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Home Book of Abraham Special Section Challenging Propositions Against Jerald and Sandra Tanners work on the Book of Abraham

Challenging Propositions Against Jerald and Sandra Tanners work on the Book of Abraham

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Challenging Propositions of Jerald and Sandra Tanner

Research by Kerry A. Shirts

This paper will deal with 5 areas that I find problematical with the Tanners research into the Book of Abraham, and Mormonism in general. There are many more which I will explore as I have time to, but these 5 areas, I believe are especially troublesome for the Tanners.


I have noticed that the Tanners methodology is that of using one Mormon against another. They apparently believe that if two Mormons (scholars, Apostles or otherwise) disagree, that means Mormonism is false.

By this method then the argument and contradiction of the stance of Peter against Paul ought to prove the Bible is false, or that Jesus is not the Christ. This is simply not an accurate methodology. It would be as if we can show two Dead Sea Scrolls scholars disagreeing with each other (I have in mind Robert Eisenman vs the rest of the establishment!), then this proves the Dead Sea Scrolls to be false and forgeries! No. That type of method is simply illegitimate by any standard. The Tanners won't touch Mormonism, instead thinking that dwelling on the humans shows the doctrine false. This is simply not true, and would make hash of the Bible. Mosser and Owens, two very well read Evangelicals disagree with most Baptists who insist on denigrating FARMS and Mormon scholarship. Does this prove Evangelicalism phony though? By the Tanners methods it would. Their methods are too skewed to be reliable.


The contention has arisen from the Tanners in their book "Mormonism Shadow or Reality?" 5th ed., 1987: 300-301 that R.C.Webb, a defender of the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith was completely bogus and useless as a source of information on the Egyptological explanations of Joseph Smith on the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham. Below are some of his arguments concerning a few of the explanations of the facsimiles in the Book of Abraham.

The Tanners never once try to understand let alone refute anything Webb wrote in 1913. They merely dismiss him as being wrong. How they can say that when they themselves are not Egyptologists is interesting enough, but they have never tried to refute Webb.

This is a standard anti-Mormon ploy. Dismiss the LDS research with name calling or an appeal to authority, something even the great Klaus Baer cussed the Tanners out for doing. He wrote letters to them (which I have copies of) telling them to quit quoting him as an authority. It was more urgent and important to get to the issues than worry about who had the Ph.D's.

But the Tanners, true to form, opted to ignore even Baer, and continue on with their phony efforts of dismissing LDS scholarship. If the Tanners cannot refute the Mormons, then our research stands. Not that we accept each and every thing any Mormon has ever addressed on this intriguing papyri issue, but we are in no wise impressed with the Tanners who seem more apt to merely dismiss anything they don't like. But dismissal is simply not refuting our research. New information is coming out on the facsimiles which may even change what Webb wrote here in 1913. But the Tanners will ignore that also. We see nothing in the Tanners work specifically discussing any of the interpretations of the facsimiles from an Egyptological stance, hence the Tanners are outdated.

R.C. Webb's discussion in the LDS publication "Improvement Era" (1913)

The central figure, numbered 1, evidently double-faced, seated and holding some form of sceptre or symbolic staff in the outstretched right hand, differs from the figure occupying the same position in other hypocephali. In general, this central figure is shown with four heads or faces, two looking each way, and appears to warrant the explanation of Dr. Petrie that it indicates the four-ram-headed god of Memphis, a form of Ra, the Sun God, whose heads indicate "the spirits of the four elements, RA (fire,) SHU (air,) GEB (earth,) and USAR (water,)" supposed to be united in him. Since, however, the figure under consideration evidently does not show four heads of rams or other beings, and is evidently double-faced only, it is reasonable to conclude that some different explanation must apply here.

The double-faced figure is, also, primarily, a representation of Ra, the Sun God, and is so drawn to combine his two personified aspects, Khephera, the morning, or rising, sun, and Tmu, the evening, or setting, sun, Commenting on a hypocephalus showing a figure at 2 very similar to the one shown here, Prof. Petrie remarks: "At the top is the double god, who personified the rising and setting sun." On this showing it is reasonable to conclude that the double-faced figure at 1 also represents the sun, or a sun, having its rising and setting. This conclusion becomes all the more probable in view of the presence of the two cynocephali, 22 and 23. Dr. Petrie ("Abydos," vol. i), commenting on a hypocephalus also containing only two such figures, says "Two small apes, the final degradation of the eight adoring cynocephali [who are often shown greeting the rising sun] may be noticed. These represent the four primeval pairs of gods of chaos, ... ... called collectively 'KHEMENU.' ... Figures such as these are to be found on nearly all known hypocephali, however erratic the inscriptions."

These cynocephali are pictured in representations of the rising sun shown in numerous papyri of the Book of the Dead. A common device shows the rising sun supported by a pair of arms starting from the tau cross (the crux ansata,) or "symbol of life" (ANKH,) which, in turn, is supported on a ribbed pillar (TAT,) the "symbol of Osiris," the God, or King of the Netherworld. Isis and Nephthys, in either human or symbolic form, kneel at the base of the column, while the company of cynocephali, sometimes six, sometimes seven, occasionally eight, the "transformed openers of the eastern portals of heaven," follow the sun upward, "raising their hands in adoration."

