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Home Book of Abraham Special Section Pondering (O.K. Debating) the Book of Abraham with Professional Egyptologist Dr. Castillos from Uruguay

Pondering (O.K. Debating) the Book of Abraham with Professional Egyptologist Dr. Castillos from Uruguay

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Debating the Book of Abraham with a Professional Egyptologist


Dr. Castillos: http://www.geocities.com/martsego/comments.txt
I've read the apologetic remarks by several Mormon writers trying to justify Joseph Smith's version of the figures in the three facsimiles attached to the Book of Abraham which I tried to consider with an open mind, but after some thought I found them to be quite unconvincing. Kerry Shirts' long and elaborate essay on the canopic jars in Facsimile 1 does not at all deal with the main flaw in his Prophet's identification of these vases as idols when in fact they were meant to contain and preserve some of the internal organs of the deceased, for some obscure reason he prefers to write about their names as given in the Pearl of Great Price and that those names were not so strange after all, but if Joseph Smith was indeed a Prophet, he should have known the correct meaning and names of what they represented and there should be no confusion at all.


Kerry A. Shirts:
I have always been fascinated to find how Egyptologists who try to pick on Joseph Smith and the papyri because they think it is an easy target to get a quick and dirty score on, have usually made egregious errors. J. J. Castillos is no exception. Notice here the main complaint is that The canopic jars cannot be what Joseph said they were because they must be something else, as if there is an exclusion principle at work. And because they are something that Joseph did not mention that proves Joseph is phony as well.
But I have to say, in all fairness, if one is to pick on a subject, they had better be willing to at least inform themselves of it better than Dr. Castillos did, otherwise they will find themselves in the unenviable position of being shown to be in error. Had Dr. Castillos bothered to read John Gee’s Master Thesis Notes on the Sons of Horus, FARMS 1991, he would have undoubtedly withheld his spurious approach to my paper on my website. Gee has demonstrated clearly, succinctly, and quite powerfully that the Canopic Jars were much more involved than being exclusively used as containers of the viscera of the dead. I would suggest quite seriously that Dr. Castillos ignorance is not my liability. It used to intimidate me to try and help an Egyptologist to learn more carefully about the LDS Egyptology/Joseph Smith Papyri/Book of Abraham Fascsimiles subject he or she wishes to make comments on, but no more. Dr. Castillos, if you insist on trying to be superior to the Prophet’s explanations of Egyptian figures, and superior to the Mormon understanding of the papyri involved with the Book of Abraham, and the facsimiles and their explanations, then you simply cannot afford to ignore the LDS Egyptologist John Gee’s research. That you have only tells me you are unprepared to give us anything instructive in this area. Until you bother to educate yourself thoroughly in these matters, it is my serious opinion you need to leave well enough alone, or risk getting embarrassed. Here is some research I have done which goes completely ignored by Dr. Castillos. Is there any question as to why he ignored it?
An instance of how Joseph Smith did get his explanation of the four canopic jars correct however, is glossed over by Dr. Castillos. I can see why he skipped this. In E.A.W. Budge’s translation of the Book of the Dead, the Papyri of Ani, we read, "The four quarters of Ra [are] the extent of the earth." (Budge, "The Egyptian Book of the Dead," Dover, 1967: 171.) But we also read on page 124 of the Introduction of the same book, that "originally they [the four Sons of Horus] represented the four pillars which support the sky, or Horus. Each was supposed to be lord of one of the four quarters of the world, and finally became the god of one of the cardinal points.. Hapi represented the north, Tuamautef the east, Amset the south, and Qebhsennuf the west." Here we find Joseph Smith right on the mark exactly.
But there is more to consider.
From Hans Bonnet - Reallexikon der Agyptischen Religionsgeschichte, Walter de Gruyter & Co., 1952, p. 466:
At the feast of Min four birds are released and we are specifically told that they are similar in function to the four sons of Horus who represent the four cardinal directions. "Diese Vögel werden den vier Horussöhnen als den Vertretern der Kardinalpunkte" (p. 466)
Again from Bonnet, who does not make his point lightly.
He hammers it home. p. 315:
"Ihrer Vierzahl entsprechend begegnen die Horuskinder weiterhin vielfach als Vertreter der Himmelsrichtungen, wobei Amset der Süden, Hapi der N., Duamutef der O., und Kebehsenuf der W. zugeteilt zu werden pflegt. So tragen die Vögel, die nach der Krönung als Herolde nach den vier Weltgegenden ausgesandt werden die Namen der Horiskinder. Und wenn an Särgen des M.R. ihre Bilder, ihre Namen, an den vier Ecken angebracht oder auch nur auf die Eck nägel geschrieben sind, so ist dies gleichfalls durch die Beziehung der Horuskinder zu den Himmelsrichtungen bestimmt. Sie garantieren die richtige Orientation."
Roughly translating says:
The number four accordingly meets the children of Horus as representatives of the directions many times furthermore, with which Amset the south, Hapi that North, Duamutef that East, and Kebehsenuf, to be allotted West. So the birds, who are sent out after the coronation as heralds after the four quarters of the world, carry the names of the children of Horus. Their names, are installed at four corners of the coffin, or are also only written on the corner nails, so likewise this is certain through the relationship of the children of Horus to the directions. They guarantee the right Orientation.
Bonnet even claimed that their children of Horus original function was as the four stars of the constellation of Ursa Major! (p. 315.) - "Sie begegnet im Totenbuch, das im 17 Kapitel von den Horuskinder als denen redet, die hinter dem Oberschenkel des Nordhimmels (= großer Bär) sind und dieses Sternbild des Seth im Dienst des Osiris bewachen." (We find that in the Book of the Dead section 17 it speaks of the children of Horus as those who are behind the thigh of the Northern heaven (= the Big Bear).
Von Ludwig Borchardt "Der Kanopemkasten des Konigs Sbk-m-sf" in "Zeitschrift fur agyptische Sprache" 1894, shows how the stone coffin of this particular king was divided in 4 compartments (Innen war der Kasten fruher durch halbhohe Bretter in vier Abteilungen...), translated reads: "and in each of these compartments one of the canopic jars was each placed." Diagrams on p. 25.
The Egyptologist John A. Wilson wrote in 1964 that "...the number four suggests that they were placed at the four points of the compass. Fortunately this arrangement appealed to the Egyptian as being both strong and permanent." in "Before Philosophy", Pelican Books, p. 55.
The Egyptologist Robert Bauval and co-author Adrian Gilbert, The Orion Mystery, Crown Publishers, 1994, note that the four sons of Horus "symbolised the four cardinal points." (205).
Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, The Bandlet of Righteousness: An Ethiopian Book of the Dead [London: Luzac, 1929], p. 109, cites from The Prayer of the Virgin Mary on Behalf of the Apostle Matyas in Parthia: "O ye Four Angels, who stand on the four corners of the earth (Rev. vii.1), and whose names are Fertiyal, Ferfai, Famual and Fananyal." NOTE: Budge makes a point of the fact that the Ethiopic material is based on the Egyptian, after Christianization.
The Ethiopic document known as "The Testament of Our Lord and Our Savior Jesus Christ" speaks, at the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 48, of "the four quarters of the earth."
"the four corners (angles) of the earth" (Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Mysteries of the Heavens and the Earth and Other Works of Bakhayla Mika'el (Zosimas)(Oxford, 1935), p.67)
It is telling indeed that Dr. Castillos tries to make it look like Joseph Smith flubbed in his explanations, when it is Dr. Castillos who is on the wrong end of things here. Can he refute the Egyptologists and Joseph Smith here or not?


