Monday, January 12, 2015

A Review of Ryan Larsen's Book of Abraham Article on the Mormon Puzzle Pieces Blog

Ryan Larsen, another LDS scholar, contacted me and invited me to read his article on the Book of Abraham.  His blog is entitled "Mormon Puzzle Pieces."

Ryan has actually come up with some very important research that actually ties in with my own in some very significant ways.  Other parts of it, I disagree with, but this is to be expected.

Ryan is saying that something was penned by Abraham, and this eventually morphed into the Book of Breathings over tens of centuries.  This is similar to something proposed by Michael Rhodes years ago, but with regard to the Facsimiles only, but Ryan seems to suggest that this happened to the WHOLE book, or in other words, perhaps the characters of the whole book were shifted around and changed into this corrupt form by copyists that perhaps wanted the book to read differently.  The Wikipedia article on the Book of Abraham states that Rhodes had a theory that proposed the following:
The facsimiles represent a corrupted version of a document originally written by Abraham, with Smith giving the interpretation of the original document.
And this is what Rhodes wrote on the subject:
What about the association of facsimiles 1 and 3 with the Hor Book of Breathings? The likely explanation here is that the original illustrations done by Abraham had been modified and adapted for use by Hor, the owner of the papyrus. What Joseph Smith did with the facsimiles is similar to what he did with the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible—he gave the original meaning of the Abraham illustrations, correcting the distortions that had taken place over nearly two millennia. The same, of course, holds true for facsimile 2.
But is there any evidence that, even in distorted form, these illustrations were associated with Abraham anciently? There is indeed . . . 
It is also important to remember that we do not have the original illustrations made by Abraham; rather, we have copies made nearly two thousand years later, with the consequent problems of changes and distortions. With these things in mind, let us again look at each facsimile. This will not be a complete discussion of each facsimile but rather an attempt to highlight some of the most notable examples of Joseph Smith getting things right in his interpretations of the facsimiles.  (, Michael D. Rhodes, “Teaching the Book of Abraham Facsimiles,” The Religious Educator, vol. 4, no. 2, (2003), 115–23.)
Ryan Larsen theorizes that since the Egyptians themselves absorbed other local deities into the person of their god Osiris, that they also did this with Abraham, which resulted in Osiris being used as a symbol for Abraham.  As I and others have shown, including Ryan, the symbol of Osiris is used consistently throughout all the Joseph Smith Egyptian material to represent Abraham.  Whether or not Abraham was absorbed in this way, Ryan is absolutely right that Osiris is the preferred symbol for Abraham, consistently, by the Egyptians.

Anyway, Ryan theorizes that the Egyptians originally had the Book of Abraham or a redaction of it made by Joseph who was sold into Egypt.  And that over time, this book became more and more corrupted and redacted, until today, we have the remnant of it, called the Book of Breathings.  This is yet another way of saying, as I have said, that the Book of Breathings is the Book of Abraham.  But, we disagree on how this is so.  Ryan believes that the Sensen is a corrupt remnant.  I believe it was transformed in its usage.

But another important deduction appears in Ryan's article.  He theorizes that the so-called translation of the Kinderhook plates that was reported by William Clayton is actually a mis-reported thing.  He theorizes that William Clayton was actually reporting Joseph Smith's translation of the Egyptological intent of the columns surrounding Facsimile #1 in the Sensen Papyrus, where it tells that Hor, the owner of the papyrus is a son of Taykebyt, an Egyptian woman, and that his father is also a Priest.  In other words, William Clayton reported that Joseph Smith related the story of a man who was a descendant of Ham who got his authority from the ruler of Heaven and Earth.  So, Ryan Larsen suggests that Clayton mistakenly thought that Joseph Smith was saying that this translation came from the fraudulent Kinderhook plates.  But it actually was a translation from material from the Sensen Papyrus.   Ryan Larsen somewhat builds on deductions presented by Don Bradley and Mark Ashurst-Mcgee presented at the 2011 FAIR conference about Joseph Smith's usage of translations from the KEP in his translation of the Kinderhook plates.  Anyhow, I think that this is possible, but not necessary.