Such examples show that these cynocephali, whatever their original signification, are the proper traditional companions and worshippers of the sun. On hypocephali, however, these apes are shown with globes or disks upon their heads, which is a notable departure from the common line of drawings showing them with the rising sun. The figurative significance of the globe, or disk, upon the head of a figure, or in inscriptions, is that of the sun or moon. In this case the disks evidently rest upon an arcshaped base, strongly suggestive of the horned moon, and presenting a very good reproduction of the hieroglyphic ideogram for moon, which is so written. Unless, therefore, we quite misunderstand the significance of Egyptian symbolism, it seems probable that these ape figures, crowned with disks or globes, indicate moons or satellites of some sun or planet, which they are following "adoringly." It is clear, therefore, that, whatever else may be implied in this figure, we have here some one of the numerous forms of Ra, which is to say the sun, or a sun, with his accompanying KHEMENU, or else planets or moons.

The explanation given in connection with this figure is that it indicates "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the Celestial." The form of this word would seem to suggest a Semitic etymology, akin, perhaps, to the Hebrew word KALAB, a dog; whence, possibly, Sirius, the Dog-star, so called. According to the further explanation, it gives light to the sun and other bodies, through the medium of 22 and 23, which are called, collectively, Hah-ko-kau-beam. This curious word is also Hebrew, although judging from the spelling, the pronunciation is expressed, rather than the direct transliteration. It is the Hebrew, KOKOB, a star, KOKOBIM, stars; the syllable HAH, representing the definite article, whence, "the stars."

By a similar line of argument, as already noted in the quotation from Prof. Petrie, the figure marked 2 may also be found to indicate the sun, or a sun, also having his rising and setting. Provided that this body be visible from the earth, or any other planet, for that matter, the statement is obviously correct. On the whole, the inclusion of two separate figures, each evidently indicating a sun, may be held to imply that they are too separate bodies, which is what is stated in the explanation given by Joseph Smith.

The figure marked 5 is called in the Book of Abraham caption, "one of the governing planets ... . said by the Egyptians to be the sun." The agreement among Egyptologists is that it represents the "cow of Hathor," which identification is evidently based on the assumption, as above noted, that the hypocephalus originated in obedience to the directions of the Book of the Dead specifying an amulet for the dead shaped like a cow. By itself, this figure might be held to signify any one of several different possible symbols. In juxtaposition with the four Canopic Gods (6) in front, and the curious figure, apparently feminine, to the rear, there is a strong suggestion of a mystic group appearing in several papyri of the Book of the Dead. In this group as shown, for example in the Papyri of Ani and of Henefer, the UZAT eye, the eye of Horus, is mounted on a pedestal immediately in front of the recumbent figure of "the great cow Mehurit, the Eye of Ra." To the rear of Mehurit, again, is a group showing the Canopic Gods standing at the four corners of a tomb, or funeral chest, from which emerges the form of the divine Ra, holding the ANKH, the symbol of life, in each hand. Undoubtedly, the group thus described shows the sun under three different mythological, or esoteric, Similitudes. In the present diagram the UZAT eye serves as the entire face of the female figure standing behind the cow, which, in turn, looks toward the Canopic Gods.

In the curious symbolism of the ancient Egyptians some phase of sun lore seems to emerge from behind nearly every one of their greatest gods. Considering their pantheon as a finished whole, it may be said that they worshipped the sun under manifold forms, and that they worshipped a mysterious hidden supreme God through the visible medium of the sun. Thus, Ra and Horus both indicate the sun. Horus is the youthful or rising sun, also the sky, as previously suggested. He is, mythologically speaking, distinct from Ra, who is generally considered as the Sun God proper. As the sky god, Horus is represented as saying in a certain ritual hymn, "I am Horus, and I come to search for mine eyes." In a similar poem, he is said to regain his eye, the sun, at the dawn of day.

The Goddess Hathor also figures in the sun cycle as the sky at dawn, from which association is derived her character as the Goddess of love and beauty-she is known to the Hebrew Scriptures as Ashtoreth. Her original form seems to have been that of a cow, the memory of which was always retained in the horns shown on her coiffure or head dress. The heifer Mehurit, or Mehurt, is sometimes identified with the cow Hathor, sometimes, with Noot, who, as already explained, is often represented in the form of a cow. In both cases the cow is said to represent the sky at dawn, when the sun is born of his mother Noot; or else "that part of the sky where the sun is;" hence, by no very remote figure, the sun himself. In brief, this figure, "is said by the Egyptians to be the sun."


