Book of Abraham
The Book of Abraham skinny
Frequently, when reading a discussion on the LDS problem of the Book of Abraham, the apologists and critics beat around the bush–confusing the reader. For instance, on a webpage previously housed at BYU, a FARMS author avoids the most obvious question that any LDS person would have regarding Facsimile 2. Did Joseph Smith make an accurate translation of it, and if not, why? Numerous articles have appeared in the Ensign over the years regarding the Book of Abraham. From reading them alone, most members of the church aren’t even aware of the fact that there are some serious problems regarding the translation Joseph Smith claimed to make of the Book of Abraham.
The page you are looking at will give the individual seeking the quick and dirty problems a brief list of questions that need to be answered. For comprehensive views see Jeff Lindsay’s site for the orthodox “answer” and this book for a detailed critique of Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham.
Jeff Lindsay’s site ends with this note:
“So what do I think about the real source of the Book of Abraham? I personally feel that Joseph had a scroll (in red and black) which really contained writings about Abraham. That scroll is not the Book of Breathings, but was probably part of the collection that A. Combs sold, which ultimately may have perished in the 1871 Chicago Fire. There are still questions I can’t answer, but I certainly see no reason to reject Joseph Smith because of the Book of Breathings. To those who insist that no legitimate translation of the Book of Breathings could possibly result in the Book of Abraham, I agree!”
Jeff’s site (and other apologetic literature) may cause some to think that the Book of Abraham problems aren’t so great after all. His conclusion (that the translated portion was destroyed by fire) at first glance may make logical sense if one ends their investigation there. His site however neglects to address several key questions that one should raise if the answer of the real source being destroyed by fire is to be the faith cushion they are going to fall on.
- Why would Joseph Smith and his scribes have bothered to put characters from the Sensen portion next to the translation in Joseph Smith’s Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar if the Sensen fragment was not the source for the Book of Abraham?
- Why would Joseph Smith have used a piece of the papyrus as a source for the Book of Abraham that was not directly next to Facsimile 1 (which is where the Sensen portion is) when Facsimile 1 is what we have as the beginning of the Book of Abraham?
- Why would only the supposed papyrus from 2,000 BC be destroyed in the fire? In other words, if Joseph Smith supposedly purchased two sets of papyrus, some from 2,000 BC containing the writings of Abraham and some more recent than 500 BC containing the existing Book of Breathings, why aren’t any of the 2,000 BC papyrus remaining when numerous portions from post 500 BC are?
- Why would the Book of Breathings be buried and unearthed with papyrus over 1,500 years older than it to begin with?
- Why were the “restored” portions of the facsimiles incorrectly restored and why aren’t they translated correctly?
- How could Hebrew show up in a document that was supposed to be a translation of Egyptian?
For an excellent analysis of the poor scholarship Hugh Nibley has resorted to in order to reduce dissonance, see Ed Ashment’s essay in The Word of God.
An article on the subject can be found in the March 1997 issue of the Ensign. The author completely ignores the above questions. No mention of any kind is made regarding the incorrect translations and erroneous reconstructions of the facsimiles. He does however makes a few rather cunning statements. For instance, he states that it is “an authentic ancient record” but fails to mention that it is not authentic or ancient in the sense that church uses it (since it wasn’t ‘authentically’ written by Abraham and it is almost 2,000 years ‘less ancient’ than the church claims). He also quotes Wilford Woodruff who said that it was “hid from the knowledge of man for . . . four thousand years”. This statement being made almost 30 years after we have known that the papyrus is only about 2,000 years old is deceptive scholarship at best. Also interesting is the first full-page color illustration in the article which shows a bald Abraham about to kill his son with a dagger similar to the incorrectly restored Facsimile 1 in the Book of Abraham. Egyptologists (and the church) have known for almost 100 years the facsimile was falsely ‘restored’ and a correct rendition would have been one of a jackal-headed being who isn’t holding a dagger (or knife of any kind). The most accurate statement in the entire article is the one that says that a person must have a prayerful heart and an eye of faith to be grateful for the record. Someone with a heart and eye fixed on reality will have a hard time stomaching the continued deception.
Although we aren’t as fortunate to have a copy of the claimed source for the Book of Mormon, there are numerous questions one should ask regarding it if they don’t want their faith to blind. See this page for just a few of them.