Book Review: An Introduction to the Book of Abraham

Hugh Nibley once quipped that the controversy surrounding the Book of Abraham was “a great fuss . . . being made about a scrap of papyrus.”1 Were it not for the fact that it is tied up in religious polemics involving Joseph Smith, founder and first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there would probably be little care outside a handful of Egyptologists who specialize in Greco-Roman Egyptian religious literature for the text commonly designated the Book of Breathings; what the ancient Egyptians themselves called the šˁt n snsn ỉr.n ˁIst n snỉ.s Wsỉr, or the Document of Breathings Made by Isis for Her Brother Osiris.2 But because the text is tied to a book of scripture claiming to be “a translation of . . . the writings of Abraham, while he was in Egypt,”3 there has been an unusual amount of interest (to say nothing of a boisterous fracas) among laypersons surrounding this “scrap of papyrus.” Continue reading

Scriptures with Pictures: Methodology, Unexamined Assumptions, and the Study of the Book of Abraham

Abstract: Research on the origins and nature of the Book of Abraham and the accompanying facsimiles has long been hampered by faulty methodology. And while the last few years have seen a significant reexamination of the assumptions that represent the underpinning of our understandings of the Book of Abraham, some unexamined assumptions persist. This study addresses seven aspects of the Book of Abraham, which include a discussion of the sources, the process, the results, the content, the witnesses, and the historical background. For each of these aspects, this study identifies lingering assumptions and shows how a proper methodology can validate or eliminate these assumptions from the scholarly discourse. Continue reading

Assessing the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Introduction to the Historiography of their Acquisitions, Translations, and Interpretations

Abstract: The Book of Abraham has attracted a great deal of scholarly attention since some of the papyri once owned by Joseph Smith were rediscovered. A focus of this attention has been the source of the Book of Abraham, with some contending that the extant fragments are the source, while others have argued that the source is either other papyri or something else altogether. New investigations suggest that, while the relationship between papyri and text is not clear, it is clear that the fragments are not the source and that the method of translation was not the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. Additionally, further investigations into the source of the Book of Abraham as well as the interpretations of the facsimiles have made it clear that much of the controversy about the Book of Abraham has been based on untested assumptions. Book of Abraham studies have made significant strides forward in the last few decades, while some avenues of research are in need of further pursuit. Continue reading

Shulem, One of the King’s Principal Waiters

Abstract: Shulem is mentioned once in the Book of Abraham. All we are told about him is his name and title. Using onomastics, the study of names, and the study of titles, we can find out more about Shulem than would at first appear. The form of Shulem’s name is attested only at two times: the time period of Abraham and the time period of the Joseph Smith papyri. (Shulem thus constitutes a Book of Abraham bullseye.) If Joseph Smith had gotten the name from his environment, the name would have been Shillem. Continue reading

Stephen Smoot on “The Book of the Dead as a Temple Text and Its Implications for the Book of Abraham”

This is a presentation which was given at the 2014 Temple on Mount Zion Conference which took place on 25 October 2014 in Provo, Utah.

This presentation is also available as an audio podcast, and will be included in the podcast feed. You can listen by pressing the play button or download the podcast below: