Sunday, April 21, 2013

Comments and Question about the Book of Abraham – Part II

Continuing with the questions or comments received after our ten-part series regarding the Book of Abraham and the Joseph Smith papyri:
Comment #4: “Since reading your posts, I looked up some images of Egyptian priests and found they were not all the same. So why are some Egyptian priests bald, others with a side lock of hair, and others with full heads of hair?” Amelia.
Response: This is one of those questions that may different answers, but from what I know, there were three styles of hair or hairless priests. The first, the sem, or high priest, was bald, though occasionally (dependent upon the temple one served), they had a sidelock of hair, also a style seen among some young boys dedicated to temple service. The sem is sometimes represented erroneously with hair. All priests were bald. Many of them in the higher orders wore masks of gods, such as the Anubis mask of the jackal head, which which most people are familiar. On occasion, some priests wore wigs, but not too often, again depending upon the temple they served, and possibly the role they were enacting in the different rituals involved. All the lower orders of priests in all temples were bald and wore nothing upon their heads. As Paul writes of the Christian church, there were deacons, teachers, priests, high priests, etc., and so it was among the Egyptian priests, i.e., they had different levels or orders and each order had its own responsibilities, with the higher orders performing or in charge of the rituals others performed.
Comment #5: “Why do you have such a different take on the Egyptian funery scene or whatever you want to call it in Abraham than the Egyptologists who have interpreted it?” Layla.
Response: Egyptologists, who have spent years and careers studying Egyptian hieroglyphics, rituals and legends, tend to do so from an academic or layman’s point of view when it comes to religion. Few professional people in archaeology, anthropology and linguistics, have a deep background in religion, that is the religion of God that has a priesthood, modern day revelation, and prophets/leaders with authority. Consequently, they view matters from one view, I view them from another. In addition, I am not a school trained and educated Egyptologist, therefore, my views are not conditioned or predicated by a strict observance of Egyptology and its academic background.
As an example, the story told in Facsimile 1 and 3 of the Sumerian king that takes up the challenge and tries to make a ritual offering of Abraham as the well-known substitute king (Abraham 1:18 and Facsimile 1). Abraham's miraculous delivery converts the king, who petitions Abraham for his priesthood and offers his own honors in exchange—such is the burden of many legends and of Facsimile 3; he also covets Abraham's wife in hopes of establishing a priestly line in the true succession. This follows the original story of Egyptus, daughter of Ham who was just man who walked with God (Moses 8:27), who settled in Egypt and named her first son Pharaoh, a devout and honorable man who erroneously claimed the priesthood through Noah, but could not hold the Priesthood because of his lineage through his grandmother’s Cananite lineage, Ham’s wife (Abraham 1:27), duplicated the true priesthood and ran his kingdom by the practices of the priesthood, though he had no authority. These are matters Egyptologist either don't know or don't consider as a background for interpretation, etc.
Comment #5: “The drawn knife in the priest’s hand in the drawing in the Book of Mormon is out of character for an Egyptian funery scene, and shows Joseph Smith simply added it incorrectly” Matteo.
The final vignette image with the raised knife showing; Right: The present fragment of Facsimile 1 in the possession of the LDS Church showing parts have been broken off over time
Response: First, John Gee in his article "Eyewitness, Hearsay and Physical Evidence" in the Richard Lloyd Anderson Festschrift, notes that the journal of William Appleby in 1841 states: "There are likewise representations of an Altar erected, with a man bound and laid thereon, and a Priest with a knife in his hand…” Second, there are also descriptions of scenes from the papyri that are not published and the knife is depicted in the hand of Figure 3, Facsimile 1. Third, Henry Caswell (who was a non-Mormon and hostile to Joseph Smith, and by his own admission who was looking for any evidence to say anything bad against him) visited Nauvoo in 1842, and said that “one vignette contained the figure of a man lying on a table, accompanied by a man standing by him with a drawn knife.” Sixth, Charlotte Haven, in 1843, said that there was a man with a knife in the vignette known as Facsimile 1.
Of course, the existence of the knife has been doubted by many because it doesn't conform with what numerous other Egyptian papyri would lead us to expect. However, there were many eye witnesses in Joseph Smith's day that said the knife was on Facsimile No. 1. The fact that the original today, which has obviously  been damaged, shows no knife because of a lacuna—a gap—that has been broken off, has not only been refuted by numerous eye witnesses, but it also refutes the Egyptologists' other false claim, that the papyri we have today are in pretty much the same shape as they were in Joseph Smith's day. That has been shown to be untrue. Obviously, the damage seen in the original today occurred after Joseph Smith’s time.
Comment #6: “Despite all your effort to cloud the issue with your several posts on the so-called Abraham papyri, the fact still remains that the Facsimiles shown in the Book do not match what modern Egyptologists claim it does” Tobias M.
Response: Since my ten posts on the subject didn’t alter your thinking or satisfy your mind, I’ll just quote Henry Eyring, father of Henry B. Eyring, who authored, co-authored, or edited 23 scientific books and journals, and authored more than 600 scientific articles, and a renowned and award-winning chemist, wrote in Reflections of a Scientist, p 46: “An example of what I am talking about is the recent discovery of the papyrus scrolls from which Joseph Smith was presumed to have translated the book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price. Modern scholars, looking at the scrolls, found nothing they considered to be similar to that book. I remarked at the time that such a finding didn't bother me in the least. God doesn't need a crib sheet in the form of a papyrus scroll to reveal Abraham's thoughts and words to Joseph Smith, with any degree of precision He considers necessary for His purposes. If the only function of the scrolls was to awaken the Prophet to the idea of receiving such inspiration, they would have fulfilled their purpose.”
Comment #7: “Even after reading your several posts on the Book of Abraham, I’m still reading from experts that claim your Church has all of the original papyri” Leandro
Response: Nothing more can be stated about this than that Joseph Smith had in his possession three or four long scrolls, plus a hypocephalus (Facsimile 2), and of these original materials, only a handful of fragments were recovered at the Metropolitan Museum. The majority of the papyri remains lost, and has likely been destroyed. One look at the fragments now held by the Church show that they are simply fragments of a larger scroll. Critics who claim that the Church has all, or a majority, of the papyri possessed by Joseph Smith are simply mistaken.
(See the next post, “Comments and Question about the Book of Abraham – Part III,” for more of the comments received about our previously posted ten-part series on the Book of Abraham papyri)

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