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Egyptian Context Is Different

Skeptics say Joseph Smith mistranslated Facsimile 3. These are Egyptian illustrations and they have nothing to do with Abraham, skeptics claim. Did Joseph Smith give a correct meaning for Facsimile 3, years before the Rosetta Stone unlocked the mysterious of ancient Egyptian?

I don’t know why anyone would be shocked that the Facsimiles are Egyptian. They certainly look Egyptian to me! Joseph Smith said they contain Egyptian writing: “The characters are such as you find upon the coffins of mummies–hieroglyphs.” They were found with an Egyptian mummy. Why wouldn’t they be Egyptian? Joseph Smith made it clear that there was an Abrahamic context different from the Egyptian context.

CES Letter holds the Facsimiles to a strict Egyptian context, while Joseph focused on how the Facsimiles related to Abraham instead of giving the text translation or the Egyptian funerary meaning. What would be the correct translation of a five-pointed star? Well, it depends on the context. When you see a five-pointed star on the American flag do you assume it symbolizes the Egyptian Duat afterlife? Or do you assume it symbolizes the fifty states of the United States? When you see a cross at a cemetery, is it a symbol of Christian worship or do you see a symbol of someone’s burial? Likewise, the symbols in the Facsimiles were presented in an Egyptian context, but the symbolism also held a different Abrahamic context.

The cemetery cross may hold a different meaning but it derives from the original Christian meaning. Likewise, we should expect the Egyptian meaning to be similar to Joseph Smith’s interpretation for Abraham. There is plenty of similarity between the literal Egyptian translation and Joseph’s Abrahamic translation.

Ritual Judgement Scene

Abraham Took Part In Ritual – To the Egyptians, Facsimile 3 showed Egyptian gods in an afterlife judgement scene, one of several different judgement scenes in their funeral literature. But this judgement scene was also a ritual that Abraham took part in, called the Neophyte Ceremony. It is important to understand that Joseph Smith interpreted a scene involving Abraham and the king of Egypt ritually acting out Egyptian gods in this afterlife judgement scene. That’s perfectly alright. Egyptian funerary literature is all about mortal humans assuming the characters of gods. “The Egyptian ruler, whose enthronement was a reenactment of Re’s daily victory over Apophis, was the primary weapon against these forces of evil. At the death the pharaoh became identified with Osiris, judge and lord of the dead, slain by Seth.” (Chic & Sandra Cicero, >Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

Egyptologists have been dealing with the problem of who represents whom in this ritual. How could the king in his own judgement ceremony be identified as Osiris the judge as well as the king who is being judged? Doesn’t this present a conflict of interest? Someone needed to act as Osiris. So when the initiate was asked to recite the vast astronomical symbolism to prove themselves, there was a different person standing as judge. Originally, only the king was identified as Osiris, but later on every deceased person took this role.

Abraham acted symbolically as Osiris “by the politeness of the king” in this ritual, and the principal waiter Shulem was the initiate. Abraham was “reasoning upon the principles of astronomy” in order to “make a path” for the initiate through the heavens toward exaltation.

In the Facsimile 1 Sed-festival scene, the king, or in this case his proxy Abraham, played out the character of Osiris in an Egyptian ritual: “In the Sed-Feast the king assumed the costume of Osiris and impersonated the life of the resurrected god. The king then became identified with Osiris.” The same thing happens in Facsimile 3. There is plenty of similarity between the literal Egyptian translation and Joseph’s Abrahamic translation to indicate that this judgement ritual is what is being shown.

Reasoning Upon Astronomy – This is a scene near the end of the Book of Breathings and it is the final step of judgement. Joseph Smith says in Abraham’s context it is: “Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court.” This is true. Abraham reasoned upon astronomy in a ritual preparatory for judgement in the afterlife. Joseph Smith matches the Isis figure with Pharoah, who was “the mistress of the beginning of the year” who circles in heaven near the stars of Orion. In this scene, Isis (Pharoah) says: “I am Isis… I made manifest the paths of the stars. I prescribed the course of the sun and the moon.” (Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection)

Osiris, the judge in this scene, was associated with Orion, “his abode in the sky,” and this scene shows the heavenly Duat afterlife, which is represented by the row of stars at the top. Those stars represent the souls of the dead, and the deceased mummy must pass through it all to be judged. Ancient astronomy was all about preparing for their path in the afterlife and the basic “triumph of good over evil.” The deceased is expected to know the Duat astronomy and stars in detail.

