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Home Book of Abraham Special Section 1912 Attack of Egyptologists Against the Book of Abraham

1912 Attack of Egyptologists Against the Book of Abraham

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"Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator."


[Early in December of last year, the Rt. Rev. F. S. Spalding, Episcopal Bishop of Utah, put forth a brochure entitled, "Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator." In it he tried to prove, among other things which will be clearly shown in quotations from his writings in the articles following, that the Prophet Joseph failed as a translator of ancient Egyptian language, and therefore, also as a translator of the Book of Mormon, and as a Prophet of God. His document aroused considerable interest, and especially among some of the writers of the Church who then prepared answers to his arguments. By consent of the authors, the ERA is able to present these to its readers; and while other papers may appear hereafter, we believe that in the series here presented, the discriminating reader will not only be greatly interested but will discover sufficient to refute the Bishop's argument and find a vindication once more of the work of the Prophet Joseph.—THE EDITORS.]


A Plea in Bar of Final Conclusions.



[This article was first printed in the Salt Lake Tribune, of Dec. 15, 1912, but has been enlarged and revised by the author for the IMPROVEMENT ERA. The reason for the publication of the article in the Tribune, Elder Roberts states, was that there appeared in that paper on the 8th of December, 1912, a very sympathetic not to say fulsome review of Bishop Spalding's brochure, with predictions of its direful effects upon "Mormonism." Elder Roberts was therefore anxious to obtain a hearing before the readers of that paper, and accordingly applied to the management of the Tribune for that privilege, which was very willingly and courteously granted, and for which he here makes acknowledgment and tenders his thanks.—THE EDITORS.]

I call what I have to say at present on Bishop Spalding's pamphlet, "Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator," a plea in bar of final conclusions, because I realize that my remarks may not properly be regarded as a complete answer to his very adroitly presented case, specifically against the Book of Abraham, and inferentially against the Book of Mormon, as genuine translations. And here let it be admitted that the bishop's premises and argument are worthy of profounder consideration than it is possible for this writer under present circumstances to give them. But the number of inquiries, both verbal and written, addressed to him as to whether or not the "case" which the bishop apparently makes against the Book of Abraham can be met is the occasion for this immediate, and what may be considered, not without some reason, an inadequate reply.

My only object now is to call attention to such imperfections in the data on which the bishop bases his conclusions, as to indicate that they do not furnish sufficient grounds to warrant the deductions as being final, and that the inquiry conducted by him is not so formidable as at first glance it would appear.

As another item in the preliminary to my remarks upon the bishop's case against the Book of Abraham, permit me to acknowledge the courtesy and even generosity to "Mormon" writers he displays in conducting his inquiry; and to say that his method of discussion is entirely legitimate, and the spirit of it irreproachable. I am willing to accord to him all the courtesy and generosity he exhibits in debate that the reviewer of his pamphlet claims for him in last Sunday's Tribune.



Briefly stated, the case of the bishop against Joseph Smith as a translator is this:

The competency of the Prophet as a translator of ancient records can be ascertained in but one way. "The original texts, together with his interpretations, must be submitted to competent scholars, and if they declare his translations to be correct, then they must be accepted as true."

Conversely, if the "competent scholars" shall declare his translations to be incorrect, then, of course, his claims as a translator fall to the ground; and with that failure as a translator demonstrated, his claims to divine inspiration cannot be allowed; he is no prophet of God. If he was not a truly inspired translator then he had no right to the religious leadership which "earnest men" accorded him.

"However sincere he may have been in believing in his mission," the bishop argues, "if the translation he gave to mankind is false, he is shown to have been self-deceived." And if he was self-deceived in the matter of his translations, then those witnesses who testified to the correctness of his translation, by a supposed hearing of the voice of God, declaring the fact, were also self-deceived (pamphlet p. 11;) and the result must be a repudiation of "the whole body of belief," which has been built upon Joseph Smith's translations of ancient records—the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham.

As the bishop remarks, "these questions are most critical," and, I might add, most searching, since they lay the ax at the root of the whole "Mormon" tree. I allow the bishop all his claims to the dire results to "Mormonism" if he can to the point of demonstration, make his case good against Joseph Smith as a translator.