Dr. Castillos:
In another part, these Mormons say: "THE SCHOLARSHIP ARGUMENT. Bishop Spalding's chief argument is this: Because there is a difference of opinion between certain eminent scholars and the Prophet Joseph concerning the meaning of the hieroglyphics the Prophet translated, therefore he is wrong and the scholars are right. This is the most extraordinary attempt at logic ever put forth by a scholar.


Kerry A. Shirts:
I believe this is an argument from the 1912 affair with the Reverend Spaulding Dr. Castillos has brought up. For one thing, it is a dated argument being from 1912. However, since the Egyptologists of that day were claiming what they said was right, no matter how often they contradicted each other (!), this is why the LDS gentlemen of that day answered the way they did. I have this information on my website for historical purposes to show that because today’s critics continue to bring up the Spaulding 1912 affair, it is not a simple open and shut case with the Egyptologists making their claims and winning hands down. That simply did not happen, and a reading of Hugh Nibley’s research on this is essential to get a grip on the situation. Incidentally, this research of Dr. Nibley’s was what Klaus Baer (Nibley’s instructor in Egyptian) said was a delight and a necessity for upcoming Egyptologists to read. This was Nibley's serial articles in the Improvement Era, 1968-1970, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price."


Dr. Castillos:
The conclusion rests upon the monstrous assumption that there is an infallible, unchangeable scholarship, incapable of receiving more light, and to contradict which is heresy. We know better, and the Rev. gentleman knows better. He knows that scholars sometimes are wrong, and that they are compelled by facts to abandon old theories for new ones. In the case of a difference of opinion, how does he know which side is certainly right? How does he know that the Prophet is not right, and that those on the other side are not wrong?


Kerry A. Shirts:
Again this is from the 1912 affair and in those days when Egyptologists spoke, the thinking had been done. To even ask questions was heresay, hence the Mormon reply to their pontificating against Joseph Smith. I believe Dr. Castillos would find it cleared up were he to consult Nibley’s research on this which is available at FARMS (phone number below)


Dr. Castillos:
Mathematics is an exact science, and its propositions may be demonstrated, but not so archeology." This line of reasoning is intrinsically fallacious and obscurantist, it appeals to most people's distrust and lack of understanding of how science works although it might satisfy some of the true believers because it implies that if a certain unqualified person makes an inspired statement at odds with current egyptological thinking, which is based on a thorough and painstaking study of all the available evidence using a scientific methodology, our acceptance should go to the unqualified Prophet rather than to those to whom we owe all the knowledge of ancient Egypt we have today. Rather difficult to accept for the unbiased observer and is tantamount to encouraging irrational thinking as a valid alternative to science. No egyptologist has ever claimed his subject to be an exact science and minor corrections are at all times being introduced in the whole picture of this ancient civilization improving our perception but never changing it drastically, as they would have us believe.


Kerry A. Shirts:
an argument used way back in 1912 against Spaulding.
There has been enormous amounts of water go under the bridge since then.


Dr. Castillos:
The Mormons' comments on an Uppsala Egyptological Conference in 1987/88 also reflect this almost desperate attempt to grasp any straw that even remotely seems to make Joseph Smith's interpretations acceptable, for instance, also referring to Facsimile 1 Kerry Shirts wrote:


Kerry A. Shirts:
I need to clarify that I do not in any instant represent "The Mormons" as a whole. I have said that this is my webpage, and I am responsible for its contents, not the Mormons as a whole. It is extremely immature for Dr. Castillos to word this so poorly. I expected better from a professional. A professional would have read far more carefully than Dr. Castillos did here.