Joseph Smith was correct to interpret this scene as “reasoning upon astronomy.” The deceased prays that he may be justified “against his enemies in the sky, in the earth, and in these seven councils of Osiris.” As with the other facsimiles, Joseph Smith interpreted their earthly significance as relating to Abraham, while the Egyptian funerary context related to the afterlife. But Abraham’s earthly study of astronomy was a study of justice and divine judgement, which is also what the Egyptian context shows.

Egyptian vs. Abraham Meanings

1.   Joseph Smith: “Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.”Judge of the Dead – This is Osiris sitting as judge. Abraham assumed this role of Osiris for the initiation ritual. It is quite impressive that Joseph Smith identifies Abraham with Osiris consistently in each of the facsimiles. How did he know which figures were Osiris? LDS naturally understand how people can act in place of certain characters when performing a ritual, and it is appropriate for Abraham to consistently act in place of Osiris. In the Book of Abraham we read all about astronomy in the context of divine judgement and dominions. In the Testament Of Abraham, we read about how Abraham inherited the role of judge over the people from his patriarchal fathers, and how he learned to judge righteously. Crown of Priesthood & Presidency – The crown on his head represented divine authority of the heavenly grand presidency: “His head is adorned with the atef crown, symbol of supreme authority… Ra, the sun god, originally wore the crown.” He says, look at “my great atef crowns, which Ra has given me, which Atum (has established for) me.” With Atum being the more-or-less Egyptian equivalent of the LDS Adam/Michael, it is interesting, then, that Michael/Adam appeared to Abraham to initiate him through the mysteries. This matches with the LDS understanding of initiation. The feather in the crown represents justice and the ram’s horns power. Osiris declares “Ra has give me” the crown, as a “visible emblem of his legitimate rule and authority; it represents his rule over earth as well as the Netherworld.” It is interesting that this crown relates to the “god of the dawn” and his “solar barque,” as this is the same symbolism as in Facsimile 2, and Joseph Smith gave the same interpretation for the solar barque in Facsimile 2: “clothed with power and authority.” Crook of Justice & Judgement – The crook in his hand indeed represents “justice and judgement” like Joseph Smith said. The Osiris crook and flail are “emblems of majesty and dominion” that allow Osiris to judge the deceased against the truth found in his crown’s feather. This tells us why Abraham as Osiris was “reasoning” on astronomy. It was all about justice, judgement, and holding the keys of dominion, which is also what this judgement scene is all about in the Egyptian context. The shepherd’s crook represented the king “who secures food, protection, and justice for the people under his care… representation of authority.” It is also a symbol for Jesus Christ, who gathers lost sheep and provides grace to all. Interestingly, Joseph Smith did not focus on mercifully gathering lost sheep, which is what the crook would immediately represent to me, but instead he focused on the crook’s aspect as it relates to dominion and justice, which is a perfect bullseye for the Facsimile’s Egyptian context.
2.   Joseph Smith: “King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.”Pharaoh’s Horus NamePharaoh was the title for the king’s household, not the king’s name, until later in Egypt’s history. Joseph Smith correctly dissociates “King Pharaoh” with the person’s name. So what is the name given in the characters above the head? The hieroglyphs to the right of the head associates goddess Isis. But Joseph Smith was talking about characters above the head, not to the right of it. Joseph Smith even located the number “2” right in the middle of the character he was referring to. Does this symbol above the head indicate Pharoah’s name? Yes. This is the Horus sun disk. Now, if Joseph Smith were guessing, wouldn’t he have said the hieroglyphic writing was a name rather than the figure’s crown? How is a crown a name? But he is actually correct. Each king of Egypt had a special “Horus” name–actually two Horus names: one that “designated the pharaoh as the god Horus on earth” and one that linked “pharaoh to the sun, divinity, eternity, earthly gold, and perhaps to Horus’ victory over Seth.” Now, we already saw how Osiris in Figure 1 wore a his crown as a “sign of his earthly rulership.” But astronomy was not just about earthly judgement. This was about judgement in the afterlife as well. The second Horus name is called the the Golden Horus Name and “typically featured the image of a Horus falcon perched above or beside the hieroglyph for gold.” The hieroglyph for gold is the character nebu, which is a half-disk with rays between two hills. Compare the nebu character with the sun disk atop Isis’s head in figure 2. Perfect match! Joseph