Saturday, April 20, 2013

Comments and Question about the Book of Abraham – Part I

Since posting our ten-part series regarding the Book of Abraham and the Joseph Smith papyri, we have received several inquiries, questions and comments regarding those posts. Here are the comments and our responses:
Comment #1: “In your articles about the BOA you wrote under the heading of: “The Book of Abraham and the Facsimile Image-Part III,” where you mentioned several references, such as Griffith, Lepsius, Charlesworth, etc., you didn’t really state their source or a complete reference. I assume you have these?” Braden.
Response: The citings and complete references to the article posted on February 16 are: 1) Francis Llewllyn Griffith and Herbert Thompson, eds., Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden (London: H. Grevel and Co., 1904), column 8, line 8,64-65; 2) Richard Lepsius, ed., Das Todtenbuch der Agypter nach dem hieroglyphis-chen Papyrus in Turin, Leipzig: Georg Wigand, 1842, pI. LXXVII; 3) James H. Charlesworth, Apocalypse of Abraham 12. For an English translation, see James H. Charlesworth, ed., Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Garden City, New York, Doubleday and Company, 1983, 1:695; 4) Testament of Abraham, recension A, 12-13; 1:889-90;  5) John Gee, Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri, 36, Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1999, 10-11; 6) Anton Deimel, ed., Pantheon, Babylonicum, Sumerisches Lexikon, part 4, vol. 1, Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1950,48; 7) For a more detailed look at facsimile 2, see Michael D. Rhodes, The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus ... Seventeen Years Later, Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1994; 8) Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1.8.2.
25; 8); 9) A Coptic Dictionary, compo Walter E. Crum, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1939,89.
26; 10) Bonnet, Reallexileon, 315-16; LdA, 3:53. 11) For an in-depth study of the four sons of Horus, see John Gee, Notes on the Sons of Horus, Provo, Utah, Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991; 12) “The Breathing Permit of Hôr: A Translation of the Apparent Source of the Book of Abraham) ," Dialogue 3/3 (1968): 109—34); 13) Marc Coenen, “An Introduction to the Document of Breathing Made by Isis,” in Reveu d'Egyptologie 49 (1998), pp38 n14; see also pp 40-41; see also in Egyptian Religion, The Last Thousand Years, Part II, Studies Dedicated to the Memory of Jan Quaegebeur, Willy Clarysse, Antoon Schoors, and Harco Willems, eds., Uitgeverrij Peeters en Departement Oosterse Stueis, Leyden 1998, 1103-1115; 14) Kerry Muhlestein, “The Book of Abraham in Its Place,” The FARMS Review 17/2, 2005; 15) On Dating Late Hieratic Funerary Papyri,” in Portraits and Masks: Burial Customs in Roman Egypt, ed. M. L. Bierbrier, London: British Museum, 1997, p74; 16) Marc Coenen, ”The Dating of the Papyri Joseph Smith I, X, and XI. Enjoy!
Comment #2: Joseph admitted receiving revelation from the devil and he couldn’t tell the difference between revelation given by God or by Man or by the devil. He told this to Loyal member Hyram Page after Hyram asked him why Joes revelation did not come to pass. in short he admitted he was deceived by the devil or man. Couldn’t be God because his prophecy to send Page to sell the copyrights of the BOM was a big fail, and God doesnt Fail” Tobin.
Response: You might want to get your facts correct before asking a question. In the early days of the Church, God had not revealed all that He would reveal about the government of the Church. It is God’s way to let man learn to crawl before walking, walk before running, etc. At the time, there were some in the Church who thought everyone in leadership could receive revelation for the Church. Hiram Page was one of those. Hiram had what is called a peep-stone—a stone with a hole in the middle through which a person claimed he could see things. A peep stone is different from a seer stone (Revelations 2:17), which is different from the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30; Deuteronomy 33:8; 1 Samuel 28:6; Ezra 2:63; Nehemiah 7:65; Leviticus 8:8).
Joseph Smith wrote that in 1823 an angel told him about "two stones in silver bows…fastened to a breastplate…the possession and use constituted “seers in ancient or former times.” Joseph used these and other seer stones that he found in various ways (occasionally referred to by the biblical term Urim and Thummim) for several purposes, primarily in translating the Book of Mormon and receiving revelations. While useful in translating and receiving revelation, seer stones are not essential to those processes. Elder Orson Pratt reported that Joseph Smith told him that the Lord gave him the Urim and Thummim when he was inexperienced as a translator but that he later progressed to the point that he no longer needed the instrument.
It should also be noted that the use of the seer stones was dependent upon righteousness and a peaceful attitude toward the spirit. This is found in Joseph Smith’s inability to translate after having an argument with his wife. He had to go out and pray for a time until he again felt the peace of the spirit before returning to translate. It should also be understood that seer stones (or the Urim and Thummim) are not items anyone can use, nor do they simply tell a person something. It is a gift of God and requires that a person believe in their heart they will receive knowledge, study it out in their own mind, then ask of God through faith if it is right as Oliver Cowdery eventually learned to his disappointment (D&C 8:1-3; 9:7-9).
In the problem you indicate, it was Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses, who claimed to have a seer stone and to have received revelations through it. Even Oliver Cowdery believed him, as did many members of the new Church in Kirtland as some strange notions and false spirits crept in among them. To correct this, the Lord gave Joseph Smith the revelations discussing the fact that some “professed” revelations are from man (meaning from his own imagination), are from the Devil (meaning Satan tries to fool well-intentioned people through attempting to duplicate a process of God), and by God (meaning actual revelations). And Joseph Smith could tell the difference, for he had much experience with God’s revelations (receiving more than 130 of them in his short life time). However, Hiram Page, and some misguided members, including some uninformed leaders, none of which had ever received a revelation for the Church, were fooled by the process.
In the revelation later, God informed Joseph Smith, and through him the Church, that only the presiding Prophet and president of the Church, was entitled to receive revelation. As the ancient prophet Amos informed us, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing , buy he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Hiram Page was not a prophet, neither was Oliver Cowdery—they were not called as such and set apart through the Lord to serve as prophets. Thus, they were fooled, misled, and became angry about it, blaming Joseph Smith for their own misunderstanding and inabilities.
In fact, because ancient Israel rejected the prophets, they were condemned to follow evil and the nation was overwhelmed by adversary, for only prophets can receive revelation for anything beyond themselves. As the Lord indicated, “Men know not to do right” (Amos 3:10), and require a prophet, who receives revelation from the Lord to keep from doing wrong (“storing up violence and robbery in their palaces”).
Comment #3: “I assume you are trying to tell us that those canopic jars beneath Abraham’s altar are not canopic jars after all, even though they have the image of the gods on them that protect the viscera of the deceased?” Logan.
Response: Yes. Those images are representative of the same gods used on Egyptian canopic jars, but in reality, the four sons of Horus represent the four directions or corners of the Egyptian world. Abraham used the gods, which he gave the names of the idolatrous gods of Sumeria, unknown to us today, and used the Egyptian head that represent, in addition to the sons of Horus, the four directions of the Egyptian “four corners of the world,” to show that these Sumerian gods represented the four directions the Sumerians used and all the peoples round about Chaldea. He also used the image of the crocodile beneath the priest’s feet to represent the idolatrous god of Egypt. When you think about it, the drawing was a very clever way for Abraham to use the Egyptian influence of the time in Sumeria, with the directional Egyptian god heads, yet having them represent the idolatry of the world around him.
(See the next post, “Comments and Question about the Book of Abraham – Part II,” for more of the comments received about our previously posted ten-part series on the Book of Abraham papyri)

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