I want to say to you, read the book, the Pearl of Great Price, and read the Book of Abraham. The Pearl of Great Price I hold to be one of the most intelligent, one of the most religious books that the world has ever had; but more than that, to me the Pearl of Great Price is true in its name. It contains an ideal of life that is higher and grander and more glorious than I think is found in the pages of any other book unless it be the Holy Bible. It behooves us to read these things, understand them: and I thank God when they are attacked, because it brings to me, after a study and thought, back to the fact that what God has given He has given, and He has nothing to retract." - Levi Edgar Young, Conference Report (April 1913), 74

"...it must be evident to all who seriously consider the matter, that if the Book of Abraham as given to us by Joseph Smith be true, it must have been translated by a greater than human power." - George Reynolds, The Book of Abraham: Its Authenticity Established as a Divine and Ancient Record (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1879), 4

Monday, February 13, 2017

Notes: Book of Abraham Revelations before Book of Abraham Translation

One of the great contributions of the Book of Abraham is the vision given of pre-mortal life and the council in heaven. In July 1835, Joseph Smith, with the Kirtland saints, purchased mummies and papyri from Michael Chandler, from which the Book of Abraham subsequently came forth. However, in June 1835, W.W. Phelps wrote, "We shall by and bye learn that we were with God in another world, before the foundation of the world, and had our agency: that we came into this world and have our agency, in order that we may prepare ourselves for a kingdom of glory; become archangels, even the sons of God where the man is neither without the woman, nor the woman with the man in the Lord..."1

1 W.W. Phelps, "Letter No. 8," June, 1835, Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate 1/9 (June 1835):130; Phelps also wrote, "I am truly glad you have mentioned Michael, the prince, who, I understand, is our great father Adam," which corresponds to temple-related doctrine even before the Kirtland temple was finished, much less the Nauvoo temple. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

LDS Perspectives Podcast with John Gee

Laura Harris Hales and Amanda Brown interview with John Gee, "Joseph Smith's Papyri - John Gee," LDS Perspectives Podcast (Podcast Episode 16),

No typescript of this presentation is currently available.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Notes: Greek Borrowing in Ptolemaic Egypt

"It is clear that the Greeks, but not the Egyptians, were the borrowers of culture and that more often than not their borrowing of the pharaonic visual legacy was accompanied by concomitant written epitomes. This phenomenon adequately explains the commonplace occurrence in Ptolemaic Egypt of large numbers of objects, the figural decorations of which are clearly pharaonic but whose accompanying inscriptions are in Greek. . . .To my knowledge no corresponding object, that is one decorated with a classical scene but accompanied by a hieroglyphic inscription, has been identified."1

1 Robert Steven Bianchi, "The Cultural Transformation of Egypt as Suggested by a Group of Enthroned Male Figures From the Faiyum," Life in A Multi-Cultural Society: Egypt from Cambyses to Constantine and Beyond, ed. Janet H. Johnson, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization No. 51 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1992), 15

Thursday, November 17, 2016

1835 - Improvement Era (1942) - W.W. Phelps

In the August 1942 issue of the Improvement Era, under the title of "Genealogy," the Church published an excerpted transcript from a letter written by W.W. Phelps to his wife Sally in July 1835.1 This letter references the work being done on the papyri, providing some historical insights into the matter. The article also included an image of a letter written by Joseph Smith to Sally, essentially thanking her as W.W. Phelps spent a "short season" with him away from her and the family. Both letters have relevance to the history of the papyri and the Book of Abraham. The images are provided below, as well as a typescript of some of the contents. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Abraham, Human Sacrifice, and Conspiracy

Ryan Larsen recently wrote an intriguing post regarding sacrifice in the Book of Abraham and a potential Egyptian connection with Onitah. Definitely worth the read:

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Pearl of Great Price as Canon - Millennial Star - Nov 15, 1880

During the 1880 October Session of the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in connection with certain revelations being added to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price was also sustained by the conference as "revelations from God," and was sustained as one of the standard or canonical works recognized by the Church as scripture. The following records of these proceedings and consent is provided from Millennial Star 42/46 (Nov 15, 1880):721, 724:

Orson F. Whitney on Abraham and Bishop Spaulding

"A similar question was once put to a righteous man named Job, whom God answered "out of the whirlwind," saying: "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare if thou hast understanding * * * When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:1-7.) 

