ms. Characters by unknown person.
Egyptian Papyri #1O, (KEPE#10) n.d. 1 leaf 33 x 2O cm. Ms. Egyptian Papyrus attached to a sheet of paper.
Book of Abraham manuscripts:
Manuscript # 1, (KEPA#1) ca. 1837. 10 pages. 32 x 20 cm. Ms. Translation of the Book of Abraham, 1:1 to 2:18 in the handwriting of W. W. Phelps and Warren Parrish. Obtained from Wilford Wood.
Manuscript # 2, (KEPA#2) ca. 1837. 4 pages. 33 x 19 cm. Ms. Book of Abraham, 1:4 to 2:6 in the handwriting of W W. Phelps.
Manuscript # 3, (KEPA#3) ca. 1837. 6 pages. 32 x 19 cm. Ms. Book of Abraham, 1:4 to 2:2 in the handwriting of Warren Parrish.
Manuscript # 4, (KEPA#4) 1841. 18 leaves. 29 x 20 cm. Ms. Book of Abraham, 1:1 to 2:19, 3:18 to 3:26 in the handwriting of Willard Richards. Includes (back of page 2) explanations of figures in Facsimile No. 1 in the hand of Willard Richards, except explanation of fig. 12 is shorter. Facsimile No. 2, ca. 1841. 4 pages. various sizes. Ms. Includes explanations in the handwriting of Willard Richards. "A Fac-simile from the Book of Abraham," no. 2, ca. 1843 Engraved by Reuben Hedlock. Broadside. 32 x 19 cm. Facsimile from the Book of Abraham with explanation of the characters. On back is a letter, Aug. 1, 1843, to Clyde Williams Co., Harrisburg, Pa., signed by Joseph Smith and W. W. Phelps.
Who was responsible for the so-called Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar portion of the KEP if it is not in Joseph Smith's handwriting? Egyptian symbols are found in this "Grammar," but they are merely listed according to their position (the scribes use the term "degree") on the papyri (23) sometimes with a suggested vocalization attached. (24)
Making Joseph Smith responsible for this Grammar is tenuous and no scholar with genuine credentials supports it. (25) For the most part the chief object of critics has been KEPA#1, the ms most critics believe to be Joseph Smith's effort to show that the text came from the breathing permit of Hor. But KEPA#1 actually appears to be the attempt of Joseph's associates to understand the materials they had, including the already translated text. (26)
In fact, the evidence which exists concerning an Egyptian origin for the text points in an altogether different direction. The facts show that Joseph Smith evidently claimed an Egyptian source other than the breathings text. Some critics are contemptuous of this (27) and desperately insist that the papyri in possession of the LDS Church are the papyri from which Joseph Smith claimed the book of Abraham came, and that scholars who have argued for another (missing) papyrus are just running scared. This is important to critics so that they can point out that the book of Abraham is not (obviously!) what the breathing permit of Hor text contains in the standard Egyptian-English translation.
But, as noted, the evidence appears altogether different than many critics claim. (28) In 1842, the fragments we now have in P. JS were apparently mounted in `a number of glazed slides, like picture frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphics.' (29) The next year, in 1843, a non-Mormon named Charlotte Haven visited Joseph Smith's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, and wrote a letter to her own mother about it. (30)
Haven writes: Then she [Mother Smith] turned to a long table, set her candlestick down, and opened a long roll of manuscript (yes it was not a modern document - they didn't come in long rolls! Furthermore, old papyrus scrolls can be remarkably well preserved and "rollable"), saying it was "the writing of Abraham and Isaac, written in Hebrew and Sanscrit [sic]," and she read several minutes from it as if it were English. It sounded very much like passages from the Old Testament-and it might have been for anything we knew-but she said she read it through the inspiration of her son Joseph, in whom she seemed to have perfect confidence. Then in the same way she interpreted to us hieroglyphics from another roll. One was Mother Eve being tempted by the serpent, who-the serpent, I mean-was standing on the tip of his tail, which with his two legs formed a tripod, and had his head in Eve's ear. (31)
The picture of a serpent Haven described fails to match any of the Joseph Smith papyri we have from the Metropolitan Museum. (32) According to this contemporary non-LDS source, there were two long rolls left after the present fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri were mounted. If the claim of some critics is correct and there were only two papyrus rolls from the beginning of Joseph Smith's ownership of the papyri, we must conclude that P. JS I-XI were not on them and that only the outer portions of the rolls were taken off to preserve them and that the rolls remained intact. (33)
Another eyewitness from the Nauvoo period supports the same conclusion, i.e., that the book of Abraham text was thought to come from something other than P. JS I-IX: "Oh, here is the Pearl of Great Price," said Brother Horne, picking up that book. "I've seen these records with my own eyes," referring to the Book of Abraham, "and handled them with these hands. Mother Lucy. . . showed them to me. . . . The records which I saw were some kind of parchment or papyrus (verifies that the "manuscript" seen by Haven was a papyrus roll,) and it contained writing in red and black. Mother Lucy told me that one [scroll!] was the writings of Abraham and the other the writings of Joseph, who was sold in Egypt." (34)
John Gee writes,
. . . there is still more evidence that Joseph Smith had additional papyri. Egyptian papyrus documents almost universally pertain to only one individual. (35) So from an Egyptological perspective how many papyri do we know that Joseph Smith had? We know that there was a Book of Breathings belonging to Hor, son of Remnyqay and Taykhebit, (36) a Book of the Dead belonging to Tasheritmin (37) , a Book of the Dead belonging to Neferirnub (38) , a hypocephalus belonging to Sheshonq (39) , and a document belonging to Amenhotep, the son of Hor. (40) Here we have documents from at least five different individuals. If we have all the papyri Joseph Smith had, where, we might ask, are Facsimiles 2 and 3, the roll belonging to Amenhotep, or all the strange vignettes which those who saw the papyri in Nauvoo describe? If there are documents we do not have, by what clairvoyance do critics proclaim what was . . . or was not on them? (41)
Hugh Nibley cites a personal reference to scrolls clearly different from the recovered papyri. In 1906, while visiting Nauvoo, President Joseph F. Smith related to Preston Nibley his experience as a child of seeing his Uncle Joseph in the front rooms of the Mansion House working on the Egyptian manuscripts. According to President Smith, one of the rolls of papyri "when unrolled on the floor extended through two rooms of the Mansion House. (42) Anyone who has been in the building (well preserved by the RLDS Church) can see that a scroll of considerable size was seen. Clearly it was an impressive experience for the (then) boy. This would have been sometime between 1843 when the Mansion House was completed (43) and the Prophet's death in June 1844, one or two years after other parts of the papyri had been cut up and placed under glass. Cf. ANP Improvement Era 71 (March 1968): 17-18, and Nibley, 1979, 6-7. (44) We can conclude that:
1) There was much more papyrus available than we have now.
2) Haven saw a long unrolled scroll after other papyri (P. JS among them) were cut up.
3) It is clear from the Smith and Horne accounts that Haven's "manuscript" really was a scroll (as though Haven wouldn't have said so if what she saw was foolscap!)
4) The Joseph F. Smith account, while not contemporary, was not given under duress (there was no pressure from critics about what sort of papyri Joseph Smith had), was clearly impressive to the then boy (anyone who has been to the Mansion House knows what this means) that he recalled such details without prompting and clearly supports the fact that long scrolls were intact after 1842.
It is clear therefore that
Joseph Smith had a much more extensive collection of papyri than the current fragments. [We deal with the part of 3 concerning Facsimile No.1 below.]
The book of Abraham text was claimed to arise from, not the little breathings text, (45) but long rolls which have rubrics (and evidently not P. JS V - furthermore, the breathings text has no rubrics.)