Dr. Castillos (continuing to quote my article):
"So Joseph Smith was not incorrect to note that there was a human figure on the lion-couch, since in Egyptian religious terms, this person, by being involved in the very rituals of Egyptian religion was Osiris. This is clearly confirmed again, by none other than Klaus Baer who noted that it was after 2200 B.C. that the private individuals began to claim the privileges of the royalty. Those specific privileges Baer notes was "The deceased person who has been 'justified' in the judgment of the dead and lives again in a blessed existence in the Netherworld is like Osiris and therefore accounting to the Egyptian way of thought is Osiris."[54] So whether Abraham or Osiris, it is correct! The Egyptians as already noted simply did not think in exclusionary terms as we moderns do. Because A is A it cannot be B. But to the Egyptian A can also be B, and we need to begin to understand this. Joseph Smith does things the Egyptian way it appears." The "Egyptian way" indeed ! Let's see some of the things he wrote as an interpretation of this Facsimile, taken from the Pearl of Great Price (I'm translating a Spanish version of this book into English): "The idolatrous priest of Elkenah trying to offer Abraham as a sacrifice", (referring to the well known figure of Anubis performing mummification rites over the body of the deceased), "Abraham tied up to an altar", (here appears a human figure with upraised arms which shows no sign whatsoever of being tied up, we have no "altar" here but a (funerary) bed), I might go on like this but I do not wish to repeat myself from what I have already said in my webpage on this subject. I leave it to the reader to decide how "Egyptian" all this sounds... Besides, I find the attempt to twist a respected egyptologist's remarks into some sort of approval of Mormon thought wrong and rather despicable. The writer implies that whether Smith was talking of Abraham or Osiris or whatever, then he was right ! What sort of endorsement is that? If I say someone is John, but it actually was Peter, then I was right after all...(?)


Kerry A. Shirts:
And here we get to the crux of the matter. Had Dr. Castillos carefully informed himself of the LDS scholarship on this before trying to make himself appear superior by taking a few pot shots at it, he would not have made such errors. Dr. Castillos translating from the Spanish version says things that have already been addressed by Hugh Nibley in his ground breaking articles "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price" in the Improvement Era, 1968-1970. The bed was an altar as well as a bed. It was both as Nibley has demonstrated. Dr. Castillos could have saved himself some embarrassment had he read Nibley in these matters.
As far as Anubis being concerned with mummification, it is obviously true. What else Dr. Castillos ignores, however, is that Anubis is also involved in matters of resurrection of the sacrificed dead as I have also shown on my website, which Dr. Castillos ignored. It is perfectly Egyptological to notice these things since it was in Egyptological journals that I found the information! It is more than interesting that a mere amateur has to inform a professional about the work in his own field, but here goes.
Concerning Anubis, the figure in our fac. 1, which Egyptologists of 1912 incorrectly said was a mummy on the couch, with Anubis embalming the mummy, well what of Anubis? A new study by Robert K. Ritner, "Anubis and the Lunar Disc," in the "Journal of Egyptian Archaeology," 71(1985): 149-155, shows that Anubis is functioning as an agent of resurrection! The archaeological evidence of Anubis involved with the moon as a disc from the temple of Deir el-Bahari as well as Dendera and Edfou is interesting! (p. 150).
Ritner notes that Anubis' involvment with the moon (an agent of resurrection) ties in with the idea of cyclical rebirth (not mummification!). Ritner notes with surprise that "the appearance of a funerary deity in a birth relief may at first be surprising, but the inscriptions quoted above show that in his capacity as guarantor of rebirth, as the god of mummification, that Anubis is present...Anubis embodies the Egyptian concept of the transition from death to life," [as does the moon]. (p. 151). The moon as a symbol of rebirth is also tied in with Osiris, the God of resurrection (p. 152). After showing several examples, Ritner notes "In each instance, the imagery recalls the role of Anubis as the agent of resurrection and as guarantor of a repetition of births like Osiris the moon." (p. 155).
So we now have archaeological, Egyptological information showing that Anubis himself has multiple functions, Interesting too is our contention that Abraham on the lion couch is no mummy being ambalmed by Anubis at all. Anubis works with the living also. We have lion couch scenes which show mummies on lion couches. They ARE mummies, as in looking like King Tut's sarcophagus. We also have other lion couch scenes where the people are on them moving... they are alive. So with the Book of Abraham lion couch scene, the figure there is not a dead mummy at all as the 1912 Egyptologists said. And again, Anubis CAN be in the capacity of resurrection and working with living beings. It is not an incongruous situation at all in facsimile 1 in the Book of Abraham, following some recent archaeological and Egytptological research of Ritner.
The most important part of Ritner's article, On p. 154, Ritner notes how as Anubis resurrects Osiris on the lion couch, with the moon disc, so too mummies on lion couches took on the role of Osiris as Anubis resurrected them! Now one of the criticisms against fac. 1 is that it is not Abraham on the couch, but Osiris. Yet the dead BECAME Osiris, (p. 154) so the idea that Abraham cannot be Osiris is wrong. He is being rescued (resurrected, the ULTIMATE rescue from death of course!)since he IS Osiris. What a nifty tie in! And Dr. Castillos argues against this saying I am misusing a good Egyptologist? Well here is another one for him to contend with also as he apparently wishes to do.