How may this end be achieved? Confessedly, as the translator of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet is beyond the reach of the bishop, at least by direct means; for the reason that "the plates" of the Book of Mormon are "not available" for the above purpose, being in the keeping of the messenger to whom Joseph Smith returned them after the translation was completed. But in certain Egyptian papyrus rolls, found in a sarcophagus in Egypt, which came into Joseph Smith's possession in 1835, a translation of which he published in March, 1842 (Times and Seasons, vol. 3. Nos. 9 and 10.) the bishop finds something that will serve his purpose equally well; because with the Prophet's translation and explanation of some parts of this ancient record, which the translator called the Book of Abraham, is published three facsimiles of the original Egyptian text from the Book of Abraham. These facsimiles may be submitted to the learned Egyptologists, and as "today the Egyptian language is readily translated by many scholars, we have just the test we need," says the bishop, "of Joseph Smith's accuracy as a translator." (Pamphlet p. 18.)

The bishop has applied the test. That is to say, Bishop Spalding sent the facsimiles of the Egyptian records with Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Abraham, with the Prophet's partial translation and explanations of these facsimiles, to certain American, English, and German Egyptologists for their opinion of the accuracy of the translation, with the result that they all—and there are eight of them—give judgment against the Prophet.



These scholars, world renowned, are: Dr. A. H. Sayce of Oxford, England; Dr. W. M. Flinders Petrie, London university; James H. Breasted, Ph.D., Haskell Oriental museum, University of Chicago; Dr. Arthur C. Mace, assistant curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, department of Egyptian art; Dr. John Peters, University of Pennsylvania, in charge of expedition to Babylonia, 1888-1895; the Rev Prof. C. A. B. Mercer, Ph. D., Western Theological seminary, custodian Hibbard collection Egyptian reproductions; Dr. Edward Meyer, University of Berlin; Dr. Friedrich Freiheer Von Bissing, professor of Egyptology in the University of Munich.

Quite a formidable list of learned men, truly; and I give it, because I think the bishop is entitled to have it known by those reading these "remarks" how eminent is the jury pronouncing on the case against the "Mormon" Prophet.



At this point we may leave the bishop. He has done his duty; he has presented the case, and has received a verdict. From this on we are to deal with that verdict, and the jury rendering it.

One who can lay no claim to the learning of Egypt at first hand, by knowledge of original records, may well pause before such an array of Egyptologists as listed above, before undertaking to comment upon their conclusions. And truly it is in no spirit of arrogance or flippancy or self-sufficiency that I undertake to make my comments; neither as despising nor flouting their learning. In their presence it is becoming in me, and all others unschooled in ancient Egyptian lore, to speak with modesty and behave with becoming deference. But I ask that due attention at this point be given to the very limited scope of what I propose: I am making a plea only in bar of final conclusions upon this subject, and I think I can point out from the decisions of these learned men sufficient reasons to warrant that stay of final judgment for which I plead. And meantime I call the attention of the youth of my own people to the fact that these questions that depend upon special scholarship are questions that require time and research and discovery, and there is no occasion for hurry in dealing with them, and the conclusions of the learned in such matters are not as unchangeable as they seem.

For instance, quite a remarkable revolution has occured in Egyptology within recent years, within the period of Egyptian activities, indeed, of a number of Bishop Spalding's jury, especially of Dr. Petrie, whose activities are credited with beginning the revolution. "In the beginning of the year 1895," remarks Prof. George Steindorff, "with the assistance of his pupil Quibell, he (Petrie) discovered many cemeteries on the western bank of the Nile, between the districts of Naquada and Ballas, the contents of which differed considerably from those of other graves in Egypt, and which he therefore regarded not as Egyptian but as belonging probably to a Lybian race." One of the remarkable differences was the posture of the buried dead. With few exceptions up to this time the dead were found lying on their backs or on their sides at full length, the bodies found by Dr. Petrie in the districts named were "doubled up, the knees drawn up, the hands before the face, and lying on the left side ... The funeral objects were peculiar." These considerations led Dr. Petrie to conclude that the race they represented was not Egyptian, A year later, however, the French Egyptologist Prof. E. Amelineau made discoveries of a similar character in the "rubbish mounds known as Umm el-Ga'ab, near the ancient, sacred city of Abydos." "The tombs of the kings of Abydos," remarks Prof. Steindorff, "being purely Egyptian (as the inscriptions found in them prove,) it naturally follows that the civilization brought to light through these tombs is also Egyptian, and does not belong to another people as Petrie at first assumed."