Hence what might be called the manuscript argument, contained in points 1-4 is effectively disabled. That particular argument must therefore be classed as pure speculation from individuals who have a subjective interest, sincere or otherwise, in concluding that Joseph Smith was a faker or was deceived himself. [See 6a-b above for example.] (46)
III. Joseph Smith, Nauvoo Artist in Residence, or When a Copy is Better Than an Original
Let us consider 3a-3k. First, 3a is evident, for one of the papyrus fragments (P.JS I) is evidently the original of Facsimile No. 1. An important question in examining the validity of this argument is the condition of the papyrus original for Facsimile No. 1 when it came into Joseph Smith's possession. A number of anti-Mormon writers have claimed that the papyrus was in its present incomplete condition when Joseph Smith acquired it, and was completed by Joseph Smith to its present state. They give several reasons for this assertion which we have called 3f:
A. The papyrus in its current state has missing portions, including the head of the "priest" figure, the arms of the reclining figure, the head of the bird figure, the end of the extended arm of the priest figure. Joseph Smith's critics claim that he filled these in incorrectly for Facsimile No. 1 is too unusual and "does not conform to Egyptian canons."
B. On The papyrus backing, where portions of the papyrus are missing, figures are drawn by a modern artist- making the figures conform to Facsimile No. 1.
C. Examination of P. JS XI which was originally attached to P. JS I shows that the missing portion continues smoothly from I to XI and so it is conjectured that the papyrus was damaged when unrolled or before (you know what happens when that bathroom tissue starts to tear!)
D. Thus the papyrus was never complete, and Joseph Smith completed it incorrectly.
The obligatory conclusion is obvious, but we want to be thorough.
E. Hence Joseph Smith had no prophetic insight into the papyri, etc.
However, although there have been several suggestions by critics concerning how the papyrus "ought" to look, none of these fit the state of affairs better than what exists in Facsimile No. 1. One common alternate completion consists in having only one hand of the supine figure raised and instead of having another upraised arm connect with the hand-like figure on the papyrus, it is suggested that the disconnected hand is really a bird wing. This is preposterous to anyone who takes the trouble to examine the papyrus drawing carefully. There is an Egyptian thumb on the wing (and if Egyptian canons are supposed to guide us, this never happens. The thumb is not visible on the woodcut version.) Where does the other hand go, if it is not upraised? Why it is drawn to grasp an erect phallus! But this is equally ridiculous, for no Egyptian ithyphallic figure is ever drawn with clothes on and the supine figure in P. JS I surely has clothes on. Furthermore, no papyrus exists which shows a figure on a lion couch as ithyphallic. (47) Critics complain that Joseph Smith's facsimile version of P. JS I has the priest with a human head and a sacrificial knife in his hand. (48) But there is evidence that P. JS I was actually intact with figures just as Joseph Smith had it portrayed by his woodcut artist in Facsimile No. 1.
First, one anti-Mormon contemporary of Joseph Smith observed the papyrus and that the priest figure clearly has a knife in his hand-not in a crude add-on sketch. (49) Next, it's clear that Joseph Smith is entirely correct in identifying the standing figure as a priest not Anubis! Priest with Anubis mask or priest without mask, Joseph Smith is right.
So Facsimile No.1 could indeed be a correct reproduction of an intact P. JS I. P. JS I was originally attached to the breathings text, and therefore critics assert (again) that the breathings text was the source of the book of Abraham since P. JS I shows up in the published book of Abraham and is apparently referenced in the text of the book of Abraham. Of course the book of Abraham text does mention a sacrifice vignette, with gods under an altar, all of which fits the description of P. JS I. If the text was on one of the long scrolls already shown to exist (50) , then Joseph Smith could have noted the reference in the text and inserted Facsimile No. 1 for an unavailable drawing. But the fact is that drawings in Egyptian stories are often far separated from the text, and even not in the same text, and this is even more likely given that Joseph Smith realized the text was not from an Abrahamic autograph. (51) Furthermore, as we have shown, while the figures on Facsimile No. 1 are unusual (52) those same features fit with Egyptian practice with fine accuracy. Moreover, the text of the book itself has the clear ring of authenticity. As John Gee (53) notes:
1. The book of Abraham has close affinities to a large number of apocryphal and Egyptian writings to which Joseph Smith could have had no access. (54)
2. Abraham claims that his story starts out near a place called "Olishem" (Abraham 1:10), and that place name is indeed attested in newly discovered inscriptions from approximately Abraham's time. (55)
3. There is no evidence to place Ur of the Chaldees in southern Mesopotamia, but there is good reason to locate Ur in the north, near the site of Olishem. (56)
4. Most of Joseph Smith's interpretations of the facsimiles have been shown to be in the general ballpark although "there has been little or no work done on [these types of texts by Egyptologists] since the end of the last century." (57)
5. The astronomy detailed in the book of Abraham does not match the heliocentric astronomy of Joseph Smith's or our own time, but can be consistently interpreted as a geocentric astronomy like that characteristic of the ancient Mediterranean world. (58)
6. David Cameron discovered an Egyptian lion couch scene much like Facsimile No. 1 explicitly mentioning the name Abraham. (59)
Assertion 3(g) is actually consistent with the fact the Joseph Smith realized the text he had was not an autograph..
Assertion 3(j) is also actually an evidence that Joseph Smith was not a charlatan. (60) Joseph Smith gave instruction to his woodcut artist on the missing portions of Facsimile No. 2, evidently telling him to insert some characters for the sake of aesthetics (61) but Joseph Smith made no attempt to interpret those characters on the facsimile, which he certainly would have done if he was as daring and/or as stupid as many of his critics style him. (62)
IV. And Now for Something Completely Out of Date
Accusations have been made that the book of Abraham literally does not square with what we don't know about the Ancient Near East (really). Yes, there are accusations of anachronisms in the text. The following list is a sample of supposed anachronisms (63) .
1) The name Pharaoh. (The name occurs thirteen times in the book of Abraham text and more in the facsimile Explanations.)
This is hardly important. There is in fact no evidence that the name was not in use well before the 18th dynasty. In any case for a 19th century publication, the use of "Pharaoh" to designate the king of Egypt falls well within the bounds of a normal translation for a Biblically literate audience (Gen. 12:15f.) Modern usage of the term for Egyptian kings makes its use in the book of Abraham appropriate in any case. Some have interpreted the text as saying that "Pharaoh" was the proper name of the original male ruler descended from Ham, but the name is said to mean, for the writer, "king of Egypt." (Abraham 1:20). The use in the text is simply a translation and the name is used even by modern Egyptologists for the Egyptian rulers from the first dynasty.
2) The name Egyptus.
The book of Abraham says the name is Chaldean. In fact the text likely refers to the name Siptah, and Egyptes (published as Egyptus.) There is no contest about Egyptus being a Greek name. A critic of Joseph Smith (64) even notes the connection between Egyptus and the name hwt-k3-pth, "the house of the ka of Ptah" how would Joseph Smith have connected Egyptus with Siptah?? But can we say with any assurance that the name does not exist in another language? To do so implies knowledge of every possible language. Here, as usual, Joseph Smith would be damned no matter what he did. Putting things in terms his readers understand is dubbed anachronistic, introducing new terms is called gibberish.
3) Reference to Chaldeans.
