Monday, December 22, 2008

Study of the LDS Church - 6.5 The Book of Abraham

Today’s topic of the Book of Abraham is taken directly from this site. Please visit and learn more information concerning the LDS church teachings and some of the problems stemming from them from a former member of the LDS church.

"Written on by the hand of Abraham"(Fool me twice, shame on me)

In July of 1835, an Irishman named Michael Chandler brought an exhibit of four Egyptian mummies and papyri to Kirtland Ohio, then the home of the Mormons. The papyri contained Egyptian hieroglyphics. In 1835 hieroglyphics were unreadable.

As Prophet and Seer of the Church, Joseph Smith was given permission to look at the papyri scrolls in the exhibit and to everyone's shock, revealed that "one of the rolls contained the writings of Abraham, another the writings of Joseph of Egypt" (History of the Church, Vol. 2: 236). Several members of the Church pooled their money and bought the papyri and mummies for $2400 (Mr. Chandler refused to sell the papyri without the mummies). After about 7 years, Joseph finished the translation of the scroll he claimed was "written on by the hand of Abraham" which he then called the Book of Abraham , but the book of Joseph was never translated. The papyri were lost soon afterwards and were thought to have been destroyed in the "Great Chicago Fire" in 1871. There was, therefore, no way to validate Joseph's translation. If the papyri were re-discovered and translated it would either prove or disprove the abilities of Joseph as a divinely inspired prophet of God. After all, he was supposed to be a prophet and have the abilities of a Seer as the Book of Mormon, the Book of Abraham and the Kinderhook plates supposedly proved.

Although the Book of Abraham was published in various formats as early as 1842, it wasn't until October of 1880 that The Pearl of Great Price, a collection of writings, which contained the book of Abraham, was canonized as scripture by the LDS Church.

A miraculous discovery

To every one’s surprise, in 1966 the papyri were rediscovered in one of the vault rooms of the New York’s metropolitan Museum of Art. The Deseret News of Salt Lake City on Nov. 27, 1967 acknowledged the rediscovery of the papyri. On the back of the papyri were "drawings of a temple and maps of the Kirtland, Ohio area." There could be no doubt that this was the original document from which Joseph Smith translated the book of Abraham.

With the papyri rediscovered and Egyptian hieroglyphics decipherable since the late 1800's, it would then be an easy task of translating the papyri and proving once and for all that Joseph Smith was a prophet with the gift of "Seer" as he and the Mormon church have claimed. This would then prove the truth of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and would vindicate Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God. It would be a serious understatement to say that the Mormon community was holding its collective breath in anticipation of what the scholars would have to say. Surely they would confirm what the Prophets have told us for decades; that Joseph Smith was indeed an divinely inspired man who came up with an accurate translation of this ancient papyri.

Uh oh...This can't be right

Joseph Smith copied three drawings from the Egyptian scrolls, labeled them Facsimile No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, and incorporated them into the Book of Abraham with explanations of what they were. Egyptologists over the past century have viewed the drawings and found Joseph Smith's interpretation of them to be wrong. But, the Mormons, in defense of the sacred book, maintained that the Facsimiles alone were not sufficient to prove that Joseph Smith was erring in his translating abilities. With the rediscovery of the papyri, not only were there the same drawings in the scrolls, but so was the text from which Joseph Smith made his translation. It was now possible to absolutely determine the accuracy of Smith's translating abilities.

Joseph Smith said that Facsimile No. 1 was of a bird as the "Angel of the Lord" with "Abraham fastened upon an altar," "being offered up as a sacrifice by a false priest. The pots under the altar were various gods "Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, Pharaoh," etc. In reality, this is "an embalming scene showing the deceased lying on a lion-couch." In the original papyri, this drawing is attached to hieroglyphics from which Joseph derived the beginning of the book of Abraham which begins with the words, "In the Land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my father, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence"(1:1). In reality, the hieroglyphics translate as, "Osiris shall be conveyed into the Great Pool of Khons -- and likewise Osiris Hor, justified, born to Tikhebyt, justified -- after his arms have been placed on his heart and the Breathing permit (which [Isis] made and has writing on its inside and outside) has been wrapped in royal linen and placed under his left arm near his heart; the rest of the mummy-bandages should be wrapped over it. The man for whom this book was copied will breath forever and ever as the bas of the gods do."

