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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Isis and Maat in Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham: A Horrific Blunder by Joseph Smith?

A recent post here at Mormanity, "Shulem in the Book of Abraham: Possible Plausibility?," suggested that the name Shulem given by Joseph Smith in Facsimile 3 might be more interesting than just a blunder or random guess. In response, one critic raised a reasonable question, but with a rather dismissive tone:
Wow. I look forward to your equally convoluted explanations of how "Isis, the great god's mother" (what the characters above figure 2 actually mean) really means "King Pharaoh," and how "Maat, mistress of the gods" (characters above figure 4) really means "Prince of Pharaoh." This just goes to show how infinitely facile apologists can be with the facts.
While anything we say regarding any aspect of Mormonism will be dismissed as "infinitely facile" by critics not interested in dialog, the question does deserve a response. In spite of many evidences for the Book of Abraham as an ancient document, there are definitely some trouble spots, and the most problematic in my opinion are the names given in Facsimile 3. Figures 2 and 4 in that drawing are identified by Joseph as Pharaoh and the prince, respectively, but they are obviously female. Is he blind? Further, he dares to refer to the written text above the characters and states that these identities are "given," "written," or "represented" there. But now that scholars can read Egyptian, they have pointed out that Joseph wasn't even close. The characters above those Figures 2 and 4 state that they are "Isis the great, the god's mother" and "Maat, mistress of the gods," definitely not "King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head" and "Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand." As the critics say, here we have a simple test of his ability to read Egyptian, and it would have been easy here for God to simply prove to the world that his prophet could read Egyptian by inspiring him to write something like "The goddess Isis" and "The goddess Maat" for these figures. Instead, we have a "translation" that not only misreads the literal text, but also totally misses the obvious gender of the drawings. Any ordinary farmboy could at least have gotten the gender right, but not Joseph. End of story?

If you're looking for a reason to reject Joseph and the Book of Abraham, this is the perfect place to start. Yes, he failed to render the names Isis and Maat. He even got the genders wrong. Regarding the gender problem, Hugh Nibley has written that ritual dramas in which a man dressed as a female deity are known in Egyptian lore, but even if we accept that a gender-transforming lens can be applied in some kind of Egyptian role playing scenario, is there any reason to believe that Isis could somehow represent Pharaoh and Maat could represent the prince? Joseph gave us specifics that don't make sense, at least not at a literal level.

Latter-day Saints recognize the possibility of human error whenever mortals are involved, and understand that Joseph and other prophets make mistakes. Is that the case here? Perhaps. But there may be something more interesting. Perhaps Joseph's exercise was not about the literal representation of these figures, otherwise he surely would have said something about women rather than men. Perhaps he is seeking to understand what Facsimile 3 symbolized rather than its literal meaning.

Isis and Pharaoh: Any Connections?

Could Isis be linked to Pharaoh? Wikipedia's article on Isis provides our first clue:
The name Isis means "Throne". Her headdress is a throne. As the personification of the throne, she was an important representation of the pharaoh's power. The pharaoh was depicted as her child, who sat on the throne she provided.
Suddenly, the guffawing of critics seems a little less embarrassing for Joseph. The word "Isis" written above Figure 2's head can, without delicate mental gymnastics, be rather directly linked to Pharaoh--rather precisely as stated by Joseph. Again, not literally--obviously not literally, because she is female, of course--but in a rather direct and simple metaphorical link. Isis = throne = symbol of Pharaoh. Not too tricky.

In the Turin Papyrus, Isis learns the secret name of Ra and gains power over him (see R.A. Ritner, "The Legend of Isis and the Name of Re: P. Turin 1993.") This is a powerful goddess well suited to personify the Pharaoh and his power.

AncientEgyptOnline.co.uk offers this commentary on Isis:
Isis was a member of the Helioploitan Ennead, as the daughter of Geb (Earth) and Nut (Sky) and the sister and wife of Osiris and the sister of Set, Nephthys and (sometimes) Horus the Elder. However, because of her association with the throne Isis was sometimes considered to be the wife of Horus the Elder- the patron of the living Pharaoh. Ra and Horus were closely associated during early Egyptian history, while Isis was closely associated with Hathor (who was described as the mother or the wife of Horus or Ra) and so Isis could also be considered to be the wife of Ra or Horus.

However, when Ra and Atum (the Ennead of Helipolis) merged, Isis became both the daughter of Atum(-Ra) and the wife of (Atum-)Ra. This situation was clarified by crediting Isis as the granddaughter of Ra-Atum, the mother of Horus (the child) and the wife of Osiris.
Here is more about Isis and her complex roles, also from Wikipedia:
During the Old Kingdom period, Isis was represented as the wife or assistant to the deceased pharaoh. Thus she had a funerary association, her name appearing over eighty times in the pharaoh's funeral texts (the Pyramid Texts). This association with the pharaoh's wife is consistent with the role of Isis as the spouse of Horus, the god associated with the pharaoh as his protector, and then later as the deification of the pharaoh himself.

But in addition, Isis was also represented as the mother of the "four sons of Horus", the four deities who protected the canopic jars containing the pharaoh's internal organs. More specifically, Isis was viewed as the protector of the liver-jar-deity, Imsety. By the Middle Kingdom period, as the funeral texts began to be used by members of Egyptian society other than the royal family, the role of Isis as protector also grew, to include the protection of nobles and even commoners.

By the New Kingdom period, in many places, Isis was more prominent than her spouse. She was seen as the mother of the pharaoh, and was often depicted breastfeeding the pharaoh. It is theorized that this displacement happened through the merging of cults from the various cult centers as Egyptian religion became more standardized. When the cult of Ra rose to prominence, with its cult center at Heliopolis, Ra was identified with the similar deity, Horus. But Hathor had been paired with Ra in some regions, as the mother of the god. Since Isis was paired with Horus, and Horus was identified with Ra, Isis began to be merged with Hathor as Isis-Hathor. By merging with Hathor, Isis became the mother of Horus, as well as his wife. Eventually the mother role displaced the role of spouse. Thus, the role of spouse to Isis was open and in the Heliopolis pantheon, Isis became the wife of Osiris and the mother of Horus/Ra. This reconciliation of themes led to the evolution of the myth of Isis and Osiris.
Her role was complex and shifted over time, but her association with the throne and the Pharaoh, either directly or through her connection to Horus, again points to a plausible symbolic meaning that an Egyptian/Semitic editor could see between the female Isis and Pharaoh. Could it be that Joseph recognized the symbolism here and saw that the deeper meaning of Pharaoh was symbolically given in the characters that mention "She of the Throne," Isis? I think that possibility needs to be considered.