The people historians name as the Chaldeans first appear in written records around 900 B.C. though they are clearly well established by this time. Their earlier history is obscure. Those the book of Abraham identifies as Chaldean may or may not be these same people. The recent appearance of civilizations (at Ebla for example) from the dust in the regions northeast of Egypt makes it apparent that an argument from silence against the book of Abraham's use of the term is unwise. As A. R. Millard has said, "Naming a place after a people whose presence is only attested six or seven centuries later than the setting of the story need not falsify it. A scribe may have replaced an outdated name, or people of [a group] may have resided in the area long before their name is found in other written sources." (65) The Chaldean city of Ur ('er) of the biblical patriarchal narratives has been thought since the early 20th century to be identified with the Sumerian Ur, a site in southern Iraq northwest of Basra. Before then, the site was considered to be near to Haran. In fact, evidence has surfaced in recent times that Abraham's Ur may indeed be in this northern area. Evidence for the northern Ur (in the area of Haran - northeastern Syria in terms of present boundaries) is recent. Stone tablets discovered in the region of Haran, (at Ebla about 120 miles due north from Damascus) many dating back to the third millennium B.C., contain place names corresponding to Abraham's father (Terah), grandfather (Nahor) and great grandfather (Serug). Whether this northern Ur is the Ur of Abraham is not a settled fact, but the discoveries at Ebla give credence to this idea, and the biblical evidence points clearly to a northern site. Chaldeans do not seem to have existed at the southern Ur until much later than Abraham. However, some ancient texts indicate they were in the north at the time of Abraham. But, they are not well understood and what exactly the relationship with Egypt may have been is unknown - the book of Abraham tells of a close relationship, one which we can document, with peoples in the "neighborhood" of Haran, the area of a proposed northern Ur. This would explain Abraham's trepidation on entering Canaan (Abraham 2:18) - Egyptian influence was almost certainly strong there. (66) Evidence for Egyptian influence and cultural exchange in the area, whether northern or southern Mesopotamia while it is not abundant, does exist, especially for the northern site. Middle Kingdom records give hints of such influence, and during the period of the Hyksos kings there is also evidence of exchange in both directions. (67)
4) Reference to Egyptian influence in Chaldea.
The record is sparse, but there is no reason to deny that Egyptian religion had influence in the homeland of Abraham. Again this is not a reasonable objection [see remarks about Chaldea].
5) Reference to Facsimile No. 1 which dates from after 600 B.C.E.
There are reasonable explanations for such reference. (68)
Finally, there is another important and rather obvious explanation for the use of terms which seem anachronistic. This rests on the idea that the text was redacted in the second temple period, an idea which is quite reasonable in light of many points already discussed. These include the evident acknowledgement of Joseph Smith himself that the text "purported" to be the writings of Abraham (not Joseph Smith), the dating of the P. JS and the linking of the text with second temple period documents including the DSS. Issues and traditions important to an editor in this period would naturally surface in the text. None of the claimed anachronisms would be out of place in a text from this time. Indeed their very presence may bolster such an idea. Such a textual theory requires further development but is also suggested by the text structure itself. For Mormons this is not at all unusual. The editorship of Mormon, who often has a bias in his interpretation and selection, frequently shows through the Book of Mormon text. That the same situation exists in Biblical texts is beyond dispute.
The sighing and eye-rolling of Joseph Smith's critics over such issues is theatrical. Anyone willing to consider the situation with an open mind (69) will find the preponderance of evidence to be on Joseph Smith's side.
Back to JSCOM
1. One critic, at the end of a long recital on how in his view a "historical" book of Abraham conflicts with established textual criticism of Genesis creation accounts and therefore must be fictional, reveals that for him prophecy and revelation cannot exist, at least in the usual sense employed by Latter-day Saints. So we discover that the book really had no chance from the beginning, beyond being a pious fiction (for such critics the words "inspired fiction" do not mean fiction revealed from God, but rather "fiction that inspires" in some sense or other).
Unfortunately for this kind of critic, the ground of scholarship is one that is constantly in motion and "critical methodology" is a shifting sand that will drown most any house built on it alone, eventually. Of course, in a sense, this is the whole idea for this kind of critic, they don't want scripture to be authoritative. That way anything goes, scripture study is just an intellectual exercise, not a quest to understand life or how to live (Cf. Nibley, 1955). Fawn Brodie, perhaps the most famous of the modern anti-Mormons once accused Joseph Smith of borrowing chunks of the book of Abraham from Thomas Dick. This is the kind of accusation typical of many "scholarly" (naturalistic) treatments of the book. A little research beyond Brodie's blithely superficial mention- in-passing, shows that the two are really poles apart. Her charge amounts to "Smith used some words that Dick used, [words used in common discourse] so he used Dick's ideas to mold the book of Abraham." There is no suggestion that Joseph Smith's friends may have noticed some kind of similarity to what their Prophet had already done and then pointed it out. The only possibility is that Joseph Smith was indebted to Dick (or whoever). Naturally, he used practically everything else in the world depending on which critic you choose. Joseph Smith has been and continues to be characterized as any number of contradictory bundles of mendacity, sincerity and crude cleverness. [See remarks in the commentary and references below for a more detailed treatment of Smith vs. Dick via Brodie.]
2. The term "autograph" means the original text actually written by the claimed author. For example, the autograph of the book of Matthew in the NT would be an original ms as written or dictated by Matthew himself. No autographs or fragments of autographs from the books of the Bible are known to exist. Indeed, the earliest biblical ms known before 1947 was the Ryland fragment (pap. 458 Rylands Library, Manchester, England)- a portion of Deuteronomy- found (in of all places) with an Egyptian mummy from the second temple period!
3. Here we can mention the variously named Institute for Religious Research and Utah Missions, Inc. and others such as the late "Dr." Walter Martin. Then there are the evangelical hired guns like the late Wesley P. Walters, and critics like lapsed Mormons Jerald Tanner, H. Michael Marquardt, etc.
4. An obsolete insecticide - somewhat analogous to the argument above -it eventually turned against its users.
5. The now debunked form of Positivism and claims of objectivity dating to Bacon in their modern form and displayed in these works are treated in Novick, 1988.
6. See for example, Midgley, 1995, 229-297.
7. We have in mind some of the former or cultural Mormons writing today about an ahistorical (but inspired!) Book of Mormon. And, the Mormon Minimalists, who hope "that Book of Mormon scholarship can mold a purer faith and a nobler Mormonism." "I believe that a spiritual trek is at hand for Mormonism and that the scholar's word will be one of those guiding the church's[sic] future." [Mark D. Thomas, "Scholarship and the Book of Mormon," in The Word of God, ed. Dan Vogel, 76.] Latter-day Saints may recognize this path as one already well worn by the 4th century remains of the Primitive Church. No trail blazing is required here. Mr. Thomas and others of this opinion do not mean the congenial sort of "apologist drivel" that bolsters the old and sagging tradition of 19th century Mormonism, but a Jesus Seminar sort of stripping of the privilege of Mormon myth.
8. The title Papyrus Joseph Smith as we use it here, refers ONLY to those fragments publisized by Dr. Atiya and donated to the LDS Church in 1967 with the lone addition of the so-called "Church Historian's fragment" [Atiya, 1970] and not to the other still missing papyri Joseph Smith received from Michael Chandler.
9. Actually, this is not strictly true. The text tells about a representation of the attempted sacrifice of Abraham, but it nowhere mentions Facsimile No. 1 as the actual implied drawing. There is nothing to prevent Facsimile No. 1 from being simply an insertion of an available similar drawing for one that was not found with the text of the record. Indeed, Joseph Smith was very loose in the way he used the phrase "facsimile from the Book of Abraham." This is illustrated by Facsimile No. 2, a hypocephalus, and not part of any scroll or text that might have been identified with the book of Abraham. Facsimile No. 2, while explained by Joseph Smith as being related to the book of Abraham, contained none of the book of Abraham text (something his critics would agree with) and was also published as a broadside, separately from any text. Nevertheless Joseph Smith still identifies it as being a drawing related to the book of Abraham and according to his explanations it was, i.e. it suggests ideas related to those of the book of Abraham text. The same thing applies to Facsimile No. 3; it was published with the book of Abraham text, but contains none of the book of Abraham text, and like Facsimile No. 2 it is not mentioned in the text. Obviously, Joseph Smith meant the facsimiles as illustrations for or additions to the text, and not as being authored by Abraham. They merely illustrated ideas in the text or added to them. Whether they are more directly linked to a larger translation never published is not known. One excuse we see for Joseph Smith to explore the meaning of Facsimile No. 2 in particular comes from the text of the book of Abraham itself: Egyptians (according to the book of Abraham text) had a thing for imitating and preserving the ancient lore, even connecting their practices with the Patriarch of the deluge himself. Finally, who can say that Facsimile No. 1 was actually the drawing referred to in the text of the book of Abraham? Answer: No one. No one denies it contains elements like those referred to in the text, but that is an entirely different assertion. Compare Joseph Smith's [Willard Richards'] journal for March 4, 1842 - the phrase "in the original" referring to the papyrus text is clearly used in the sense of the original published introduction to the book of Abraham: the "original" simply means the papyrus source for the facsimiles, etc., not some autographic text of Abraham. Having said this, it becomes obvious that whether the scribe intentionally referred to present priest-sacrifice vignette or not, it forms the required illustration in a legitimate way. See note 16 below.