Smith was right. There is no falcon in the name, but that’s alright because the falcon was not needed to identify the gold sign nebu with Pharaoh. “The gold sign, without the Horus falcon, appeared in conjunction with the royal names from the time of Djer onwards.” The falcon represents “the final victory of Horus over Seth” and that was already ritualized in Facsimile 1. It’s not surprising that the king’s Horus name was snuck into Isis’ crown by the artist of Facsimile 3. Egyptians did this kind of thing all the time. Illustrations and shapes were often arranged or drawn to spell out names. Isis Represents Pharaoh – As the mother of Horus, Isis was the personification of Pharaoh’s throne and seat of power, as Gail Corrington explains: “Isis was the incarnation of the pharaoh’s ‘throne’. As the throne symbolically ‘created’ or ‘gave birth to’ the pharaoh, so Isis, the incarnate throne, was the mother of the pharaoh.” (Gail Corrington) Notice that Joseph Smith placed the maker “2” at Isis’ crown, not Isis herself. It is totally appropriate to associate her crown with the Horus name of Pharaoh. We see Isis aiding in Abraham’s assumption of justice and dominion “by the politeness of the king,” in a similar way she gives birth to Pharaoh’s position as king. This suggests Pharaoh allowed Abraham to study astronomy and be ordained through Egyptian religious rites to gain the divine governing powers that were meant for Egyptian rulers, a politeness which Pharaohs were known to do for esteemed foreign visitors.
3.   Joseph Smith: “Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1.”This is the libation table of sacrificial offering for Osiris. Joseph Smith says it is basically the same thing as in Facsimile 1, where the offering table is identified as “Abraham in Egypt” (this time shown without the anointing jars). Here in Facsimile 3, Abraham is using priesthood authority to initiate others into ordinances of knowledge. So, this gives us more explanation for what Abraham in Egypt includes: Abraham “reasoning” and officiating sacrifice to gain knowledge of astronomy. In Facsimile 1, he is the one being sacrificed–and saved–and then in Facsimile 2, there is the offering of sacrifices to gain redemption and priesthood authority. We see these three different kinds of offerings. Likewise, Egyptian literature shows differing offerings at libation tables for different reasons, for different gods and different events. As for earthly judgement and dominions, offerings were provided to Osiris daily “to sanctify the land,” and to solidify the king’s status of “universal kingship… god as ruler over everything.” The libation table stands between the people and Abraham with Pharoah; facing Abraham and Pharoah, suggesting they are the ones being affected by the libation rituals. They are the ones achieving dominion. In a ritual bowl from early Athens, we see all three of the “Abraham in Egypt” offering tables portrayed one after the other: First, we see “two male figures with spears attack a griffin,” like the sacrifice of a Seth character in Facsimile 1. Next, we see “a seated figure nurses a baby as a standing figure performs a sacrifice before an offering table,” just like the rebirth ritual shown here in Facsimile 2. Finally, we see “a figure sits on a throne before an offering table as another stands and performs a sacrifice,” exactly like in Facsimile 3.
4.   Joseph Smith: “Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.”Leading Initiate Through Judgement – This figure is Maat, the goddess of truth and moral justice. The “prince” of Egypt performs the role of “Maat, Lady of the West” in the judgement ritual. Maat led the deceased to judgement, not really as a guide but as a standard to be judged by: “Only those judged to be in tune with Maat are sustained and revitalized.” One tries to assume the character of Maat by following the commandments necessary for salvation. So in Abraham’s context, the royal prince took the role of Maat to present the initiate in a righteous way or in proper order. Prince As Maat – Written above the hand we see “Maat, mistress of the gods.” Joseph Smith identifies this figure with “Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.” Do we see this title written here? Unlike Figure 2, Joseph does not claim the “name is given” in the characters, but just that he is a prince “as written.” What does that mean? Well, the character of Maat was appropriate for a prince of Egypt to play in the ritual. A seal of Maat even has been found that identifies the royal prince with Maat: “The prince and royal seal-bearer from Lower Egypt, great in favor, great in love.” Royalty often incorporated Maat into their name, such as the father of Tuthmose, to assume this role. That is because royalty had to be the ones assuming the role of Maat in the presentation, to give their stamp of approval: “As the royal successor, Remesses II presents Maat, the duty of the living king… Scenes that show a non-royal individual presenting or transporting Maat are rare.” (Emily Teeter, The Presentation of Maat) Another text identifies the priest of Maat with the governing prince: “Priest of Maat, city governor, vizier.” Indeed, the Book of the Dead identifies the temple in Heliopolis, the sun capital, “House of the Prince.” Being Maat meant being the prince in the house Pharaoh. It is implied in the name Maat.