in Fac. 1 the first problem that faced the artist-scribe according to the text (Abr. 1:15)., was to represent a man who was both "fastened upon an altar" *and* praying. He solved this problem with strict obedience to the canons of his art in the only way it could be solved. The man is supine, to indicate his incapacity and helplessness. Note his body does not touch the altar - its position is enough to show that he is on it; nor are the binding ropes shown; for the supine position tells us, according to the Egyptian formula, that he is helpless. This is diagrammatical, not realistic, of course. Now even though the man is flat on his back, he is taking the correct and conventional attitude of prayer. We can now see why it is important to make clear that Abraham in this scene has both hands before him for that not only makes this particular lion-couch scene unique, but it also gives the whole drama of the situation.
Note the man's position on the couch. Note that Joseph Smith says of this that Abraham prayed for his deliverance (Abr. 1:15). Now when we look at the Egyptian determinatives, we see that this position (as you turn the facsimile 1 on edge with the feet down) is the Egyptian determinative for what? Prayer.
In E.A.W. Budge's "Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary", Vol. 1, p. xcvii we can see it obviously, numbers 5,6. I mean, there it is! Samuel A. B. Mercer, "The Handbook of Egyptian Hieroglyphics", p. 150, says it means "worship". Note also that with the hands above the head in prayer, this means "to pray with a pure heart", (Budge, Vol. 2, p. 825). Note also that Sir Alan Gardiner "Egyptian Grammar", p. 23 says it means "praise, supplicate". And on page 445 he says this sign means "praise...supplicate" (# 30). Well all this certainly fits Smith's idea for what the man is doing in facsimile #1 No wonder this facsimile is so unique... it is telling a unique story apart from what others might be depicting.
When we look at Georges Posener, "A Dictionary of Egyptian Civilization", p. 60 we see a lion-couch scene, but there is a mummy on the couch, with Anubis clearly embalming him. But our fac. is not an embalming scene as some of the Egyptologists in 1912 incorrectly claimed. Incidentally, the 8 supposed Egyptologists that Spaulding got in 1912, were not all Egyptologists, but several were ministers of Spaulding's own church.So much for honesty as to who they were and their true credentials. That isn't a mummy in fac. 1, the man is moving... praying! On p. 175 we see two more lion couch scenes with the corpses being purified. They are nothing like our fac. #1.
In John Baines, "Atlas of Ancient Egypt", 1980, p. 169 we see a late Roman depiction of a lion couch scene, but again, it's clearly a mummy. It has no pillars of heaven or a crocodile under it either. There are two figures on either end of the couch as well, hardly the combination in our fac. #1. On p. 118 of the same text, we see the lid of the anthropoid coffin of Espamai, with a lion couch on it. But again there are 5 figures either kneeling or standing by. There are 4 canopic jars under the couch, but no pillars of heaven or crocodile. Also the figure on the couch does not show his leg raised not either of his hands or arms. This is not like our fac#1. The lion couch in "The Mastaba of Mereruka", part 1, in the Sakkarah expedition, 1938, is nothing like our fac. #1. The lion couch scene in Raymond Faulkner's "Egyptian Book of the Dead" is clearly a mummy, with only a hawk in it, no other figures by either end of the couch, no crocodile, no clothed praying figure. This is nothing like our fac. #1 either. (plate 17 in the magnificent illustrated book of his edited by Eva Von Dassow). And plate 33 has Anubis bending over a mummy, not a living figure. Now this particular one is funerary.
These two lion couches are the only ones illustrated in Budge's "Egyptian Magic", p. 45, 113 respectively. The lion couch scenes from the Grand Temple of Philae clearly shows us that not all lion couch scenes are funerary at all either... On 3 of the 4 there are mummies to be sure, but on one of them (upper left hand corner), clearly the man (nude as Nibley noted) is moving. And Anubis is nowhere near this one! We know that in the "Book of the Dead" Anubis is "he who is in the embalming chamber..." and the "jackal-god who embalmed the dead..." (Budge, "A Hieroglyphic Vocabulary to the Book of the Dead", pp. 33,47). Margaret Bunson, "Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt", 1991, calls him "Lord of the mummy wrappings" (p. 27); "The patron of embalmers" (p. 99). Bunson also shows a lion couch on p. 175, Anubis is bending over a mummy, clearly unlike our fac #1. Well no wonder Anubis is not by this couch, since the man is alive. The man in fac #1 is alive and praying, and we must remember that Anubis is also considered the sacrificial god, because his embalming knife makes the sacrificial cut on the victim on the couch. Mummification is the sacrifice (Gee, "Four Sons of Horus" p. 22).


Eric Hornung has many lion couch scenes we can compare in his book "The Valley of the Kings", and we have MANY lion couch scenes in Budge's "Osiris" 2 vols. which are easier to get access to. The lion-couch scenes in v. 1, p. 280 show a mummy, but 5 other people/gods are around it, again nothing under the couch, unlike our fac #1 (top). The bottom shows an ithyphallic figure on the couch, with two birds hovering over him (fac #1 only has 1 bird) and other types of creatures under it instead of the 4 canopic jars in our fac #1 (bottom panel). There are other differences, but in v. 2 we have many lion couches we can compare and check with ours. None of them have the combination of figures our fac #1 has.
In some there are no birds, (pp. 24, 26f, 29f, 32f, 33f, 41, 42f, 45ff, 48fff, 55, etc.),while others have one bird, but nowhere in the position as in fac. #1, cf. pp. 23, 38f, 40 (no outstretched wings), 42), others have 2 birds (pp. 25 [note the left is a snake with feathered wings, and the other is a vulture, neither like the bird in fac #1], 27 [note the hawk has a crown on its head - unlike Fac #1, and the vulture also has a crown on its head], p. 51 [Isis & Nephthys with wings providing Osiris with air - hardly birds], 54 [note the two birds sitting atop the rather elaborate big structure around the lion-couch - nothing like our fac #1], while some scenes have 3 birds. And notice no crocodiles, clothed figures on the couches, either with the shendet (the apron body cloth) nor the anklets, no pillars of heaven, no knife in Anubis' hand, none of them have the unique combination of figures as our fac. #1 does.
See, Parker said this was a well known scene from the Osiris mysteries, Young said it belonged to a well known class of documents, as if this explains anything! And other experts said fac #1 was an embalming scene, but Breasted said it was a resurrection scene! Well in Budge's Osiris, vol. 2, p. 29 it is not a resurrection scene, the guy is turned all the way over!
But he is as alive as the figure in our Fac #1 who is praying! Or Budge, p. 40 is another living figure, as is the one on p. 42 who is sitting up on his knees, and on p. 43 look at that awkward position. So not all scenes are just more of the same standard funerary scenes at all. Critics are wrong on both counts. Fac #1 is not ordinary and it is not exclusively or necessarily funerary. The evidence seems to be against such statements.
in Lucie Lamy's book "New Light on Ancient Knowledge: Egyptian Mysteries," Thames and Hudson, 1989 reprint, p. 22f, she has many lion couch scenes of Osiris. What she says is utterly significant, in my opinion. She notes that the figures on the lion couch which are moving, are sitting up, or are twisted around moving are not mummies at all, but are different depictions of Osiris as he is resurrecting or reviving the ordeal of the lion couch.
Critics think these facsimiles are pictures. This is incorrect. They are symbolic diagrams. They are describing ritual events, real ancient Egyptian ritual events. And when Dr. Mercer contemptuously said there was nothing in fac #1 to remind him of Abraham, he was right. The drawing is symbolically used to illustrate events in Abraham's life, it is not suppose to be a picture of Abraham. The scenes recorded and the episodes recounted are strictly *ritual*. The facsimiles illustrate the most significant events in Abraham's Egyptian career - his confrontation with Pharoah as a rival claimant for God's priesthood power and the supreme authority on earth. The BofA is a discourse on divine authority, which is also the theme of the 3 facsimiles. The explanations of the facsimiles makes it perfectly clear that they are meant as diagrammatic or formulaic aids to an understanding of the subject of priesthood on earth.
For instance, we read that some figures "signify" others are "made to represent", "answers to", etc. Critics need to begin understanding the nature of the facsimiles, as well as the facsimile themselves. It is rather silly to claim that Joseph Smith drew these all wrong. Joseph Smith didn't draw them, and they are symbols, not exact representations.


