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


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It just seems to me that you're making up your own set of rules as you go along, which I confess, I'm not privy to.

As far as I can tell, whenever faced with discrepancies between texts, your cardinal guiding rule is to postulate a set of missing manuscripts, which must have said whatever you think they should have said in order to support your prearranged conclusion. Could you please send me the Wikipedia link for this principle?

Andrew, you're confused.

Granted, in the context of (for example) New Testament textual criticism, the principle of lectio brevior is often a valuable and appropriate tool. However, here we are talking about what a scribal copyist did who was writing contemporaneously. We're talking about a reference to something that appeared in pre-publication manuscripts, and which eventually was included in the published text. To suggest that Warren Parrish, in the process of making his scribal copy of Ab4, ought to have invoked the principle of lectio brevior and omitted the words "and the god of Koash" because they did not appear in other manuscripts to which he had access at the time, and which he must necessarily have consulted while preparing Ab4, is to misapprehend the nature of what he was doing in the first place: making a visual copy that pulled together all of the material to which he had access in that moment.

We don't know why he was making this copy. We do know it is not the transcript of the dictation of Joseph Smith's "translation" of the Book of Abraham. In the absence of copier machines in 1835, it was obviously necessary to make copies by hand. In my judgment, these various copies were being made primarily for the benefit of those making them, in order to disseminate the previously-revealed text of the Book of Abraham within Joseph Smith's "inner circle." Ab2 attests the properties of a document copied from a largely unedited original, as do certain portions of both Ab3 and Ab4. In such instances they reflect post-copy emendations consistent with a "second generation" manuscript. The portion of Ab4 that I've been referencing in this thread is actually extraordinarily "clean" in the sense that it attests very few emendations, no doubt because it represents a third or fourth generation manuscript in that portion of the document. The first and last portions of the document are consistent with "second generation" documents, in that they attest extensive post-copy emendations.

That said, I am personally convinced that, before long, all of the "Abraham" manuscripts (those that contain text from the Book of Abraham) will be considered irrelevant to the questions concerning the production of the text they reproduce. In other words, I am personally convinced that the "original translation manuscript" of the Book of Abraham (now lost) pre-dated the entire collection of what we know as The Kirtland Egyptian Papers (in fact, I am confident I can virtually prove it). I am also persuaded that there were other BoA manuscripts dating to the Kirtland era that are now long-since lost.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the principle of lectio brevior is not applicable within the context of the present discussion.

Edited to correct one error, and clarify another statement.

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One can certainly change a text while copying it. Is that what you believe happened? If so, why do you suppose that Joseph Smith (who is the one I presume you believe dictated the "change") chose to add a fifth god to the list on the first instance, and yet, on the very next page, he suddenly forgets that he's adding a fifth god to the lists?

I don't have a hi-res image of page 2, but it appears from the microfilm that there is an ink change in the middle of verse 9. If so, then I'd say it makes perfect sense that he should forget what he was doing in the time intervening between the two sessions. In any case, as you said before, clearly someone forgot something at some point. All your Manuscript Q does is pushes back the forgetting to an earlier, lost manuscript.

That said, we positively know that Ab4 was copied from more than one manuscript. In fact, the evidence suggests it could have been cobbled together from as many as three or four separate manuscripts!

How do we positively know this, again?



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Mortal Man:

At any rate, this whole discussion ignores the subtle fact that there were no pharoahs during Abraham's probable lifetime. Nevertheless, let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Abraham was being sacrificed upon a Chaldean bedstead to the idolatrous god of a future proper noun. How does that piece of the puzzle fit together with the other pieces to form an overall picture? If "the priest of Elkenah was also the priest of Pharoah" and Pharoah was a crocodile, then are we to understand that Chaldea was full of crocodiles or that it would be full of crocodiles later on? Also, what about the customary sacrifice of "men, women, and children", not to mention triple virgins, to the "dumb" idol "god of Pharoah" by the hill called Potiphar

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I have but one word to add:


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The Chaldean and Egyptian influences are so overwhelmingly dsocumented by the scholarship this is simply astonishing you can say they were scarce.

In modern usage, Chaldean refers to any of the indigenous people of Mesopotamia or certain ethnic classes. Originally however, Chaldea referred specifically to the plain in Southern Iraq and Kuwait formed by deposits of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Aramaic-speaking Semitic people of Arabian origin began settling this fertile plain in the 10th century BC. Settlers arriving in the region from 625 to 539 BC became popularly known as the Chaldeans. The ancient Sumerian city of Ur, located on the southern bank of the Euphrates river could be qualified as

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Incidentally, I like Dan's crafty phraseology.

Note his strategically placed "this" along with "Chaldea" in quotes. If he'd have said "Chaldea was under stong Egyptian infuence" the critics would have pounced on his failure to recognize the anachronism. Alternatively, if he'd have explicitly acknowledged the nonexistence of Chaldea in Abraham's time, he would have alarmed thousands of innocent Latter-day Saints (plus he never would have gotten it past the editors). Through careful wordsmithing however, he's able to just slip through without arousing the suspicions of either side.


