Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book of Abraham Sounds Like a Sham

It is common knowledge that Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Abraham came from his translation of some papyri acquired along with some mummies from a traveling show that passed through his town. What I think is not very well known are the details of that translation.

At the time in which Joseph Smith lived, there was very little knowledge regarding Ancient Egypt and everything that surrounded it was a mystery that intrigued many in the US. There was at that time, no real expert in reading Egyptian hieroglyphics but some were beginning to make small strides in understanding that civilization. When Joseph Smith saw the scrolls he had some of the members put together enough money to buy the mummies and scrolls for the sum of $2,400 which was a very large sum at the time. Joseph began translating the writings but it would take him many years to finish it.

As science has progressed, our knowledge of the Egyptians has increased substantially since the 1830’s. The discovery of the Rosetta Stone helped linguists discover the true meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphics. With the knowledge of today in both ancient writings and time dating, scientists have been able to evaluate the scrolls Joseph Smith used to create the Book of Abraham. The scrolls were believed to have been destroyed in the “great Chicago fire” of 1871 but in 1966 they were found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Many experts in Egyptology, from various parts of the world, have since inspected and reviewed the scrolls along with the three facsimiles found in the Pearl of Great Price and they have come to a very different conclusion regarding their origin and content. For the sake of time, I am not going to go into great detail on the specifics because they are too numerous to put here and I do not want to bore you all to death. There are many great books and web sites that do a good job of putting all of the information together for you. With a quick click on one of the links found on this blog you can read bout it in greater detail. 20 Truths About Mormonism has a very good accout of this and it also has the Mormon response to the issues surrounding the BoA.

Joseph claimed that the BoA was the writings of Abraham but according to those that have since reviewed the scrolls; the name of Abraham is not mentioned. The conclusion they all came to was that the scrolls were actually common Egyptian funerary documents for a man named Horus and that Joseph’s interpretations were far from accurate. The BoA has been identified as the Book of Breathings and time dating of the scrolls puts their creation at around the time of Christ which was approximately 2,000 years later then the time of Abraham. What Joseph Smith claimed to be the Book of Joseph was actually the pagan Egyptian Book of the Dead which dates to at least 1,500 years after the time of the biblical Joseph so it is not possible that he wrote it.

After reading all of the facts regarding the Book of Abraham, I have come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith did not know how to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics nor did he ever think that others would be able to, so he made up his own translation because no one would know the difference. His interpretation of the scrolls has been found to be no where close to the actual text by the scholars of today. Joseph has deceived the church regarding the Book of Abraham and the current leaders of the church choose to ignore the evidence against it.

If the Book of Abraham has been found to be a fraud, then could that same thing be said about the Book of Mormon? Unfortunately, without the actual plates, it would be impossible to make that assumption based on actual translation records alone but there are other issues in the Book of Mormon that I will get into later that lead me to believe it is no more accurate then the Book of Abraham.


  1. Here's some counter information to the 150+year old argument Soy Yo has presented to you. Yes, there is another side!

    I can't wait for the next installment. Pretty soon we'll learn how Joe Smith stole a book's manuscript and copied it and thus came the Book of Mormon. Then we can hear how the animals in the Book of Mormon never existed according to scientists.

    Why stop there. Let's be fair, like you said you want to be, and look at the Bible and see how it couldn't be scientifically possible that man lived for 100's of years as described in Genesis. Or one man, Sampson, could have the strength to do all the things he did. And how only a haircut made him lose his strength. How about Jonah and the whale? How could someone live in the belly of a whale? Scientifically impossible!!

    I believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon even if some things may not be scientifically possible.

  2. "Why stop there?" Indeed. There are some people who look at the Bible as something other than an actual history of ancient people. To them, reading the Bible is similar to reading Aesop's Fables. Both are old documents that tell stories in an effort to improve the reader's behavior.

    I can accept the value of the Bible without accepting it as an actual historical text. Do I enjoy reading it? Yes. Can it make me a better person? Yes. Do I really believe Noah put two of every plant and animal on a boat while the entire face of the earth was flooded? No. But that doesn't necessarily effect the value of the story to me.

    One of the many problems with the LDS church is that it has taken the position of an absolute literalist interpretation of the scriptures. On one hand, the Church teaches the fallibility of the Bible while on the other hand, promotes the JST as the true and literal translation. Is the JST infallible?

    Because of this extreme literalist viewpoint, the Church has no wiggle room when it learns about anachronisms or things it preaches that conflict with science (though at the same time it preaches that God is bound by the laws of the universe which he created).

    If, at the beginning, the Church had taken a more flexible position on these things, it wouldn't be facing such problems now. For example, if Joseph had said, "When looking at these Egyptian scrolls, the eyes of mine understanding were opened and I saw the Book of Abraham, which looked something like this," then it wouldn't have been placed in the embarrassing position it is in today.

  3. Thank you Bournefree, I think you make some great points. I think an important point to make regarding the Bible is that according to the Articles of Faith, Mormons only believe in it "as far as it is translated correctly". That leaves it rather open to interpretation while on the flip side, Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon is the "most correct of any book on earth". Which means that if it is what he claimed it to be, would it not be accurate when it come to vegetation and wildlife, the use and type of metals, population growths and other aspects that we can now verify? Or was it the most correct only when there was not enough science to prove it otherwise like when Joseph Smith was alive and made such comments?

    If the Bible is only believed as far as it is translated correctly, shouldn't then the leaders of the LSD church tell us what parts are not correct? I know Joseph made his JST but it is was not completed. That brings me to my next question as to why one of the many prophets since then has not taken up the task to complete the JST so that everyone would not have to guess for themselves which parts of the Bible to believe. Just some random questions I have had for a while but have not found viable answers for.