Maat and the Prince of Pharaoh

If a female deity can represent Pharaoh, can another represent a prince? Does Maat have associations that could make sense of Joseph's statement? To me, this is not as clearcut and remains a fair question. Here is what Wikipedia says about Maat:
Maat or ma'at ... was the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, law, morality, and justice. Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Her (ideological) counterpart was Isfet.

The earliest surviving records indicating Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).

Later, as a goddess in other traditions of the Egyptian pantheon, where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth and their attributes are the same. After the rise of Ra they were depicted together in the Solar Barque.

After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls that took place in the underworld, Duat. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.

Pharaohs are often depicted with the emblems of Maat to emphasise their role in upholding the laws of the Creator....

The sun-god Ra came from the primaeval mound of creation only after he set his daughter Maat in place of Isfet (chaos). Kings inherited the duty to ensure Maat remained in place and they with Ra are said to "live on Maat", with Akhenaten (r. 1372-1355 BCE) in particular emphasising the concept to a degree that, John D. Ray asserts, the kings contemporaries viewed as intolerance and fanaticism. Some kings incorporated Maat into their names, being referred to as Lords of Maat, or Meri-Maat (Beloved of Maat). When beliefs about Thoth arose in the Egyptian pantheon and started to consume the earlier beliefs at Hermopolis about the Ogdoad, it was said that she was the mother of the Ogdoad and Thoth the father.
Perhaps I'm grasping at straws here, but I find it interesting that Maat is the daughter of the great sun-god Ra and that some kings incorporated Maat into their names. And not just kings: there was also an Egyptian prince, Nefermaat, whose name was based on Maat's.

What I find more interesting is her role in renewal and preserving cosmic order, a topic that brings us to the issue of coronation of new kings (the former prince). On this issue, Ernst Wurthwein in "Egyptian Wisdom and the Old Testament" in Essential Papers on Israel and the Ancient Near East, ed. Frederick E. Greenspahn (New York: New York University, 1991), p. 134, cites H. Brunner, Handbuch der Oreintalistik I, 2 (1952), pp. 96ff:
As a goddess, Maat belonged to the Heliopolitan religious system, where she appeared as the daughter of the sun-god. She came down to men in the beginning as the proper order of all things. Through the evil assaults of Seth and his comrades, this order was upset, but restored through the victory of Horus. As the embodiment of Horus, each new king renews this right order through his coronation: a new state of Maat, i.e., of peace and righteousness, dawns. [emphasis added]
Maat's role in coronation to renew the authority of the kingdom naturally points to the man who will serve as successor to Pharaoh, the prince. It is also interesting that the name of Maat was often used in special coronation names given to new kings at their coronation. One reference on this point is Emily Teeter, "Egypt," in The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Mediterranean Religions, ed. by Barbette Stanley Spaeth (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 24-25:
One of the king's main obligations to the god was to rule the land in accordance with maat, the interconnected concept of cosmic balance and truth that was personified by the goddess Maat. The commitment to maat is illustrated by offering scenes where the king presents a figure of the goddess Maat to the deities as a visible affirmation of his just rule and the acknowledgement that he will uphold the tenets inherent in maat. In the New Kingdom, the king's coronation name was often compounded with Maat, another indication of the association of the king and principle of truth. Some New Kingdom kings are shown presenting a rebus of their name captioned "presenting Maat," suggesting that the king himself was imbued with or personified, Truth.
David Leeming, The Oxford Companion to World Mythology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), offers this information about Maat (p. 243):
Maat in Egyptian mythology, the goddess Maat (Ua Zit), the wife of Thoth, a god associated with wisdom, and daughter or aspect of the high god Atum, is at once a goddess and an idea, the personification of moral and cosmic order, truth, and justice . . . that was as basic to life as breath itself, which in the Coffin Texts Maat also seems to personify. Pharaohs held small models of Maat to signify their association with her attributes. Maat gives breath itself--life--to the kings, and so is depicted holding the symbol of life, the ankh, to their noses. Maat represents the proper relationship between the cosmic and the earthly, the divine and the human, the earth, the heavens, and the underworld. It is she who personifies the meaningful order of life as opposed to the entropic chaos into which it might easily fall. It some stories it is the sun god Re who displaces Chaos with Maat. . . .

Maat was essentially in all Egyptian gods and goddesses as the principle of divinity itself. The goddess Isis acknowledges the qualities of Maat, as signified by the maat (ostrich feather) she wears behind the crowns of upper and lower Egypt.

Maat might be seen as a principle analogous to the Logos, divine reason and order. As Christians are told "In the beginning was the Word [Logos] already was" (John 1:1). Atum announces that before creation, "when the heavens were asleep, my daughter Maat lived within me and around me."
If Maat is the daughter of the great god and is a parallel to the Christian Logos and the son of God, then could this child could be considered a princess and thus again a symbol of a prince?

Wikipedia, as quoted above, indicates that Maat is paired with Thoth, having the same attributes. Regarding Thoth, Claas Jouco Bleeker in Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion (Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill, 1973), p. 119, writes:
There was a close connection between Thoth and Re. In the previous section we became acquainted with him as son of Re. The sun-god placed so much confidence in the capacities of Thoth that he appointed him his deputy, his vizier. The pertinent text relates how Re sent for Thoth and gave him a place of honour next himself. Thereupon Re spoke: "Thou shalt be writer in the nether-world.... Thous shalt take my place as deputy, thou shalt be called Thoth substitute of Re."

