There’s certainly been no lack of controversy about Facsimile 1 in the Book of Abraham. From the time of its first publication in 1842, the authenticity of Joseph Smith’s ability to translate Egyptian has been in question.
Egyptologists then and now have denounced his work referring to it as fictitious pandering and no wonder, for not one hieroglyph in the Book of Abraham facsimiles have produced true interpretations as found in Egypt. Given Smith’s notorious track record his intentions have come into question and rightly so with this menagerie of false prophecies.
With no training in Egyptology (formal and otherwise), Smith took it upon himself to interpret the new acquisition of Egyptian papyri purchased by the Church in July 1835 from a traveling Irish salesman by the name of Michael Chandler.
Raised on a farm in upstate New York, Smith’s family pedigree reads like an ill-fitted mash-up of characters from Bewitched and the Twilight series authored by another Mormon, Stephanie Meyer. With a third grade education and an ego unmatched by most, Smith believed he was all that and more and somehow convinced many others to believe the same. His wild tales of a god who mandated sex for salvation and cursed people by changing the color of their skins, Smith’s imagination gave birth to a new god. Historically speaking, the Mormon god looks much like the gods of Ancient Egypt as they too seem to be byproducts of societal customs and laws of the day.
From July 1835 to mid February 1836 Joseph Smith spent a great deal of time translating his papyri with the help of church members W. W. Phelps and Oliver Cowdery acting as scribes – History of the Church, 2:236. In addition to his co-workers above, Brother Warren Parrish began writing for Smith in October of 1835 for a monthly stipend of $15 – History of the Church, 2:293.
Their work and determination brought about the Book of Abraham which is a five chapter story of Abraham’s life, travels and a vision he supposedly received from God about the universe and creation of earth. Smith was insistent the vignettes were a culmination from writings of Abraham and his great-grandson Joseph.
Red flags began flying for the experts upon a cursory glance at Smith’s handiwork of filling in lucane (gaps, missing parts) with his idea of what was originally on the papyri.
Earlier this year we looked at Facsimile 2, the history of how Smith came into possession of the papyri and what happened to them through the Chicago fire of 1871 and beyond. In our simple study and the countless experts who’ve studied this at far greater depth it’s safe to say there’s no way any of the facsimiles came from God.
As it turns out Facsimile 1 is actually from Hôr’s scroll or the “First Book of Breathings”, (Dialogue Journal). The original scroll which contains Facsimile 1 was found in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1966/1967. This group of papyri also included Facsimile 3 which you can see in the Pearl of Great Price.
The First Book of Breathings is a vignette of an Egyptian funerary text dating to the first century BC. These types of books have been found in tombs of Egyptian kings dating back to the 30th Egyptian Dynasty (380-343 BC). They were written by scribes of the king and used as road maps for the various stops the pharaoh needed to make after death to get into heaven. While each book differs from each other there are some hieroglyphs that are repeated or very similar to each other. The papyri also contained prayers to their gods and directions on how to mummify a deceased person.
In Joseph’s papyri we see that Hôr was a priest and the son of the priest Osorwêr and lady Tikhebyt. After being examined by several notable Egyptologists they’ve all concurred with each other in denouncing the translation of Joseph Smith.
Facsimile as printed in the Book of Abraham today
Papyri after it was professionally reconstructed, The reconstruction of Facsimile 1 shown is from Charles Larson’s work By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, pg 65.
Not only were Smith’s drawings incorrect so was his interpretation of what the papyri said. Not to be deterred his ego afforded him the opportunity to announce to the world in the Mormon owned publication Messenger & Advocate(Vol 2, No. 3, December 1835, pg 235-236) he had indeed translated the ancient papyri.
Below is a side by side comparison of Smith’s interpretation and the interpretation of the young savant M. Théodule Devéria, the Louvre’s resident expert Egyptologist. When he was given a copy of Smith’s interpretation of the scrolls he said that if this was a representation of the resurrection of Osiris it had to be very rare if it existed at all and that Anubis should have the head of a jackal, not a man.
The comparison can be found in Thomas B.H. Stenhouse’s book “The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete history of the Mormons”, pg 513.
|Book of Abraham – Facsimile 1|
of the Lord.
|The soul of
Osiris, under the
form of a hawk
(which should have
a human head).
|Osiris coming to
life on his
which is in the
shape of a lion.
priest of Elkenah
offer up Abraham
as a sacrifice.
|The god Anubis
(who should have
a jackal’s head)
|4||The altar for
sacrifice by the
the gods of
|The funeral bed
of Osiris, under
which are placed
the four sepulchral
vessels called canopes,
each of them
the head of
the four genii.
god of Elkenah.
with a hawk’s head.
god of Libnah.
with a jackal’s head.
god of Mahmackrah.
a dog’s head.
god of Korash.
a human head.
god of Pharaoh.
|The sacred crocodile,
symbolic of the
|10||Abraham in Egypt.||Altar laden
|11||Designed to represent
the pillars of heaven,
as understood by
or the firmament
over our heads, but
in this case, in
relation to this
it to signify
Shaumau, to be
high, or the
to the Hebrew word,
(The word Shauman
is not Egyptian,
and the Hebrew
is badly copied.