But what was more important in the discoveries of Amelineau, was the opening of several royal tombs; and "fortunately, three kings are mentioned by their birth names on two stone fragments found at Abydos, and in these we recognize the kings Usaphais, Miebis, and Lememses, mentioned in the native lists, as well as by Manetho. All three belong to the First Dynasty, that is, to the period before the builders of the great pyramids (i. e. prior to 4,000, B. C.) which therefore is also about the time when the tombs of Abydos were built, and the period to which belong the other similar cemeteries of Upper Egypt, a date which has been otherwise confirmed."

Among the discoveries at Abydos by Amelineau was the very tomb of Osiris! and in it the mumified remains of that ancient king. "Near the head were two hawks, and two more were at the feet: The dead was designated by the inscription: "Osiris, the Good Being." The hawks were labelled, Horus, the avenger of his father; and the Godess Isis is also designated by her name" (From Amelineau's own description of his discovery.)

Previous to these discoveries-1896-Prof. Steindorff declares that "the earliest history and civilization of Egypt was, so to speak, terra incognita. For the period prior to the Fourth Dynasty we were dependent, to a great extent, on the information of Manetho with a large mixture of mythical elements, on the royal lists of kings, taken from older sources, and on occasional passages in Egyptian texts of the Old Empire and of later times. From these, however, we learned little more than the names and probable order of the kings who ruled from Menes down to Snofru (Sephuris,) the predecessor of Cheops. Of the monuments of this period only the tomb pyramid of Zeser and a few remains of Mastabas of the Third Dynasty were known. In consequence of this paucity of information, it has often happened that serious scholars have considered the kings of this earliest period of Egyptian history as mythical personages, or at least have come to the opinion that the lists of the kings were nothing but artificial compilations." (The above quotation, and information preceding it, is from the paper, Excavations in Egypt, by Prof. George Steindorff, published in Explorations in Bible Lands, During the 19th Century—1903—pp. 625-690.) "Little by little," he adds, "we are gaining more light upon this dark subject."

This is putting the results of the discovery into very conservative terms. Prof. Clifton Marby Levy, member of the Egyptian Exploration Fund, and American Oriental Society, was more enthusiastic in his comments on the result of the find about the time it occurred:

"The gods are men. That is the result of the latest discoveries in old Egypt. For Professor E. Amelineau, one of the most famous and trustworthy of the explorers in Egypt, announces positively that he has found the very tombs in which were buried the bodies of the Egyptian deities Osiris, Horus and Set. The discovery has made a tremendous sensation all over the world, for these names had beer always supposed by modern scholars to be purely mythical.

"It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of Professor Amelineau's discovery, for it is more radical and far-reaching than any of the many remarkable finds made in historic Egypt. Not one of the modern historians of that land of mystery from Flinders Petrie to Adolf Erman has expressed any belief in the actual existence of the first divine kings of Egypt. The names Osiris, Isis, Horus and Set have been supposed by every writer to be nothing more nor less than personifications of the powers of nature.

"But scholars are critical beings, readier with new theories to explain such stories than to accept them as containing the truth. It was incredible to them that such beings as Osiris and Horus ever lived, and in the legends of their adventures they saw nothing more than the personifying of the earth, the Nile, the sun and the stars. M. Amelineau, however, with his spade, upsets all of their theories, in so far as they deny the existence of these gods on earth, for he has found their tombs." (Letter to the New York Sunday Journal, March 13th, 1898.)

Nor is this likely to be the last upsetting that new discoveries will bring concerning Egyptology. As remarked by Prof. Steindorff—"more, considerable more, still remains hidden, waiting for the fortunate discoverer; and the day is far remote when the cry of 'nothing new from Africa' will be heard by the civilized world."

And now to apply this recent revolution to the present case. Suppose Joseph Smith, previous to 1895, had announced that the mummies with which was found the Egyptian rolls of papyrus, here in question, were doubled up, the knees drawn up, the hands before the face and lying on the left side. In that event some "Prof. Sayce," doubtless, could have been found who would have said: "It is difficult to deal seriously with Joseph Smith's impudent fraud" (Pamphlet, p. 23); "every one knows," such a Sayce would doubtless have added, "that no Egyptians have been found so buried, the mummies must be of some other race. And some "Dr. Mace" could have been found to denounce such a declaration as "a farrago of nonsense" (Pamphlet p. 27)—so easy is it, even for dignified, learned men, to speak contemptuously. But since 1896—since the discoveries of Dr. Petrie and Prof. Amelineau—the whole list of Egyptoligists would be in agreement with such a declaration, such virtue is there in the turning of a spade—the opening of a tomb.