Another text adds that he was even appointed successor to Re. Thoth fulfilled his task so well that he was given the epithet "the one with whose word Atum (the primeval god at Heliopolis who later acquired solar significance) is content."

In his office Thoth performs invaluable services for the sun-god. He is "the perfect secretary." is said that his pen protects Re. Just what this expression implies is made clear in a hymn to Re which runs: "Daily Thoth writes Ma-a-t for thee." [emphasis added]
Thoth, the escort of Maat, may be a symbol of a successor to the throne, again pointing to the role of a prince at a symbolic level.

Regarding Thoth, Maat's husband, Leeming writes (p. 381):
Thoth was the moon god as well as the god of wisdom in Egypt. . . . In Hermopolis he might sometimes have been seen as a creator god. For some, Thoth was the son of Re, Re in this case being the sun, the right eye of Horus, whose moon eye had been ripped out by Seth. His consort was Maat. . . .
Maat, Thoth, son/daughter of the great god, and successor: if Isis can be a symbol for Pharaoh, could these associations allow an Semitic editor to also use Maat as a symbol for a prince? This doesn't answer all the questions or objections to the identities offered by Joseph Smith on Facs. 3, but may suggest that there is "something interesting going on" besides random guessing coupled with gross inability to recognize a female in a drawing.

I could be way off and welcome your feedback. I know little about Egyptology and have just relied on easily found sources here that may be inadequate in many ways. It's still possible to accept that some egregious errors were made, but the theory that Joseph's comments are based on symbolic meanings would be fairly consistent with some of the more interesting hits in the Book of Abraham, and consistent with the principle of God not removing the need for faith in accepting scripture. God could have provided manuscripts and literal interpretations capable of gaining peer-reviewed acceptance from the scholarly community with no need for faith. But that's not how He does things. Faith will always be required.

Related resources:

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there's a dialogue between two people out there, somewhere, where arguments about Smith accurately translating the hypocephalus have breathing room.

But they are solely in the realm of Mormon faith. Everyone else takes them for what they are: funerary documents that were commonly given to the Egyptian dead as part of their burial ritual.

To accept that the hypocephalii Smith received have any sort of relevance to Abraham (let alone Abraham actually writing the documents) requires a tremendous amount of faith in Smith's word, because there is otherwise nothing suggesting that this was written by Abraham.

It could've been any hypocephalus that managed to reach Smith that day, he didn't translate Egyptian to any sort of measure of accuracy.

But since you have "faith", then this sort of post would be best presented to people who also have faith and some sort of knowledge of Egyptian. Otherwise, even outside professors of Egyptology who have no hint of anti-Mormonism call this "translation" to be complete nonsense.

Jeff Lindsay said...

So you're saying that Isis and the throne symbol of her name doesn't cut it as a symbol of Pharaoh an this power? I look forward to your more detailed reasoning.

This post is about Facs. 3, by the way. The hypocephalus is Facs. 2.

Anonymous said...

Drats! Sorry, I'm a recurring lurker. Been a while since I've really gotten into it. Not than any if the facsimiles fare better than the others for Smith's translation abilities.

I wouldn't expect much of a foray into Egyptian discussion from either of us. I'm a casual observer, and your perspective is colored by hanging on to Smith's supposed integrity.

There's no road you'll go down that ends with "yes, I see how ridiculous this Book of Abraham and its facsimiles are. Smith failed there." Am I right?

Jeff Lindsay said...

It's easy to dismiss the Book of Abraham as ridiculous without considering the evidence for it, but in this post, I'm offering some reasons why Isis may be a symbol of the throne and of Pharaoh, and why Maat may be a symbol of cosmic order and renewal, including the renewal involved in crowning a prince. Are you saying that there is no basis for my arguments? Care to elaborate beyond name calling and sweeping assertions?

Anonymous said...

No, I'd just rather have this discussion with an Egyptologist who has a background for understanding these things. As would you.

I'm just waiting for you to let it go with the whole Book of Abraham thing. You're on a terribly lost side for someone so intelligent. It's a lesson about humanity that you grasp at straws to save Smith from one of his many BoA blunders, just to save your faith in this part of Mormonism.

Would love to know enough to discuss your actual blog post, but what does it matter? Never in the history of man has so much attention and second-guessing gone towards funerary documents in this day and age. What's next, ancient recipes for pie? Or something equally silly?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Just ordinary funerary documents, eh? Care to explain how Facs. 1, unlike actual funerary documents, has a living person on the altar with his leg up and arms up, actually forming the Egyptian symbol for prayer/supplication (rotated 90 degrees)? Care to show me an example of any other funerary document with this leg up, arms up figure?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Facs. 3 also differs significantly from ordinary Book of the Dead figures. They drawings are all related to funerary documents, but the question is how have they been adapted and for what purpose by the editors in Thebes or whoever provided them? What was the meaning? The lion couch scene in Facs. 1, for example, while based upon a stock mummification scene, has a living being praying for deliverance. It appears that this "ordinary" scene has been adapted to go with the story of Abraham's deliverance on the altar.

Anonymous said...

I found this interesting thank you for this.

Anonymous said...

Oh, well it's probably God guiding Abraham to change the way funerary documents are drawn in Egypt. Certainly that, all the evidence is pointing to it.

Couldn't be a variation added by the author of the document at the time it was written. Because obviously, the Egyptians had an assembly-style document-creation machine for burial rituals to ensure consistency. Anything outside the norm can therefor be immediately attributed to Abraham's doing

Jeff Lindsay said...

Who said Abraham had anything to do with the drawings?

Ryan Larsen said...

Jeff, I am very excited about your post and your analysis. This is the type of dialogue and thinking that we need - and I hope it creates a stir and gets attention as people respond and think. Awesome!

Anonymous said...

Right, well, you got me there. Forgot these were just translations--or symbolic translations, I mean, whatever gives Smith the most leeway to completely screw up like he did.

Now excuse me so I can properly follow the route any "dialogue" should take with Smith's translations abilities, and just stop right here.

You may think dialogue is important. I'm assuming reason to talk gives you reason to believe.