5.   Joseph Smith: “Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.”This figure is the character being initiated through the rite of judgement. In the papyrus on which it was written, this was the deceased mummy. The characters above his hand identify him as: “The Osiris Hor, justified forever.” Joseph Smith interprets this Figure as: “Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters.” Is this Shulem the same person with whom Abraham performed this ritual? Temple Priest – We don’t know much about Hor, the mummy who this breathing permit was for, but it does say he was a temple priest. As priest, Hor could certainly be considered a “principal waiter” for the king or gods. The hieroglyph for “waiter or attendant” is very close to “priest.” Actually, in Joseph Smith’s interpretation, the apostrophe in “king’s waiter” was added in the 1842 printing, and originally it said “kings waiter,” which means it could be plural rulers or gods for whom this figure was an attendant. A waiter of kings. Joseph Smith labels the figure “Shulem,” which could be the Hebrew “Shalom,” which means harmony, complete, or whole. This describes the entire point of this figure Hor going through the rite, to become complete, whole, and in harmony with truth. That’s why he was going through this ritual, to be in harmony with the commandments, Maat. Shulem could have therefore been his title, a very appropriate one, and the specific person Hor the priest, or “waiter” of the king. To be “justified forever” was to be “in harmony, complete, or whole.” As the inscription said above the hand, he was “The Osiris Hor, justified forever.” Joseph Smith made it clear that this inscription was not a name but a description of the person. So the deceased priest Hor could have been the kings’ waiter Shulem. Or Shulem could have been someone else that is specific only to the Abrahamic context. It could be either way.
6.   Joseph Smith: “Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince.”This figure is Anubis, who was “guide between worlds… associated with the transitions between states… accompanies the deceased.” The initiate Figure 5 needs Anubis to help him through the transition between death, judgement, and resurrection. Anubis With A Human Head – I find it hilarious that CES Letter insists Anubis cannot be shown with a human head in Facsimile 1. They say “the jackal-headed Egyptian god… Anubis is consistent in every funerary scene.” Well what about right here? CES Letter calls this human-headed figure “Anubis.” So this doesen’t count? With Facsimile 3, CES Letter claims he is “not a slave, this is Anubis, guide of the dead, who is there to support the deceased.” Well, he is much more than just a buddy who helps out. That explanation is too simplistic. Anubis represents the transition between states of being. The writings above his head say he “makes protection.” And yes, he can have a human head. It’s allowed. Slave Acted As Anubis – For Abraham’s initiation ritual, it it likely that a slave filled the role of Anubis in the Egyptian judgement ceremony. Slaves played the role of Anubis as well as priests. In the Temple of Anubis we find a slave contract of “monthly rent for divine protection”: “I am your servant from this day onwards, and I shall give you 2 1/2 kite [copper pieces] every month for my rent of service before Anubis the great god.”(Inconsistencies in Greek and Roman Religion) H.S. Versnel claims this contract “makes a slave free by ‘consecrating’ him to a god or goddess.” Researchers have found “slaves were freed by religious dedication to” gods including “Isis and Anubis.” So we know temple workers who assumed the character of Anubis were indeed often slaves, who got paid. It could have been either a priest or assistant slave performing that role in the ceremony. Omilah Means ‘Ascending’ – Why does Joseph Smith give him the title Olimlah? Olim in Hebrew means “ascending, going up,” making Joseph Smith’s label for this figure Olim-lah appropriate in describing Anubis’ role in this judgement scene, from the Pyramid Texts: “…you come forth at the voice of Anubis, he makes a spirit of you like Thoth, you judge the gods, you set bounds to the celestial expanses between the Two Wands in this your spiritualized state which Anubis commanded… I ascend to the sky, my wing-feathers are those of a great bird. My entrails have been washed by Anubis.”(Richey Waugh) By guiding the path of ascension, Anubis helps the deceased character, Osiris, or Abraham–depending on the context–become judge among the gods and navigate to the celestial world. And so we see, this ritual was not only about Shulem’s initiation into the afterlife, but to sustain Abraham as spiritual judge.