It is the opening portion of an Egyptian Shait en Sensen, or Book of Breathings, a late funerary text that grew out of the earlier and more complex Book of the Dead.This particular scroll was prepared (as determined by handwriting, spelling, content, etc.) sometime during the late Ptolemaic or early Roman period (circa 50 B.C. to A.D. 50). Even Mormon scholars do not disagree with these facts. One of the problems with this new information is the fact that the papyri were only about 2,000 years old; far too recent to be "written on by the hand of Abraham ".

The picture to the left is a professional reconstruction of the original (See next picture down). Note the hieroglyphics on the right side from which Joseph Smith began his translation of the Book of Abraham.

In actuality, it "depicts the mythical embalming and resurrection of Osiris, Egyptian god of the underworld. Osiris was slain by his jealous brother Set, who cut up his body into 16 pieces and scattered them....The jackal-headed god Anubis is shown embalming the body of Osiris on the traditional lion-headed couch so that he might come back to life..." (" his own hand upon papyrus" Institute for Religious Research, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1992, p. 62)

The figure to the right shows a reprint of the actual papyrus used by Joseph Smith. Note the areas where the Papyrus has been lost. It is in these that Joseph Smith "finished" the drawing resulting in Facsimile No. 1. His restoration, according to Egyptologists, reveals a complete lack of understanding of Egyptian practice and theology.

As is explained by Joseph Smith and included in the Pearl of Great Price, the drawing to the left contains different scenes which Joseph Smith interpreted. They vary: "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God." "Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides." "God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority." "...this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key..."

But again scholarship disagrees with Joseph’s rendition. "It is actually a rather common funerary amulet termed a hypocephalus, so-called because it was placed under (hypo) a mummy’s head (cephalus). Its purpose was to magically keep the deceased warm and to protect the body from desecration by grave robbers." (Ibid, pg. 104)

According to Joseph Smith, the drawing to the right shows "Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood...King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head...Signifies Abraham in Egypt...Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince..."

But this is not what the Egyptologists say is the meaning of the Facsimile No. 3 is. Instead, it shows, "the deceased being led before Osiris, god of the dead, and behind the enthroned Osiris stands his wife Isis." (Joseph Smith Among the Egyptians , by Wesley P. Walters 1973 pg. 29)

Let's see 1+1=3

It should be quite obvious that present scholarship has revealed that Joseph Smith did not translate the Book of Abraham by the power of God as he had claimed. We know for a certainty that the partial translation of the Kinderhook plates was obviously not a divinely inspired translation as well. It follows that if he did not translate the Book of Abraham by the power of God, and he did not translate the Kinderhook plates by the power of God, then it would be very easy to conclude that he did not translate the Book of Mormon by the power of God either. Obviously Joseph Smith had a vivid imagination and was perfectly capable of simply making up "translations" of real and imagined ancient texts.

When Joseph first gave his translation of the Egyptian papyri, hieroglyphics were undecipherable. Today they are fairly easy to decipher. He was safe in saying anything he wanted to and there would be no way of proving him wrong. But with the resurfacing of the same papyri he used to do his Book of Abraham translation, and the fact that he did not in any way do it correctly, should be proof enough that Joseph Smith lied about his abilities from God. It shouldn't take a rocket scientist to do the math here. 1 + 1 = 2 or, in simple English, Joseph's false "translation" of the Kinderhook plates + Joseph's false "translation" of the Egyptian papyri = a false prophet.

Study of the LDS Church - 6.6 Contradictions Within LDS Scripture/Doctrine

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