That's great, keep believing. It's just not very convincing to anyone who's outside of the faith that you're on to anything. If you personally applied this level of logic to some other guy translating things for non-Mormon religious purposes, I'm assuming you would have to adopt the translation's findings, otherwise finding yourself in a predicament where your excuses for Smith aren't really useful at determining anything.

Anonymous said...

[I'm not the same "anonymous" as above.] I have wondered (and still do) if the papyrii could actually have been some kind of coded text designed to look like one thing, something ordinary and pedestrian such as, say, a funerary document, but containing a very different underlying meaning if you knew the "key" to unlock it. Basically, an ancient form of steganography - "the art and science of encoding hidden messages in such a way that no one, apart from the sender and intended recipient, suspects the existence of the message" (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steganography ).

If this were the case, then it would look a lot like other funerary texts, but with a few things here and there that don't quite follow the expected patterns (which is what we seem to see with this papyrus, though we don't really have enough samples to be certain it is breaking a pattern, nor would we know for sure if such a pattern break had anything to do with hidden messages). If we accept such a message could be there, however, then possible symbolic links like you are drawing between Isis and Pharaoh or Maat and a prince could have been part of the key that unlocked the coded text. Smith clearly knew next to nothing of Egyptian writing, culture, art, or religion, so he wouldn't necessarily understand that there are two potential readings for such a document; he would only be directly aware of what God revealed to him. If he were given a translation via revelation of the underlying, encoded, meaning as opposed to the literal, surface, meaning, then you'd actually expect to see many of these "questionable" translations when it comes to Abraham vs. the papyrus and Smith might not even have realized that there were dual meanings present. If the encoded meaning is what God wanted revealed, and the literal meaning were largely irrelevant, then that is all that would likely have been provided via revelation.

I don't have the academic background to prove or disprove this theory, but I think it is an intriguing possibility and I would love to see the idea more fully explored by those who do have the necessary tools to do so. I realize that critics of the Book of Abraham will call this idea a stretch and dismiss it with some frantic hand-waving, but given some of the recent scholarship surrounding the book, I think such pat dismissals are rather hasty and disingenuous. It does seem like something interesting is going on here, and I don't think it's nearly as simple as the critics want it to be.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 2:12 a.m. Dec. 30, 2013

Very well said. I was thinking some of the same but I am not good at writing down my thoughts that would make sense to others.



JG


Danielle Malki said...

So you are sugesting Smith didn't actually translate the documents. Instead he somehowused them as a means for a sort of indirect revelation? Anyway there are a lot more problems with this than the two names you mentioned like the fact that th black guy in the picture is actually Anubis missing one of his ears and part of his snout. Anubis is also pictured in facsimile 1, but his head was missing and they sketched in the head of a white guy. I say they because if you read joseph's journals you'll discover he wasn't the only one 'translating' the papiri. Also his journals and his "egyptian alphabet and grammar" make it very clear he was attemping a litteral translation--which he apparently failed at. The only possibility I can see for believing the book of abraham is of god is to believe that joseph recieved a revelation while looking at the papiri and mistook it for a translation. Either way he made a mistake, but so what, of course he made a mistake. He wasn't some sort of infallible super human--he and every other church leader have all made a ton of mistakes. Let's just accept that instead of making excuses for why their mistakes may actually be right. I don't know why everyone expects joseph smith to be perfect. It's ridiculous! So|ething to take note of is that according to smith he was translating tae papiri through his own knowledge of egyptian. He translated the book of mormon through the urum and thumim (I.e. The ability he had to translate was in two magic rocks, not his brain). the angel Moroni took back the urim and thumim long before smith 'translated' the papiri. If anything this only confirms paul's teachings that prophesies and tongues shall fail. All spiritual gifts and powers have there limmit and the only one that always works is pure godly love.

Rogue said...

Jeff,

In answer to your question posted at 6:33AM on Dec 29, according to R.K. Ritner, whom you evidently consider a good source since you cited him in your post, the figure on top of the lion couch is Osiris undergoing resurrection. That's why he's moving. The lion couch is a funerary bier. I've seen you use this canard on more than one occasion. It's a vignette from the Book of the Dead, which you should know by now.

Rogue said...

Your entire case boils down to this: 1. There is a connection between Isis/Maat and Pharaoh/Prince, therefore 2. Isis/Maat could symbolize Pharaoh/Prince. This argument is specious on its own because it conflates connection or relationship with symbolic equivalence, which destroys the various relationships that you outline, if you think about it, but let's suppose that it's true. Say you're an Egyptian scribe and you want to depict Isis or Maat. How do you do it so that literate Egyptians don't confuse your depiction with Pharaoh/Prince? You cold write the name "Isis/Maat" in Egyptian above the figure of Isis/Maat in order to remove the ambiguity. That's what the scribe who authored the source for facsimile 3 did, not that there was necessarily any ambiguity that needed clearing up in the first place. If we accept your line of argument, we're left with no way for an Egyptian scribe to unambiguously depict Isis/Maat. It doesn't pass the smell test. It's tantamount to writing a story about B. Obama, then including a picture of Martha Washington in order to illustrate B. Obama, because there is a connection between them. Martha is the wife of George, the first president, and B. Obama is George's successor. See how that works?

Jeff Lindsay said...

Care to show any other lion couch scenes with the leg up like that? I haven't seen one, but there could be some. Did Ritner know of any? There's a list of unique elements that apparently aren't found in other funerary documents related to the scene in Facs. 1.

Frank Staheli said...

If anonymous thinks this is grasping at straws, I wonder if anonymous really read the article. I find it fascinating. Why does it have to be that Joseph Smith was even TRYING to translate the characters in the facsimile word for word. The fact that he pointed out something that is now a proven relationship is ennobling, if only for the fact that it tells me he seems to have known more about the world than I did before I read what he taught me. It will certainly be interesting to find out what really happened, but for now, I find great solace in the ennobling things that Smith has taught me through the Book of Abraham. The world is a better place because of it.

Anonymous said...