10. The introduction occurs as a preface to some manuscripts of the text, not in others. Four mss exist, none of the full text, they end roughly at chapter 2 verse 18 of the presently published text. [KEPA#4 has a short portion of the middle of chapter 3]
11. TS, March 1, 1842. It should be clear from the weight of evidence presented in JSCOM that Joseph Smith dictated the book of Abraham, whether by inspiration or otherwise [e.g., Warren Parrish's letter to the Painesville Republican]. Critics of the book who want to hope that Sidney Rigdon or someone else wrote it are simply out of luck. A statement made by Joseph in the March 15 edition of TS saying he was not responsible for material in earlier editions has no reference to the book of Abraham as the journals of Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Smith himself and others demonstrate. In fact this statement by Joseph Smith really refers to a somewhat risque wedding announcement in the Feb. 15 issue which was composed by one of the printshop boys and went into print uncaught by the proofreader. The paper changed editorial hands during the period of the Feb. 15 issue and neither editor [Robinson or Smith] wanted to be blamed for the ad.
12. Biblical examples abound, essentially every book of the bible volunteers the same information, and the practice was very common among the Egyptians, the land of recopying and reproducing manuscripts ancient even in their own time.
13. Here is where critics like to jump in and say that Joseph Smith thought [or lied to the effect that] the papyri he had were actual autographs of Abraham. What they fail to acknowledge is that what Joseph Smith claimed was the most obvious thing in the world. With emphasis: THE TEXT OF THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM WAS WRITTEN BY ABRAHAM. If critics can find a reliable source which states unequivocally that Joseph Smith claimed that the portion of the papyri had by him and currently in possession of the LDS Church were autographs of Abraham, it would be a real find, because no such statement is known to exist. What do exist are statements from Joseph Smith's friends about what they thought along with the claims of critics and more or less ignorant bystanders. None of the people in a position to know, for example Wilford Woodruff or Willard Richards indicate that Joseph Smith explicitly identified the breathing permit, or any of the other papyri currently owned by the LDS Church, as written on by Abraham himself. Furthermore, the same caution should be exercised with regard to any of the papyri Joseph Smith had, whether recovered or not, especially when information has passed through the hands of Joseph Smith's enemies who hoped to make him appear a fool. Instead, Joseph Smith's only official statement is the one found at the beginning of the text: the papyri he had, or the record he translated purported to be written by Abraham himself. Indeed, Joseph Smith was careful to put distance between these Egyptian artifacts and any biblical character. When some wags began to circulate the idea that Joseph claimed the mummies that came with the papyri purchased from Chandler were famous Biblical characters, he quickly put a stop to it. To continue to insist that Joseph Smith claimed he had autographs is unfounded in reliable testimony.
14. Egyptians were most careful to preserve and recopy records they possessed. A well known example is the shabaqo stone, text dating probably from the Old Kingdom, evidently written during New Kingdom times. Other examples abound, The Book of the Dead contains much from the coffin texts, which depend in turn on pyramid texts, etc. But quite often we find texts from near Roman times certainly researched from much earlier documents or just copied from them. [Kitchen, 1986, 378-383.]
15. Quincy's attempts at sarcasm and his portrayal of Joseph Smith as a shrewd lunatic is coherent with his odd claims about Joseph Smith's remarks on the papyri. Charles Adams, Quincy's companion, describes this portion of the interview: "He then took us down into his mother's chamber [in the Mansion House] and showed us four Egyptian mummies stripped and then undertook to explain the contents of a chart of manuscript which he said had been taken from the bosom of one of them. The cool impudence of this imposture amused me very much. `This,' said he, `was written by the hand of Abraham and means so and so. If anyone denies it, let him prove the contrary. I say it.' Of course we were too polite to prove the negative, against a man fortified by revelation.'" (Diary of Charles Adams, May 15, 1844, in Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society vol. LXVII, 1952 p. 285) [Quincy's account is found in his book, "Figures of the Past" published in 1883, 386-387] Adams' testimony of Joseph Smith is that Joseph claims the translation he gave was correct, the "written by the hand of Abraham" portion is no more than Smith offers at the front of the Times and Seasons publication of the book of Abraham - we can excuse Adams for leaving out the more precise version of the Times and Seasons. There is no headline material mentioned such as the personal signatures of Abraham, Moses and Aaron, etc. that Quincy adds and anti-Mormons love to quote. The Mormons do not claim that Joseph Smith had no ancient texts. Quite the contrary, they do believe he had texts. But the original signatures of Moses and Aaron? If textual criticism is to be applied to Joseph Smith's work, it only seems fair to point out that it is a two-edged sword. The journalistic "quotations" of Smith in the past - when contrasted with the "official" statements- leave much to be desired.
16. John Gee notes that a major flaw in resting the Joseph Smith as a faker case on the so-called Egyptian alphabet papers in the KEP is that "the anti-Mormon argument assumes that we have all the material Joseph Smith had. We know that Joseph Smith planned to publish more of the book of Abraham than he did, but what was in the unpublished portion? To an extent it is mere speculation to fill in the lacuna, but we do know something of the plan of the work. Abraham writes that `a knowledge of the beginning of the creation, and also of the planets, and of the stars, as they were made known unto the fathers, have I kept even unto this day, and I shall endeavor to write some of these things upon this record' (Abraham 1:31). The beginning of the information on the creation is supplied in the present book of Abraham (Abraham 3:21-5:21). So when Joseph Smith records that when he was working on the Egyptian records, `The system of astronomy was unfolded,' he means something specific. On 16 December 1835, Joseph had recorded in his journal, "Elder McLellen Elder B. Young and Elder J[ared] Carter called and paid me a visit, with which I was much gratified. I exibited and explain[e]d the Egyptian Records to them, and explained many things to them concerning the dealings of God with the ancients and the formation of the planetary System." This information goes far beyond the material in the present book of Abraham. And even if Abraham 4:14-18 is taken to be the discussed passage, where in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers does this passage occur?"
Prior to 1838, Anson Call reported that "Joseph . . . said to us, `Sit down and we will read to you from the translations of the book of Abraham.' Oliver Cowdery then read until he was tired when Thomas Marsh read making altogether about two hours." A conservative estimate would suggest that the book of Abraham material translated at that point was about four times the length of what we have now. Where did it all go? Certainly not into the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, which cannot have been the principal manuscript of the book of Abraham. The only indication of the provenance of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers is that Wilford Wood found them. Whence did he obtain them? There is no statement on the Kirtland Egyptian Papers as to who is responsible for their production or what their purpose was. But it is certainly reasonable to assume that Warren Parrish, Joseph Smith's scribe for a time, played a leading role. After all, on 14 November 1835, Parrish had been blessed to "see much of my ancient records, and [he] shall know of hid[d]en things, and shall be endowed with a knowledge of hid[d]en languages, and if he [Parrish] desires and shall seek it at my hand, he shall be privileged with writing much of my word." "There was a prevalent spirit all through the early history of this Church, which prompted the Elders to suppose that they knew more than the Prophet. Elders would tell you that the prophet was going wrong, men who thought they knew all about this work thirty or forty years some of them before the Lord revealed it, tried `to steady the ark.' The Church was constantly afflicted with such a class of men."[George A. Smith, JD (Nov. 15, 1864)] Warren Parrish was specifically mentioned as one of them. After Parrish left the Church, he wrote a nasty letter to the editor of the Painesville Republican.
