Papyrus Found

Although many Latter-day Saints (including perhaps Joseph Smith) have assumed the phrase "by his own hand, upon papyrus" meant Abraham himself physically wrote the papyri that came into the Prophet's possession, the phrase itself is actually found in texts from ancient Egypt and Israel, and should be taken to mean no more than attributing authorship to an individual.

There is a difference between the date of a text and the date of a manuscript or publication. The date of a text is the date of its composition, whereas the date of a manuscript is the date of any given extant copy. For example, just because a Bible was printed in 2005 doesn't mean that the original author in the Book of Isaiah isn't Isaiah even though he lived 2500 years earlier.  It would be a copy of copies.

Text can be said to have been written by someone even if the text only survives in later manuscript copies, as is nearly universally the case with texts from the ancient world. As such, even if the surviving papyri date several centuries after Abraham's lifetime, that doesn't preclude the possibility of Abraham having written, dictated, or commissioned the text that bears his name. It would only mean that what Joseph Smith received was a later copy of the text.

Latter-day Saint author Kevin L. Barney outlines a plausible scenario for the transmission of the Book of Abraham (assuming the biblical patriarch wrote the text):

It seems . . . likely to me that, if Abraham composed the original text from which the Book of Abraham derives, then 1. Abraham may have composed the text in a Semitic language. Whether this would have been an East Semitic language, presumably some form of Akkadian (the Semitic lingua franca of its day), or a West Semitic language, presumably some sort of early Canaanite dialect (analogous to Ugaritic), is difficult to say. It certainly would not have been composed in Hebrew, which did not really come into existence as such until about 1200 B.C. Abraham may have written his text in cuneiform in a medium suitable to that type of writing, such as clay tablets. 2. Between the time of Abraham's composition of the text and the early second century B.C. (or first century A.D.) papyrus copies that later would come into Joseph Smith's possession, there was a transmission of the text. This may have included versional translation into Egyptian and, possibly, other languages (such as Hebrew), scribal copying, and, possibly, redaction of the text. 3. The facsimiles may not have originated with Abraham; rather, they may have become associated with the Book of Abraham as part of the redaction and transmission of the text.

This must be taken into consideration when one encounters the phrase "by his own hand, upon papyrus," at the beginning of the Book of Abraham. The author of the CES Letter fails to do so. This is a significant omission on his part, since this omission makes it seem as if the phrase "by his own hand, upon papyrus" invalidates the historicity of the text. It does not. Egyptologist Kerry Muhlestein explains more fully why:

Both members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths have often assumed that the statement, “The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus,” (Book of Abraham, Heading) means that Abraham himself copied the writings onto the papyrus acquired by the Prophet Joseph. Critics have attacked this assumption because we can date the papyri we have, including Facsimile 1, to a time period after Abraham. We know exactly who the owner of this papyrus roll was, what his priestly offices and duties were, that he served and lived in Thebes, and the names of several generations of his family. The man who owned (and likely created) Joseph Smith Papyri fragments 1, 10, and 11 (which constitute the beginning of the roll that contains Facsimile 1) was Hor (Horus in its Greek form)—an influential priest in Thebes around the time of the creation of the Rosetta Stone (approximately 200 BC). His father was a governor of Thebes and held the same priestly position as his son. Horus would have been highly educated, literate, and likely conversant in several languages; he also would have had access to the great libraries of the temples in Thebes. I have already discussed the evidence showing that priests in Thebes during this time period had access to stories about Abraham. Thus the owner of this papyrus was an educated priest who probably had access to information about biblical figures. Interestingly, one of his priestly roles was associated with Egyptian execration rituals, which sometimes involved human sacrifice—something akin to what Abraham describes in the Book of Abraham and is depicted on Facsimile 1.

Critics say that if this papyrus was written in the second century BC it could not possibly have been written by Abraham himself. In regard to this assumption, I ask, who said this particular papyrus was written by Abraham himself? The heading does not indicate that Abraham had written that particular copy but rather that he was the author of the original. What these critics have done is confuse the difference between a text and a manuscript. For example, many people have a copy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; each has a manuscript copy of the text that Tolkien originally wrote. A text, regardless of how many copies of it exist in the world, is written by one author. However, each copy of that text is a manuscript.

The earliest known copies of the book of Isaiah date to hundreds of years after the prophet’s death. Yet this has not led to the conclusion that Isaiah was not the author of the book of Isaiah. Clearly the manuscripts we have are copies of the original text that he wrote during his lifetime. We all know that when an author of the ancient world wrote something, if those writings were to survive or be disseminated, the text had to be copied again and again and again, for generation upon generation. When the heading states that the text was written by Abraham’s own hand, it notes who the author is, not who copied down the particular manuscript that came into Joseph’s possession. If critics had carefully thought through this issue, they would never have raised it.