Dr. Castillos:
Another example of such grotesque distortions by these Mormon apologists is Hugh W. Nibley (1980), "THE THREE FACSIMILES FROM THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM ". There he wrote: "The Sed Festival entailed putting the King to death only so that he could arise anew as the ruler of the new cycle having overcome the powers of death and thereby demonstrated his own divine power and vindicated his life-giving authority. A dramatic text has been discovered and commentated by a number of top-ranking Egyptologists, which vividly recalls the scene before us in Facsimile No. 1. It is a very old dramatic production preserved in Spell 312 of the Coffin Texts and the 78th Chapter of the Book of the Dead. The scene opens with the King as Osiris lying helpless on the lion couch, calling upon the Most High God to deliver him from his plight; in reply to his prayer a Messenger (angel) appears in the form of a hawk and offers to save him; but the messenger has neither the power nor the authority--he must go up to heaven go get the proper authorization from the Lord of All. While he is away a false Horus--a comic character according to same--appears and boasts of his power and glory, offering to deliver the victim on the couch. A few questions dealing with the mysteries of the veil soon expose him as an ignoramus and a fraud, and the real Horus appears, while a voice from heaven attests his bona fides, and the hero on the bed is delivered." Nibley concludes: "The Book of Abraham has with uncanny skill anticipated the trends of modern scholarship; note what strong emphasis is placed on the ritual nature of everything that happens in the story of Abraham's sacrifice and the Explanation of the Facsimile". The idea that in the Sed Festival the king was ritually put to death is an invention that has no grounds whatsoever, except for old speculative ideas in Egyptology that this festival replaced an early ritual slaying of the king as he lost his youth and his powers. T. Wilkinson in "Early Dynastic Egypt" (2001: 212-215) writes: "The significance of the Sed-festival went much deeper than a simple celebration of the king's longevity. In essence, it was a ritual of rejuvenation (Barta 1975; Gohary 1992:1), by which the powers of the reigning king, both magical and physical, as well as his relationship with the gods and his people were renewed (Frankfort 1948: 79; K. Martin 1984: 783)., etc. etc.". No mention of ritual death of the king anywhere... The Coffin Texts quotation also misrepresents the scene, R. Faulkner wrote in his translation of these texts the following about Spell 312 ("The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts", I, (1973), 232, note 1): "...The underlying idea is that Osiris summons Horus to Djedu to make report on affairs, but that Horus objects and instead sends a messenger, who has to obtain from the Double Lion the passport of the Royal Wig-cover (nms) before he can proceed on his journey to report to Osiris". Both misinterpretations by this Mormon apologist have the obvious aim of trying to link and justify somehow Smith's "translation" of Facsimile 1 as a sacrifice scene, and fit somewhere a "messenger or angel" that may correspond to Smith's "Angel of the Lord", which shows to what lengths these authors go in their manipulations and distortions of ancient Egyptian religious ceremonies and funerary texts in order to persuade people of their Prophet's accuracy.


Kerry A. Shirts:
Nibley was working within the parameters of his day in writing this in the 1960’s, as with many of his articles and research. To twit him for doing research within the parameters of his day strikes me as a little ridiculous. Granted some things Nibley wrote of are dated, to be sure, that is not the question. We Mormons also like to try and keep things updated and ongoing. And here is where there has been a fill in, so to speak, which, yet again, you ignore. John Tvedtnes, Brian Hauglid and John Gee have released a new text "Traditions About the Early Life of Abraham," FARMS 2001, wherein they work through over 100 texts discussing many themes in Abraham’s life that is directly relevant to the Book of Abraham, one of those themes being the attempt to
Sacrifice his life by the Pharoah, who in some of the early sources, is identified as Nimrod. If the sacrifice of Abraham cannot be made from the Egyptain side of things (although I am not conceding it cannot be, just that I have not found updated materials from Nibley, et al.), it most definitely can be and has been established from the Jewish side of the Book of Abraham.
This book is the first in a series of some 9 or 10 volumes which will deal directly with the papyri, the facsimiles, the Book of Abraham, etc. So, I say give it time. There are no final answers, just as you have shown. The speculation early on with the Sed Festival was the king’s death and renewal, now the speculation is something else. What will it be in another 40 years? The death of the king again? Who can say? In the mean time it is not a hopelessly lost situation as Dr. Castillos tries so desperately hard to make it appear. There is quite strong materials out now showing Abraham was sacrificed, one just published into English by John Tvedtnes for the first time is from Adolf Jellinek, Bet ha Midrasch (1853, reprint 1967), demonstrates the story of Abraham being sacrificed by Nimrod, pp. 164-165. This magnificent and handsome book demonstrates rather definitely that the Book of Abraham is still in the game. We have a long way to go before we can close out Joseph Smith’s Book of Abraham as Dr. Castillos tries to do.