The contention has arisen from the Tanners in their book "Mormonism Shadow or Reality?" 5th ed., 1987: 328-331 that John Tvedtnes and Richley Crapo's Mnemonic Device theory of the Book of Abraham is just a dumb guess, a desperate attempt to save the BofAbr., etc. They dismiss it by saying a parallel with simple words such as "in" don't work. What they ignore is that in a mnemonic device, to work properly, there MUST be a one to one correspondence of some word in each part of the papyri with the Book of Abraham, no matter which words! The point being that for the particular person who made the mnemonic device, the thing works. As Tvedtnes explained in a letter to Dee Jay Nelson, the Hebrew who wrote the Book of Abraham and used the Sensen text as the mnemonic device used that device according to his own discretion and ability, and of course, was greatly determined by WHAT he wanted to say. There are many of the Hebrew words which are homophonous which can be used in conjunction with the Egyptian words (irrespective of the actual meaning of the Egyptian words themselves) for the express purpose of composing a Hebraic oral tradition.

The Mnemonic Device idea assumes the Book of Abraham was orally transmitted before it was written down. There is nothing strange about this in the ancient Near East at all. The Book of Abraham, according to this idea, existed entirely separately from the Sensen text all together. It did not rely on its existence with the Sensen text.

Tvedtnes also points out that the idea of Abraham being a Hebrew, and perhaps the scribe who wrote the Book of Abraham in later years than Abraham lived was a Hebrew, that is why the Hebrew words correspond so very well with many of the Egyptian words in the Sensen text. The other assumption is, that Abraham was not the author of the Sensen text either.

The final idea that is interesting here is that no matter how trivial the words used in a mnemonic device, there is a one to one correspondence and hence the mnemonic device works for whoever composed it as such. Triviality of words are irrelevant. If there is a one to one correspondence then it is a proper mnemonic device, something apparently many critics of this theory do not understand.

Richley Crapo, the co-author noted this:

We suggested that the Sen-Sen papyrus was developed as a mneumonic device, a kind of memory aid for helping in the recitation of a longer oral tradition--the Book of Abraham. We suggested that although the Sen-Sen words in question did not have the same meanings as the Book of Abraham verses each was associated with in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, each word *is* semantically connected to an idea found in the verse Joseph Smith penned following it. For instance (although this is hypothetical and for illusrative purposes only, since I don't have the article in front of me to locate the real examples), the Egyptian hieroglyph meaning "man" might be followed by a BoA verse reading "And the man, Adam, ......". We found a consistent set of such connections. We also made a similar comparison between those same words and other texts which we juxtaposed with them in similar manner to how Joseph Smith had juxtaposed the BoA (say "Little Red Riding Hood", for example) and *failed* to find the same kind of consistent semantic connections. The mneumonic device hypothesis was our effort to explain why there was a semantic relatedness between the BoA and the Sen-Sen document words, but not between the Sen-Sen document and other texts. This, by the way, is a testable claim, although no one has seen fit to attempt the formal test.

The Tanners claim that Klaus Baer showed Tvedtnes to be wrong. But in a phone conversation with Tvedtnes last fall, he directly told me that Baer apologized to Tvedtnes for misunderstanding the Mnemonic Device Theory. After Tvedtnes had explained it to him he understood better. He didn't accept it, but he didn't refute it then either.

Tvedtnes also discusses the real issue with the mnemonic device. This the Tanners have misunderstood and have never tried once to refute. Oh they dismiss it, but then they dismiss anything of LDS research that they are too lazy to refute

Tvedtnes noted:

Our investigation has revealed two major points:

1. Joseph Smith, when transcribing the hieratic words from the papyrus into the 'Alphabet and Grammar,' always dealt with complete morphemes. In no case did he copy a meaningless series of hieratic symbols by breaking a word other than at morpheme boundaries. Thus, for instance, when he transcribed a word composed of five hieratic symbols, he never made the mistake (statistically inevitable for anyone to whom the sign symbols are only a meaningless jumble of lines) of transcribing only three or four of the word's five signs, or of transcribing six or seven by including elements of the preceding or following words.

Of 19 transcribed hieratic words, 16 were carried over by Joseph Smith into his transcription as complete words. The transcription of only three of the words involved breaking them in two, and the breaks were always made at valid morpheme boundaries. In two of these cases, the break was made between root-morphemes and their suffixes and/or ideographic determinatives. In only one case was such a break within an alphabetically written word, and this occurred at such a place that the two word-halves created by the break could be analyzed as two valid semantic elements. This first discovery implies that Joseph Smith's handling of the hieratic symbols was not haphazard: a person with no insight into the meaning of the symbols would have been bound to make a false division

2. In every case the meaning of the hieratic word shows up in some relevant way in the juxtaposed verses from the Book of Abraham, whereas comparison of the hieratic with the preceding or following (rather than juxtaposed) English passages destroys the consistency of the parallels. Likewise, no significant parallels were found when the hieratic was compared in a similar way to other texts, such as the Book of Moses. Thus, the hieratic words seem to have a special relationship to the Book of Abraham and particularly to the verses with which they were connected by Joseph Smith.

