Well, semester number 1 is over, I have about a month until the spring term begins, so let’s pick back up with our “50 Answers” segment. We pick up with the ancient Egyptian pagan mummy burial manual Book of Abraham.
Tower To Truth Question:
21. Does the LDS Church still regard the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price as Holy Scripture even after several prominent Egyptologists proved it was an ancient funeral scroll?
The LDS Church announced that fragments of the papyrus were from the Book of Breathings within two months of their acquisition.
The big print in the Church magazine published as soon as the scrolls were recovered can be seen here.
Critics often don’t tell people that we are missing at least 85% of the scrolls that Joseph Smith had. We don’t have papyrus with the Book of Abraham on it (except Facsimile #1) and have never claimed to.
To learn more: Book of Abraham:Book of the Dead
Currently, there are 10 fragments of the 11 papyri that Joseph Smith bought that became what we now know as the “Book of Abraham.” And wouldn’t you know it? The one that contained the actual text of the BOA is the one that no one can find. Gee, imagine that!
As I mentioned in my last Answer–stay focused. Again, in this response, FAIR is trying to take the focus off the main issue. That being, since the papyri that were recovered in NY’s Metropolitan Museum of Art were indeed part of the set of papyri that Joseph Smith was duped into believing were writings of Abraham, “written by his own hand upon papyrus,” and since, from the day Joseph found them, he purported that all of the papyri were the writings of the Jewish patriarch–then the fact that none of the papyri that survived the Chicago fire had anything to do with Abraham, and since the 10 remaining fragments are from the Egyptian “Book of Breathings” then I find it quite a remarkable coincidence that the only fragment that did NOT survive contained the actual text of the Book of Abraham.
Here’s the timeline:
- July 1835: Michael Chandler and his travelling Egyptian exhibit rolls into Kirtland, OH. Chandler, upon hearing that Joseph Smith has translated ancient Egyptian (oops, sorry, I mean Reformed Egyptian) into English, sells Smith a set of papyri written entirely in Egyptian.
- November 1835: Smith completes his “translation” of the papyri, and declares that these are the writings of Abraham–that they contain the account of Abram’s and Sarai’s journey into Egypt (found in Genesis 12:10-20).
- 1844: Joseph Smith is killed in a Carthage, IL jail. The papyri are turned over to his mother, Lucy Mack Smith.
- 1856: Lucy Smith dies. Emma Hale Smith, Joseph Smith III, and Emma’s second husband Lewis Bidamon, sell the papyri to Abel Combs. Two of the papyri were sent to be displayed in the St. louis (MO) Museum.
- 1863: The St. Louis Museum closes, and the papyri are sent to the Chicago Museum (later renamed Wood’s Museum after its new owner Joseph Wood.
- 1871: The Great Chicago Fire destroys Wood’s Museum, and the Egyptian papyri contained there. After this event, it was believed that the original Book of Abraham papyri would never be seen again.
- 1947: Ludlow Bell, curator of theNew York Metropolitan Museum of Art, obtains several Egyptian papyri from one edward Heusser, widower of Alice Combs Weaver Heusser, daughter of Abel Combs’ housekeeper.
- 1966: Aziz Suryal Atiya discovers Facsimile #1 in the Egyptian Collection at the Met.
- 1967: LDS apologist Hugh Nibley–a man with NO training in Egyptian linguistics, takes a crash course under John Wilson and Klaus Baer in an attempt to learn enough to do some translating.
- 1968: The LDS publication Improvement Era publishes an article containing color reproductions of a fragment that had been in the LDS archives since 1908.
- 1968: Egyptian linguist Klaus Baer confirms that the Egyptian papyri that Michael Chandler sold to Joseph Smith were in fact part of an Egyptian embalming manual. They were not written by Abraham.
In fact, even as far back as 1856, an Egyptologist at the Louvre noted that there were several lacunae (missing portions) in the papyri, and that the attempts by Joseph Smith to fill them in were simply fueled by Smith’s imagination, and were nothing more than guesses.
So, where does that bring us? It brings us to the argument that FAIR is making, that even though we do not have the original text of the Book of Abraham (just like we don’t have the gold plates of the Book of Mormon, reformed Egyptian has neveer been heard, etc), we should believe the BOA is a sacred text, as much from God as the Bible–even though it was nothing more than a page in an Egyptian–a PAGAN Egyptian–funerary manual.
Egyptologist Dr. James H. Breasted, of the University of Chicago noted:
Granted, these men are more than likely humanistic scientists. And, granted, they didn’t have a peep stone so they could stick the papyrus in a hat and read what it said. But they are experts at deciphering hieroglyphics and interpreting Egyptian characters. And, once again, we have another reason why one should not believe the Book of Abraham to be true.
For a more in-depth discussion of this “Book of Abraham,” the Institute for Religious Research has put together the following video, “The Lost Book of Abraham.” It’s about an hour long, but if you’ve got time, and you’re interested, it’s worth it.