Dr. Castillos:
Let's examine another example of such peculiar lines of thinking: "The Use of Egyptian Magical Papyri to Authenticate the Book of Abraham: A Critical Review" - Edward H. Ashment Salt Lake City: Resource Communications, 1993. 29 pp. $2.95. Abracadabra, Isaac and Jacob Reviewed by John Gee "Abraham" in Greco-Roman Egypt "That a Greco-Roman period priest wrote the name Abraham directly underneath a lion-couch scene and noted that they should both be copied together may simply be coincidence —why it is there has never been satisfactorily explained— but the idea of connecting a lion couch scene found in a Greco-Roman period Egyptian papyrus from Thebes with Abraham can no longer be dismissed as absurd, as critics have done for years. Therein is and always has been the significance of the Anastasi priestly archive for the book of Abraham; not that the archive authenticates the book of Abraham —for it does not and no one has ever claimed that it did— but that it shows that the idea that a Greco-Roman period Egyptian priest might have had a copy of the book of Abraham is not completely out of the question". This line of argumentation on the possible existence of an instance of the name Abraham under a couch or bed in a papyrus of the Graeco-Roman Period by Dr. John Gee is an example of what we have just mentioned but at a higher level of jugglery. Dr. Gee uses such an occurrence to justify his speculation that a copy of the Mormon Book of Abraham "might" have existed back then, after all, "it is not completely out of the question", what sort of evidence this is in normal scholarly practice is quite unclear to me, but to most people who are eager to believe something, this suggestion amounts to almost a certainty, that is, an apologetic statement cleverly disguised as a declaration of possibility. Again, the goal seems to be to try to find scraps of evidence that in some way could lend acceptability to Joseph Smiths's interpretation of at least one of the Facsimiles, ignoring the lack of agreement of the Prophet's perception of the whole scene with what we know of ancient Egyptian religion.


Kerry Shirts:
Gee also noted that waves of Jewish migrations into Egypt occurred as early as 594 B.C. soon after the conquest of Jerusalem. Jews have migrated into Egypt in most of the periods since the conquest as far as that goes, as Gee shows. "Jewish scriptures and texts could have come during any one or a number of these immigrations into Egypt. By the Persian period transcriptions were made of at least parts of the Jewish scriptures into Demotic script." (Gee, Review of Ashment, pp. 72f).
There is nothing that compels us to assume the Book of Abraham had to be written by Abraham while he was in Egypt and preserved by Egyptian hands all that time.. It very well could have been passed down through the hands of Abraham’s posterity and taken to Egypt later and there translated as far as that goes.
Asking what the Egyptians knew about Abraham in the Greco-Roman period is a legitimate historical question. The Anastasi archive is perfectly legitimate evidence for this historical question. (p. 74).
I believe Dr. Castillos problem is that he has not chosen to take LDS scholarship seriously, and finds one or two items and lambasts them (out of context), and then assumes all the rest of the scholarship is the same way, and so useless to waste time on. He never really does get to the LDS scholarship on the Book of Abraham, either on my website or in Hugh Nibley’s writings, or in John Gee’s writings. He even gives a rather weak excuse as to why. There is too much of it to read! At this point I must ask then what on earth are you doing trying to attack it? If you cannot make the time to do the job correct, what makes you think a half-hearted attempted commentary will do? This reflects far more on your own predisposition than on our problems. If you begin to climb Mt. Everest and complain it takes too long when all you can do is climb to the base camp, then how dare you criticize others who go all the way up it?


Dr. Castillos:
Although Mormon apologists try hard to make it unclear, the symbols, the clumsy writing of the published copies of the Facsimiles, the layout, corresponds iconographically, stylistically, even linguistically in those discernible fragments of recognizable writing, to ancient Egyptian religious funerary scenes which Joseph Smith saw and wrongly interpreted as something completely different.


KerryA. Shirts:
I do hope Dr. Castillos just had problems wording this. If not, this is honestly distorted. We Mormons are by no stretch of the imagination trying to keep things unclear at all. We are the ones studying and publishing materials on these issues.


Dr. Castillos:
The vast majority of egyptologists reject the Mormon views based on their Prophet's renderings not out of any secret agenda against this church or out of ignorance, since some of the most distinguished scholars in this field have at all times declared their disagreement with Joseph Smith's "translations" of these Facsimiles, but because the evidence is so clear in favour of being Egyptian objects wrongly seen as events related to Abraham, that they have no alternative.


Kerry A. Shirts:
Had Dr. Castillos been more cognizant of John Gee’s research in this area, he would see the correlations better. Even having read Nibley’s material could have helped Dr. Castillos out. But as he noted, since it might take a little time, why bother? Just pick and choose and give a critique. But this is the easy way out. Without the context, all you can give us is your own pretext Dr. Castillos. Granted the majority of Egyptologists are not in favor of Joseph Smith. The issues are not fully settled anymore than all the information in either. There are some parameters we have to update. That is what we already knew though, and which we are hard at work doing. But I must insist, if all you Egyptologists have time for is a few pages of reading, then you best just leave this sleeping dog to lie. You have no business in this unless you wish to go all the way in it, which you have obviously chosen not to do, hence your serious errors and wrong conclusions in many cases.