In a number of cases, the parallels are further amplified by a relationship not simply of the narrow meaning of the hieratic words, but also of the underlying religious background of the words to the content of the relevant English passages. Furthermore, in the case of numerous hieratic words, homophonous Hebrew words have been found which also have meanings which appear in relevant ways in the associated English verses - a fact which might be expected if the text had been adopted as a memory device by a group of Semitic people for a specific Hebrew secret oral tradition.

This second discovery implies also that the author of the Book of Abraham had a significant insight into the meaning of the hieratic words of the Sen-Sen papyrus, and that the symbols on this papyrus have a definite relationship to the Book of Abraham verse with which Joseph Smith associated them.

In the case of Joseph Smith's Alphabet and Grammar, we find not one or two examples of related meanings in the two columns (hieratic on the left, English on the right), but a correlation in each and every case, when comparing the respective Egyptian and English words which Joseph Smith indicated to be related. Thus the strength of the text will not rise or fall on the basis of one or more individual cases, but upon the fact that one finds parallels consistently in every case when examined in the order established by Joseph Smith. The correspondences, as we have demonstrated in the case of the Alphabet and Grammar, are not random, but consistent. It matters not if all the key-words be mere particles (prepositions, articles, and other simple adjectives) or common nouns or verbs. The parallels exist only if one examines the columns as they were set up by Joseph Smith; otherwise, such parallels do not occur in a consistent manner.

Thus, as a test, when we compared the meanings of the Egyptian words to the preceding Book of Abraham verses in each case, and later to following verses in each case, and finally in a similar manner to the equivilant number of Book of Moses verses (which, being written down by the same English speaker, with the same vocabulary and grammatical style, and having a similar subject matter, should provide the greatest number of accidental parallels), relatively few parallels (no more than might be expected by pure chance) were found; and these, for the most part, were not as valid nor as convincing as the parallels to the Book of Abraham, so that the number and consistency of the parallels did not compare with those evident in the verses as Joseph Smith lined them up. Of the 29 divisions made by Joseph Smith, we found parallels in 29 cases. Thus the number and the quality of the parallels are important factors to consider. Joseph Smith's arrangement is consistent in quality and in number of parallels, and while some parallels may exist between the Sen-Sen text and any given English text (as some would, by mere chance), it is inconceivable that, using approximately the same ratio of Egyptian to English words as Joseph Smith did, the same number of parallels as appeared in our study of the Book of Abraham would be found.

Moreover it seems to be more than mere coincidence that many of the Egyptian hieratic words copied by Joseph Smith are semantically reflected in the juxtaposed English text in more than one way, or more than once in the same way. For example, in the above numbered parallels, the following items appear more than once:

#6. "py" meaning "this" In Abraham 1:11a the word "this" appears three times, the word "these" appears once, and "the" appears four times.

#9. "Wr" meaning "strong, powerful, great," according to Baer. In Abraham 1:15 the title "Almighty" appears. "Her," meaning to "travel, pass by," according to Nelson. Feet are also determinatives in verbs of motion, such as "walk, run, jump, come, go, stand," etc., and play an important role in the prayer stance, for which see Dr. Nibley's comments on Facsimile 1 in the Improvement Era, Dec. 1968, page 31. In Abraham 1:15 we read of Abraham's prayer for deliverance; the words "stood by my feet" appear in the original version on page K of the Alphabet and Grammar. (in our present Book of Abraham, this reads "stood by me.")

#10 "Khonsu," meaning "the moon god," called "the traveler." In Abraham 1:16-19 we have several references to traveling: "...I have come take thee away...; I have come down to visit them...; I will lead thee by my hand..." Also the god Libnah, spoken of by Abraham, is clearly from the Semitic levanah "the white one (f.)," the Hebrew name for the moon. (Note: "v" and "b" are allophones in Hebrew.)

21. "H fr" meaning "seize, grasp." In Abraham 2:7-9a there are several references to God's control ("grasp") over the earth, especially by use of the body's grasping instrument, the hand: "...I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice...; my hand shall be over thee..." It should be noted that the normal Egyptian word for "grasp" or "seize" (3mm) is written with the hand (or sometimes the arm) as a determinative.

22. "Wy" meaning the two arms, determinatives of "flash, body, members." In Abraham 2:9b-11 we find these references: "... in their hands they shall bear this ministry...; the seed of the body..." (see also 22a.)

22b. "R" meaning "with" also designates futurity. Continuing an examination of Abraham 2:9b-11, we find that God is making promises regarding the future. He promises that through Abraham's seed "...shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel..."

So far as we have seen, the Tanners have not refuted this information. Nor have they addressed it as such, but merely dismissed it. These LDS scholars are not desperately trying to save the Book of Abraham as the Tanners suggest at all, but rather trying to understand it and honestly see what relationship it has with Egyptian documents. The LDS scholars are at least trying to go about it scientifically, while critics simply make fun of their efforts. But who is the wiser and better informed for it? The picture the Tanners paint is in their own imaginations and is wholly inadequate.


