Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Comments and Question about the Book of Abraham – Part IV

Continuing with the questions or comments received after our ten-part series regarding the Book of Abraham and the Joseph Smith papyri:
Comment #11: “What exactly was a spell like in the Book of the Dead or the Book of Breathings?” Johanna.
Response: As an example, the First Arit, of the Seven Arits: “The Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, shall say when he cometh unto the First Arit: "I am the mighty one who createth his own light. I have come unto thee, O Osiris, and, purified from that which defileth thee, I adore thee. Lead on. Name not the name of Ra-stau to me. Homage to thee, O Osiris, in thy might and in thy strength in Ra-stau. Rise up and conquer, O Osiris, in Abtu. Thou goest round about heaven, thou sailest in the presence of Ra, thou lookest upon all the beings who have knowledge. Hail, Ra, thou who goest round about in the sky, I say, O Osiris in truth, that I am the Sahu (Spirit-body) of the god, and I beseech thee not to let me be driven away, nor to be cast upon the wall of blazing fire. Let the way be opened in Ra-stau, let the pain of the Osiris be relieved, embrace that which the Balance hath weighed, let a path be made for the Osiris in the Great Valley, and let the Osiris have light to guide him on his way."
To understand its use, the following is given: “If [these] words be recited by the spirit when he shall come to the Seven Arits, and as he entereth the doors, he shall neither be turned back nor repulsed before Osiris, and he shall be made to have his being among the blessed spirits, and to have dominion among the ancestral followers of Osiris. If these things be done for any spirit he shall have his being in that place like a lord of eternity in one body with Osiris, and at no place shall any being contend against him.”
While this has nothing to do with the Book of Abraham or the Lord’s dealings with man, it does show that the ancient Egyptians had a very clear idea of a resurrection and an afterlife, though misguided as it was.
Comment #12: “I heard that the LDS Church did not identify the Joseph Smith Papyri as an Egyptian funerary text until after Egyptologists examined them. They also claim that the Church is hiding or "covering up" the papyri's actual contents” Landon.
Response: Both of these assertions are incorrect. First of all, the Church ran a multi-part series with color pictures of the papyri in the Improvement Era (today called the Ensign) less than two months after they were received from the Metropolitan Museum. The series repeatedly affirmed that the recovered papyri contained Egyptian funerary materials and not the text of Book of Abraham. Although the article erroneously identified the papyrus as the Egyptian "Book of the Dead," it was later correctly identified as a "Book of Breathings.”
Comment #13: “I find it hard to believe that the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art did not know what the papyri they had was and what was upon it until they were contacted by the LDS Church. That certainly sounds suspicious to me” Amos G.
Response: Indeed it would if those were the facts. However, as reported by Egyptologist Klaus Baer working at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, who said, “the Metropolitan Museum was fully aware of what the papyri were when they first saw them in 1918, and they knew what they were doing when they acquired them. I saw photographs of them for the first time in 1963 [3 years before discovered by Prof. Atiya and 4 years before the Church acquired them], and was asked at the time, on my honor not to tell anyone where they were and to keep the whole thing confidential,” which was verified in a letter by Henry Fischer, then curator of the Egyptian department at the Met.
Comment #13: “Your explanations that professional Egyptologists do not understand Facsimile 1 and you do hits at extreme arrogance” Dominic T.
Response: First, as I have said, I am not a trained Egyptologist, but rather a researcher and compiler of information. As such, I do not profess to know more than “professional Egyptologists.” But having said that, I believe most modern scientists are guilty of their own pre-determinations, pre-beliefs, and the academic teaching that has led to that. Second, to answer your comment, I will quote John Baines who pretty much sums up what I have written: “The typical Egyptologist tends not to be very open to issues of theory and methodology, and at the level of interpretation he will often work without an awareness of the presuppositions he applies” (John Baines, "Introduction," Royal Anthropological Institute News, no. 15, August 1976, p 2).
To that might be added John Gee’s comment: “Mormonism has always been controversial. From its very origins, there have been accounts pro and con, and in the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, historians may say to themselves: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right? The most helpful method of sorting through the various accounts and claims about historical events is to use those sources that are eyewitnesses to an event, whether they are Mormon or not, and exclude those that are not eyewitnesses. For history, hearsay sources are irrelevant. Contemporary sources are to be preferred to later reminiscences like Josiah Quincy's..” And “Most of what we as Egyptologists think we know about the Joseph Smith Papyri is demonstrably wrong, whether on the details of their history or on Mormon attitudes about them. The assumptions we make, the presuppositions we have, and the myths that we have invented dominate discussions of the papyri and the Mormons.” Finally, we can quote Professor Ritner's astute observations: "In the past, our theories have dictated our facts as often as our facts have dictated our theories. Theoretical bias has been unrecognized and its pervasive influence ignored. So long as we are willing to allow our preconceptions to structure our questions and answers, to rewrite the historians, or disbelieve the papyrus evidence, how will we ever find examples of positive . . . interaction between Egyptian and [Mormon]? It will not matter whether we use [Mormon] or [Egyptian] evidence, or any evidence at all; we shall see only our long-ingrained stereotypes."
Throughout all the acdtivities and events of the early LDS Church, there were numerous witnesses who testified to what they saw. Those who saw the papyri also wrote not only of seeing the papyri, but what they saw within the images
And to sum it up, there were twenty-six eyewitness sources that describe the Joseph Smith Papyri. These accounts provide diachronic descriptions of the Joseph Smith Papyri during the period when the Mormons first owned them from 1835 to 1856. In addition, the mummies and papyri were transferred, under the difficult travel conditions of the mid 1800s, from Kirtland, Ohio, to Missouri, and then back across the Mississippi River to Nauvoo, Illinois, during which time the fragile documents had to have incurred some damage.
In addition, after Governor Boggs ordered the extermination of all Mormons in the State, and their killing of the Mormons at Haun’s Mill, 4000 to 6000 so-called militia were camped a half mile away from Far West, Joseph Smith’s secretary, James Mulholland, gave the papyri to his sister-in-law, Ann Scott Davis, to hold, thinking they would be safer with a woman from marauding mob. She sewed two packets, sealed the papyri inside, and kept them under her waist in the day and slept on them under her pillow at night. One can only wonder at the damage they would have incurred during all that time (“Life of Sister Ann Davis, of Lyons, Wisconsin,” Autumn Leaves 4, January 1891, p.18).
One of the problems with critics is that they seldom know or understand the details of the things they criticize. So many simply look for something to criticize, and often just repeat what someone they feel has credibility has already said.
Comment #14: “Despite all your articles, and numerous others than can be found on the Internet, I really don’t care how the Book of Abraham was translated, or from what source. To me, the information is scripture” Bernice.
Response: Yours is a position of faith, and one well taken. I have heard about half the members of the Church agree with that position, and rightly so, because the gospel works on faith. On the other hand, there are others who are inclined to want more information, and there are those who need more information to confront in their own minds the many criticisms that academics, Egyptologists, and others have and do make against the truth. To those I dedicate the information in this blog, knowing it will have no affect whatever on those who are disposed to criticize God’s workings in these latter days, and who rely on the knowledge of man rather than the knowledge of God.

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