Daniel C. Peterson, 5/15/2023, Mormonism with the Murph wrote:
I’m inclined to think that there is a lot of papyrus, maybe as much as 87% of what Joseph Smith had that we’re missing today. We know we are missing some papyri because we have descriptions of them, descriptions that are plausible based on what we know about Egyptian papyri that we just don’t have anymore and they probably burned up in the Chicago fire in the late 1800’s, they’re gone. That said, I see lately some critics even say, “Hey look scholars of the Book of Abraham and defenders of the Book of Abraham are moving towards the view that Joseph received it by revelation,” well I think we always believed that, I never believed he sat down with an Egyptian grammar book and worked his way through. I believe he received it by revelation beyond his capacity to read Egyptian at that time. So that’s sort of like the Catalyst Theory. Could Joseph Smith have told you whether he was getting it from the papyrus or not, I’m not sure that he could’ve because he was getting it by revelation and he couldn’t go independently to the papyrus and say, “see this is where it’s from, it’s from this hieroglyphic phrase, here,” he wasn’t able to do that, so he couldn’t have told you exactly where it was coming from except that as you looked at the papyrus this is what came to him by revelation, so I’m open to the Catalyst Theory. I’m also open to the theory that he had papyri we don’t have now that might have been translated in a conventional way, give us the Book of Abraham but we can’t prove that and I don’t think we will ever be able to because I think those papyri are gone.
Let’s unpack some of this just for fun, shall we?
...maybe as much as 87%
Peterson thinks we are missing up to 87% of the papyrus in which Joseph Smith purchased from Chandler. I strongly disagree. The argument against that kind of percentage is overwhelming in demonstrating that we do have most of the original papyrus. I’ve researched this issue myself and have come to a logical conclusion by comparing everything said about the papyrus to what the content of the extant fragments represents to what the original whole represented to the priests who wrote them. Egyptologist Robert K. Ritner gave his professional opinion on this matter in which I fully agree.
I never believed he sat down with an Egyptian grammar book and worked his way through.
You may not believe, but Joseph did because he said so in his journal on more than one occasion. President Smith and his right-hand man (Cowdery) spent a lot of valuable time deciphering characters from the Book of Breathing as transcribed into the Grammar & Alphabet of the Egyptian Language
which has been shown to be the very source of the Book of Abraham. Smith said, “The remainder of the month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.”
We can agree that Smith’s Alphabet & Grammar
is not a conventional translation by any means. Nevertheless, it is said that he deciphered Egyptian characters using a seer stone coupled with revelation. The manuscripts for this sacred work were kept in the President’s office under lock and key and were taken west under the authority of Brigham Young. I see no reason to think Smith, with the aid of his scribes, attempted any translation outside the bounds of revelation.
The prophet himself said, “This after noon labored on the Egyptian alphabet, in company with bro. O. Cowdery and W.W. Phelps: the System of astronomy was unfolded”
(HC Vol. 2:286)
Dan, it makes no sense to suppose a prophet would experiment on his own and produce a false translation -- you will recall that the Lord made an example out of Hiram Page and chastened him for his false revelations: “And again, thou shalt take thy brother Hirum Page, between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me and that Satan deceiveth him. For behold, these things have not been appointed unto him, neither shall anything be appointed unto any of this church contrary to the church covenants.”
Rest assured that Smith believed the Spirit was helping him produce the Grammar & Alphabet of the Egyptian Language
as the principles of astronomy unfolded
to their understanding:, “and during the research, the principles of astronomy as understood by Father Abraham and the ancients unfolded to our understanding, the particulars of which will appear hereafter.”
(HC: Vol.1 2:286)
Smith’s scribes knew they could not decipher hieroglyphics apart from inspiration of the Lord given directly through the prophet. The arm of flesh compared to revelation from God is futile! “But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.”
It’s contrary to the laws of the church that prophet & scribe be deceived in a vain effort to translate and produce phony works: “And this I give unto you that ye may not be deceived, that ye may know that they are not of me.”
Dan, if the Grammar & Alphabet was a false translation then the Spirit must intervene and correct the brethren in repairing the errors prior to preserving the sacred manuscripts in the President’s office. “And insomuch as they erred it might be made known; And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed.”
It is futile to argue that Smith would have entertained the idea that he was translating the Grammar & Alphabet outside the bounds of revelation! Everything we know about that occurrence and work leads us to believe that Joseph Smith claimed it was his inspired work that he was performing under the direction of the Spirit:
“And again, let all the records be had in order, that they may be put in the archives of my holy temple, to be held in remembrance from generation to generation, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
I believe he received it by revelation beyond his capacity to read Egyptian at that time. So that’s sort of like the Catalyst Theory.
Everyone should agree that Joseph Smith *claimed* to have translated and produced the Book of Abraham as published in Times and Seasons by revelation
given him from God. The translation process was acclaimed as revelation:
- “We were further assured that the prophet was the only mortal who could translate these mysterious writings, and that his power was given by direct revelation.” (Josiah Quincy)
- “I have sat by his side and penned down the translation of the Egyptian hieroglyphics as he claimed to receive it by direct inspiration.” (Warren Parrish)
- “The Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics” (Oliver Cowdery)
Could Joseph Smith have told you whether he was getting it from the papyrus or not, I’m not sure that he could’ve because he was getting it by revelation
Was it not by revelation that Smith identified the rolls of Abraham & Joseph? Cowdery soon after described vignettes therein as biblical in nature. Where did Oliver get those ideas other than from Joseph who identified the scrolls? Smith even pointed his finger at a particular character and said “that is the signature of the patriarch Abraham.”
he couldn’t go independently to the papyrus and say, “see this is where it’s from, it’s from this hieroglyphic phrase, here,” he wasn’t able to do that,
You’re wrong, Dan. See here:
- Fig. 2. King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.
- Fig. 4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.
- Fig. 5. Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.
so he couldn’t have told you exactly where it was coming from except that as you looked at the papyrus this is what came to him by revelation
I’m looking at Facsimile No. 3 which is supposed to be a mirror image or at least a rough copy of the very images and hieroglyphic writing in which Joseph Smith looked at.
1. What is the king’s name, Dan?
2. Who is the Egyptian Prince, Dan?
3. How do you spell Shulem in Egyptian, Dan?
I’m open to the Catalyst Theory. I’m also open to the theory that he had papyri we don’t have now that might have been translated in a conventional way, give us the Book of Abraham
We have the hieroglyphic writing in Facsimile No. 3, preserved right there in front of our eyes. We are seeing the very characters which Joseph Smith saw. They are not missing. They are not lost. The did not burn in the Chicago fire but are right there in the very vignette which Joseph Smith the chief editor of the Times and Seasons published to the whole world as a revelation.
So, Dan, you haven’t a leg to stand on.