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Egyptological Connections to Joseph Smith's explanation of Book of Abraham facsimile No. 1, figure 9

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What About the Crocodile in Facsimile Number One of the Book of Abraham?

Every now and then, we see or hear a critic of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints say that Joseph Smith got nothing right in his explanations for the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham. They do not realize that the explanations of Joseph Smith are not translations, literally rendered, but explain what the function of the figures are for. He described what the story is with the various figures. True he did not translate the crocodile in Facsimile #1 as

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What About the Crocodile in Facsimile Number One of the Book of Abraham?

It's all about context.

After Set murdered Osiris for the second time, he chopped up his body into 14 pieces (representing the phases of the moon) and tossed them into the Nile. Osiris' son Horus then took the form of a crocodile to help his mother Isis retrieve the parts. After gathering 13 of them, Isis reconstructed the missing phallus, then grew wings and hovered over Osiris in order to breathe life into him and conceive Horus. Being simultaneously alive and dead, Osiris became the god and king of the afterlife.

Pharaoh was not involved.

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In the earliest BoA manuscripts, the "god of pharaoh" was not the crocodile, but the pharaoh-shaped canopic jar.

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Hi Kerry,

There's much more to this story...

A few years back I began drafting a paper "My Four Sons: Horus' Sons in the Joseph Smith Papyri." Three salient points emerged from my study regarding JS's identification of the crocodile:

  • Imsety, not the crocodile, was initially identified as the god "like unto" Pharaoh.
  • In a subsequent stratum of the BoAbr's textual history, an awkward shift in the number of gods listed from four to five aligned Pharaoh with the crocodile.
  • The symbol of the crocodile for Pharaoh, Egypt, or an Egyptian deity is pervasive in early-19thC biblical culture.

If the above three observations have strong evidentiary support (spoiler alert: they do), what affect, if any, would that have on your thesis?

Kind regards,

</brent>

Edit: Corrected a typo.

http://mormonscripturestudies.com

(

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Hi Kerry,

There's much more to this story...

A few years back I began drafting a paper "My Four Sons: Horus' Sons in the Joseph Smith Papyri." Three salient points emerged from my study regarding JS's identification of the crocodile:

  • Imsety, not the crocodile, was initially identified as the god "like unto" Pharaoh.
  • In a subsequent stratum of the BoAbr's textual history, an awkward shift in the number of gods listed from four to five aligned Pharaoh with the crocodile.
  • The symbol of the crocodile for Pharaoh, Egypt, or an Egyptian deity is pervasive in early-19thC biblical culture.

If the above three observations have strong evidentiary support (spoiler alert: they do), what affect, if any, would that have on your thesis?

Kind regards,

</brent>

Edit: Corrected a typo.

http://mormonscripturestudies.com

(

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In the earliest BoA manuscripts, the "god of pharaoh" was not the crocodile, but the pharaoh-shaped canopic jar.

Which is entirely irrelevant. There may be more than one "idolatrous god of Pharaoh" in ancient Egypt. The crocodile is one such god identified by the Prophet, and identified fundamentally correct, as Egyptologists have shown the croc to be a god of Pharaoh.

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Hi Kerry,

Thanks for your amicable reply (and good to be chatting with you again too).

You suggest...

It would have no effect on my thesis. The crocodile is described by Joseph Smith in the facsimile as "the idolatrous god of Pharaoh," and that is what the Egyptological research shows, as well as the thinking of the ancient Egyptians. Whether there is precedent for it in 19th century biblical literature is irrelevant to this being correct. It is Egyptian, and it is identified by the Prophet as such. That there may be different alignments does not refute this either. There may very well be more than one "idolatrous god of Pharaoh," but the crocodile is definitely so, without question.

How so?

You really only address

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Hi Kerry,

Here are a couple of samples from among the myriad of early-19thC sources linking Pharaoh with the crocodile:

... it should be also noticed, that Pharaoh was no more than a name attached to those who held the office of king in Egypt, the true interpretation of which is a crocodile. The crocodile was worshipped by the Egyptians as a deity, therefore their kings assumed the title of Pharaoh, no doubt, that adoration might be paid to them.

[The Republican (2 Jun. 1820), 204.]

Bochart has remarked that the Arabians call the crocodile by the name of Pharaoh.*

...

* Sche

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It's all about context.

After Set murdered Osiris for the second time, he chopped up his body into 14 pieces (representing the phases of the moon) and tossed them into the Nile. Osiris' son Horus then took the form of a crocodile to help his mother Isis retrieve the parts. After gathering 13 of them, Isis reconstructed the missing phallus, then grew wings and hovered over Osiris in order to breathe life into him and conceive Horus. Being simultaneously alive and dead, Osiris became the god and king of the afterlife.

Pharoah was not involved.

The living king was a manifestation of Horus; thats why they all had a "horus name".

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The living king was a manifestation of Horus; thats why they all had a "horus name".

Pharaohs associated themselves with many deities, but what does that have to do with the Myth of Osiris and Isis? If I see Yul Brynner play Rameses one day, and another day I see him play the King of Siam, does that mean that Rameses is the King of Siam? Horus needs to be a crocodile to help his dad get resurrected. But why does Pharaoh have to be there? How does his presence add to the story? What is he doing down there in the muddy water?