Dr. Castillos:
I am sure Mormon apologists would like their critics to read all they have written before giving opinions, but such attitude is unrealistic since going over all or most of what Mormons have conceived to justify their beliefs would take so long that it is beyond the possibilities of most people. These comments which reflect a sampling of repetitive procedures in the apologists' writings, may warn some of their readers before they penetrate that network in which dubious statements and twisted facts are frequent.


Kerry A. Shirts:
And I am sure that were I to review any Egyptologists work by reading only say the Preface and writing a review based on that mere sampling, the roof would come off from the heat the Egyptologist would generate. It would be unfair and unwise for precisely the same reason Dr. Castillos is being unfair and unwise here. He takes a mere sampling, a few short strokes and pot shots and supposedly refutes them, and then says this sampling reflects the Mormon apologists repetitive procedures?! My I wish we Mormon apologists could have that easy way out of it all. What a delicious convenience for Dr. Castillos!
Dr. Castillos has apparently misnuderstood the facts as Joseph Smith himself explained them, not to mention the Egyptologists and LDS scholars as well, and then he complains it is we Mormons who are doing this? I was sincerely hoping for better than this. Granted some of the arguments from 1912 are dated, we already know that. We have them for historical purposes since many are still wrongly proclaiming Spaulding settled the whole affair then. Our honesty in presenting the entire situation demonstrates this is not so. It also demonstrates we are not afraid of getting on with this discussion in an honest and serious attempt to analyze all the pertinent information. Without background, how can we proceed correctly? But it is just this background Dr. Castillos apparently is unwilling to become familiar with, which is too bad for his argument.


Dr. Castillos:
When we read the hundreds of pages written by these apologists trying to justify what can hardly be justified, some may start to get the feeling that Joseph Smith might not have been so wrong,


Kerry A. Shirts:
When you finally begin to read the hundreds of pages you claim you have, then you won’t be making these inaccurate arguments because you will have the full context of our research. But you just complained it would take too long, as so far, you have only demonstrated having read less that a hundred pages, I would assume. You are being a little slippery here it appears to me.


Dr. Castillos:
to what he actually wrote in the Pearl of Great Price as a "translation" of these Facsimiles should convince the reader who has become acquainted with ancient Egyptian religion and is even a little familiar with the ancient Egyptian language, that most of such renderings are quite divorced from everything we know today of that civilization. I would find it particularly curious (and really hard to explain) if any qualified colleague openly defended today Joseph Smith's "translations" of such Facsimiles on purely academic grounds, without pathetically empty apologetic rhetoric. J. J. Castillos


Kerry A. Shirts:
This is in the works right now Dr. Castillos. I would like to suggest, if I may, first acquainting yourself with John Gee’s work on this area as well as Michael D. Rhodes. Then reading Dr. Nibley’s materials "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," of which writings Klaus Baer himself, one of the translators of the Joseph Smith Papyri, said was delightful and probably ought to be a mandatory read for upcoming and budding Egyptologists. He was very impressed with Nibley’s work, and I have copies of the letters between him and Nibley. They are being published within the next few years actually by Nibley’s son in law. Baer was Nibley’s teacher and checked into his materials extensively and was well aware of what Nibley was writing.
Interestingly, FARMS just recently reissued Hugh Nibley’s magnum opus, Abraham in Egypt. (FARMS, 2000) It will help give you the context to continue learning about the context of the Egyptian materials concerning the Book of Abraham.
FARMS can be contacted easily in order to order the book. I would seriously suggest Tvedtnes, Hauglid, Gee’s book also.
1-800-327-6715
website:
www.farmsresearch.com


My good friend and LDS scholar John Tvedtnes also had some comments on what Dr. Castillos has written concerning the Book of Abraham.


Dr. Castillos:>Another example of such grotesque distortions by these Mormon apologists is
>Hugh W. Nibley (1980), "THE THREE FACSIMILES FROM THE BOOK OF ABRAHAM ".


John T.:
Nibley didn't distort things. He reported what some Egyptologists had
written about the subject.

Dr. Castillos quoting Nibley:
>"The Book of Abraham has with uncanny skill anticipated the trends of
>modern scholarship; note what strong emphasis is placed on the ritual
>nature of everything that happens in the story of Abraham's sacrifice and
>the Explanation of the Facsimile".


John T:
I presume that it would be useless to point out to him that many ancient
Abraham stories describe the attempt to put Abraham to death in a manner
that closely parallels the Book of Abraham, sometimes in minute detail.(Kerry adds – I did that referring Dr. Castillos to the latest book on that, which is one of John T’s books)


Dr. Castillos:
The idea that in the Sed Festival the king was ritually put to death is an
>invention that has no grounds whatsoever, except for old speculative ideas
>in Egyptology that this festival replaced an early ritual slaying of the
>king as he lost his youth and his powers.

John T:
If it comes from Egyptology, why lay the blame at Nibley's feet? I find
Finley doing the same thing in his critique of Nibley's study of the Lachish
letters, which he compared to the background of Lehi while he was living in
Jerusalem. Finley criticizes Nibley for making many errors in his study,
but fails to note that the information Nibley used was from the study by
Torczyner (who later changed his name to Tur-Sinai) and that it was the only
study available when Nibley did his comparison. This kind of ex post facto
criticism is unworthy of scholars.


Dr. Castillos:
>T. Wilkinson in "Early Dynastic Egypt" (2001: 212-215)writes: "The
>significance of the Sed-festival went much deeper than a simple celebration
>of the king's longevity. In essence, it was a ritual of rejuvenation (Barta
>1975; Gohary 1992:1), by which the powers of the reigning king, both
>magical and physical, as well as his relationship with the gods and his
>people were renewed (Frankfort 1948: 79; K. Martin 1984:783)., etc. etc.".
>No mention of ritual death of the king anywhere.