I also have been checking into the Tanner's work through the years, and find their analysis and understanding of the Joseph Smith Papyri to be quite incorrect. For the first 17 pages in their book "Mormonism: Shadow or Reality" in the chapter on the Book of Abraham (chapter 22) they simply slice and dice Hugh Nibley's writings up and present it in the most incoherent order and understanding I have ever seen. Mind you, it's not Nibley's way of writing, but the Tanners way of presenting Nibley's research that makes Nibley's materials look so messed up. What the Tanner's ought to begin realizing is that even if they refute everything Nibley has written (and they haven't), that would not mean this is proof against Mormonism the religion. Hugh Nibley is not Mormonsim. He certainly is my personal favorite as far as authors go however. I find the Tanner's attacks on LDS individuals to be irrelevant. I also find that nearly half of their book is just that, finding LDS authors who contradict each other (as the Tanners set it up however). They could certainly find the same thing with ANY Christian denominations authors were they so inclined to do, thus "proving" Christianity false, if that's how disbelievers would accept the Tanners' evidence. I honestly don't.

I find on page 319 of their book "Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?" 5th edition, 1987, that the Tanners make some rather odd comments.

They say "In 1879 the Mormon writer George Reynolds tried to refute Deveria's work against the Book of Abraham by claiming that 'the Egyptian hieroglyphics had at least two (but more probably three) meanings, the one understood by the masses - the other comprehended only by the initiated, the priesthood and others: which latter conveyed the true though hidden intent of the writer.'"

The Tanners continue:

"That George Reynolds would make such a suggestion in 1879 is not too surprising, but when we found Dr. Nibley using the same type of reasoning in 1968 we were rather amazed. In his desperation to save the Book of Abraham, Nibley went so far as to state that the 'Sensen' text may have a second meaning unknown to Egyptologists… the reader will remember that Dr. Nibley stated that Joseph Smith treated the characters as super-cryptograms - that is, writings with a hidden meaning…(skipping their quoting Nibley to get to their concluding point on p. 320)

"We feel that Dr. Nibley's suggestion that the Sensen text might have a 'different text concealed within it' which is unknown to Egyptologists is absolutely ridiculous."

What makes this comment so very interesting to me, is that Egyptologists precisely have argued this before! Who are the Tanners thinking of? I note that in their very fine text on "Abydos", Omm Sety and Hanny El Zeini, LL Co., 1981: 15 says - "Moreover, there are certain scenes which have no bearing at all on their accompanying inscriptions. These things make one wonder if there is a hidden meaning to the 'Book of Gates,' for which we do not hold the key… we are inclined to believe that the scene of the multi-headed serpent must have some worthy and basically serious interpretation."

The Tanners would have done well to do a little more homework instead of worrying so much about twitting Nibley on things he understood well and they lacked comprehension of.

Another interesting reference I found was from John Anthony West in his fine book "Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt," Quest Books, 1993: 28-29: "The analytic mind rebels and refuses to countenance a symbol that contains within a single sign a complete hierarchy of meaning from the literal to the most abstract. But that is what the hieroglyphs do…Thus the sign for "bird" shows a bird. But the constant use of this symbol in sacred texts suggests that the literal meaning does not tell the whole story. And the ubiquitous symbol for the 'soul' (the ba bird with a human head) provides the clue to the symbolic meaning of 'bird.' The sign refers not only to the physical bird, but also to all the functions and properties that are contained within the 'idea' of bird: the ability to fly, to excape from the earth, and hence the principle of volatility which ultimately implies 'spirit.'"

The Tanners apparently are unaware that Nibley is exactly in line with Egyptological thinking, while they are the ones who are misunderstanding. Consider the enormous amount of Egyptological evidence against their own claim.

Charles Larson in his book "By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus," (which simply follows what the Tanners say) contends on page 115-116 that the idea that there may be a hidden meaning or a multiple meaning to the papyri is wrong and that no Egyptologist accepts this. He cites Richard Parker, of whom Klaus Baer said in a letter to the Tanners (!) was a rather sloppy Egyptologist and very careless in his work..

However, were Larson (and the Tanners) to bother looking into Egyptological journals where the Egyptologists actually publish what they do find and think, he would find a far different story. In fact, in reading the thousands of articles I have from the journals, one specifically caught my eye that has to do with this issue of hidden meanings.

Nadette Hoffmann, in her article "Reading the Amduat" in the powerful Egyptological journal "Zeitschrift fur Agyptishe Sprache und Altertumskunde" 123(1996): 26-40 has much to say about this very idea. And notice this is not in the 1960's but just yesteryear, literally, (1996).

She says among other things:

[of the Egyptians themselves] "Their internal contradictions, as well as the frequent possibility of several interpretations, result in a series of problems for the western mind."(p. 26) [like Larson!]