Or maybe the critics would have read K.A. Kitchen (the non-Mormon, doesn't-have-a-dog-in-this-fight, no-defender-of-the-Book-of-Abraham, Personal and Brunner Professor Emeritus of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, and author of On the Realiability of the Old Testament), who wrote in same:

"Ur of the Chaldees" is undoubtedly to be identified with the famous ancient city of Ur in south Babylonia (south Iraq), now Tell el-Muqayyar, and not with sundry Ur(a)s (or Urfa) in northern Mesopotamia. "Chaldees" is a qualification of later date than the pre-Mosaic period; it may have been added between 1000 and 500, precisely to distinguish the patriarchal Ur from possible northern counterparts. The Kaldu people . . . lived in south Babylonia, probably from the late second millennium onward--use of their name indicates clearly a belief in a southern location for biblical Ur in the first millennium (p. 316).

Given that the JSP apparently date to the Ptolemaic Period (332-30 B.C.), exactly what is the problem now? (Guide, Gee. p. 27)

By the way, Kitchen goes on to write,

Thus the visits by an Abraham or a Jacob to a pharaoh at an East Delta palace are only feasible in Egyptian terms within circa 1970-1540, if they are not to turned into contemporaries of Moses! . . . Suffice it to say that the pharoahs were commonly partial to attractive foreign ladies, as finds and texts for the Middle and New Kingdom attest. And Pharaoh's detailing men to escort Abraham out of Egypt is the reverse pendant to an earlier king's detailing men to escort the returning courtier Sinuhe back into Egypt (ca. 1850) (p. 319) (italics in the original).

Edited to add a comma.

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I guess demonstrating that the crocodile in early-19thC literature was tied to Pharaoh and thought to be an ancient Egyptian god says nothing about the BoAbr text?!


You haven't engaged anything I wrote yet. All you do is bring up a couple ideas from the 19th century literature. You have yet to demonstrate in any way whatsoever the proof that Joseph Smith studied it and incorporated it. You have yet to demonstrate he literally COULD have gotten the information in that way. You assume he had access to absolutely everything, had the time to research and incorporate it all together. You assume he had all the time in the world to research, write, read, etc., when in fact we KNOW because it's part of the History of the Church (you don't read that much do you...) that he barely had time to breathe, let alone read through a gajillion sources and then incorporate the RIGHT ONES while discarding the rest, in order to interpret the facsimile figures correctly. You simply assume he had it, used it, and used it in a coherent fashion. Like I say, This theme you assume of "oh it's obviously in the air, therefore Joseph Smith got it from there" is terribly weak. It also is against the rules of textual criticism of ancient literature shown by Friedrich Blass in his "Hermeneutic und Kritic." Nibley uses Blass's rules to take the document seriously, and then see if there are parallels. Assuming a modern provenance is precisely what Blass said one CANNOT do with documents which claim to be ancient. Why do you ignore the rules of textual criticism in this case? Is it because of your profound bias against the Book of Abraham, so you believe ignoring all the ancient materials is fine, while merely assuming *ANY* modern parallel is PROOF?! Demonstrate your case, don't simply assume it and think you have won.

You also say that "To reiterate, you're merely bearing your idiosyncratic testimony of what constitutes a scriptural text

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Hi Kerry,

Thanks for your reply and your patience.

If I get some playtime later tonight or tomorrow, I'll post a distillation of evidence that persuades me your defense for JS's translating prowess is inherently inadequate, perhaps even self-refuting.

All the best,


No problem....There is no race here. I doubt seriously what I say is self-refuting, nor the proper scholarly methods I am adapting (the tried and true accurate ways to explore ancient documents) is contradictory at all. I believe it is thou who puts the cart before the horse, but we shall see. Have a great day.



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Evidently we're talking past each other.

We do have somewhat of a history of doing that. Perhaps we can both endeavor to mitigate that problem.

My point is fairly simple: "god of Pharaoh" (Abr. 1:6, 17) is not grammatically equivalent to "god like unto that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt" (Abr. 1:13) yet this is precisely what the text seems to imply, thus posing an exegetical problem for any interpretation of these pericopae.

I understand that you believe this is what the text seems to imply. I do not agree with your perception of the

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The notion that Parrish copied "Koash" in BA2 (fldr. 1 [your Ab4]) from a no longer extant document is vitiated by the text-critical evidence that inextricably entwines BA2 (fldr. 1 [your Ab4]) with Parrish's earlier BA1b (fldr. 3 [your Ab3(?)])

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It's been some time since I read Nibley's BYU Studies article on the KEP, so I don't remember his numbering system for the various manuscripts. I do have Marquardt's book, and he uses a different system than either Brent or Will. Is Brian using a different system as well? How about Chris? Pardon the pun, but it's to the point that the numbering business is all Egyptian to me. Is there a way for the principals in this many-pronged but ultimately group endeavor to come up with one numbering system?

Just askin'.


The problem is that, other than the original designations to which Nibley referred (based on the folder designations in which the KEP reside in the archives), the Metcalfe and Hauglid designations carry with them implied statements about the production order of the various manuscripts (and even parts within those manuscripts). If you would like to receive a "pre-publication" explanation of the designations I am now using, send me a PM with an e-mail address and I will send you those designations. Metcalfe's are available on his website, if I am not mistaken. It's not really that hard to keep them straight once you understand the reasoning behind both sets.


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Hi Kerry,

I haven't forgotten you, my friend, I'm just extraordinarily busy. I hope to post more on your OP very soon.

Hi Greg and Andrew,

I concur that agreement on manuscript designations for the BoAbr collection is desirable, and I'm open to collaborating with Brian, Mike, et al. in such an endeavor. In my view, students of the BoAbr would benefit from a stemmatically neutral manuscript sigla.

Hi Will,

The problem is that, other than the original designations to which Nibley referred (based on the folder designations in which the KEP reside in the archives)...

Note, though, that Nibley firmly

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