Or had Joseph Smith announced that the mummies with which the rolls of papyrus were found contemporaneous with the ancient personages, Osiris, Isis, Horus, Set, then what a storm of impatient ridicule would have raged about the Prophet's head, and with what scorn the learned savants would have informed a listening world that, all this was "a farrago of nonsense," that the names Osiris, Isis, Horus and Set are "nothing more nor less than personifications of the powers of nature" (Prof. Levy). It was incredible that "such beings as Osirus and Horus ever lived." "and in the legends of their adventures" the learned "saw nothing more than the personifying of earth, the Nile, the sun and the stars" (Levy). And doubtless some "Professor Breasted" could have been found who would have said—in the event of our supposition happening previous to 1896—The fact of these names being purely mythical, or representing only the natural elements—"This" our "Breasted" would have said, "was of course, unknown to Smith, but it is a fact not only of my own knowledge, but also a common place of the knowledge of every orientalist who works in the Egyptian field" (pamphlet, p. 25). But again the opening of a tomb, and all this "knowledge" vanishes, and the names that were "myths" yesterday, become the names of real personages today Much virtue in the opening of a tomb; and the opening of tombs in Egypt is not ended yet, nor the results following the opening of tombs.

But, to the consideration of this verdict.



1. Of "bad copying" of the original documents, and what may come of it. Let it be observed in passing that the genuineness of the facsimiles is not in question, they are conceded to be Egyptian, though all of the jury, save one, insist that the attempt at reproduction has been badly executed.

"The hieroglyphics ... have been copied so ignorantly that hardly one of them is correct."

The "hieroglyphics," again, "have been transformed into unintelligible lines. Hardly one of them is copied correctly."—Sayce.

This repetition in his letter in less than a dozen lines.

"The inscriptions are far too badly copied to be able to read them."—Petrie.

Commenting on figure "6," plate 3, Dr. Breasted says:

"The head ... should be that of a wolf, or jackal, but which is here badly drawn."

"Cut 1 and 3 are inaccurate copies of well-known scenes on funeral papyri."—Mace.

"The reproductions are very Lad."—Meyer.

"The hieroglyphics are merely illegible scratches, the imitator not having the skill or intelligence to copy such a script."—Peters.

"It is impossible from Smith's bad facsimiles to make out any meaning of the inscriptions."—Bissing.

Question: If all this be true of the alleged facsimiles, how may the learned gentlemen pronounce judgment upon them with such certainty? May not the differences noted in these cuts from Egyptian documents with which they are compared and contrasted, and here assigned to bad copying, arise from a real difference in the documents themselves, due to production of a different age, or by a sojourner in Egypt, such as Abraham was? A layman's question, of course but I venture to press it. M. Theodule Deveria, a young savant of the Museum of the Louvre, Paris, when the same facsimiles were presented to him for translation by M. Jules Remey, in 1860—M. Remey was a French traveler who visited Utah in 1855-6 and afterward published his observations in two volumes, largely devoted to Utah and the "Mormons"—made the same complaint against the facsimiles, namely, that the reproduction was bad, that the hieroglyphics and figures in the copies submitted to him were in some cases dim and may not be deciphered. In other cases he insists that the figures should be different, and claims that others still have been purposely altered in copying.

This is substantially the claim of our present learned jury. M. Deveria, as well as they, obtained a different translation from that given by Joseph Smith; upon which, elsewhere, I have remarked: "If it is the facsimiles thus changed that M. Deveria has interpreted, then of course his interpretation would differ from the translation made by Joseph Smith, who doubtless followed strictly the papyrus text. (Americana, N. Y., April, 1911, p. 377, note.) I venture to make the same comment upon the work of the jury of savants now being considered.



And now as to the "bad copying" and purposely altering figures in the "facsimiles." The prophet describes the original documents as "beautifully written on papyrus, with black, and a small part red, ink or paint, in perfect preservation. The characters are such as you find upon the coffins of mummies—hieroglyphics, etc.—with many characters or letters like the present (though probably not quite so square) form of the Hebrew, without points." (Hist. of the Ch., vol. II, p. 3 and 8.) That is, the most ancient form of the Hebrew. From this it would appear that the original was not defective. The wood engraving for the cuts published in The Times and Seasons (Vol. III, Nos. 9, 19), was done by Reuben Hedlock, an engraver from Canada. John Taylor, later President Taylor, also from Canada, and a worker in wood, was also present and working on The Times and Seasons at the date of the publication of the facsimiles, and there is little doubt but what the wood engraving was reasonably well done. As to purposely changing the figures or altering the text, that is out of the question, since that would have subjected the prophet to detection and exposure, as after the facsimiles and the Book of Abraham were both published, the mummies, with which the papyri were found, and the papyri, were on exhibition at the home of the Prophet's parents at Nauvoo, subject to the inspection of all who might choose to examine them. As late as May, "forty-three days before the death of the prophet", in 1844, they were examined by Josiah Quincy—the Josiah of "Figures of the Past" authorship. It is not, therefore, likely that Joseph Smith or his associates would designedly change any of the figures in their copy of these documents and run such risk of detection and exposure.