"for the Egyptians a sign could have the double function of a character in a script and an image." (p. 27)

"The Amduat seems to use cryptographic code... and there are numerous wordplays throughout the composition." (p. 27)

Many different modes of conveying information was utilized all at once in their writings, hence the compositions were written "into a kind of metalanguage, composed of multiple forms of expression between writing and painting." (p. 28)

When it appears that a text and a picture in ancient Egyptian writings contradict each other this is "because the pictures could be used to support different statements at one and the same time." (p. 29)

She goes on to say "Rather than disgarding elements that do not fit neatly together, it is therefore prefereable to regard them as keys to additional meanings which affect the interpretation of the composition in parts or as a whole." (p. 29) [Is it any wonder Larson blunders so terribly? He is completely unaware of this new information and analysis]

"The Amduat expresses their potential [of whoever is in the Amduat] by reinterpreting the standard iconography of traditional religious concepts. The result is a highly flexible system of statements and representations, which leaves ample room for the multiplicity of a being's "hprw," the forms in which it appears." (p. 34)

"apart from performing specific functions in the underworld, individual figures assume a definite identity. Major deities, who are connected with a broad range of concepts, add yet further layers of meaning to a particular context." (p. 35)

Notice her attitude on the ancient Egyptian ideas of their religion as opposed to the Tanners and Larson. She is well aware (because she has actually read this stuff ulike the Tanners or Larson) that there are multiple meanings and layers of understanding for us to realize and try to comprehend. The Tanner's and Larson's simplistic approach is grossly underestimating everything about Egyptology and the ancient Egyptians. Nibley's method and understanding is strictly correct.

Not only can there be hidden meanings, and double meanings in texts of the ancient Egyptians, but the various deities and their functions and forms could be multiple and in fact contradictory! This is the true ancient Egyptian way, of which the Tanners have not understood at all. Consider a little of the evidence from the Egyptologists:

Hans Bonnet shows that Hathor is the mother of Horus.( Hans Bonnet, "Reallexikon der Agyptischen Religionsgeschichte," Walter De Gruyter & Co., 1952, p. 280).

This shows that Hathor is associated with the Sun. "Die Sonne reift in Schoße der hathor." The sun ripens in the lap of Hathor. We also are told "Nach ihr ist Hathor das Sonnen auge, also die Sonne selbst." Hathor is the sun because she was the sun's eye, hence the sun.(Bonnet: p. 280) Manfred Lurker tells us that an ancient myth of Hathor she was supposed to have taken the youthful sun up to heaven by means of her horns. In the end the goddess who bore the sun was herself equated with the sun, being regarded as the Solar Eye.( Manfred Lurker, "The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Egypt," Thames & Hudson, 1974, p. 59.

The Eye of Horus we know was presented to his father Osiris, thereby helping him to attain new life. The presentation of the eye was regarded as the archtype of every offering ceremony., p. 67. We are further informed that The Wedjat Eye was a symbol of power of the god of light. With the Ankh sign it means "to flourish." It was also a protection against the evil eye, p. 128. Cf. Sir Alan Gardiner, "Egyptian Grammar," Griffith Institute, 3rd Revised Edition, 1994, p. 111 - "thou hast placed it (the Eye of Horus) in thy head, that thou mayest be eminent by means of it, that thou mayest be exalted by means of it, that thy estimation may be great by means of it." It is called "the sound eye", p. 197. The Eye of Horus is even equated on some ocassions with the uraeus (i.e. the cobra), p. 421 bottom note. So it is also connected with that goddess as well).

Interestingly, Hathor is also the tree-goddess and helper of the dead (Bonnet, p. 279). This demonstrates that she can play many roles at once without there being a contradiction. To the Egyptians our type of thinking and logic is irrelevant! Sir Alan Gardiner has noted this quite frequently in his writings. He says:

"For example the cow-goddess Hathor of Dendera was really none other than the Hathor worshipped near Memphis in a sycamore. The instability of form shown by some deities was extraordinary; Thoth was indeed as a rule an ibis or had an ibis head on a human body, but he might also be a cynocephalus ape, or else manifest himself in the moon... the earth god Geb took the form of the Ram Chnum at Hypselis... the sun is assuredly that which exhibits the greatest constancy and is least in need of changing imagery; yet at Heliopolis (the Egyptian On) he was enivsaged as the falcon-headed Harakhti (Horus on the Horizon) or else as a human king bearing the name Atum; or else he might even be conceived of as a beetle rolling its ball of dung in front of it (Khopri)." (Alan Gardiner, "Egypt of the Pharoahs," Oxford Univ. Press, 1964, p. 216).

So by analogy, Hathor being a cow, to the Egyptians could also be the sun, as well as a tree-goddess, as she certainly is! She also has the epithet "lady of the turquoise." (Gardiner, "Ibid.", p. 137. Perhaps because the Eye of Horus (which she also was), was made of the precious stone? See Margaret Bunson, "The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt," Facts on File, 1991, p. 118).

We also learn that she is "Falkenweibchen ist darum ein haufiges Beiwort her Hathor von Punt." That is, she is the falcon female of Punt. But her various forms and aspects does not rule out that she can't be others. In fact, Hathor is called "the great enchantress" (Kate Bosse-Griffiths, "The Great Enchantress in the Little Golden Shrine of Tut'ankhamun," in "Journal of Egyptian Archaeology," 1973, p. 101, where we are told that the "Urt Hekau" (The Great Enchantress) can be Isis, Hathor, or Mut!)