"The letter may be divided into two parts: First, Parrish establishes himself as an intimate acquaintance of Joseph Smith (which he was); then he tells everything dastardly he can about Brother Joseph, inventing all kinds of scandalous statements when he cannot think of anything substantive. It is in the former part of the letter that Parrish said, "I have set by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian Heiroglyphicks [sic] as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration of Heaven." If Joseph Smith had been using the Alphabet and Grammar to translate the book of Abraham it seems odd that Parrish did not mention it. Here Parrish has the chance to tell the world how ludicrous Joseph Smith is when claiming to translate pages of text from only a few characters (Parrish had studied Hebrew), but there is no mention of a process which would have been utterly silly had it been as the critics have charged. And yet Parrish must invent an alleged teaching that men are not accountable for their actions in order to make the Prophet look the part of a foolish scoundrel. Parrish's accusations are unfounded; if he had some solid ground he surely would have made use of it. Instead, his statement only suggests that what critics of the book of Abraham have always charged is not the case.
[Anti-Mormon writer/former part-time high school teacher/prison guard/ Charles] Larson displays the first four pages of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, book of Abraham manuscript 1 [KEPA#1], "showing Book of Abraham material translated from Egyptian characters drawn on the left side of the page" (pp. 45-48). On the first page of the manuscript (p. 45) we see that the top half of the page is in the uneven handwriting of W. W. Phelps. The second half of this page as well as the other pages displayed are in the smooth, straight, even handwriting of Warren Parrish. In fact, a straight-edge held at the bottom of any line of letters in Parrish's writing shows that they line up almost perfectly. The careful student will notice that the hieratic characters do not line up the way the English text does; the deviation gets worse the further one goes down the manuscript. Therefore, it seems apparent that the hieratic characters were not written at the same time as the English text. But the English text is smooth and evenly spaced; there is no cramming or additions (as there are in Phelps's handwriting). If the hieratic were added first, the text would have to adjust to fit the available space. Therefore the English was written first and the hieratic added later. Who added the hieratic and when was it added? There is no indication who placed the text there, much less that Joseph Smith is responsible for the hieratic characters. These are just a few of the many problems confronting the student of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, yet Larson and his fellow critics simply gloss over all the problems with their simplistic theories. What exactly the Kirtland Egyptian Papers are, no one at present has enough information to determine." [Gee, Tragedy, 115]
Given the number of scrolls available and the observations of eyewitnesses, it is clear that there was much more Egyptian material available to Joseph Smith than was recovered in 1967. Indeed in 1856, an expert who examined part of the papyri had by Joseph Smith shows that the breathing permit was merely a small text attached to a larger one whose title is unknown (see JSCOM appendix IV). It would be coherent Egyptian practice to have Facsimile No. 1 in front of the breathings text yet refer to the the later text on the same roll which was unfortunately lost in the Chicago fire of 1871. Indeed, breathing permits do not have vignettes attached at all.
It is clear that at least the first part of the Abraham text was available before the Alphabet and Grammar was even considered, because Oliver Cowdery quotes from it in September 1835. [Improvement Era 7:942; Parrish was not involved until Nov. 1835.] KEPA#1 (that book of Abraham ms in the LDS Church archives and regarded by critics as revealing Smith's claim of translating the breathings text as the book of Abraham text) could not have been produced (if indeed it was produced with the direct knowledge of Joseph Smith) until Parrish came on board as a scribe, not for a month or more. Hence Joseph never used or claimed to use this dubious document for translating anything, nor did his scribes ever make that claim.
Joseph Smith observed [sermon of 28 April 1842] that many, even some among his closest confidants, would run off pretending that the Church depended solely upon their labors, claiming as their own revelations things that Smith had taught them. It is entirely probable that documents of the EAG in the KEP are not Joseph Smith's work, but they fit instead the mold of independent thinkers who wanted to try their hand at Smith's "calling" and claim perhaps a little glory for themselves.
17. KEPA#1. See inventory. See Baer, 130-132.
18. Phelps and the other scribes for the mss all turned against Joseph Smith within roughly two years of the time the Egyptian materials came into Smith's hands. They never claimed Joseph lied about the Egyptian work. Phelps makes it clear in his own hand that paragraphs of English do not come from single Egyptians symbols (in KEPE#3: Nibley, 1971, 374.) Nibley's treatment although it contains some dating errors, goes far in showing that the EAG manuscripts must be classed as preliminary guesses and were never promoted or intended as revelation.
19. Zondhoven, Annual Egyptological Bibliography 1977, 180-81.
20. The phrases from D&C 8:1 and D&C 9:8 come to mind. This in no way weakens Cowdery's important contributions to the founding of Mormonism. But his own desire to be Joseph Smith's equal is well documented. While Cowdery was nowhere near as upset by Joseph Smith's work beyond the Book of Mormon as David Whitmer, his actions sometimes show his discomfort at being "left behind." [See Peter Crawley, "The passing of Mormon primitivism," Dialogue 13 (Winter 1980):26-37.]
21. Compare Nibley, 1971, 351. This list does not include P. JS, except Egyptian ms # 10 (KEPE#10). Phelps could not have worked on these mss after April 9, 1836 when he left Ohio; indeed, he does not seem to have been involved with the Egyptian materials after October 1835. By the time Joseph Smith went to Missouri, Phelps had already had serious difficulties with the LDS Church and was excommunicated in March of 1838. Williams was Joseph's "scribe" until November when Parrish took over the duties. By the fall of 1837 all the Kirtland scribes were out of the picture (including Cowdery who left prior to September 17, already out of sorts with Smith), but no significant work seems to have been done on the Egyptian materials after October 1835, until Joseph Smith settled in Nauvoo. In any case, it seems definite that at least the first half of the present text of the book of Abraham was in place by September 1835 and probably before then. No work seems to have been done after November 1835 until 1841-42.
22. KEPE#6 contains handwriting initially identified as possibly being that of Joseph Smith. A closer examination shows that this is not likely. Variations of habitual markings such as the connection between the letters A and l and other script characteristics compared with known examples of Joseph Smith's writing from the same time period (July 1835) indicate that a third party was involved, as yet unidentified. This is not unusual in the ms collections connected to Joseph Smith. There are a number of as yet unidentified hands.
23. This use of the term "degree" was first noted by John A. Tvedtnes in 1969. See his paper in the proceedings of The Book of Abraham Symposium held at the University of Utah Institute of Religion. [A copy may be found in the HBLL at Brigham Young University.] Tvedtnes and Richley Crapo have experimented with a "code" explanation for the book of Abraham text re: the breathings text. This work is not widely accepted, but has not been effectively refuted by critics either. Some critics note that Baer did not think the notion was worthy of consideration, but he was not acquainted with the complete data. Consult the following for further information:
Richley H. Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes, "A Study of the Hor Sensen Papyrus," Newsletter & Proceedings of the Society for Early Historic Archaeology (herein after NPSEHA) No.109, Oct.25, 1968. Reprinted in its entirety in Jay M. Todd, The Saga of the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1969).
Richley H. Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes, "Rediscovery of Smith Papyri Affects Book of Abraham," LDSSA Commentary, March 27, 1969
Richley H. Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes, "Papyri Give Further Book of Abraham Insight," LDSSA Commentary, May 1969
Richley H. Crapo and John A. Tvedtnes, "The Hor Sensen Papyrus as a Mnemonic Device: A Further Study," NPSEHA No. 114, June 2, 1969. Reprinted in Jay M. Todd, The Saga of the Book of Abraham (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969)
John A. Tvedtnes, "The Use of Mnemonic Devices in Oral Traditions, as Exemplified by the Book of Abraham & the Sensen Papyrus," NPSEHA No.120, April,1970
24. Nibley 1971
25. Joseph Smith evidently did not recognize the attempt at an Egyptian alphabet and grammar in Kirtland at all. An entry in his journal dated long after the Kirtland period reads: "Wednesday, [November] 15 . P. M. At the office. Suggested the idea of preparing a grammar of the Egyptian language."
