Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Guiding Hand of the Lord in the Lacunae in the Papyri

Location of the particular lacuna in question that we are discussing here:



One of the biggest criticisms of Joseph Smith is about his reconstructions of the Egyptian Papyri.  Yet, as I ponder upon the scholarly reconstructions of Facsimile #1 of the Book of Abraham (both in Robert Ritner's The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition, and the Apologist-vilified Charles M. Larson's By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus), I come to an interesting realization.  Joseph Smith was led by the lacunae to reconstruct things the way he reconstructed them.  If the lacunae were not precisely in the places they are, Joseph Smith would not have had depicted the the priest holding a knife in the picture, and would not have had Abraham raising both his hands in supplication for mercy.  One of Abraham's hands is a remnant of a bird's wing.  And where the knife is, Abraham, as Osiris, would have had his phallus erect.  Instead, there is a knife there.  And curiously, the knife is a long instrument, taking the place of the phallus in the picture.  Clearly, since Joseph Smith's reconstruction likely represents the content of an Abrahamic original, it seems reasonable that Egyptian ritualistic/thematic elements in these pictures would require a long instrument here even if it is not a phallus, and so, the fact that the long knife here takes the place of a phallus is actually an argument for authenticity of the reconstruction.  Overly-sensitive Anti-Mormon Evangelicals over-react about the Egyptians' usage of the phallus as a symbol in their art, and appeal to emotion in people about it, as if we are still infantile.  We ought to be adults about these kinds of things.  The Egyptians did not have the same sensitivities about that as our culture does.  We cannot read our ethnocentric notions of "pornography" into Egyptian symbolism, when they meant no such thing by it.  To the critics that moan over this and label it as such, I say, be an adult and get over it.

Its like the knife still belongs there, and Abraham's hand still belongs there, where Joseph Smith reconstructed it, in the ABRAHAMIC CONTEXT.  But the Lord guided Joseph Smith by way of the lacuna in that case.  It is quite a wonderful thing to me, that the lacuna appears precisely where it would have to be for Joseph Smith to reconstruct the picture the way he did.  The Anti-Mormons would have us freak out and tell us that Joseph Smith was led by his imagination in his reconstructions of the scene.  Rather, it was the lacuna in that place that erased the incorrect original elements in the picture and opened the way for the correct elements to be put in place for use of the picture in a modern restoration or reconstruction of an ancient Book of Abraham.  Its not that the original elements are incorrect for a different context.  Its just that it is not the context that Joseph Smith was restoring.  Again, the whole point of the iconotropy, both by the Ancients in their use of these types of papyri and by Joseph Smith in his restorations, is repurposing of things in a different context than what they were originally.  I see the hand of the Lord in this.  The guiding hand of the Lord was in those particular pieces of the papyri being damaged precisely where they were damaged.  In other words, this is very "tight control" on the part of the Lord on how he designed to have precise parts of the papyri to become damaged, in order for Joseph Smith to reconstruct those parts in the manner that he did.