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Brief Intro to the Joseph Smith Papyri and Book of Abraham

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  Brief Intro to the Joseph Smith Papyri and Book of Abraham Posted by Bryce Haymond on July 2, 2008 10 Comments  If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!   Note: This was going to be the next part of the series on the   Egyptian ankh, and its relationship with the papyri and Book of Abraham, but I thought an intro to these first would be   a better place to start.     Let’s return again to the subject of the ankh, and related symbols, that we’ve briefly studied, and look to see if these   symbols figure at all on the Joseph Smith Papyri.  As we’ve seen, t hese particular hieroglyphs have a strong   connection to temple themes, being bestowed by the Egyptian gods in a manner reminiscent of the way eternal life is   portrayed symbolically in the temple today. But do these symbols appear on the papyri from which the Book of   Abraham was translated, or in the facsimiles, and what does that mean? Many in the Church probably do not know much about the Joseph Smith Papyri or the srcins of the Book of   Abraham.  And they don’t necessarily care to know.  What we know is usually limited to the few facts that the writings   were translated from some papyri that Joseph had, which also came with some mummies from Egypt. Beyond this,   most other historical issues are beside the point of the actual text of the scripture, which we know is from God by the   witness of the Holy Ghost.   But I believe having a deeper understanding and knowledge of the papyri illuminates the Book of Abraham in   marvelous ways and is further evidence of the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the   restoration of the temple rites in this dispensation.     But first, let’s cover some basics about the papyri’s relationship to the Book of Abraham.  The best introduction to the   srcins of this scripture can be found in John Gee’s excellent summary    A Guide to the Joseph Smith Papyri  . It is only   70 pages long, and does an excellent job of briefly describing the history, controversies, and interpretations   surrounding the papyri from which the Book of Abraham came forth. Here are some points he makes:      Michael Chandler arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, on July 3, 1835 and showed Joseph and the saints some mummies   and papyri which he had bought from an antiquities dealer in Egypt. 1        Joseph examined them and said that “one of the rolls contained  the writings of Abraham, another the   writings of Joseph of Egypt , etc.” 2        In July 1835 Joseph Smith and oth ers paid $2400 for 4 mummies and “at least five papyrus documents,   including two or more rolls.” 3        “Joseph Smith began translating the papyri in early July 1835. The current text of the Book of Abraham was   translated by the end of the month.” 4        Joseph continued translating until November 26, 1835. 5       In 1842 the translation began to be published in the  Times and Seasons periodical.      “Only three installments were published, which included about one quarter of what Joseph Smith translated.     Unfortunately the location of the srcinal manuscripts of his translation is presently unknown and thus about   three quarters of Joseph Smith’s translation of the Book of Abraham is lost .” 6        On November 27, 1967 some fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri were presented to the Church, their   whereabouts being unknown to the Church for over a hundred years. 7        “To the disappointment of many, while th ese remaining fragments contained the srcinal drawing for Facsimile   1, they were not the portion of the papyri that contained the text of the Book of Abraham .” 8        “Because we do not have all the papyri that Joseph Smith had, and because those that have been preserved   do not contain a copy of the text of the Book of Abraham, there is no simple answer to the quest ion, ‘Did   Joseph Smith translate the Book of Abraham correctly?'” 9        “Some have reasoned that since   the preserved papyri account for no more than 13 percent of all the   papyri that Joseph Smith possessed , the Book of Abraham does not match the translation of the preserved   papyri because it was most likely translated from a portion of the papyri that is now missin g.” 10        “Only the subject illustrated by Facsimile 1 corresponds with the text of the Book of Abraham; the o ther   facsimiles correspond to portions of the Book of Abraham that were not published.” 11     The points that strike me most are that the papyri contained some of the writings of Joseph of Egypt too.   Unfortunately, Joseph Smith never translated these.   We also only have about one quarter of the text that Joseph Smith did translate of the Book of Abraham. Can you   imagine the scriptural treasure if our current Book of Abraham were four times longer?  This would make the   Book of Abraham closer to twenty chapters long instead of five. Dr. John Gee believes that the text might have   continued up until the sacrifice of Isaac. 12     Because we don’t have most of the text of the Book of Abraham, we don’t have an explanation of how facsimiles 2   and 3 fit into the broader picture of Abraham, such as is given for facsimile 1 in Abraham 1. The only description we   have from Joseph Smith for the latter two facsimiles are an identification of the figures.   We also now know what the Egyptian text says on the other papyri fragments that were recovered, which gives some   very interesting insight into our restored temple rites. 13     In the next part of my series on the ankh we will take a closer look at where these symbols appear in the papyri and   facsimiles, and if they correspond whatsoever to Joseph Smith’s descriptio ns, something our critics vehemently deny.   Notes:
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