The History of the Church ms from the Kirtland period suggests attempts at a grammar. [See HC 2:235-236.] If Joseph Smith was involved at all, the earlier attempt was evidently regarded as completely unsuccessful. Indeed, this is understandable since hardly anything was done in Kirtland except to list some Egyptian characters together with what is evidently various speculations about them. Joseph never presented these to his followers as revelation or even spoke about these speculative investigations to his closest associates in Nauvoo. If he was as deceptive or deceived as critics paint him, surely he would have used these items (assuming he actually knew what was in all of them) as some kind of proof that he could find the correct meaning of Egyptian writing. But the History entry about the Kirtland "Egyptian Alphabet" very likely did not originate with Joseph Smith at all. The July 1835 history ms which later became HC 2:235-236 was not composed or dictated by Joseph Smith. This part of the ms history was written by Willard Richards during September 1843. Richards was not one of the participants in the 1835 July happenings. Nor did he consult Joseph Smith if his diary of August-October 1843 is to be believed. He was on his own in writing the ms history text for there was no Joseph Smith diary kept in July 1835. So where does Richards get his information for recording the history of this period? His sources are easily traced: Kirtland High Council minutes, serials, letterbooks of Smith and diaries of active missionaries at the time. But these contain no reference to the so-called grammar and alphabet at this period. However, his assistant, who helped arrange the material for the history during September 1843 was none other than W. W. Phelps. Phelps was a participant in July 1835. But what did he do then? Answer: he probably watched Joseph Smith translate:
The last of June four Egyptian mummies were brought here; there were two papyrus rolls, besides some other ancient Egyptian writings with them [the breathings text, other rolls, hypocephali??- there were at least three rolls altogether as indicated by the Telegraph inventory]. As no one could translate these writings, they were presented to President Smith. He soon knew what they were and said they, the "rolls of papyrus," contained the sacred record kept of Joseph in Pharaoh's Court in Egypt, and the teachings of Father Abraham. God has so ordered it that these mummies and writings have been brought in the Church, and the sacred writing I had just locked up when your letter came, so I had two consolations of good things in one day. These records of old times, when we translate and print them in a book, will make a good witness for the Book of Mormon. There is nothing secret or hidden that shall not be revealed. [W. W. Phelps to Sally Phelps, July 20, 1835, Archives]Phelps did not translate any text. Perhaps he wanted to legitimize his later work on the "alphabet" by feeding Richards this entry in the July 1835 history, or perhaps his memory was simply fuzzy. Phelps' own correspondence says nothing of a "grammar" or "alphabet" during this period and his little 1835 diary ends prior to July. Smith never mentions it happening anywhere! When Smith's diary is active later in the year in October (1st), the grammar is mentioned again, but by one of the people who actually wrote in it- Cowdery- not Joseph Smith. Later Warren Parrish was clerk for the diary when the grammar is mentioned (Nov. 17, 1835) but it is mentioned in this way: "exibited the Alphabet of the ancient records" but this text was modified by Parrish from its reading: "exibited some of the ancient records." Parrish was one of the book of Abraham scribes too by this time. All this helps us understand why Joseph Smith would say something about possibly doing an alphabet and grammar in Nauvoo. He did not recognize the Kirtland effort as his - if there was a "grammar" effort then, or at most that it was simply ineffective experimentation by the group. It is clear that the text was already in hand as evidenced by Cowdery quoting from it in September before any work with the records is mentioned after July: No contemporary evidence for the EAG experiments exists in the July time frame. The scribes who produced KEPA#1 were using the already translated text (perhaps with more that we do not have- see note 16, A. Call's account) possibly trying to make some kind of connection with the writing on the papyri. Later references to translation in Joseph Smith's journal make no mention of using this "alphabet and grammar" to do anything. See diary entries of Nov. 19, 20, 24, 25 - on the 26th the scribes were "transcribing characters from the papyrus." This last entry may suggest when exactly the "alphabet" was actually attempted.
A mistake often made by Joseph Smith's critics is to connect the mentioned alphabets or grammars in Joseph Smith's journal or the History of the Church, with that portion of the KEP known as the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, the provenance of which is unknown. Whether the currently held documents named as an Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar were done under Joseph Smith's direction remains a mystery but the available evidence makes this unlikely. And as critics of Joseph Smith are ready to inform us, they certainly do not constitute anything like an Egyptian grammar.
26. Here critics of Joseph Smith engage in a sort of visionary experience where they tell us which manuscripts came from which and whether they were dictated by Smith, or copied from another manuscript, in addition to some mind-reading about what the intentions of the principals happen to have been. So, let's use a little clairvoyance ourselves. Why would the scribes pick on the breathings text as a candidate for a correspondence exercise? The answer seems obvious to us: the text of the book references a drawing like P. JS I. So the Egyptian source must be next to it right? Unfortunately, the scribes made the same incorrect assumptions that latter day critics make.
27. See for example the rather confused Charles M. Larson, . . . By His Own Hand upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri, (Grand Rapids: Institute for Religious Research (Gospel Truth Ministries??), 1992). Apropos is his view of Edward H. Ashment, an insurance salesperson in California who was once a Latter-day Saint and did some graduate work in Egyptology at the University of Chicago. "Larson's view of [Edward H.] Ashment is ambivalent at best. He cannot seem to make up his mind whether Ashment is `a respected LDS Egyptologist' (p. 128), a fellow apostate (pp. 147-78), or one of a number of `LDS apologists' (p. 164). When Ashment agrees with Larson, Larson speaks well of him; when Ashment does not, Larson does not." (Gee, 1995, 101 n24)
28. Latter-day Saints should not hope for miracles here: Joseph Smith's critics do not base their objections to him on the book of Abraham. Those real objections are an entirely different and often unnamed (in the context of the book of Abraham) set of complaints. For example Dale Morgan's statement, "With my point of view on God, I am incapable of accepting the claims of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, be they however so convincing. If God does not exist, how can Joseph Smith's story have any possible validity? I will look everywhere for explanations except to the ONE explanation that is the position of the Church" [as quoted by Gary F. Novak, FRB, 8 no.1 (1996) p. 147, emphasis added.]
29. Caswall, 1842, 406.
30. Gee, Tragedy, 107f.
31. Haven, 623-24. Critics of Joseph Smith want to explain this away by saying there are mistakes in the identity of persons or languages in the letter. But this hardly explains the clear recollection of a scroll not glass slides. Scrolls were clearly available after some of the papyrus had been cut up. Even critics [Charlotte Haven thought the Mormons were real oddballs] can tell the difference between glass slides and long scrolls unrolled before their eyes. Haven saw two scrolls unrolled. The original inventory given in the Painesville Telegraph clearly states the existence of at least three different scrolls. Therefore there were at least three scrolls available to Joseph Smith and possibly more. Thus, while some of the papyri were dismembered and placed under glass slides, two scrolls remained intact. [Painesville Telegraph, March 1835] See above ". . .there is still more. . ." Examination of the Church Historians Fragment shows evidence of even more material. When Quincy and Adams visited Smith, Adams noted that Joseph Smith [unrolled] a "chart" of manuscript (typical reference to rolled map or ms), this was in 1844 [see note 15].
32. "There is a slight resemblance to a scene in Papyrus Joseph Smith V, but the walking serpent there is not "standing on the tip of his tail," his tail does not form a "tripod" with his two legs, and his head is at nobody's ear." Gee, ibid. n39.