Kerry Muhlestein,

Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View

These issues also highlight the question of how the Book of Abraham came to be in Egypt in the first place. There are a dizzying number of possibilities. Abraham himself was in Egypt, as was his great-grandson Joseph and all of his Israelite descendants for hundreds of years thereafter. After the Exodus, Israelites continued to travel to and live in Egypt. After the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, large groups of Jews settled in Egypt and created longstanding and thriving communities, even to the point that they built a temple. It was during this time period that Joseph Smith Papyri 1, 10, and 11 were created. Copies of these papyri could have moved back and forth between Egypt and Israel during any of these eras.

The author of the CES Letter fails to address any of these salient points in his superficial examination.

 

 See:

“By His Own Hand, Upon Papyrus”: Another Look

Was the Book of Abraham Written by Him 2000 Years After He Died?

Book of Abraham/By his own hand

The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources

Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View

 

Additional Book of Abraham Resources:

 Top Websites:

FAIRMORMON: Book of Abraham

Questions About the Book of Abraham by Jeff Lindsay

 

Top Essays:

“Book of Abraham,” from LDS.org Essay

“Introduction to the Book of Abraham Manuscripts” JosephSmithPapers.org Essay

“Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: A Faithful, Egyptological Point of View,” by Kerry Muhlestein

“Thoughts on the Book of Abraham” by Brian M Hauglid

A Method for Studying the Facsimiles –  by John Gee

The Apocalypse of Abraham: An Ancient Witness for the Book of Moses,” (PDF) (2010 FAIR Conference) by Jeffrey Bradshaw

The Book of Abraham: Dealing with the Critics,” (PDF) (2003 FAIR Conference) by Michael D. Rhodes

Ancient Affinities within the LDS Book of Enoch Part One, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen

Ancient Affinities within the LDS Book of Enoch Part Two, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw and David J. Larsen

Revisiting the Forgotten Voices of Weeping in Moses 7: A Comparison with Ancient Texts, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw,Jacob A. Rennaker, and David J. Larsen

The Book of Abraham and Muslim Tradition by Brian M. Hauglid

“Look unto Abraham Your Father” –  by Brian M. Hauglid

A Faint but Interesting Christian Voice from the Dust of Egypt –  by John W. Welch

A New Resource on the Book of Moses –  by Brian M. Hauglid

A Powerful New Resource for Studying the Book of Abraham –  by E. Douglas Clark

An Egyptian Context for the Sacrifice of Abraham –  by Kerry Muhlestein, John Gee

And I Saw the Stars – The Book of Abraham and Ancient Geocentric Astronomy by John Gee, William J. Hamblin, Daniel C. Peterson

Approaching Understandings in the Book of Abraham –  by Kerry Muhlestein

Astronomy and the Creation in the Book of Abraham by Michael D. Rhodes, J. Ward Moody

Cedars and Stars: Enduring Symbols of Cosmic Kingship in Abraham’s Encounter with Pharoah by E. Douglas Clark

Egyptian Society during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty by John Gee

A Note on Chiasmus in Abraham 3:22-23” by Julie M. Smith 

Enoch Translated –  by John W. Welch

Enoch Translated –  by John W. Welch

Facsimile 3 and Book of the Dead 125 by John Gee

Notes and Communications: Two Notes on Egyptian Script –  by John Gee

On Elkenah as Canaanite El –  by Kevin L. Barney

Out of the Dust: Ancient Semitic in Egyptian Pyramids? –  by Paul Y. Hoskisson, Michael D. Rhodes

Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri –  by John Gee

Telling the Story of the Joseph Smith Papyri –  by John Gee

The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking –  by Larry E. Morris

The Book of Abraham: Divinely Inspired Scripture –  by Michael D. Rhodes

The Book of Breathings in Its Place –  by Kerry MuhlesteinBook Notes –

The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources by Kevin L. Barney

The Religious and Cultural Background of Joseph Smith Papyrus I –  by Kerry Muhlestein

The Larger Issue,” (2009 FAIR Conference) by John Gee

Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel,” (PDF) (2001 FAIR Conference) by John Gee

“Encirculing Astronomy and the Egyptians: An Approach to Abraham 3” by Kerry Mulestein

“Egyptian Papyri and the Book of Abraham: Some Questions and Answers” by Kerry Mulestein

“Teaching the Book of Abraham Facsimiles” by Michael D. Rhodes

“Abraham’s Creation Drama,” [Transcript] (1999), by Hugh Nibley

“Introduction to the Egyptian Materials” JosephSmithPapers.org Essay

Jeremy Runnells and the Book of Abraham by Brian Hauglid

 

Top Podcasts:

Marginal Characters in the Book of Abraham Manuscripts. by John Gee

Mormon FAIR-Cast 62: “A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Book of Abraham”

Facsimile 1 of the Book of Abraham– Evidence and Insights from the DVD Most Remarkable Book