She is also the "Mistress of the sky, and wife of Horus" (Samuel A.B. Mercer. "Horus Royal God of Egypt," Society of Oriental Research, 1942, p. 107. Cf. Leonard Cottrell, "Egypt", Oxford Univ. Press, 1966, p. 49 - "Hathor Goddess of Love and Beauty." In the Coffin Texts, Hathor is called the mistress of the rams, CT 2:199, Spell 612).

Is it forbidden to be the wife as well as mother to Horus? Not to the Egyptians! Things like this didn't bother the Egyptians. Gardiner also noted this:

"If the usually accept theory of Egyptian kingship is correct, the divine nature of the falcon-god Horus descended from son to son, the dying monarch relinquishing that attribute in order to become an Osiris. An act of association which resulted in two Horuses functioning simultaneously made nonsense of this doctrine, but there is no hint that the Egyptians ever felt scruples on this score. In matters of religion logic played no great part, and the assimilation or duplication of deities doubtless added a mystic charm to their theology." (Alan Gardiner, "Egypt of the Pharoahs," p. 129f).

And exactly so with Horus to whom Hathor is intimately acquainted and associated with. Horus, we are told, is a heavenly body; "The idea that Horus appears in the horizon and on heaven obviously means that he is a celestial body. He is evidently in some cases the sun, in other cases, a star...Horus was the sun, and the evidence that he was a star, indications seem to exist that Horus was also the moon." (Rudolf Anthes, "Egyptian Theology in the Third Millenium B.C.," in "Journal of Near Eastern Studies," July, 1959, pp. 185f).

Even Hathor, we are informed, took many forms, usually associated with the Egyptian Sed-Festival Rites. (Eric Uphill, "The Egyptian Sed-Festival Rites," in "JNES" 1965, p. 376. Cf. Walter Federn, "The 'Transformations' in the Coffin Texts A New Approach," in JNES, Oct. 1960, p. 254, where we are told that Hathor is "the 'Bull of Heliopolis' being evidently the counterpart of the 'Bull of the west', the appellation of Osiris..." Her heading is "wnn m ss n Htr").

Further, we are informed that "a god is not confined to one external manifestation but can assume the form of another god or of a fetish." (J. Gwyn Griffiths, "Motivation in Early Egyptian Syncretism", in "Gegengabe Festschrift fur Emma Brunner-Traut", Verlag Tubingen, 1992, p. 48).

This is obvious if one even superficially studies the ancient Egyptians for any length of time. Concerning Horus again, we know he was manifested as the different planets, thus as Mercury he was "Hr-st"; as Saturn he was "Hr-K3", as Jupiter he was "Hr-wp-st", as the 7th star in the constellation of the Great Bear he was "Hr-mhntj-n-irtj", and Orion was his father. "Indeed, being so closely associated with the stars, it was the night-sky which was especially his." (Mercer, "Ibid.", p. 111. "To Horus then was attatched much of the myth which centered around the sun. Horus was the sun, especially in rising, so he became, too, the god of the Eastern Horizon. But he was also god of the Two Horizons, in general. Now, he became the winged sun-disc, so characteristic of Horus of Edfu..." p. 191).

Horus is specifically Sirius, a most important star to the ancient Egyptians. (Rudolf Anthes, "Harachti und Re in den Pyramidentexten", in "Zeitschrift fur Agyptische Sprach," 1974, p. 78. Faulkner notes that the stars can be the souls of the dead as far as that goes, in "The King and the Star-Religion in the Pyramid Texts," in "JNES", Vol. 25, 1966, pp. 153f. On p. 159 he notes the importance of Sirius (Sothis). Cf. Kurt Sethe, "Urgeschichte und Alteste Religion der Agypter," Kunde des Morgenlands, Leipzig, 1930, p. 126 for discussion of the gold falcon, Hathor, and the Gold Isis).

The hieroglyphic name for Hathor, in fact, is a falcon (the Horus falcon) in a house! (Peter Kaplony, "Eine Schminkpalette von Konig Skorpion aus Abu Umuri", in "Orientalia", 34 (1965), pp. 161f).

Hathor herself is identified with Sothis (Sirius), the star called "Sept". (Lewis Spence, "Egypt," Studio editions, 1994, p. 168). Hathor is even a Lion Goddess, as well as a wind goddess. (Torgny Save-Soderbergh, "Pharaohs and Mortals," P.A. Norstedt & Soners Forlag, 1958, p. 243, which lion form she apparently dawned in order to destroy mankind for the main god. On the wind, G. A. Wainwright, "The Sky Religion In Egypt," Cambridge Univ. Press, 1938, p. 15. Cf. Adolf Erman, "Life in Ancient Egypt," Dover, 1971, p. 268).