33. Gee, ibid, 107.
34. Horne, 1893, 585. See note 14.
35. "Exceptions may be found in Alan H. Gardiner, Late-Egyptian Miscellanies (Bruxelles: Fondation Egyptologique Reine Elisabeth, 1937). It must be noted, however, that these are a completely different type of document than those attested in the present collection of the Joseph Smith Papyri." Gee, ibid. n42.
36. P. JS I, X, and XI. Gee, ibid. n43.
37. "Joseph Smith Papyrus II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX. Tasheritmin is also the name of the mother of Iufankh, who owned the beautiful late Book of the Dead published in R. Lepsius, Das Todtenbuch der Agypter nach dem hieroglyphischen Papyrus in Turin (Leipzig: Wigand, 1842). From circumstantial coincidences it is tempting to wonder if the two were identical."Gee, ibid. n44.
38. P. JS IIIA-B. Gee, ibid. n45.
39. Facsimile No. 2.
40. KEP, Egyptian Manuscript #6, page marked number 1.
41. Gee, ibid. 108.
42. Nibley 1968,"Phase I," 101
43. The Smith's moved in around August 31, 1843.
44. n36 of Gee ibid..
45. Here we must emphasize for the benefit of those critics of Joseph Smith still stuck on the EAG, or KEPA#1, that Joseph Smith did not write them and that it has been clearly shown that the text of the book of Abraham was laid down long before KEPA#1 or the EAG. Furthermore, it is clear that Smith himself put no stock in the EAG. Critics must realize that to continue to stonewall on these issues leaves them open to the worst charge of all: the obfuscation they claim for Joseph Smith! Once and for all, the EAG and KEPA#1 are not relevant to the source of the book of Abraham and Joseph Smith never thought the book arose from the little breathing permit. With the additional evidence that the book of Abraham text was hours worth of reading in its ms form in 1838, this die-hard claim of critics assumes a position somewhere outside the circle of wishful hoping. Like librarian Dale Morgan, any explanation must be accepted before Smith's.
46. See note 14.
47. "To restore a lacuna without the aid of revelation, however, careful comparison to parallel texts must be done in order to show that the restorations are even possible. The characters [on P. JS I above the figures] are in vertical columns marked by vertical lines to either side of the text, a practice reserved for cases where there is more than one column of text. Given at least two columns of text, there is no room for the bird hovering over the figure. A hand is the only reasonable restoration." Gee, ibid. 101.
Anti-Mormon writers quote early evaluations of some Egyptologists like Baer and Parker to the effect that the supine figure is ithyphallic [Dialogue, Autumn 1968, p. 119, for example] but this was without due consideration of elements in the drawing. Critics of Joseph Smith often shy away from later scholarship on the facsimiles, and show a penchant for misinterpreting or misquoting the rest.
48. "One final point: Nearly every attempt at reconstruction of Joseph Smith Papyrus I strenuously tries to avoid the knife in the standing figure's hand. This, the critics say, is a figment of Joseph Smith's imagination, with no basis in the original papyrus scene. Nevertheless, an eyewitness account suggests that it was, in fact, present on the original. One visitor to Nauvoo during the lifetime of Joseph Smith describes being shown "a number of glazed slides, like picture frames, containing sheets of papyrus, with Egyptian inscriptions and hieroglyphs. . . . Pointing to the figure of a man lying on a table, he [the Mormon guide] said, `That is the picture of Abraham on the point of being sacrificed. That man standing by him with a drawn knife is an idolatrous priest of the Egyptians.'" If the drawn knife was crudely sketched in, and easily distinguishable from the papyrus proper, this observer fails to mention it. Yet he was a hostile witness, eager to emphasize anything that looked fishy." Gee, ibid. [the observer was Henry Caswall, in Caswall, 1842, 406. Though Caswall freely embellished his accounts later (see Hugh Nibley, "The Greek Psalter Mystery or Mr. Caswall Meets the Press," in Tinkling Symbols and Sounding Brass, 11:304-406); this one is contemporary, and from his description of Joseph Smith Papyrus IIIA-B we know that he had seen the papyri and not just the book of Abraham facsimiles. [Caswell notes that Egyptian materials had been cut up into sheets and placed under glass by this time, including Facsimile No. 1. Caswell specifically notes the presence of the knife. A later visitor to Joseph Smith (who also regarded him as at least a religious "quack") observes what are clearly the same papyri under glass - Haven and Joseph F. Smith's observation of long scrolls after this cutting up took place clearly shows that other extensive material existed.] [From the point of view of Egyptian documents,] it does not matter, by the way, whether the priest is shown with an Anubis mask or not; he is still a priest; Christine Seeber, "Maske," Lexikon der Agyptologie, 7 vols. (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1977-89), 3:1196-99.]" Gee, ibid. 102 Also see Gee, 1995, 79-82.
49. See note 37.
50. The breathing permit of Hor is estimated by Klaus Baer to have been 155cm long in its pristine state. Hardly the very long scrolls Joseph Smith had in 1843. [Baer, 1968, 127 n113] If the scroll was longer than this, then the breathing permit was probably removed as being the outside deteriorating portion. The remaining scroll was left whole. Was the book of Abraham contained on such a portion? Evidence points this way. See Appendix IV of JSCOM, under date 1856.
51. See the discussion above and ANP. We suggest P. JS dates from after 600 BCE (possibly between 100 and 200 BCE.) This points to the consistent conclusion that the material is a handed down version of the original text, with any number of provenance possibilities, one likely case is that of transport to Egypt by Jewish migration. See Nibley, 1981; Gee, 1995. The text was copied there using stock Egyptian Ptolemaic scribal drawings, etc.
52. See ANP, a source more or less completely neglected by critics, but the respected Klaus Baer thought it should be required reading for Egyptologists to help them avoid the "pompous ass" syndrome. [Klaus Baer, letter to Hugh Nibley, 10 August 1968, in the Archives of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, quoted in Gee, "Tragedy" n15.] It would certainly be good medicine for Joseph Smith's critics, although Nibley rather humbly refers to these early articles as biding time until deeper work on the newly discovered papyri could be done. See Nibley, "An intellectual autobiography," in Nibley on the Timely and the Timeless (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 1978), pp. 115, 212, 233n1. Also, Nibley, 1980.
53. Gee, "Tragedy" 117.
54. See Nibley, 1981. Several of these writings are listed in E. Douglas Clark, "Abraham," in Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 1:7-9; Consult also JSCOM.
55. Lundquist, 1985, 225- 37. The citation of u-li-si-imki looks rather removed in Nar-m-Sin b 5.2.13 (= UET I 275.2.13), but this is only because Lundquist, following Hans Hirsch ("Die Inschriften der Knige von Agade," Archiv fur Orientforschung 20 : 74), has transliterated the signs without taking into regard the fact that for the place and time the si sign should be read sh (Wolfram von Soden, Das akkadische Syllabar [Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1948], 43; the im sign can also be read em; ibid., 73), leaving the reading as u-li-sh-em. The area is also particularly prone to the Canaanite shift, which would render the name as "Olishem." To Lundquist's citation of E. Kautsch and A. E. Cowley, Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar (Oxford: Clarendon, 1910), 48-49, add Sabatino Moscati et al., An Introduction to the Comparative Grammar of the Semitic Languages: Phonology and Morphology (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1980), 48-49. Gee, ibid. n64.
56. Hoskisson, 1989, 119-36.
Critics invariably ignore the evidence that the text of the book of Abraham is ancient. Parallels with literature that Joseph Smith could not have known about abound. Nibley, 1981, and ANP.