Facsimile 3 Referenced In The Book Of Mormon

CES Letter astutely points out that there are Hieroglyphics at the bottom of the facsimile which Joseph Smith did not translate. I want to thank CES Letter for pointing this row of hieroglyphics out. It turns out they closely parallel a chapter in the Book of Mormon. “O gods of the necropolis, gods of the caverns, gods of the south, north, west, and east, grant salvation to the Osiris Hor, the justified, born by Talkhibit.”

Joseph Smith included this line of hieroglyphics in the Facsimile, so they must have been important. The command to “grant salvation” and be “justified” pretty much reiterates the rest of Joseph Smith’s interpretations of the Facsimile, so I can see why he does not say anything about them. The gods of the caverns guard the gate to reach exaltation, the “Great Mansion of the Duat.” Again, Abraham reasoned upon astronomy for the same reason as the Egyptians, to discover the path of righteousness to heaven. It fits the rest of Joseph Smith’s interpretation. But there are two aspects that are important to mention.

Four Sons Of Horus – The four sons of Horus, which Joseph Smith correctly interpret as the four quarters of the earth in Facsimile 2, show up in each Facsimile. “Gods of the south, north, west, and east.” So, the Sons of Horus are in this Facsimile 3, just like they take prominent position in Facsimiles 1 and 2. Each time, they imply the global implications of what is going on in the scene. Abraham became a global father of the nations.

The central figure 1 of Facsimile 2 is always shown with four heads (and very well could have had four heads on the original papyrus) instead of the two we see there, to represent the four bas of the earth that will be affected by its power. In Facsimile 1, they are the four quarters, lands, and peoples who support and help in the sed festival revivification of the king. In Facsimile 2, they appear to be represent the delivering of the power, authority, and governance of god to the four quarters, lands, and peoples–symbolized by the four heads of the River Eden that the Book of Abraham talks about. It also is symbolized in the “four directions” in God’s covenant to “walk the land” that he and his posterity would inherit. We know also, “Abraham’s tent was open in four directions to allow strangers to enter freely into his home.” This is why it is so important that the four quarters of the earth play such a prominent role in these Facsimiles, suggesting their universal significance to the entire world: “Abraham is at a crossroads… people come from the four points of the compass. Similarly in T. Job 8:6-7, they come from all regions, ‘and the four doors of my house were open’… presents Abraham as suprassing Job: the patriarch went looking for wayfarers.”(Dale Allison)

Not only did Abraham make himself the center of the four quarters of the earth, he went out and actively sought for people in need.

Same Order Of Cardinal Directions As Book Of Mormon – Now for the really important part. Take a look at what the Book of Mormon has to say about God and Abraham: “I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath… For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south… I will judge the world every man according to their works, according to that which is written… I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.”(2 Nephi 29)

The order of cardinal directions are flipped exactly backwards from what we read in the Facsimile 3. The order of cardinal directions seem random, but actually they are the same (flipped backwards):

  • Facsimile 3: south, north, west, east
  • Book of Mormon: east, west, north, south

The themes of 2 Nephi 29 involving Abraham are also the same. The Facsimile is a judgement scene like described in 2 Nephi 29, all about the covenant of Abraham. How could Joseph Smith possibly have known to put the same order of directions when writing the Book of Mormon? How could he have known the parallel themes? Again, I want to thank CES Letter for pointing this bottom text of Facsimile 3 out so that I could uncover this parallel.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