There just doesn't seem to be any end of the various forms she can take. In other words, she can represent the sky, but this does nothing to stop here from also being the sun. The seven Hathors, we are even told, were involved in Music and dance, and in the Coffin Texts are mentioned sistrum players of the goddess. (Adolf Erman, "Die Religion der Agypter," Walter de Gruyter, 1934, p. 31. CT 1:123. Cf. CT 1:169 where someone is described as the scribe of Hathor. CT 2:128; 2:155).

So what have we seen? There is no one to one correspondence with gods and their functions or forms in Egyptian religion or history or philosophy. There is a many variagated forms, functions, and roles played by the major gods of Egypt at a bare minimum. So the argument that Hathor cannot be the sun because it is the sky, or because it is female as opposed to being male is clearly our conception, not the ancient Egyptian view. To fault the ancient cultures based on our modern views is obviously not correct.

The Tanners, as I have said again and again, would do very well to get their noses into what the ancient Egyptians really thought, especially about the ideas of hidden meanings in the ancient Egyptians' words and phrases, and the multiple forms and functions that Egyptian deities could take. They need to quit relying on their own wits and wisdom, which, as research shows, is way off base.


As of March 1999 the newest most up to date information on the description of the Joseph Smith papyri and their descriptions of what they were are as follows:

John Gee, the LDS Egyptologist, in his lecture on the Papyri called "A History of the Joseph Smith Papyri and Book of Abraham in "The Book of Abraham Lecture Series," (FARMS 1999) has noted the most frequent descriptions of the papyri from people who actually saw them with their own eyes.

Granted the anti-Mormon argument of the papyri fossilized in 1969, while it has been the Mormon scholars who have carried the work forward and onward with new discoveries and analysis. The anti-Mormons, ill equipped to handle Egyptian have not tried to understand anything further than what was known in 1969. Their anti-Mormon status is in a sad state of affairs.

The papyri once were three ancient manuscripts. The 10 fragments we now possess is simply not all the papyri that Joseph Smith possessed by any stretch of the imagination. Joseph Smith possessed at least 5 papyri. A description of William H. Rust in 1837 said the papyri were a quantity of rolls with some pieces being torn off and some pieces lost. The sheets were originally rolled up.

In 1840 the papyrus were described as being in several frames under glass.

May 1841- Appleby saw the "rolls of papyrus."

Caswell in 1842 said he saw glazed slides of papyrus.

Charlotte Haven Feb. 1843 described a "long roll" and hieroglyphics on "another long roll."

Some papyri were in the St. Louis Museum in 1856, Gustav Seifarth (sp?) saw at least one papyrus "roll," and appears to describe "two rolls." Showing "rolls" were in existence in the JS Papyri as late as 1856!

Some sheets were cut and put into frames, leaving at "least two rolls, one being a long roll of manuscript." The roll in the museum of Chicago was destroyed by the fire. It was described as a "roll." This one seemed to have contained fac. 3. The only surviving pieces are our 10 fragments today. Two rolls were destroyed by the fire in Chicago, according to its description of its own inventory.

The original roll of Sunenies, (sp?) was 320 by 32 centimeters! The damaged outside leaves were preserved under glass preserved as papyrus #, 7,8,5,6,4,2.

Only 27 chapters of the Book of the Dead are in these fragments.

One person described the Book of Abraham as translated from the papyri as taking over two hours to read aloud. Compare today where it takes only a mere few minutes, clearly, we do not have all of the Book of Abraham, let alone all of the papyri.

Papyri 3a and 3b was described from early accounts as a "roll." We only have two meager fragments of this "roll" today. And all we have of another is fac. 2 the hypocephalus. It was separated from its roll sometime and somewhere.

The Book of the Dead of Amen Hotep described as a "roll," and separate document appears only as a small piece as fragment 6 in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers. We no longer have any roll of this original, but a mere small piece.

The papyrus of Hor was 300 by 11 centimeters!!! All we have from this is papyrus Joseph Smith 1, 11, and 10, three small fragments of a roll over 300 centimeters long!!! And it is two of these fragments, #'s 10 and 11 that anti-Mormons claim are all the original of the Book of Abraham! This simply cannot be demonstrated according to the physical descriptions of Joseph Smith's journal nor in descriptions in the History of the Church. The critics are mind reading, not showing us how Smith translated the fragments, norwhich ones Smith used. There is simply no description of which pieces Joseph Smith used. The anti-Mormons are missing the issue when they say the small fragments of the papyri we now possess are ALL the papyri the Prophet owned. The fragments represent a mere 13% of what Joseph Smith once owned. Until the critics become honest enough to admit this, I see no possible continuing dialogue of much value with them.

The Tanners are guilty of misrepresenting the actual status of the fragments of papyri in the possession of the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They have ignored John Gee's research in this area. They quickly updated their information when the Browns came out with their book against Dee Jay Nelson. Why haven’t they bothered refuting John Gee’s analysis? We suspect they haven’t the Egyptological knowledge, in which case, why on earth should we accept anything they say against the Egyptological claims for the Book of Abraham? They insist on using Egyptologists, and on us LDS actually BEING Egyptologists, but have they taken the plunge yet either?

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 13:20  

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