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Saturday
Mar262011

Book of Abraham - Kirtland Egyptian Papers

The Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP) are working documents of Joseph Smith's translation of Egyptian papyri, of which is a source for his Book of Abraham.
  • The manuscripts are written by Joseph Smith and his scribes:
    • William W. Phelps
    • Warren Parrish
    • Oliver Cowdery
    • Frederick G. Williams
    • Willard Richards
  • The LDS church has never published the KEP and they remain vaulted in its archives. A microfilm copy was leaked to the Tanners of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, which is the only source of these papers today.
    See The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papers


An overview of the papers

  • Grammar & Alphabet of Egyptian Language
    Four manuscripts that contain Egyptian and invented characters with Joseph's English names and definitions of them. Many of the words and definitions from these documents are found in the Book of Abraham and the facsimile definitions.
    Joseph Smith The remainder of the month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients.

    Joseph Smith - Mormonism founder
    History of the Church 2:238
  • Egyptian Counting
    A manuscript with invented numbers, their names, and Joseph's English counterparts.
  • Translation Manuscripts
    Three manuscripts that contain characters copied from the source papyri (Abraham roll) along with Joseph's translations of them, which comprise the text of Abraham 1:1-2:18.


Examining the Translation Manuscripts

These manuscripts copy characters from the papyrus section highlighted below (and invent characters where the papyrus in damaged or missing) along with Joseph's translation of them, which comprise the text of Abraham 1:1-2:18.

The "Abraham roll"
Book of Abraham papyrus "The Abraham roll"

From the Abraham roll to the translation manuscript to the Book of Abraham
Papyri to Manuscript Egyptian characters are read from right to left. In this example, from page 3 of the translation manuscript, the characters from the papyrus Joseph named the Abraham roll are copied to the left margin and Joseph's interpretation of each character is written to its right. Page 3 of the manuscript comprises the Book of Abraham, chapter 1, verses 11 to 19.

Comparing Translations
This example compares Joseph's translation from page 3 of the translation manuscript.
Symbol Papyrus Manuscript Joseph Smith's translation Egyptology
1 (1:11) manner of the Egyptians. (1:12) And it came to pass that the priests laid violence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those virgins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowledge of this altar, I will refer you to the representation at the commencement of this record. "pool"
2 (1:13) It was made after the form of a bedstead, such as was had among the Chaldeans, and it stood before the gods of Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah, Korash, and also a god like unto that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. (1:14) That you may have an understanding of these gods, I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of the figures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which signifies hieroglyphics. "water"
3 (1:15) And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lifted up my voice unto my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands; "great"
4 (1:16) And his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliver thee, and to take thee away from thy father's house, and from all the kinsfolk, into a strange land (page 4) which thou knowest not of; (1:17) And this because they have turned their hearts away from me, to worship the god of Elkenah, and the god of Libnah, and the god of Mahmackrah, and the god of Korash, and the god of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; therefore I have come down to destroy him who hath lifted up his hand against thee, Abraham, my son, to take away thy life. (1:18) Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priesthood of thy father, and my power shall be over thee. (1:19) And it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy ministry my name shall be known in the earth forever, for I am thy God. "Khonsu" (Egyptian moon god)


Conclusion

The Kirtland Egyptian Papers allow us to examine Joseph's accuracy in translating Egyptian characters.
  • Egyptoligist I.E. Stephen Edwards sums up an analysis of the KEP best:
    The whole work was, "largely a piece of imagination and lacking in any kind of scientific a value."
    I.E.S. Edwards - Keeper of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities, British Museum
    Letter dated June 9, 1966
    as quoted in Charles M. Larson, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus, p. 43
  • Since the Book of Abraham is demonstrated to be a false translation, this proves Joseph Smith perpetuated a fraud and raises doubts about his other translation: the Book of Mormon.

<< Book of Abraham - Facsimile 3


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