Job does not seem to have answered the question. Perhaps he did not have sufficient "understanding," and, unlike the "illuminated class" mentioned, would not assume to know what he did not know. But another righteous man named Abraham, who lived four centuries before the time of Job, had virtually answered that question; and his answer slept for two thousand years in the wrappings of a mummy in the catacombs of Egypt, awaiting the hour when Joseph Smith would give to the world his translation of the Book of Abraham. Therein the Father of the Faithful says:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Notes: Egyptian (Auto)Biography

"Portraiture is by far the most important and productive genre of Egyptian art, just as biography is the most ancient and productive genre of Egyptian literature. Both genres are self-thematizations of an individual subject, one in the medium of art, the other in the medium of language. To be sure, the Egyptian portraits are not self-portraits in our sense of the term, nor are the biographical inscriptions autobiographies in our sense. It is not the self of an artist or writer which is revealed by a statue or speaking in an inscription, but the self of the patron, who had the portrait sculptured or the inscription carved. What matters is the “self” that gives the order, not the one that executes it....We can deal rather with the order-giving, self-thematizing self, which wants to convey these qualities in its iconic self-thematization. No one will deny that self-thematization prevails in the artistic and inscriptional evidence of Ancient Egypt to an extraordinary degree and that both genres of self-thematization account for the singular character of Egyptian culture. For underlying almost every Egyptian inscription and every monument there is such an “order-giving self.” Since, as has rightly and repeatedly been stressed, Egyptian art is always functional and never decorative, it is this notion of self which seems to determine its functional contexts to the greatest extent."

Is it possible that the Abrahamic text was ordered by Abraham and inscribed by somebody else? According to Assmann, this would be the norm.

Jan Assmann, "Preservation and Presentation of Self in Ancient Egyptian Portraiture," Studies in Honor of William Kelly Simpson, Vol. 1, Ed. Peter Der Manuelian (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1996), 55-56

Monday, August 15, 2016

Notes: "The Disjunction of Text and Image in Egyptian Art"

In the first volume of William Kelly Simpson's Festschrift, Betsy Bryan writes that, "Although in most cases inscriptions are read in concert with the objects on which they are placed, if they are considered separately it may be possible to identify two distinct messages comprehended by different audiences." She is referring to divergent interpretations of art apart from its related text. Referring to Anthony Leahy's discussion of a stela from Abydos, she suggests that "Due to the hieroglyphic readability of both writing and art, some elements of both were often mixed in monumental settings," and then explains that, "The mixture of hieroglyphic forms with artistic compositional principles on this Abydos stela's lunette scene would therefore have been readable: not as to the specific royal names, but rather as to the iconographies of king and divinity as well as the meaning of their placements and gestures."1 She continues discussing the stela and notes that the text dedicates the area to Wepwawet, and thus the "lunette's message of royal association with Wepwawet in a processional form was background for the inscription itself." She continues, "For those who could read, however, the message was quite different from that of royal association with Wepwawet and involvement with the Abydene mysteries."2

Bryan continues by noting that, "Ultimately text and image speak to two distinct audiences with the appropriate message of royal display and power. Egyptian art communicates without text and with it. Although it often does, art does not necessarily coincide with text in the meaning it conveys. Nor, then, does text in monumental uses, necessarily purely caption the art, as most writers have argued it does. Rather, art may provide a different version of the same subject expressed in accompanying text."3 Her discussion is exemplified by the monumental stela referred to, but her point is illustrative of this disjunction in art and text generally. "Although many Egyptologists might conclude that the uncomplicated nature of the relief story underscores the dependence of art on text, it is more likely an illustration that Egyptian art was directed at more than one constituency, depending on whether the text was to be read or not."4

In concluding her arguments, Bryan asserts:
"It is a significant point in this example that the small number of elites who could read would not have interpreted the monuments of Ramesses II in the same way as the vast public. For this last group the temples were in any case distant and restricted centers of authority, royal and religious. Nonetheless a complete message was communicated to both audiences. We cannot estimate with any certainty the degree to which the owner of a monument depended on the separate and combined messages of art and inscription. We are safe, however, in assuming that all those who viewed a monument did not take away the same message....Indeed, this dissonance in text and image can be found on nearly every inscribed object and must assert that the function of text with image was other than caption or explication."5
While she is primarily referring to literate and illiterate Egyptians, she articulates that, "Nonetheless a complete message was communicated to both audiences." How might this apply to the Joseph Smith Papyri? Is it possible that the vignette (Facsimile 1) could have more than one interpretation based on the accompanying text(s), or literacy of the reader? 

1 Betsy M. Bryan, "The Disjunction of Text and Image in Egyptian Art," Studies in Honor of William Kelly Simpson, Vol. 1, Ed. Peter Der Manuelian (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1996), 161
2 Ibid, 164
3 Ibid, 164
4 Ibid, 166
5 Ibid, 167

Notes: Vignette Alignment with Text

"In Late Period Books of the Dead, the vignette of a spell is not always correctly aligned with the text..."

