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

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?"

2008 SANE Conference - Kerry Muhlestein and Alyssa Lewis

Kerry Muhlestein and Alyssa Lewis, "Abraham Upon the Altar: The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple," SANE Conference 2008

No typescript is available for this presentation.

2014 FAIR Conference - Kerry Muhlestein

Kerry Muhlestein, "The Book of Abraham and Unnoticed Assumptions," FAIR Conference 2014

Unable to locate a video for this presentation; however, a typescript is available through FAIRMormon, "The Book of Abraham and Unnoticed Assumptions"

2012 FAIR Conference - John Gee

John Gee, "Book of Abraham, I Presume," FAIR Conference 2012

Typescript available through FAIRMormon, "Book of Abraham, I Presume"

2010 FAIR Conference - William Schryver

William Schryver, "The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers," FAIR Conference 2010

Subsequent to the FAIR Conference, William Schryver privately produced a video repeating this presentation (slides included), provided below:

A typescript of this presentation is also available from William Schryver "The Meaning and Purpose of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers"

2010 FAIR Conference - John Gee

John Gee, "Marginal Characters in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts," FAIR Conference 2010 (presented by Will Schryver at John Gee's request, per his absence)

Typescript available through FAIRMormon, "Marginal Characters in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts"

2009 FAIR Conference - John Gee

John Gee, "The Larger Issue," FAIR Conference 2009

Unable to locate a video for this presentation; however, a typescript is available through FAIRMormon, "The Larger Issue"

2008 FAIR Conference - Brian Hauglid

Brian Hauglid, "Helping Those With Questions about the Book of Abraham," FAIR Conference 2008

No typescript of this presentation is currently available.

2007 FAIR Conference - John Gee

John Gee, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri," FAIR Conference 2007

Typescript available through FAIRMormon, "Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri"

2006 FAIR Conference - Brian Hauglid

Brian Hauglid, "Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers," FAIR Conference 2006

Typescript available through FAIRMormon, "Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers"

2006 FAIR Conference - Michael Ash

Michael R. Ash, "The Book of Abraham: 201," FAIR Conference 2006

Typescript available through FAIRMormon entitled, "Book of Abraham 201: Papyri, Revelation, and Modern Egyptology"

2005 FAIR Conference - John Tvetdnes

John A. Tvedtnes, "Authentic Ancient Names in the Book of Abraham," 2005 FAIR Conference

2004 FAIR Conference - Michael Ash and Kevin Barney

Michael Ash and Kevin Barney, "The ABC's of the Book of Abraham," FAIR Conference 2004

Typescript available through FAIRMormon, "The ABC's of the Book of Abraham"

2003 FAIR Conference - Michael D. Rhodes

Michael D. Rhodes, "The Lost Book of Abraham: Investigating A Remarkable Mormon Claim. A Response," FAIR Conference 2003

Typescript available through FAIRMormon entitled, "The Book of Abraham: Dealing with the Critics"

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Book of Abraham Facsimile Replicas

Daniel Smith has opened his Etsy store for purchasing replicas of the Book of Abraham facsimiles as well as other related products. Definitely worth checking out. These are easily the best reproductions that I've ever seen. Support his talent and purchase his work to hang in your office!


Monday, March 28, 2016

Book of Abraham Manuscripts and Wood Museum (Chicago)

From the First Presidency Office Journal, dated September 2, 1878, the following minutes were recorded:
An informal meeting of the council was held after Elders Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith had been set apart for their mission to the United States. Present-Pres[ident]. John Taylor and Elders Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt, George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith and A[lbert]. Carrington. 
Brother Orson Pratt spoke of the desirability of obtaining the mss. of the Books of Abraham and of Joseph now in Woods Museum, Chicago. 
Brother Taylor considered it to be well to do so though he thought it would be well not to appear too anxious, or advantage might be taken if such a feeling were manifested. He felt that anything that would throw light on the subject, embraced in the mission of Bro[ther]s. Pratt and Smith should be encouraged.1
From these minutes it is clear that LDS Church leadership either knew or believed that the Book of Abraham manuscripts (along with those of Joseph of Egypt) were held in the Wood Museum in Chicago in September 1878. This is quite interesting considering that 1) Church leadership was aware that the museum had acquired, in some way, the manuscripts from the possession of Emma Hale Smith Bidamon and/or her family, and 2) the Great Chicago Fire took place in October 1871. Church leadership, at that time, was apparently unaware that the manuscripts had actually been destroyed 7 years earlier.

1 Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1835-1893 [Vol. 1] (Salt Lake City, UT: Privately Published, 2010), 315

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Abraham 4-5 Compared With Genesis 1-2

Kevin Barney recently wrote up a brief comparison regarding some of the differences between Abraham 4 and 5 with Genesis 1 and 2. His purpose was to further the discussion on the potential influence that Joseph's Hebrew studies had upon the Book of Abraham. This contrast is directly relevant to a paper that I've been working on for a couple of months now, and part of the research for my paper explores some of these differences. I decided to leave out the verse by verse comparison from my paper, but in connection with Barney's blog post, I thought it might be well to add that comparison here. The verses are laid out in the following format (translation: underlying text):

   King James Version (KJV): MT
   Book of Abraham (Abr)
   New Revised Standard Version (NRSV): MT
   New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS): LXX

Thursday, February 11, 2016

LDS Church History Library Exhibit

The Church is currently exhibiting Joseph Smith Papyri in Salt Lake City at the Church History Museum. See here for additional details about the "Foundations of Faith" exhibit.