One of the most glaring problems in Facsimile 1 and the Book of Abraham is theanachronistic issue. As stated earlier Facsimile 1 is from the first century before Christ and Abraham lived circa 2000 – 1500 BC. The man on the lion couch couldn’t possibly be Abraham!
Furthermore there are the testimonies of many other Egyptologists who’ve denounced Smith’s work as fraud. The Reverend Franklin Spaulding of Salt Lake City sent copies of the papyri to eight leading scholars in the world asking for their opinions of Smith’s interpretation. He then published their responses in his book Joseph Smith, Jr., As a Translator. We’re listing a few opinions, but you can read Reverend’s book in full here.
F. S. Spalding, Joseph Smith, Jr., As a Translator, pg 23; “It is difficult to deal seriously with Joseph Smith’s impudent fraud. His facsimile from the book of Abraham No. 2 is an ordinary hypocephalus, but the hieroglyphics upon it have been copied so ignorantly that hardly one of them is correct. I need scarce say that Kolob, etc., are unknown to the Egyptian language. Number 3 is a representation of the Goddess Maat leading the Pharaoh before Osiris, behind whom stands the Goddess Isis. Smith has turned the Goddess into a king and Osiris into Abraham. The hieroglyphics, again, have been transformed into unintelligible lines. Hardly one of them is copied correctly. Dr. A. H. SAYCE, Oxford, England.”
Dr. Arthur C. Mace from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is quoted explaining that the Book of Abraham is a complete lie and total “nonsense”.
“The Book of Abraham, it is hardly necessary to say, is a pure fabrication. Cuts 1 and 3 are inaccurate copies of well known scenes on funeral papyri, and cut 2 is a copy of one of the magical discs which in the late Egyptian period were placed under the heads of mummies. There were about forty of these latter known in museums and they are all very similar in character. Joseph Smith’s interpretation of these cuts is a farrago of nonsense from beginning to end. Egyptian characters can now be read almost as easily as Greek, and five minutes’ study in an Egyptian gallery of any museum should be enough to convince any educated man of the clumsiness of the imposture.” – F.S. Spalding, Joseph Smith Jr., As a Translator, 1912, p. 27
From Dr. W. M. Flinders Petrie, London University;
F. S. Spalding, Joseph Smith, Jr., As a Translator, pg 24; “To any one with knowledge of the large class of funeral documents to which these belong, the attempts to guess a meaning for them, in the professed explanations, are too absurd to be noticed. It may be safely said that there is not one single word that is true in these explanations….None but the ignorant could possibly be imposed on by such ludicrous blunders”.
The Book of Abraham seals the fate of Smith’s claims in the very first chapter. There’s no way Abraham could be the one pictured in the facsimile and there’s no way he could be the one who wrote the story in the Book of Abraham.
Abraham 1:1, 12; “In the land of the Chaldeans, at the residence of my fathers, I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence; 12 And it came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record.”
The whole story of this facsimile doesn’t match up with the life of Abraham in the Bible. Abraham was told by God to remove himself from the land of Ur and worship only God. God wanted a solitary covenant relationship with Abraham which demanded that he forsake the gods of his fathers before him. From all accounts in the Bible, he did just that and wouldn’t have been in any ceremony with these pagan gods mentioned in the Book of Abraham.
In Abraham 1:12-14 Joseph claimed the bird was the angel of the Lord and even submits this theory again in his translation of the facsimile. He also claimed it’s Abraham fastened on the altar with various gods that he incorrectly names sitting under the table. This of course has been denounced by the most skilled Egyptologists, one of which was Klaus Baer.
“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 breathe forever and ever as the bas of the gods do.” (Klaus Baer, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Autumn 1968, pp. 119-20)
Smith and company are the sole persons responsible for the Book of Abraham, filling in lucanae of the papyri and the misinterpretations of all the scrolls and papers. We’ll be posting further articles on Facsimile 3 and the other Joseph Smith Papers and papyri in the near future.
If you’re LDS please know that we’re praying for you. We don’t post these things out of animosity nor to antagonize. Our intent is to inform you of the truth. The true history of Mormonism is whitewashed in the pages of your monthly magazines produced by the Church and they’re glossed over or rearranged by the leaders every single day.
Ironically the Church also loves to record everything they’ve ever said provides ample evidence for members to glean the truth for themselves. The dichotomy of the two scenarios is perplexing.
We’ve provided many references for you to begin your research and pray the Lord would open your heart and mind to what He has to offer you.
With Love in Christ;
1 Cor 1:18