Friday, October 7, 2016

Ryan Larsen's Recent Book of Abraham Articles: A Secret Combination to kill Abraham, and the Handwriting of Abraham

A fellow researcher on the Book of Abraham, my friend Ryan Larsen, has recently put up a couple of articles which are both very interesting:

In this one, Ryan suggests that perhaps the priest of Pharoah/Elkenah, or the person that did the sacrifices on the Lion Couch may have been not only the priest of Pharaoh, but also the Vizier of Egypt, the person in power that basically ran the government in behalf of Pharaoh.  This is essentially the station occupied by Joseph who was sold into Egypt when he became Pharoah's right-hand man.  These types of suggestions are plausible to me.  Because this may explain how such a person could travel far and wide to do what he pleases, as Ryan says.

Next, Ryan goes off into an interesting theory from there about the idea that the Priest of Elkenah being a person that was part of a conspiracy that didn't necessarily represent the laws of the land of Egypt or the laws of the land of Chaldea, but perhaps was some other group that was doing their own will.  In essence, it seems that Ryan is suggesting that a secret combination took it upon themselves to destroy whoever they pleased and do it in the guise of a religious practice of human sacrifice (but that perhaps this type of sacrifice was not necessarily according to the laws of the land or sanctioned by the government).  And so, in persecuting those of the true religion, or at least those who had loyalty to the monotheistic "Living" God (whether they knew correct doctrine about this Living God or not), they would sacrifice those upon the altar because they were perhaps intolerant of their religious beliefs.  As the Book of Abraham tells us, three young women were slain on that altar at once, who were the daughters of some person of the royal bloodline of Egypt, or at least the royal bloodline from Ham.  Ryan speculates that the word Elkenah, rather than being a word known to all, may have been a secret code-word or some other type of secret term among those of this combination.

Anyway, Ryan's suggestion is interesting because, by the time Abraham gets to Egypt, Pharaoh welcomes him at first.  If Pharaoh were in on the plan to have him killed, as the priest of Elkenah was, why did Pharoah welcome him to Egypt later?  Did he not know his identity, that he was the same man that the priest tried to sacrifice?  Perhaps he didn't, because maybe he wasn't in on it.

So, in summary, the suggestion that Ryan is making is an interesting one, that just because this priest of Pharaoh was some sort of government official or religious official that represented Pharaoh, that doesn't mean that he necessarily had the sanction of Pharaoh or the government of Egypt to do what he was doing in Chaldea, but rather, it may have been according to his own will, or the will of some secret group that he represented.  As Ryan points out, it is possible that it was the priest's own "custom" to do what he was doing, not necessarily a custom sanctioned by government.

As most who have read the Book of Abraham know, the name of the person whose daughters were slain by this priest was named Onitah.  Ryan suggests that this may have been one of the Pharaohs, and then makes some suggestions about who that may be.  In the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, this man's name is given as "Onitas" sometimes.

All of these seem to be plausible theories.

Next, Ryan makes some plausible observations that cast doubt on the idea that Joseph Smith was suggesting that Abraham's actual handwriting was on the papyrus.  He also makes some good suggestions that cast doubt on the idea that Joseph Smith was suggesting that the Sensen Papyrus was written by Abraham.  He focuses in on the fact that a "signature" could just mean a symbol, and is not necessarily someone's actual written "John Hancock" of their own name.  In the KEP, it identifies the "rope coil" or Egyptian hieratic letter W which looks like a comma as the symbol in the Sensen Papyrus that Joseph Smith identified as the symbol standing for Abraham's name.  So whatever Joseph Smith actually said about it, it was this symbol that he was pointing to when he said it.

Now, whether or not we put stock in Ryan's suggestion, or suggest that Joseph Smith didn't really know what was going on with every detail, I think we need to keep an open mind.  To me, it doesn't bother me much if Joseph Smith didn't know all the details of what the Sensen Papyrus actually was.  To me, it is enough to know that he got information that pointed to the fact that the Sensen Papyrus was part of the puzzle to re-hydrating illustrations and information for a version of the Book of Abraham in modern-day speech.  It is enough for me to know that the Sensen Papyrus was associated with Abraham anciently, and that the symbols in it were appropriated for use in an Abrahamic context.  Whether Joseph Smith actually knew with precision these details that modern research has shown is less important to me.  Anti-Mormons on the other hand, make Joseph an offender for whatever he did or didn't know, no matter what he did or said, when he did the best with what he comprehended and knew, and he did it with honesty and integrity.

The possibility that Ryan points out highlights the fact that we need to entertain multiple possibilities in our minds at once regarding the details, and that it is possible that Joseph Smith didn't think that the Sensen Papyrus was actually authored by Abraham.