Stephen Thompson said it best:

"It is simply not valid, however, to search through 3,000 years of Egyptian religious iconography to find parallels which can be pushed, prodded, squeezed, or linked in an attempt to justify Joseph's interpretations."

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Which is entirely irrelevant. There may be more than one "idolatrous god of Pharaoh" in ancient Egypt.

Perhaps. But "god of Pharaoh" in the earliest Book of Abraham manuscripts seems to mean "god [made in the image] of Pharaoh". Shifting this to the crocodile transforms the meaning of the phrase.

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BM:

Imsety, not the crocodile, was initially identified as the god "like unto" Pharaoh.

Whether or not Imsety was indeed the object being identified is open to dispute, but your misleading transcription of the phrase above is not. The text does not read "... god like unto Pharaoh." It reads "... a god like unto that of Pharaoh." "That" in the sentence is a referent not to Pharaoh (nor to his image, as it were), but to the "god of Pharaoh." In other words, the phrase could be rendered equally as "a god like unto the god of Pharaoh."

Your conclusion is based on a misreading of the text.

.

.

.

CS:

... "god of Pharaoh" in the earliest Book of Abraham manuscripts seems to mean "god [made in the image] of Pharaoh". Shifting this to the crocodile transforms the meaning of the phrase.

Again, the sentence at Abr. 1:13 does not read "a god like unto Pharaoh." See above.

Your conclusion is based on a misreading of the text.

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Perhaps. But "god of Pharaoh" in the earliest Book of Abraham manuscripts seems to mean "god [made in the image] of Pharaoh". Shifting this to the crocodile transforms the meaning of the phrase.

The shifting to the crocodile, however, exactly matches the ancient Egyptian understanding, which is precisely my point. It certainly does not *refute* the truth that the crocodile is the idolatrous god of pharaoh.....does it? If so, how so? It is not the earliest manuscripts of the Book of Abraham that are the scripture, but the product we have in print right now, and it correctly identifies the crocodile as "the idolatrous god of Pharaoh."

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Hi Kerry,

Here are a couple of samples from among the myriad of early-19thC sources linking Pharaoh with the crocodile:

Given the ubiquity of this notion in the early 19thC, the biggest surprise is that JS didn't associate Pharaoh with the crocodile in the first place.

Best regards,

</brent>

http://mormonscripturestudies.com

(

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Brent:

Frankly, Kerry, what I'm hearing is that you don't see anything that would invalidate your conclusion. If I'm mistaken, feel free to elaborate.

Kerry:

Your hearing willow-o-wisps in the wind. I haven't seen anyone yet show me how Egyptologically "the idolatrous god OF Pharaoh" is wrong. The earliest manuscript evidence is irrelevant to the final scripture of the Book of Abraham that is published which teaches the correct Egyptian thinking on this theme. It is not that I don't see "anything that would invalidate my conclusion," it is that nothing has been presented thus far showing that the Egyptians thought the crocodile was NOT a god of Pharaoh. I mean, if it was shown that the Egyptaians never associated the croc with Pharaoh, now THAT would destroy Smith's view, would it not? The earliest manuscript evidence is not scripture Brent. You know that. Since when is someone's "draft" of a paper held up as a refutation of the final product? In my draft of this paper, I didn't include everything in the final product, would it be valid for someone to say, "See? Kerry didn't have this in the earliest draft, therefore his paper is invalid"? That would be utterly insanely silly.

Show me how the ***ancient Egyptians*** understood the croc, and if THEY say it has nothing to do at all in any manner with Pharaoh, you have rightly, properly damned Joseph Smith. After all, it is THEIR thinking Smith is supposed to be presenting here, yes? Then it is to THEM we go to see if Smith had something, yes? What on earth the earliest manuscript evidence has to do with it is beyond me......Sorry I am such a simpleton at these things.....

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John Tvedtnes just told me "To me, the importance of Sobek as the god of Pharaoh is that the Sobek-names start showing up in the royal family in the 12th-13th dynasties, which can help us date Abraham." And Nibley had mentioned this, I believe quoting one of the scholars. I shall have to double check.

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CS:

Again, the sentence at Abr. 1:13 does not read "a god like unto Pharaoh." See above.

Your conclusion is based on a misreading of the text.

That's not what my conclusion is based on. It's based on the number, order, and shapes of the gods. See here for more detail.

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Stephen Thompson said it best:

"It is simply not valid, however, to search through 3,000 years of Egyptian religious iconography to find parallels which can be pushed, prodded, squeezed, or linked in an attempt to justify Joseph's interpretations."

Please show how any of this is pushing prodding or squeezing. It's a totally reasonable interpretation!

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That's not what my conclusion is based on. It's based on the number, order, and shapes of the gods. See here for more detail.