FalsehoodsCES Letter identifies Figure 2 by the writing above the character Isis’s hand “Isis the great, the god’s mother.” But Joseph Smith was concerned with “the characters above his head” not the writing above the hand. CES Letter calls this vignette a “breathing permit.” The overall Book of Breathings was a breathing permit, yes, but this particular vignette is about judgement, not breathing. Why does CES Letter avoid talking about judgement?
Argument From IgnoranceCES Letter omits explanations of the Egyptian gods and their meanings, such as Ma’at representing truth and the Horus sun-disk on Isis’ head. They simply put the name and “Male-prince” across from “Female-Maat,” as if that were an apples to apples comparison. It isn’t. CES Letter is suggesting that Abraham couldn’t possibly stand symbolically in place of Osiris. Actually, people acted in place of Osiris all the time! Egyptian texts very frequently say people take Osiris’ place! This Facsimile even says, in the Egyptian context, Hor-Osiris! CES Letter completely omits the entire purpose of this vignette in the Egyptian context: a judgement scene. Probably because Joseph Smith interpreted it as “justice and judgment” and this is an obvious parallel. CES Letter also takes the writing at the bottom out of context. It clearly has to do with a royal court and astronomy: “O gods… grant salvation to the Osiris Hor, the justified.” The Book of the Dead further says: “Adoration of Ra when he riseth in horizon eastern of heaven, Behold Osiris… … embrace thee Maat… Hail gods all of the soul Temple, weighers of heaven and earth in the balance… adore ye him in his Presence beautiful in his rising in the atet boat… The House of the Prince is in festival.”(Book of the Dead) This festival happens at the House of the Prince? Where have I heard “House of the Prince” before? Oh yeah. Remember, House of the Prince is the temple in Heliopolis and the “prince” is the royal vizier who officiates as the Maat role. So anyway, Joseph Smith was right. This entire section dealing with this vignette in the Book of the Dead is all about astronomy in a judgement ritual. But CES Letter omits Joseph Smith’s explanation of the overall vignette: “Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court.” CES Letter assumes incorrectly that the Anubis figure couldn’t possibly be a slave. The human helper who played his role during the rites was often indeed a slave. They incorrectly assume that Anubis is “guide of the dead.” This is incorrect. He is a guide elsewhere in the book, yes, but in this vignette he is protection during a transition of states.
Shifting GoalpostsIn Facsimile 1, CES Letter said Anubis, who was shown supposedly embalming the deceased, is “consistent in every funerary scene.” But well, he sure isn’t embalming in this scene! He sure doesn’t have a jackal head! They say (incorrectly) that this time he is a guide. Also, CES Letter doesn’t say anything this time about Anubis being portrayed with a human head rather than a jackal’s.
Strawman ArgumentCES Letter lists “Joseph Smith’s interpretation” opposite “Modern Egyptological Interpretation,” falsely suggesting they should be the same. Why would they be the same? Joseph Smith did not literally translate most symbols or words but gave their meaning in a different context. In fact, he made it perfectly clear that there was the Abraham context and then there was the Egyptian context. Different subject. Different meaning. CES Letter puts the Egyptian text translation in red text to emphasize how different they are from Joseph Smith’s interpretation, as if Joseph Smith had meant to give a literal text translation. We walk away thinking he tried to give a word-for-word text translation, but that is totally false.
Red HerringCES Letter says Joseph Smith “misidentified–twice–a female as a male.” Well, both female figures obviously look female, with long hair, long dresses, and feminine clothes. Why would Joseph Smith make such an obvious blunder? Well actually, kings and initiates were identified with female gods, including Maat, all the time. They even included the name Maat in their name. CES Letter pretends like for some reason this wasn’t allowed. Actually, I find CES Letter‘s polar gender-conformity here to be very problematic. How old-fashioned! How do we know these female-looking figures were actually female? It’s, like, the 21st century, man. Why is this still a thing?! Stop assuming people’s gender!
Repetition Fallacy“Egyptologists and Modern Egyptology.” Redundant. CES Letter repeats their claims on p. 28. This time they list out every single figure and claims Joseph Smith “misidentifies,” five in total. This perpetuates the incorrect assumption that Joseph Smith was interpreting the Egyptian context, and ignores the stunning parallels. It wasn’t about translating the names of the Egyptian gods! Then CES Letter repeats the male/female discrepancy they pointed out before in the chart, which is false.
Appeal To Novelty“Modern Egyptological.” Actually, these interpretations have been around for a very long time. In previous arguments, CES Letter set up a phony frame that “modern” discoveries invalidate Joseph Smith’s claims. Anachronisms, bible errors, etc. But CES Letter has not substantiated a single one of these arguments.

Shifting Goalposts – By providing only the names of the Egyptian gods and not what they represent, CES Letter covers up the stunning correlation between what Joseph Smith interpreted and what Egyptologists give as the Egyptian meanings. CES Letter makes it sound like the gods are just walking around and sitting on chairs, but really their context closely matches what Joseph Smith said.

It’s like a magician making a rabbit disappear. First, they show the empty box, and then they take a rabbit and put it in a new context, the magic disappearing box. CES Letter introduces Joseph Smith’s interpretations in the strict context of Egyptian theology. But they cherry-pick Joseph Smith’s interpretations so that they never match, and they omit any meaning behind the Egyptian context. Then they sneak the rabbit out of the back of the box in a secret door. They point out what Joseph Smith “misidentified” in the facsimiles and call the whole thing gibberish. Before we know it, we went from a story about Abraham sojourning in Egypt and participating in some rituals, to merely the names of Egyptian gods in funerary documents, as they appear in the Book of Breathings. Presto! The box is empty!

Big Lie Tactic – Most anti-Mormons agree that the Book of Abraham is the “smoking gun” that disproves Mormonism. But that is just because they assume that the recovered papyri fragments are the source for the Book of Abraham. It is a big lie that compounds as we delve into further investigation and leads to other lies. This is why CES Letter frames the discussion where the small fragment is definitely what Joseph Smith claimed to use–not a different scroll or different part of that scroll.

Every argument about the Book of Abraham hinges on the lie that Joseph Smith’s translation was based on the recovered fragment of papyrus.