57. Michael D. Rhodes, "A Translation and Commentary of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus," Brigham Young University Studies 17/2 (Winter 1977): 259-74; the quotation is from 274. A more recent work on Facsimile 2 is Hugh Nibley "One Eternal Round: The Significance of the Egyptian Hypocephalus" (taped series of twelve lectures, 27 June-27 September 1990, available from F.A.R.M.S.). For an interpretation of only certain figures, see John Gee, "Notes on the Sons of Horus," F.A.R.M.S. paper, 1991. Indicative of the general neglect of the documents is the article on hypocephali in the standard Egyptological lexicon, only four sentences long, one of which is: "Eine K[opftafel] findet sich kurioserweise auch unter den 3 hl. Bochern der Mormonen" (among the three holy books of the Mormons belongs, curiously enough, a hypocephalus); Dieter Kessler, "Kopftafel," Lexikon der Agyptologie, 7 vols. (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1973-90), 3:693. Rhodes' updated version of his hypocephalus paper is Rhodes, 1994. Freeman (1974) contains a translation of part of Fac. 2, but gets most of the history wrong.
58. William Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson, and John Gee, " `And I Saw the Stars . . .': The Book of Abraham and Geocentric Astronomy," presented at the Sunstone Symposium, Salt Lake City, August 1991.
59. For the discovery, see Gee, References, 1991, 1, 3. More recently, Gee, 1992, 60-62. Essential additional reading is Gee, 1995, 19-84.
60. Personally, I've always been fascinated with the idea of starting a religion which offended my neighbors to the point that they wanted to do me bodily harm.
61. See Joseph Smith's journal entry [written by Willard Richards] for March 4, 1842. Critics whine here about Joseph Smith being dishonest and passing off Facsimile No. 2 as a completely accurate reproduction. But however badly they want this to be true, it just isn't so. His later followers might have tried to claim it was accurate, but he never did. He produced, or one of his assistants produced, an aesthetically pleasing symmetrical document (by the way, the boat in the upper right quadrant is correct, even if an early drawing does not show it) and Joseph scrupulously avoids claiming to translate or explain any resulting gibberish! He's not trying to deceive anyone, as much as some critics would like to make it so.
62. See Joseph Smith's explanation in the Pearl of Great Price. He carefully avoids giving any explanation of the added characters- they were clearly placed there to make the figure appear presentable. While many Mormon's have thought Joseph was being mysterious when he said "if the world can find out these numbers . . . " Maybe he is just being honest? And some free thinkers might see just the slightest bit of humor there. It is unfortunate that the woodcut craftsman Reuben Hedlock, did not remain a Mormon. In later years he surely would have debunked unfounded claims had he lived long enough. The discussion of content of the facsimiles and their relation to the book of Abraham is not as trivial a matter as some critics would have us believe. See Gee, 1995, Nibley, 1980 and JSCOM.
63. For example, Stephen Thompson, "Egyptology and the Book of Abraham," Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1995, 143-160. Thompson also argues that Joseph Smith's interpretations of the facsimiles are altogether at variance with current Egyptological understanding. We feel that the evidence is equivocal, some supports Smith, some does not, and that arguments from silence are not coercive as they seem to be for Thompson. Thompson's ideas may be directly contrasted with our remarks here and also in the commentary. It should be noted that his complaint that LDS scholars appeal to "3000 years of Egyptian religious iconography in an attempt to find parallels which can be pushed prodded, squeezed, or linked, to attempt to justify Joseph's interpretations" is really an unfair characterization but in fact it is precisely what the Egyptians themselves did. With such a fragmentary source record, there is often no real alternative to looking at sources from various periods. Finally, we should note that Thompson, while a former active Mormon, no longer accepts the historical nature of scripture or the divinity of Jesus [Peterson, 1996]. The rather amazing thing is that he and some others are willing to sell out to questionable speculations on the historicity of texts, particularly to the work of various minimalists critical of any position which turns out sympathetic to believers. His dancing around the issue of a historical Abraham is a red herring. Thompson has already discarded even the possibility that such a person ever existed, much less that he might have had the experiences rehearsed in the book of Abraham.
64. See Thompson above.
65. ABD 1:38-39
66. Gordon, 1977, 20 and Tvedtnes and Christensen, 1985; ANP, 88ff; de Vaux finds the arguments for various sites for a northern Ur unconvincing -see de Vaux, 1978, Chap. 7 (although de Vaux writes prior to some discoveries that are pertinent to the northern Ur hypothesis). See notes at (1:10) and (1:20). In ABD 3:58b Yoshitaka Kobayashi notes "At the time of Terah and Abram, the culture of the people of northwest Mesopotamia, in the region around Haran, was a mixture of Hurrian and Amorite elements on a Sumero-Akkadian foundation defined and illustrated by the Cappadocian tablets, the Mari documents, the Code of Hammurabi, the OB letters from Babylon, and the Nuzi tablets of the 15th century B.C. There is no positive evidence for defining the time of the earlier migration from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran. Moreover, the Chaldeans during the patriarchal periods seem to be rather nomadic raiders (Job 1:17) who lived near Haran or Edom; so the traditional site of Ur in southern Mesopotamia may be reexamined as some seek the location near Haran;"
67. Redford, 1992, chapter 4; also ABD 3:546, 1:39b. Redford himself is a minimalist.
68. We do however point to the fact that many of the sources and legends surrounding Abraham speak of him spending time in On [also known as Heliopolis, a flourishing religious center in Middle Kingdom times -see notes at Facsimile No. 2], a place mentioned by Facsimile No. 2, instructing the priests of Pharaoh. Only the illustration apparently depicted by Facsimile No. 1 is mentioned by Abraham in the text of the book of Abraham. It is conceivable that the other facsimiles were included by another hand although Joseph Smith clearly intended them to be part of the published record of Abraham. One possible explanation of the connection between Ptolemaic (or Roman) Egypt and the era of Abraham suggested by the conjoining of the facsimiles and the Abrahamic text is that the text was brought to Egypt by Jewish immigrants during this later period and copied there, or that the text or a copy of it was left by Abraham in Egypt and a later copy found its way into one of the Joseph Smith sarcophagi. This is certainly not an unreasonable suggestion and not without precedent. As John Gee has noted, Israel borrowed many things from Egypt especially during periods of political interaction. [Gee, 1991, 47-48; Gee, 1995, 71-74. See also notes at Facsimile No. 2 below.] Others, looking at the relationship of the recovered papyri (examination of the sn-sn document had by Joseph Smith seems to show that it was arranged with Facsimile No. 1 first, sn-sn text, then Facsimile No. 3) to the present book of Abraham (Facsimile No. 1, text, Facsimile No. 3) conclude that perhaps the papyrus was merely a stimulus to Smith to receive an actual text (compare D&C 7) - the papyrus illustrations fitting figures drawn or mentioned by Abraham. However, there is good evidence that Smith had other papyri, certainly in quite different condition than the fragments recovered so far see above.
Because the evidence forces no clear answer to the question of how the text was arrived at, beyond the fact of Joseph Smith's claim that Divine revelation was involved, many both inside and outside the LDS Church have simply considered the book to be an unfortunate adventure (Hugh Nibley recounts one such comment: "The Latter-day Saints have never realized what they have here. Neglect, I think, is an understatement as far as that goes. When the Joseph Smith papyri were acquired by the Church in 1967, a high authority, a relative of my wife, in fact, who was editor of the Deseret News at that time, said, `Why did Joseph Smith do that crazy thing? Why does he have to get us involved in all this Egyptian stuff?' Why does that bother us? His [the editor's] idea of what was important and news was a new mall or a fashion salon opened in ZCMI or something like that. Now that's news [the editor says], but why are we bothered with all this ancient stuff?")
Whatever the truth in terms of textual transmission, past experience has vindicated the withholding of judgement in regard to Joseph Smith until more information becomes available. Critics of Joseph Smith have focused nearly exclusively on the matter of the facsimiles claiming that the various pieces of evidence point to Smith having claimed to translate the text of the book from the breathings papyrus, an idea we have hopefully corrected in the mind of the reader.
69. This means the investigator must be willing to consider the distinct possibility that Joseph Smith's religious claims were accurate. Without sincere agreement to this effect in advance, any criticism is tainted.