The Book of Abraham- Interview with Brian Hauglid– Fair Mormon Podcast part 1

The Book of Abraham- Interview with Brian Hauglid– Fair Mormon Podcast part 2

FAIR Conversations, Episode 7: Brian M. Hauglid p.1, Brian M. Hauglid, 0:50:15A

FAIR Conversations, Episode 8: Brian M. Hauglid p.2, Brian M. Hauglid, 0:55:52

Mormon FAIR-Cast 62: “A Most Remarkable Book”, Tyler Livingston, 0:09:59

Mormon FAIR-Cast 139: “The Book of Abraham and the Prophetic Power of Joseph Smith,” Martin Tanner, 0:19:54

 

Top Videos:

“Joseph Smith and Ancient Egypt,” by John Gee (25min)

“Joseph Smith and Egyptian Artifacts: Towards a Preliminary Paradigm for Evaluating Prophetic and Mundane Ideas Regarding Aspects of the Ancient World,” by Kerry Muhlestein (25min)

 “Respondent to John Gee, Kerry Mulestein, and Brian M Hauglid” by John S. Thompson (15min)

Where did the book of Abraham come from? A Most Remarkable Book

How can Jewish Scripture be Associated with Egyptian text in the Book of Abraham?

Evidence for the Book of Abraham: Most Remarkable Book

Lion Couch Scene in the Book of Abraham: Evidence of Authenticity

Council of gods in the book of Abraham: A Most Remarkable Book

The Apocalypse of Abraham: An Ancient Witness for the Book of Moses by Jeffrey Bradshaw

Abraham 1:11

Book of Abraham evidence. Facsimile 2 fig. 6

Could Joseph Smith have written the book of Abraham?

How can we know the book of Abraham is true?

Did the Church try to hide the Joseph Smith Papyrus when it was found?

Could any scripture come from Egypt? By Allen Richardson

The Missing portion of the Abraham papyrus or Lacana: Evidence of the book of Abraham

What is the book of Breathings and book of the Dead?

Biblical Characters associated with Osiris and Egyptian Gods

Did the Egyptians Know about Abraham? Evidence of the Book of Abraham

The Egyptian Endowment

Egyptology, an Evolving Field- Book of Abraham

Most Remarkable Book: Evidences of the Divine Authenticity of the book of Abraham- Bonus Features

Challenge 1: Papyri Found and It Doesn’t Relate? Book of Abraham

Challenge 2: Facsimile 1 Not About Abraham? Book of Abraham

Challenge 3: The Three Facsimile Translations Wrong? Book of Abraham

Challenge 4: Joseph Smith’s Attempt at an Egyptian Grammar. Book of Abraham

Challenge 5: Translating Without Knowing Egyptian? Book of Abraham

Challenge 6: The Joseph Smith papyri were made nearly 2,000 years after Abraham. Book of Abraham

Challenge 7: Anachronisms? Book of Abraham

Challenge 8: Evidences. Book of Abraham

Challenge 9: Other Egyptologists Opposed? Book of Abraham

Challenge 10: Main Summary: More and More Questions? Book of Abraham

Challenge 11: What value is the Book of Abraham text itself? (extra)

Challenge 12: Are Egyptologists Joining the Mormon Church Book of Abraham YouTube original

Challenge 13: Are You, Kerry Muhlestein, Qualified Book of Abraham

Challenge 14: hat About the Internet Videos That Prove You’re Wrong Book of Abraham

Authentic Ancient Names in the book of Abraham by John Tvedtnes

The Microcosmic Egyptian Temple

An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

The book of Abraham: Dealing with the critics by Dr. Michael Rhodes

Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri by John Gee

Abraham Upon the Altar: The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

A Most Remarkable Book: Evidence for the Divine Authenticity of the book Abraham- DVD preview

Facsimile 3 in the book of Abraham

The Book of Abraham

pt 1, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 2, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 3, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 4, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 5, Some Puzzles from the Joseph Smith Papyri

pt 1, Facsimile 3. The book of Abraham

pt 2, Facsimile 3, The book of Abraham

pt 3, Facsimile 3, The book of Abraham

pt 1, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 2, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 3, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 4, Egyptian Influence in Ancient Israel

pt 1 An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

pt 2 An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

pt 3 An Odor of Sanctity: The Egyptian Incense

pt 1, The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

pt 2, The Role of Violent Rituals in the Egyptian Temple

pt 1, Book of Abraham 201

pt 2, The Book of Abraham 201

pt 3, The Book of Abraham 201

pt 3, The Role of Violent Rituals in Egyptian Temples

pt 4, The Book of Abraham 201

pt 1 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 2 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 3, Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 4, Investigating The Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 5, Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 6 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 7 Investigating the Kirtland Egyptian Papers

pt 1, rebuttal to Lost Book of Abraham, by a faithful LDS

pt 2, rebuttal to Lost Book of Abraham, by a faithful LDS

pt 3, rebuttal to Lost Book of Abraham, by a faithful LDS

“Abraham’s Creation Drama,” by Hugh Nibley (1:20min)