The Book of Abraham is considered scripture by the LDS church and is found in the Pearl of Great Price, one of the four “standard works” that make up LDS scripture canon. The early LDS church bought some Egyptian mummies and papyri in 1835 and Joseph Smith started “translating” them that same year. At the beginning of the Book of Abraham, it states: “Translated from the papyrus, by Joseph Smith Jr. A Translation of some ancient Records that have fallen into our hands from the catacombs of Egypt. The writings of Abraham while he was in Egypt, called the Book of Abraham, written by his own hand, upon papyrus.” Included in the Book of Abraham are three facsimiles which are copies of three vignettes included in the original papyrus. For many years all of the papyri was thought to have perished in a fire, but in 1966 some parts were located in a museum. With the papyri found, Egyptologists can compare Joseph Smith’s translation with a modern translation of the original papyri. Unfortunately for the LDS church, none of Joseph Smith’s translations match modern Egyptologist translations. As stated in the LDS church’s essay on the translation and historicity of the Book of Abraham:

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Mormon and non-Mormon Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham, though there is not unanimity, even among non-Mormon scholars, about the proper interpretation of the vignettes on these fragments. Scholars have identified the papyrus fragments as parts of standard funerary texts that were deposited with mummified bodies. These fragments date to between the third century B.C.E. and the first century C.E., long after Abraham lived.

There are no non-LDS Egyptologists who believe the Book of Abraham text or facsimile translations that Joseph Smith authored have anything to do with the actual papyri. Dr. Robert K. Ritner, an Egyptologist of the University of Chicago, published a book containing the translation of the existing papyri according to modern knowledge of Egyptian: “The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition”. In the LDS essay, an argument is made that maybe some of the papyri source for the Book of Abraham is missing, so that we no longer have what Joseph Smith used as the source to the Book of Abraham. In an interview, Dr. Ritner was asked if maybe we don’t have the papyri source for the Book of Abraham. He answered:

The various alternative theories for a “missing BoA text” are discussed in detail in my book, and all are shown to be false. Parallel texts, standard papyrus document size (not whole rolls manufactured for commerce), measurements of rolling, a supposed (but false) reference to a lost text by the early scholar Seyffarth, and internal BoA remarks on the Facsimiles all indicate that the “Breathing Permit of Hor” (P JS I) is the source of the fictional account of Abraham. The fictional nature of the tale is blatant not only from the Egyptian evidence, but also from Mesopotamian evidence, incorporated within this study for the first time.

The fact that Joseph Smith got nothing right on his translation of the Book of Abraham is a big problem for the LDS church and their claim that Joseph Smith was a prophet. If Joseph Smith fraudulently “translated” the Book of Abraham, what does that say about his claims that he translated the Book of Mormon?

See also:

Facsimile #1 Examination

Facsimile #2 Examined

Facsimile #3 Examined essay: Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham – Response to Debunking FairMormon’s debunking of the Book of Abraham


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