Couch scenes with leg up:

http://www.egyptology.com/extreme/opet/philae-osiris-ritual-full.jpg

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/edwards/nile/229.gif

http://www.mormonismdisproved.org/OsirisResurrection/800px-DenderaHathorTempleComplexQenaEgypt589-2007feb10PhotoByCsorfolyDaniel.jpg

http://www.touregypt.net/images/touregypt/08000.jpg

http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=images&cd=&docid=imzwvIKA7FQVBM&tbnid=wDMW9xHh6bQvkM:&ved=0CAIQjBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fstargateorlando.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F08%2Fimages.jpg&ei=oijDUsCKD8idyQHa2IHQCw&psig=AFQjCNH5VIJnx4b97KOn7x6kkQkjtBi4JQ&ust=1388607775418531

https://www.google.com/search?biw=1075&bih=718&tbm=isch&sa=1&q=osiris+resurrection&oq=osiris+res&gs_l=img.1.0.0j0i24j0i10i24j0i24l7.42508.46230.0.48429.10.9.0.1.1.0.95.809.9.9.0....0...1c.1.32.img..0.10.833.3buKeVJZx1Y#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=oAAvKXLl-tQGGM%3A%3B23YzUZcMsrTMnM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.mormonismi.net%252Fjamesdavid%252Fmormpict%252Fcoucher1.gif%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.mormonismi.net%252Fjamesdavid%252Fcoucher1.htm%3B500%3B317



ando49 said...

Great read Jeff. Picked it up at FairMormon. Interesting way to start the new year for me. I think all the points raised above, both pro and con are valid to some extent. Your keen intellect, mingled with faith, provide tantalising reading.

ando49 said...

Just looked at some of the so-called leg-up ilon couch scenes. To me they could just be the Egyptian way of drawing a man lying down with his legs astride, as they never seem to draw with one leg hidden by the other, as we would. They do the same for standing position as well. So not sure if this proves much.

ando49 said...

One thing I noticed in looking at the referenced lion couch scenes is that the personage on the couch has one arm up and the other lying by his side, yet in facsimile 1 there does not seem to be any arm resting on the couch, even taking into account the missing area created by the lacuna. If this is correct, then possibly both arms are raised.

Anonymous said...

Imagine thousands of years from now, a so-called prophet produces a Peanuts comic strip and claims it expounds the life and adventures of Albert Einstein. That's basically what's going on here. No matter how hard we try, there's no correlation between what the facsimiles actually show and what Joseph claimed they said.
Grasping at straws, plain and simple.

Jared Crookston said...

Also not an Egyptologist, but found the post interesting. The post and the ensuing discussion reminded me a bit of part of The Weeping God- there is sufficient evidence for both faith and doubt, leaving us free to choose our path.

Anonymous said...

"there is sufficient evidence for both faith and doubt, leaving us free to choose our path."

What a clear example of how "knowing" the church is true is really just having faith that the church is true. Never understood the mixup you guys have with this.

JeffPerry said...

"What a clear example of how "knowing" the church is true is really just having faith that the church is true. Never understood the mixup you guys have with this."

But then the corollary is also true: you don't know that the church isn't true, you just have faith that it isn't.

Anonymous said...

"But then the corollary is also true: you don't know that the church isn't true, you just have faith that it isn't."

I know the church isn't true, and I don't have to rely on prayer to reach this knowledge. You do.

For example: name a Mormon belief that 100% requires the Moroni prayer for it to be true. Easily, Moroni's promise itself, as laid out in the BoM.

Now, for me to "know" something is false, it will have to fail at passing a series of logic tests. To stick with the subject of BoA/Smith's translations abilities: Does Smith make the claim he is translating the document? Yes. Is it an accurate translation? To paraphrase Jeff, "Symbollically, it could be." So no, not an accurate translation of Egyptian, as Smith and his followers said and believed it was.

So here, I "know" Smith's translation is false. Your position therefor relies on faith, mine on knowledge.

Finally, as for your statement that "you don't know that the church isn't true, you just have faith that it isn't", I know that Smith misled his followers with the Book of Abraham--saying one thing when the reality invalidates his word. No faith necessary, here. The church stands or falls on Smith's word. Jeff knows this, that's why he's trying to paint Smith as unaware that he had any idea what was going on. Because if Smith did know what was going on, then he was clearly lying.

At no point did Smith even hint that he didn't know what was going on, and so we know that Smith is delusional at best and a liar at worst. For all Jeff's talk about "symbolic" interpretation, Smith says nothing about it. Smith "knew" when he was translating "reformed Egyptian", and said he was translating Egyptian with the BoA + the facsimiles, etc.

So I know Smith is either delusional or a liar, possibly both; and with the Church's truth standing on Smith's delusional or deceptive word, the church isn't true.

Is there any reason to think otherwise? Yes. Faith. But not knowledge. You have faith the church is true. Not knowledge. I have knowledge the church isn't true. Not faith.

JeffPerry said...

Your "knowledge" is still exclusively what you have chosen to believe. Your logical tests are the ones that you want to perform to support your ideas. That’s only to be expected.

"Does Smith make the claim he is translating the document? Yes. Is it an accurate translation?" Here your logic fails, because not only did Smith not claim to be translating in the traditional sense, we also do not have the document that he translated the Book of Abraham from. Some of his explanations of symbols in the facsimiles are incorrect by standard interpretations, and some are not; however, explanation of symbols in a picture is not the same as translation of a text. To claim that since Smith got some things wrong, he must have gotten everything wrong (or in other words, that one who is at times mistaken can never be right) is not logical.

"At no point did Smith even hint that he didn't know what was going on, and so we know that Smith is delusional at best and a liar at worst." So because he didn't say that he didn't know what he was doing, he must have known what he was doing, and therefore must have been delusional or a liar? How is that logical? Do we have ANY words from Smith about this at all, besides that he translated "by the gift and power of God?"

You might want to try applying some logic to the contents of the Book of Abraham. Does the Book of Abraham use authentic ancient concepts and information, and does it match what other Abrahamic literature, unavailable to Joseph Smith, said about Abraham? Yes. Logically, this suggests that at the very least Joseph Smith had access to information about Abraham not available to others, information that he could not have received by being “delusional at best and a liar at worst."

Faith is not something that is reached by prayer alone. I assume that, like most people, you are not an Egyptologist, so you have to have faith that the Egyptologists are telling you the truth about what the symbols mean. You have to have faith that there will be no further developments in Egyptology that will shed a positive light on Smith’s interpretations. You have to have faith that the anti-Mormon propaganda that you have obviously read is telling the truth. We might also substitute the word “belief” above. Or call it anti-faith, whatever you like. The point is that your “knowledge” is no surer than mine. I would say that it is less so, since it seems to be based on science and despite the chest-beating of anti-Mormons, science changes a lot more rapidly than religion.

Anonymous said...

I get where you're coming from. I, too, understand that "knowing" something is, in reality, a belief that the knowledge is true. Most people don't operate with that mindset, and when they do, they think all belief is on the same level. Quick example: belief in Santa vs. belief that my phone is a physical object. Normally, we'd say we "know" my phone is a physical object, just because that's how sure we are.

So, to get to your final paragraph (and then I'm going to post a separate, it's just good to be on the same page before discussing these things), you claim "Faith is not something that is reached by prayer alone." Very true, but faith reached by prayer (spiritual observation?) is a lot less sure than faith reached by physical observation.

Egyptologists didn't translate the Egyptian language by prayer, as Smith tried to. They had the Rosetta stone. I have faith in them because their translations have been vetted by much hard work done by scholars (the variety and number of scholars is more important than the "scholars" part), which leads me to a very foundational argument from you:

"since it seems to be based on science and despite the chest-beating of anti-Mormons, science changes a lot more rapidly than religion."
You're generalizing a lot of sciences here. Many of them grow in knowledge because of new observations, learning from mistakes of failed tests, adapting, etc. It's very fortunate that science does this--how else can we tackle cancer research? By being stuck in the mud as though science should be treated like the Bible?

But, you're talking about progress in translating hieroglyphics. As if there's as much progress to make here as cancer research. There certainly isn't, just like there isn't much need for improvement in Greek. There's a lot less surety in faith on your side there there will be improvements to put Smith in a positive light. I'm sure you've seen the latest round of Egyptology scholars on the translation of the BoA, the facsimiles, etc. Still as devastating and sure as the original proclamations against the translations.

So to rephrase my earlier statement, my "belief" that the church is not true is akin to my belief that there is no Santa. There's no proof for Santa, despite gifts being under the Christmas tree for the kids (that are obviously bought by the parents, but the kids don't see the larger picture. They just believe based on their parents' word and the fact that gifts show up and maybe cookie crumbles were left on a plate). There is no reason to believe in him aside from empty, unsubstantiated faith. And maybe a few good feelings. Same for the church.

Alright, now that we're on the same page:



Anonymous said...

"Here your logic fails, because not only did Smith not claim to be translating in the traditional sense..."
He translated, as you say, "by the gift and power of God". As if that suddenly provides enough ambiguity to claim that Smith was actually not translating from Egyptian into its literal English-equivalent. Everyone and Smith believed this was an accurate Egyptian-to-literal-English translation, and not some symbolic "explanation" that were actually just manifestations of God sending Smith a spirit to reveal something that wouldn't be the direct Egyptian-to-English translation.

Everyone, including Smith, believed this to be a direct, non-symbolic translation of Egyptian. Smith believed he could do this direct, non-symbolic, non-symbol-explanation-only translation by the power of God. I dare you to contradict that statement. Smith intended this to be as assertive as an Egyptologist's translation. He believed he could do this with the gift he believed God gave him. Once again, I dare you to find something that contradicts this. I can assure you, however, that Jeff or anyone at FAIR would be all over such a contradiction by now. But they haven't, because it is clear by historical documents what Smith believed and what he led his followers to believe.

As for translation accuracy. We can definitely use the facsimiles and etc. for evidence of Smith's translating abilities. You say: "Some of his explanations of symbols in the facsimiles are incorrect by standard interpretations, and some are not; however, explanation of symbols in a picture is not the same as translation of a text."
Once again, there is every reason to believe that this was an attempt at translation and not an attempt at "symbolic explanation". I already stated the reason this is so, and once again, I dare you to find historical documents suggesting that anyone thought these were just "symbolic explanations."

Which leads me to the next part: the Smith was, at best, delusional. Smith believed one thing (direct translation) when the reality, at best, is that he was "symbolically interpreting" the document, and not directly translating it with the power of God, as he said; as his followers believed; etc.

Your counter is: "So because he didn't say that he didn't know what he was doing, he must have known what he was doing, and therefore must have been delusional or a liar?"
Because:
1) he said that he was translating by the power of God,
2) everyone and Smith took this to mean that Smith was attempting an actual translation and not a symbolic explanation,

we therefor have proof that Smith believed he was translating, but was actually giving some sort of "symbolic explanation", which he did not know he was doing.

So at best, Smith was delusional and produced a symbolic translation without knowing he wasn't producing a literal translation.

However, and this is the nail on the coffin and the reason Jeff suggested what he did in his post, the "translation" must have been symbolic for it to be true, because otherwise, Smith made errors that prove he didn't translate properly in a literal sense.

So Smith was delusional, for whatever reason, by believing he was producing a literal translation. That's just the bottom line. He thought he was producing a literal translation. But for his credibility to survive here, it had to be a symbolic explanation, or some sort of extra-revelation, etc.

And the only reason to accept that Smith was delusional at best in the case I just mentioned is a prayer. You only have a prayer to substantiate Smith's credibility. We have every other reason to believe he either lied or was also delusional in thinking he had any guidance from God whatsoever.



JeffPerry said...

I very much doubt that we are on the same page about faith and science. Santa, of course is a flawed analogy, since he never existed. One cannot evaluate the sources or literature on Santa.

"Smith believed he could do this direct, non-symbolic, non-symbol-explanation-only translation by the power of God. I dare you to contradict that statement. Smith intended this to be as assertive as an Egyptologist's translation. He believed he could do this with the gift he believed God gave him. Once again, I dare you to find something that contradicts this."