This lie is easier for the CES Letter reader to believe after all those earlier arguments that attached the same narrative about the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith used the same “peep stone” that he used to look for buried treasure to translate the Book of Mormon, doesn’t that make it easier to believe Joseph used a “common funerary document,” as anti-Mormons incorrectly call the fragment, to create the Book of Mormon? CES Letter says in both cases science disproves the claim of prophesy:

“This is a testable claim. Joseph failed the test with the Book of Abraham. He failed the test with the Kinderhook Plates. With this modus operandi and track record, I’m now supposed to believe that Joseph has the credibility of translating the keystone Book of Mormon? With a rock in a hat?”

CES Letter

This big lie is very dishonest because CES Letter is approaching from the point of view that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up. So then, how could they logically restrict which document Joseph Smith pretended to translate from? They further frame the discussion that this particular fragment must completely resemble the English translation or it is totally invalid. No in-between; the “pagan” Egyptian book either contains the exact text or it is totally unrelated. This frame allows CES Letter in further arguments to make the ridiculous claim that a hieroglyph of Osiris couldn’t possibly be interpreted to stand for Abraham.

CES Letter emphasizes their false characterization that Joseph Smith’s interpretation was meant to be a literal text translation when they point out “Joseph offered no translation of Lower Vignette.” First of all, the bottom row of writing is not a “vignette.” Read a dictionary. Secondly, he never tried to translate any of the text! It wasn’t about translating text! But I’m grateful CES Letter pointed out the translation of this bottom row, because now we can see how it parallels with the Book of Mormon. CES Letter just kicked the ball into their own goal with that one!

Creating SuperstitionCES Letter reinforces their narrative that Mormons need science to validate every single detail of their faith. Suddenly, they can go back in time and tell us exactly what the artists of this Facsimile were thinking. They frame the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham as a model that has no evidence for it–an easy trick for them to play when it comes to ancient history as they discount every piece of evidence as coincidence, forged, or unfounded.

This kind of narrative led the crusaders to seek out physical objects from the holy land to validate the bible, pieces of the cross or the cup of Jesus Christ. It always leads to superstition, because no amount of science can prove without reasonable doubt that a historical object is what it purports to be. The Shroud of Turin? I mean, there is a mountain of evidence that correlates the Book of Abraham. Since the day of Joseph Smith, ancient book after ancient book has been discovered and translated into English that says the same thing as the Book of Abraham. No amount of scientific testing would convince the anti-Mormons. Even if the legitimacy of the claim were proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, they would pass it off as coincidence.

After all, that’s what they do with the copy of the Facsimile 1 diagram which was discovered by archaeologists with the name “Abraham” under it. Anti-Mormons reply, “well that doesn’t really say ‘Abraham.’ Just a name very similar to Abraham.” Yeah, uh huh.

Actually, I think it would be detrimental to Mormonism if undeniable evidence were found, because it would shift our narrative away from matters of faith toward unspiritual confirmation of a historical event from physical evidence. And that’s what CES Letter is trying to do. The shift away from faith serves Satan’s intentions because a person who relies on superstition is not practicing personal agency, but being total reliant on others for his beliefs and actions.

CES Letter can get away with this Big Lie claim because it is the consensus among so many people that Abraham did not write this book, and because it takes so long to explain the evidence. It is like claiming that the Library of Alexandria never really existed because we have no physical evidence today, apart from some alleged ancient tales. An archaeologist can give plenty of convincing evidence, but it would take hours.

Contradiction Strategy – In the previous arguments, CES Letter cherry-picked evidence to contradict the Book of Mormon. In this argument they cherry-pick parts of the Egyptian meaning in Facsimile 3 and ignore meanings that are parallel or perfectly match Joseph Smith’s interpretations.

This is how CES Letter works. They frame any discussion in a very narrow context where Joseph Smith must give a completely literal translation and do not allow for a non-Egyptian context. So, they set an impossible standard where Joseph Smith needs to know everything about the Egyptian context and explain it perfectly, even though it is irrelevant to the point he was getting across. By treating Joseph Smith like some kind of wizard who either knows everything about everything or is a fraud, CES Letter sets up an unrealistic standard. Anyone who expects absolute perfection and a perfect magic trick is going to lose their testimony of the gospel.

It is stunning that Joseph Smith hit a bullseye with every single figure in this Facsimile. He couldn’t have known Egyptian, yet he provided a meaning that closely aligns with what we now know is the Egyptian meaning, and proves that one derived from the other. He did this all before the Egyptian language was deciphered with the Rosetta Stone, and very little was known about Egyptians. Modern Mormons take for granted just how much we know about Egyptians and how easy it is for us to see meanings. Nobody knew that in the 19th century, none of it. It is stunning that Joseph Smith told the story of Abraham that is not found in the bible but which appears in ancient texts that have recently been discovered.