John T:
I presume that the good doctor would also fault James Frazer, who reported
such renewal ceremonies throughout Africa and demonstrated that originally
the king was actually put to death when he was too old to perform his
duties. Nibley wasn't the first to suggest that later generations used a
substitute for the king when the time came, and it's really unfair to fault
Nibley for what scholars before him had said. BTW, John Gee has discovered
a number of Egyptian texts that describe human sacrifice.


Dr. Castillos:
>Both misinterpretations by this Mormon apologist have the obvious aim of
>trying to link and justify somehow Smith's "translation" of Facsimile 1 as
>a sacrifice scene, and fit somewhere a "messenger or angel" that may
>correspond to Smith's "Angel of the Lord", which shows to what lengths
>these authors go in their manipulations and distortions of ancient Egyptian
>religious ceremonies and funerary texts in order to persuade people of
>their Prophet's accuracy.


John T:
I repeat that if there are mistakes, most of them were made by Nibley's
sources.


Dr. Castillos:
>Let's examine another example of such peculiar lines of thinking: "The Use
>of Egyptian Magical Papyri to Authenticate the Book of Abraham: A Critical
>Review" - Edward H. Ashment Salt Lake City: Resource Communications, 1993.
>29 pp. $2.95. Abracadabra, Isaac and Jacob Reviewed by John Gee "Abraham"
>in Greco-Roman Egypt "That a Greco-Roman period priest wrote the name
>Abraham directly underneath a lion-couch scene and noted that they should
>both be copied together may simply be coincidence -why it is there has
>never been satisfactorily explained- but the idea of connecting a lion
>couch scene found in a Greco-Roman period Egyptian papyrus from Thebes with
>Abraham can no longer be dismissed as absurd, as critics have done for
>years.


John T:
Actually, there are other magical papyri that also contain the name Abraham,
and John Gee will undoubtedly publish that information as well. To be sure,
one must use caution in scholarly research, but I see nothing wrong with
using this kind of information to say that the critics have slammed the door
prematurely. Also, the good doctor seems not to be aware of how well
traditions are preserved in the Near East. Is he not aware of, e.g., the
Shabako stone, which is a copy of a much earlier text? Is he unaware of the
various flood stories that came down through the centuries in Mesopotamia?


Dr. Castillos:
>This line of argumentation on the possible existence of an instance of the
>name Abraham under a couch or bed in a papyrus of the Graeco-Roman Period
>by Dr. John Gee is an example of what we have just mentioned but at a
>higher level of jugglery. Dr. Gee uses such an occurrence to justify his
>speculation that a copy of the Mormon Book of Abraham "might" have existed
>back then, after all, "it is not completely out of the question", what sort
>of evidence this is in normal scholarly practice is quite unclear to me,
>but to most people who are eager to believe something, this suggestion
>amounts to almost a certainty, that is, an apologetic statement cleverly
>disguised as a declaration of possibility.


John T:
He obviously hasn't read all of Gee's research on this, only some
preliminary items. (Kerry adds: Yes I have indicated some of Gee’s research that
Dr. Castillos needs to read and become acquainted with as well).


Dr. Castillos:
the goal seems to be to try to find scraps of evidence that in some
>way could lend acceptability to Joseph Smiths's interpretation of at least
>one of the Facsimiles, ignoring the lack of agreement of the Prophet's
>perception of the whole scene with what we know of ancient Egyptian
>religion. Although Mormon apologists try hard to make it unclear, the
>symbols, the clumsy writing of the published copies of the Facsimiles, the
>layout, corresponds iconographically, sylistically, even linguistically in
>those discernible fragments of recognizable writing, to ancient Egyptian
>religious funerary scenes which Joseph Smith saw and wrongly interpreted as
>something completely different. The vast majority of egyptologists reject
>the Mormon views based on their Prophet's renderings not out of any secret
>agenda against this church or out of ignorance, since some of the most
>distinguished scholars in this field have at all times declared their
>disagreement with Joseph Smith's "translations" of these Facsimiles, but
>because the evidence is so clear in favour of being Egyptian objects
>wrongly seen as events related to Abraham, that they have no alternative.

John T:
There is no real parallel to Facsimile 1 and Gee has shown that the
description of the vignette that is to accompany the sensen text is not the
one used in the Joseph Smith papyri. I suspect that your correspondent
hasn't read this.

As for "the vast majority of egyptologists," I find it interesting how the
1912 guys went out of their way to say that Joseph Smith's identifications
for the various facsimulae were incorrect when, in fact, some of them are
accepted even by Egyptologists. E.g., the contention that the figures
beneath the lion couch are merely canopic jars and not Egyptian gods, as
Joseph Smith contended. To be sure, they are canopic jars, but each bears
the head of an Egyptian god. Another classic example is when Joseph Smith
identified the four sons of Horus in Facsimile 2 with the four quarters of
the earth. Aha! said the 1912 Egyptologists; they really represent the four
cardinal directions, not four quarters. Man, how close does one have to
get? Besides, the four cardinal directions really are quarters. To the
ancient magnet-compass-less world, east, where the sun rose, was not a fixed
direction, but actually encompassed 46 degrees of arc because of the earth's
axis being tilted at 23 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic. With another
46 degrees for west, this leaves 146 degrees of arc each for north and
south. In the modern scientific mind, a "quarter" has to be a precise
measurement, but until Euclid, a quarter would be one of four pieces, not a
precise measurement of .25 or 1/4. This, BTW, probably explains the
supposed "directional problems" in the Book of Mormon when compared to
Mesoamerica.

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