Monday, November 27, 2017

How did Joseph Smith Produce or Translate the Book of Abraham Text?

I think that there has been confusion over time about my theory because my position on the nuances of how Joseph Smith produced the Book of Abraham text has changed over time.  My advice to my readers is to not get hung up too much on this point, because there are multiple good options that work well.  But I do have one in particular that I believe now.

Within the last several years (since maybe mid-or-late-2014, or mabye even into early 2015, I cant remember the timeline well), my theory of choice has been one of revelation, that Joseph Smith did not have a papyrus with the text on it, but simply produced the contents of that papyrus by revelation, perhaps Doctrine and Covenants 7 style (i.e. the way he produced the translation of the parchment of John in D&C 7), in vision, or by Urim and Thummim.  And that that original papyrus was written by the hand of Abraham, or was a copy from antiquity that he saw in vision or in the Urim and Thummim.  And it likely was written in the Egyptian language, the regular Egyptian language, the way John Gee or Robert Ritner would translate Egyptian.  I also voiced the possibility that it could have been written in some early Semitic language too by Abraham instead of in Egyptian.

In other words, now, I currently believe that this original papyrus, written by Abraham himself, was lost in antiquity, and that Joseph Smith never had it in his hands, only that he saw it in vision.  This is an entirely separate papyrus from the Sensen Papyrus.  But during the year 2017, I have softened my rhetoric on the Missing Papyrus Theory.  In other words, prior to 2017, I used to be very against the theory that Joseph Smith had a papyrus in his hands that actually contained the Book of Abraham text in Egyptian, separate from the Sensen Papyrus.  And so, I have said recently that if people believe that, it is ok, because it still works with the rest of my theory.

Prior to about the mid-2014 time frame, I didn't take a hard or developed position on how Joseph Smith translated or produced the text.  Back then, I was back and forth between the revelation theory and the catalyst theory.  I had entertained the possibility that Joseph Smith produced the Book of Abraham text by using the Egyptian word games in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers as a catalyst for producing the text in the Book of Abraham.  I still believe this is a good option.  It is just not my preferred option anymore since about the 2014 time frame.  About around that time period, I recall I was speaking in my blog posts using vague language about the Sensen Papyrus being a "type of original" or a "proxy original".

For example, here is a blog post where I quoted Nibley, and spoke of the Sensen Payrus as being possibly a "proxy" by "ritual" or by "symbolism" for the original papyrus, as a catalyst of some kind, perhaps:

In terms of what I believe now, that is still among the options, but not my favored option.

I still think it doesn't matter much, and that these are all good options.  But as I said, the one that I mention at the top is the one that I prefer now.

I have tried to cater to people that believe in the Catalyst Theory giving them this option of a catalyst as one of the good possibilities, although it is not my preferred option anymore.

So its not surprising that on this issue some people have been confused about what I believe and have believed in the past, because yes, it has changed.