CES Letter really poisons the well by using a rigid and unfair frame of what “translating” means to invalidate the facsimiles. Actually, exploration of the Egyptian context brings new and important understanding to the Abraham story. Clearly, one context derived from the other.

They also pass off Facsimile 3 as a mere “breathing permit” which is false. This vignette is part of the Book of Breathings, yes, but it is actually an Egyptian scene about judgement in the afterlife, and Joseph Smith correctly identified it as ” justice and judgment.” Their shockingly manipulative portrayal of Facsimile 3 completely misrepresents what Joseph Smith said and what the Egyptian meaning actually is according to Egyptologists. The truth is, Joseph Smith was right about each detail of the Facsimile.

Fake ScienceCES Letter uses fake science–or in this case a ridiculous assumption–to point out an inconsistency regarding LDS belief, and then presents science as the superior alternative source for truth. CES Letter uses the contradiction strategy by narrowing a physical issue down to a binary context: either this recovered papyri fragment talks about Abraham or the Book of Abraham was made up. No other choices. They then appeal to “science” and deconstruct the outdated Mormon belief.

Anti-Mormons typically present evidence for their binary context as self-evident and irrefutable, with no need for further explanation, and then they rapidly move on to other attacks that bolster the constrained definition. The purpose is not really to discuss Book of Abraham evidences, which would actually be an interesting discussion, but to shift the narrative from faith to binary science, and quickly move on to more effective attacks to strengthen this narrative.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with exploring and critically investigating physical evidence, such as the recovered papyri from Joseph Smith’s Egyptian collection that have survived. It is an exciting opportunity. The danger is when minds use faulty logic and leap to wild, simplistic conclusions.There is a smart and vibrant group of LDS scholars investigating the evidence and making great discoveries, which will increase what we learn from the Book of Abraham. They are careful not to become superstitious and search for holy grails to confirm their faith. They do not replace faith with a dependence on only what we can see.

Invalidate All Ancient ScriptureCES Letter‘s attack on the Book of Abraham invalidates all ancient writing, which is quite convenient for Satan’s followers. Archaeology and historical science is only as useful as it can invalidate faith for them and momentarily be twisted to support Marxist ideas, such as the idea that mankind evolved from monkeys without a spark of divinity in them. They hold religions to the highest standards of skepticism, yet place blind faith in Marxism.

The Anti-Mormon substitute for religious scripture is the national-standard science textbook that jumps to wild politically correct conclusions and requires revising every year. It is theTV science show that one day teaches kids that chromosomes determine your sex identity, rather than eternal spirit nature, and then the next day erases that segment and teaches kids that sex identity is totally fluid. Or in the case of anti-Mormons, one day they attack us for teaching young women to embrace their femininity, for not teaching that gender is “fluid,” and the next day they say female-looking characters couldn’t possibly be a “prince” or “pharaoh”–very close-minded if you ask me. But you see, for followers of Satan, truth is only the narrative, and the narrative changes however it needs to in order to support the ideology in new circumstances.

By invalidating the Book of Breathing as just some common Pagan funerary text, and totally ignoring its sacred and profound spiritual context, CES Letter further pours gasoline on any kind of faith in ancient scripture. Actually, the fact is the Book of Breathing is one of the most important books ever made. It was one of the first Egyptian writings, one of the first translated into English, and was immediately an object of wide fascination. LDS can glean powerful wisdom by pondering why it was deposited alongside the Book of Abraham scroll.

The Book of Abraham is absolutely miraculous. Joseph Smith’s interpretations of the Facsimiles are expounded by Egyptian discoveries, not invalidated. These are deep issues that involve rituals and doctrine that has been on people’s mind for many thousands of years. It strengthens my testimony to see Mormon doctrine intersect ancient Egyptian literature. I find it incredibly interesting, and enlightening. How did Joseph Smith know about any of these meanings, before the Rosetta Stone unlocked the Egyptian language and allowed us to know anything about the Egyptians? How did he know about this Egyptian judgement ritual, the sacrifices, or the idols of gods? How did he know about any single one of these things?Complete answers to CES Letter questions about Mormons:

Book Of Abraham Questions Related questions: Dates to 1st century? Source unrelated to Abraham? Facsimile 1 correct? Facsimile 1 correctly filled in? Facsimile 1 relates to Abraham. Facsimile 2 correct? Egyptologists debunk?Complete Answers to CES Letter
Categories: Apologetics