Contradicts what? Your assertions? "Smith believed." "Smith intended." Again I ask, how do you know? Can you provide some writings or statements of Smith that substantiate your claims?

I find your mental gymnastics regarding Smith's efforts convoluted and not compelling. I also notice that you avoided discussing my statements about the content of the Book of Abraham.

Anonymous said...

"I very much doubt that we are on the same page about faith and science. Santa, of course is a flawed analogy, since he never existed. One cannot evaluate the sources or literature on Santa."

Yeah, you've probably been conditioned to be very anti-science in your time as a Mormon. It's a necessity to maintain a lot of the faith.

Santa is in a lot of books. We just consider them to be fiction. Moroni's in a book. You just don't consider him to be fiction.

Would love to see your proof for Moroni with logic that will end up validating Santa.


The sources I have of Smith's assertions is condemning. Will post them soon.

Anonymous said...

My quotes with sources, though they can be found in any PoGP:


The Joseph Smith papers, pg. 451 of 562:
"I commenced publishing my translations of the Book of Abraham in the Times and Seasons as follows
“A Fac simile from the Book of Abraham. No. 1
[Image of Facsimile No. 1]
Explanation of the above cut. Fig 1,— The Angel of the Lord. 2 Abraham, fastened upon an Altar..."

"11. Designed to represent the pillars of Heaven, as understood by the Egyptians. 12. Rawkeeyang, sig nifying expanse , or the firmament, over our heads, but in this case, in relation to this subject, the Egyptians meant it to signify Shaumau, to be high, or the heavens, answering to the Hebrew word ."


The Joseph Smith papers, pg. 464 of 562:
(related to Facs. 2)
"One day in Kolob, is equal to a thousand years, according to the measurement of this Earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh.
Fig. 2. Stand’s next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation, near to the celestial or the place where God resides; ..."

"Fig. 4. Answers to the Hebrew word. Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the Heavens: also, a numerical figure, in Egyptian, signifying one thousand: answering to the measuring of the time of Oliblish, which is equal with Kolob, in its revolution and in its measuring of time.
Fig. 5. Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; that is one of the governing planets also; and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, "


In all of these sources, Smith is getting at what the Egyptians are trying to say or what the Egyptians understood something to mean. There was absolutely no "God wanted this to mean X, Y, Z," it's what the Egyptians meant by it. It's what the Egyptians meant by X, Y, Z, and it's all over the Facsimile translations.

Proof that Smith thought he was translating Egyptian.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...7:12 PM, January 05, 2014
"Yeah, you've probably been conditioned to be very anti-science in your time as a Mormon. It's a necessity to maintain a lot of the faith."

That statement of "anti-science to maintain faith" can apply to all religions, not just the LDS religion. I know people of different religions including family members, who are anti science of varying degrees. Evangelicals are a good example.
Three weeks ago my family was helping a new neighbor put up fencing. Out of no where the 12 year old new neighbor asked if we believe the Bible or Science concerning the age of the Earth. He went on to say he believed the Bible because Science has some problems with carbon dating and other things. His mother has a PhD in Chemistry.

JG


Anonymous said...

JG:

Very true. As I recall, though, the age if the earth is set in stone in the D&C. When I was an evangelical, a common fallback was to mention how a day to God could be a thousand years to us, as though the original authors knew this.

Kevin Rex said...

Bro. Lindsay and others: Thank you for your on-going discussions. I am curious as to how some of you might answer the following question. In the introduction to the Pearl of Great Price, the wording of explanation has been changed by the church. 2.The Book of Abraham. An inspired translation of the writings of Abraham. Joseph Smith began the translation in 1835 after obtaining some Egyptian papyri. The translation was published serially in the Times and Seasons beginning March 1, 1842, at Nauvoo, Illinois.

It used to read "A translation from some Egyptian papyri that came into the hands of Joseph Smith in 1835, containing writings of the patriarch Abraham. The translation was published serially in the . . . (remains same).

This is quite a difference, but the main introduction to the Book of Abraham itself still says "by his own hand upon papyrus" so confusion still abounds in my mind as to what the papyri are considered by the Church?

Also, as with the book of Mormon issue and race, one post previous to this of Bro. Lindsay's, I asked the question about the verbiage itself. I propose the same question here, in the verbiage of the Book of Abraham are many racist teachings that the Church has "disavowed" now (see Gospel topics). Here's just a few and how do we answer these, as "mistranslations"?


Now, Pharaoh being of the lineage by which he could not have the right of Priesthood, . . . (Abraham 1:26-27).

Now the first government of Egypt was established by Pharaoh, the eldest son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, . . . Noah, his father, who blessed him with the blessings of the earth, . . . but cursed him as pertaining to the Priesthood.

. . . from Ham sprang that race which preserved the curse in the land (Abraham 1:24).


Thanks for any replies.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin,

You may imply race in the writings that you quoted but you will see that there is no mention of race, only a curse on the lineage of Ham that said lineage would not receive the priesthood. The opposite held true for the lineage of Levi where that tribe, and no other tribe, would hold the priesthood.

Steve

Anonymous said...

... and I missed the last sentence where it specifically mentions the word "race" :p

Steve

Bookslinger said...

I think it's fitting that there are complications and _apparent_ contradictions regarding the facsimiles, the Book of Abraham, and the surviving papyri.

As Jeff has written in previous articles, the exact papyrus from which JS said the BoA came is likely not among the extant or surviving papyri that were originally part of his collection. (I think Jeff has an article about that on his web site in addition to a blog post.)

The critic will say "How conveeeeennnient." But I say it's similar to how the Lord had Moroni take back the gold plates. If Egyptologists and linguists had the plates and ended up saying "Yes, it's a true/correct translation" then it would be slam-dunk proof, and people would be forced to believe, and there would be no need for faith.

God sort of has a record of not showing proof to people who don't already believe. Otherwise, those displays of power lead to condemnation, or came after it was too late. Maybe like how people during the flood started to believe after the water level got up to their knees, and then they banged on the side of the Ark, saying "Okay Noah! We believe you now!" And then it's "Sorry. Too late. You had your chance."