Hi Chris (and Brent),

It appears that your (and Brent's?) thesis is that JS initially misapplied Imsety to Pharaoh, which can be strengthened in the earliest ms pericopes of Abr. 1:6, Abr. 1:17, and (especially) Abr. 1:13 (in connection to the bedstead). And then JS added Koash, Korash, thus redirecting the reference to Imsety and then correcting the Pharaoh to the crocodile as was the common knowledge of the time.

Does this sound about right?

Respectfully yours,

Brian

Edited: Added question mark for Brent's name and the word "initially" to better reflect Brent's post.

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Mortal Man:

It is simply not valid, however, to search through 3,000 years of Egyptian religious iconography to find parallels which can be pushed, prodded, squeezed, or linked in an attempt to justify Joseph's interpretations."

Kerry:

This is not accurate either. The Egyptologists *have* to range over the time spans that leave us appalled, because so little changed through the religion of the Egyptians. Just because the Pyramid Texts are way before 3,500 B.C. does not mean they, along with the Book of the Dead - post 600 B.C. times, that their teachings are irrelevant whatsoever. I have found numerous Egyptologists who exactly range all over the Egyptian materials in order to understand them. Thompson is simply wrong.

Who gets to make the dividing line? Who gets to set what a so-called "proper" range is for time? Is it only acceptable for a 100 year range? 500 year range? etc. What is the criteria? Which literatures are allowed and why some but not others? I mean, who gets to set the rules, when in point of very fact, the Egyptians themselves, mind you, used ALL their literatures through the millenia to continue their teachings?! This is simply modern bias.

It actually is astounding to read (yes, it is time we READ the Egyptian stuff already!) the Coffin Texts (ca. 2000-1400 B.C.) teachings, and realize that these same teachings, along with further developments are to be had in the Book of Breathings (ca 150 B.C. - 200 A.D.), are STILL BEING USED. But is the range of almost 2000 years uncomfortable? What do we do then, *ignore* the Coffin Texts? That's just bias silliness on our modern thinking. It would grind research to a halt. Do we really think the ideas found in, oh say, the Dead Sea Scrolls are ONLY valid to research back to when they date? what is it, in some cases, a few fragments to 400 B.C.? That obviously is not when the IDEAS originated, or were explained. To find parallels in the scrolls, even if they go back to 2000 B.C. is entirely valid in tracing origins. Why would that bother us?

Heh.... the teachings of Jesus......... would it be invalid to trace those ideas earlier than say oh 100 B.C. simply because we get queasy about supposedly ranging all over the place in time?! Who doesn't trace back some of his teachings way back into hoary antiquity for crying out loud? Yes, yes, the scholarship says the actually writing down of the OT was around the Babylonian captivity, oh for fun, lets say 500 B.C. But is that WHEN the ideas were propounded, understood, or changed and developed and added upon? That would be an absurd idea. Absurd is putting it rather mildly. No, Thompson is simply wrong in his bias assessment. I would advize learning from a *real* Egyptologist, not Thompson.

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Hi Brian,

That is more or less my thesis, yes. I can't speak for Brent, but I take it from his comments in this thread that he agrees.

I wouldn't venture so far as to say that the reason "god of Pharaoh" was redirected to the crocodile was definitely that Joseph learned about Sobek from some written sources. That may be the case, but it could also be that the awkward wording of the "like unto" passage necessitated some harmonization, and this is how Joseph chose to carry it out. Or it could be that someone asked, "what's a crocodile doing in Chaldea?" and Joseph felt the need to explain this as an "idol", as well. Or it could have been some combination of these things. I don't fully know the motivation for the change, but it does seem pretty clear to me that this was the sequence of events that produced the current text.

Peace,

-Chris

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Hi William,

I suppose our differing presuppositions are likely to be decisive in this case. If you are committed to the idea that the crocodile is "where [the referent of the text] belongs," I have no illusion that I will be able to dissuade you. And you of course can find support for your reading in the curious grammar of a verse later in the text. Because I see a great deal of evidence that Joseph was interpreting these figures based on their visual shape and appearance, I am more inclined to think the referent "belongs" on the Imsety canopic jar. I can find support for my reading in the fact that the jar is the most natural referent in the earliest manuscripts, where Korash is multiply omitted. It will take more than an ambiguous and awkwardly-worded statement later in the book to dissuade me from this conclusion. So, I suppose we are at a presuppositional impasse. Agree to disagree.

Peace,

-Chris

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I have found numerous Egyptologists who exactly range all over the Egyptian materials in order to understand them.

What we have here are two stories:

In story A, Osiris is trying to get resurrected with the aid of his wife, sons and grandsons.

In story B, Abraham is getting sacrificed by an evil priest as an offering to his idol-gods.

Each story is internally consistent. They each have a protagonist and a plot. You can pick either A or B and not get into trouble.

The problem arises when you try to merge the two stories into some sort of grand unified meta-chronicle with ultra-deep meaning. The parts don't fit. The characters don't match. The plot gets way too twisted. Although it's sometimes possible to produce a liger from a lion and a tiger; you are trying to produce a whant from a whale and an ant. It's just not going to happen, and even if it could somehow be forced into existence, it wouldn't live very long. This type of approach just doesn't work.

Your attention to Nibley is laudable but I think you'd be better off with Barney's J-red theory.

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