Malcolm Mosher, Jr., "An intriguing Theban Book of the Dead tradition in the Late Period," British Museum Studies in Ancient Egypt and Sudan 15 (2010): 124

Notes: Papyri Comprised of Unrelated Texts

My appreciation to Stephen Smoot for pointing out these quotations that may be directly relevant to the Joseph Smith Papyri and the Book of Abraham:

Marc Van De Mieroop, A History of Ancient Egypt (West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 11, 146, respectively

Friday, August 12, 2016

Notes: Abrahamic Traditions

Pseudo-Eupolemus wrote: "And Abraham lived with the Egyptian priests in Heliopolis, teaching them many things. And he introduced astrology and other sciences to them, saying that the Babylonians and he himself had discovered them, but he traced the discovery to Enoch, and he [Enoch] was the first to discover astrology, not the Egyptians."

Ben Zion Wacholder, "Pseudo-Eupolemus' Two Greek Fragments on the Life of Abraham," Hebrew Union College Annual 34 (1963), 96; scholars are uncertain as to whether Pseudo-Eupolemus' fragments were written in Palestine or Egypt; see John J. Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora, 2nd ed.(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 49

Notes: Abraham and Cultural Adaptation and Appropriation

The usage of Biblical figures and traditions in the context of "pagan mythology" was, according to Wacholder, "typical Hellenistic fashion":
"according to Pseudo-Eupolemus, however, Belus, Kronos, Atlas and the Babylonian and Greek pantheons are none other than pagan names for the ancestors of Abraham. In typical Hellenistic fashion Pseudo-Eupolemus utilized exegesis to fuse biblical traditions with pagan mythological accounts."
Ben Zion Wacholder, "Pseudo-Eupolemus' Two Greek Fragments on the Life of Abraham," Hebrew Union College Annual 34 (1963), 91; Wacholder adds in footnote 59: "For the contamination of biblical traditions with pagan mythology, see Artapanus, 726 FF 1-3; Cleodomus-Malchus, 727 F 1; Theodotus, 732 F 1, p. 692, line 15; Or. Sibyll., III, 97 ff."

A Collection of Lion Couch Scenes

The following images are provided for convenience in comparing the similarities and differences between lion couch scenes. The images were obtained online and references will be added in the future. This is a preliminary draft since this collection does not attempt to provide any context (and limited referencing for now), rather, it simply attempts to collect similar images for purposes of future study. The few references below have not yet been corroborated. This post is a work in process.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Study of the Facsimiles - Translation

A translation ("Explanation") of a scene all too "common" in our modern-day culture:

Figure Non-Expert Expert
Harrison Ford
Han Solo with blaster gun preparing to engage enemies
Carrie Fisher
Princess Leia showing a look of concern regarding the improbability of escaping from an imperial star base
Mark Hamill
Luke Skywalker attempting to protect and rescue Princess Leia from stormtroopers (not depicted but clearly present).
This scene has been condensed and does not show a wookie or stormtroopers that clearly belong in this scene. 

Which translation/explanation is correct? Which one is wrong?

While this satirical "translation" oversimplifies things when it comes to the facsimiles, it does illustrate the false dilemma presented in juxtaposing Joseph Smith's translation against the (generic appellation of) Egyptologists. My point here is that the Joseph Smith vs. Egyptologists comparison is a problematic oversimplification.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Dependence of Alphabet and Grammar on non-Book of Abraham Materials - William Schryver

William Schryver, "Dependency of the Alphabet and Grammar on Materials not Related to the Book of Abraham," privately produced (2011)

No typescript of this presentation is currently available.

Dependency of Alphabet and Grammar on Pre-Existing Text - William Schryver

William Schryver, "The Dependency of The Alphabet and Grammar on a Pre-Existing Text of The Book of Abraham," privately produced (2011)

No typescript of this presentation is currently available.

Alphabet and Grammar Explanation - William Schryver

William Schryver, "Alphabet and Grammar Explanation," privately produced (2011)

No typescript of this presentation is currently available.

Abraham Manuscripts Explanation - William Schryver

William Schryver, "Abraham Manuscripts Explanation," privately produced (2011)

No typescript of this presentation is currently available.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Questions and Answers - Kerry Muhlestein

The following videos were produced by FAIRMormon in 2013 and are hosted online at their YouTube page.

Q1: "Papyri Found and It Doesn't Relate?"

Q2: "Facsimile 1 Not About Abraham?"

Q3: "The Three Facsimile Translations Wrong?"

Q4: "Joseph Smith's Attempt at an Egyptian Grammar"

Q5: "Translating Without Knowing Egyptian?"

Q6: "The Joseph Smith Papyri were made nearly 2,000 years after Abraham"

Q7: "Anachronisms?"

Q8: "Evidences"

Q9: "Other Egyptologists Opposed?"

Q9 "Other Egyptologists Opposed?" [revisited]

Q10: "Main Summary: More and More Questions?"

Q11: "What Value is the Book of Abraham text itself?"

Q12: "Are Egyptologists Joining the Mormon Church?"

Q13: "Are You, Kerry Muhlestein, Qualified?"

Q14: "What About the Internet Videos That Prove You're Wrong?"