Of course, some people would still refuse to believe, no matter what, saying it is a trick or illusion. But still, it is very rare that the Judeo-Christian God shows slam-dunk proof to people who don't already believe. If people disbelieve or disobey after being shown proof, like the people Moses led into the desert, who saw the Red Sea part, and the column of smoke and pillar of fire stuff, then the Lord gets very angry and strict with them.

There are definitely "missing pieces of the puzzle" in regards to the history and tradition of Egyptian funerary documents and drawings, the history of the Egyptian mythology they contain, and how they relate or connect to the teachings of Abraham when he was in Egypt.

Terry Shirt's article (that Jeff links to) mentions some things that I have theorized. What if the Egyptians had Abraham's teachings at one time, and over a period of centuries, a millenia maybe, they became mythologized, corrupted, and woven into their pagan beliefs?

We've seen similar examples. Judaism, at the time of the Savior, was a corrupt version of the true religion as delivered and taught by Moses.

It only took a few centuries for Catholicism to _extensively_ modify and mythologize 1st Century Christianity. You don't even have to buy into the LDS doctrine of the Great Apostasy to understand that, as the Protestants have been complaining about Catholic modifications for centuries now, ever since Martin Luther.

I think just about every Christian minister would agree that God doesn't _prove_ every point of the Gospel, and doesn't answer every question. No one can prove that Moses wrote the first five books of the OT. One can't even prove that the Hebrews were captives in Egypt and had a great Exodus.

We have no originals of the books of the New Testament, let alone the Old Testament. Authorship of many books of the Bible is still in question among Bible scholars. Who wrote the books of Job and Jonah? Were they even real people? I believe they were, but no one can prove it one way or another.

So questions and confusion about the Book of Abraham seems par for the course to me. I wouldn't be surprised if the Lord intended it that way, because both the OT and the NT talk about how the Lord puts stumbling blocks out to test people's faith, and to trip up the proud.

Anonymous said...

The Book of Abraham is not a problem for me. I have researched LDS doctrine as taught by Joseph Smith, and researched the Catholic church. There was no need for me to research any other religion because all other Christian sects come from the Catholic church, and there are break aways from those sects. I found the LDS doctrine to be closer to the Bible than any other religion. The LDS answered questions no one else could answer. We now have more ancient records that Smith did not have, and some of those records are closer to LDS doctrine than any other religion. So how did Smith know those things? Got lucky? He made mistakes, so what. He had to learn new things a little at a time. It was not all given to him at once. There is such a double standard and hypocrysy from the critics concerning the LDS church.
There are other religions who claim they are the one true church and their teachings are the same as the early church, so it is not just the LDS church that says that. So why aren't the critics going after those churches too?

Anonymous said...

Jeff, while I appreciate your blog as a tool to defend and strengthen the LDS faith with historical evidence, providing an answer to critics with sound reasoning. Ultimately your points are moot.

The reality is, no one should be surprised at all to find continual "revisions" about Church history, translation processes, doctrine, policy, or ordinances.

The fact is, LDS General Authority has clearly established their prerogative to revise, update or completely change anything they deem necessary.

An early example was the removal of section 101 from the 1835 edition of D&C and replacing it with the current Section 132. A total doctrinal 180!

This practice has continued as recently as 2013 with the rejection of prophetical doctrine concerning Blacks in the priesthood.

As explained by FAIRMORMON.org "If Joseph could receive the Doctrine and Covenants by revelation, then he could also receive revelation to improve, modify, revise, and expand his revelatory product."

http://en.fairmormon.org/Doctrine_and_Covenants/Textual_changes

So there is no debate, really. The Church will always have an out.

Eric M. said...

Thanks for posting this, Jeff. I recently finished Nibley's work, "Abraham in Egypt," and without a doubt one of the more interesting parts for me was the discussion of Facsimile 3 and the relationship between the goddesses and Pharaoh and the Prince. So, I was thrilled when I saw you posted this. What I though particularly interesting was how Joseph managed to take a rather boring funerary text and turn it into something full of symbolism that can help us understand the story of Abraham.
For example, Nibley pointed out that one of the central struggles in the Book of Abraham to which this Facsimile comes attached is the struggle of true priesthood versus false priesthood (especially that of the Pharaoh). In Abraham 1, the role of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, is given as the founder of Egypt. Therefore, all authority and priesthood possessed by subsequent pharaohs were passed down from her, making Egypt's false priesthood an essentially matriarchal one. Abraham's priesthood, on the other hand, was received down from the fathers, beginning with Adam.
Thus, this facsimile portrays in a symbolic manner the distinction between Pharaoh's false priesthood (received by a matriarchal line, shown by his being represented as female) and Abraham's true patriarchal priesthood (he is sitting on the throne).
I loved that insight!

Russell said...

I'm probably way too late to actually contribute to this discussion, but thanks, Jeff, for the interesting post as regards Isis and Maat. Sadly, your first "Anonymous" obviously has no interest in real study but is happy to regurgitate anti-Mormon tripe, ad nauseum, while pretending to be disinterested.

FWIW, I can't say much to Facsimile 3, but as someone who has actually studied Facsimile 1 and counterpart "Lion Couch" scenes, it clearly depicts an act of human sacrifice (or attempted human sacrifice). The actual separation of the legs (there's daylight between the feet) and not mere stacking of them shows movement (not to mention that the sacrifice victim's feet are shod!); the priest standing between the sacrificial victim and the alter shows a struggle; the arms raised and hands spread shows prayer and supplication; the knife held vertical shows a threat; the descending bird facing the priest may also show heaven's intervention against the priest; etc. What it clearly does NOT depict is ritual mummification.

And it's not alone. While rarer than the mummification scenes to which "anonymous" refers, we now know of a handful originating in Thebes at about the same time as the drawing of Facsimile 1 (200 or so B.C.)

If posters like "Anonymous" and "rogue" are so easily led into error on such an obvious point as the nature of Facsimile 1 (which we have the original for) as a ritual human sacrifice (vs. a ritual mummification), how can we believe anything they say on the far more complex questions of Facsimiles 2 and 3 (of which we have no originals)?