Book of Abraham theory involving Joseph Smith’s scribes

Book of Abraham theory involving Joseph Smith’s scribes

The “Scribes Did It” theory

Comments on articles by Ashment, Nibley, and Marquardt by Seymour Bloom

My recent readings of works by Edward H. Ashment, H. Michael Marquardt, and Hugh W. Nibley (see notes for titles) has reinforced my conviction that Joseph Smith translated, or pretended to translate, the Book of Abraham from the symbols on Papyrus Joseph Smith XI.

One does not need to know much about Egyptology to follow Ashment�s and Marquardt�s descriptions of the relationships between the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, also known as the Alphabet and Grammar, and the Book of Abraham manuscripts. In most cases, one can look at the photocopies and compare characters and ink shades.

In his essay “Reducing Dissonance: The Book of Abraham as a Case Study“, Edward Ashment has a very convincing answer to Hugh Nibley�s “The Scribes Did It” theory. Nibley asserted that “the English of the Book of Abraham was here copied down before the Egyptian signs were added”, and that the hieratic characters “were copied out �by a single scribe in a bold and rather skillful hand”. Ashment points out that the penmanship of the hieratic characters corresponds to that of the accompanying English translation. Furthermore, different scribes used different ink shades. Ashment states “When the handwriting changed from Phelps�s to Parrish�s in Manuscript 2 [Marquardt calls this Translation MS. No. 1], the linking of the hieratic characters also changed from Phelps� dark tint to Parrish�s lighter tint.” One can verify Ashment�s observations by examining photocopies in “The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papers.”

In “The Book of Abraham Papyrus Found”, Marquardt points out that the first two hieratic characters, on Translation Manuscript No. 1, are referenced in Egyptian Manuscripts 3, 4 and 5. Marquardt says most of Egyptian Manuscript # 4 is in Joseph Smith�s handwriting. In particular, page V, which contains the two hieratic characters. This is one more proof of the link between the “Alphabet and Grammar” and “The Book of Abraham.” Has any Mormon apologist attempted to refute this connection? In this case, they can�t state that “The Scribes Did It”, because it was written by Joseph Smith.


  • “Reducing Dissonance: The Book of Abraham as a Case Study” by Edward H. Ashment, is an essay in “The Word of God” edited by Dan Vogel (Signature Books, 1990).
  • “The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papers”, Compiled by H. Michael Marquardt, 1981. In addition to Marquardt�s comments, it has photocopies of the original material in the handwriting of Joseph Smith and his scribes.
  • The Book of Abraham Papyrus Found, by H. Michael Marquardt, second edition 1981 (Utah Lighthouse Ministry).
  • “The Meaning of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers”, by Hugh W. Nibley, BYU Studies 11/4 (summer 1971): 350-399