Again I say, such differences as are found to exist between these facsimiles and similar documents with which they are compared by our jury of savants, may not arise from "bad copying," but represent documents of different composition from those with which they are compared; of different ages, and executed by a sojourner in Egypt, as was Abraham.

And this, too, might have an important bearing upon the date of the documents which our jury insists "are all many centuries later than Abraham: ... about 960 to 750 B. C."—Petrie. Such documents as facsimile No. 2, said by the jury to be a sort of funeral tablet, in common use, "did not appear in any Egyptian burials until over a thousand years after the time of Abraham."—Breasted. Of facsimile No. 3, also related to funeral uses—of which there are many of the kind—"yet it may be stated as certain that the scene was unknown until about 500 years after Abraham's day."—Breasted.

It is fortunate for Joseph Smith's claims that the learned jury did not decide that the documents were of more ancient date than Abraham, for that would have presented a real difficulty, but being this side of his day, he may have been the author of such documents, though copies of them may not have been multiplied until centuries later.

Since the above appeared in print, the New York Times has devoted a page and a half of its valuable space to this subject, and with sensational headlines announced how "Museum walls proclaim fraud of 'Mormon' Prophet." The tone of the Times article in general is in sympathy with Bishop Spalding's jury, and contributes its voice against the Prophet. The article is illustrated with cuts, one of the "Mormon" temple, the three facsimiles from the Book of Abraham, and a circular disc from the Berlin museum collection, and invites its readers to note similarity to plate No. 4 (the number it gives to circular plate No. 2 in the Pearl of Great Price). It is only reasonable to presume that after all the claims that are made of this circular disc of the Book of Abraham being practically identical with the funerary discs plentifully found in Egyptian tombs and modern museums, the one most nearly resembling the Book of Abraham disc was selected by the Times writer for reproduction, in fac-simile. That being granted as reasonable, I for one thank the Times writer for giving me the opportunity of putting these two discs side by side in this article for comparison and contrast, and they are accordingly published herewith.

Two things are established by this opportunity for comparison and contrast; first that the fac-similes plate from the Book of Abraham is not unskillfully executed as charged. As a bit of art engraving it is in every way superior to the reproduction of the Times plate facsimile from the Berlin Museum. There is nothing incongruous between detail and general plan, as there doubtless would be if any of the pictographs had been designedly changed as is charged in respect of this plate (Deveria), or "copied so ignorantly that hardly one of them is correct" (Sayce.) And I leave it to the reader to say if in those parts that are most nearly alike in the two facsimiles the artistic execution is not superior in the Book of Abraham disc.

The second thing established by publishing the facsimiles of these two plates side by side, is that they are not identical plates. That while there are certain similarities in the two, enough to show that they may in part treat of the same general subjects (and that is what is required by the circumstances as we shall later see); yet the similarity is not so marked as to the distinctive features between the two (and that is what is required by the circumstances as we shall presently see). To establish this distinction in the conviction of the reader, let him take the middle line of combined pictographs and hieroglyphics and consider them. While the central figure has enough similarity to indicate the same idea, yet in the Book of Abraham pictograph there is but one disced, dog-headed like animal on each side; and then four lines of closely written hieroglyphics on each side. In the Berlin plate there are three dog-like animals on each side, and no hieroglyphics, except two or three. In the central figure on the top line there is marked similarity; but in the Book of Abraham facsimile there is a perpendicular line of hieroglyphics, and other details absent from the Berlin plate. Note also the difference in the two plates as to the pictographs to the right of this central figure. A comparison of the hieroglyphics circling the rim of the plate will also show distinctiveness; and there are a number of others, but this is sufficient to start the reader in making his comparisons and contrasts.

Again, respecting these differences in the facsimilies from the Book of Abraham and the Egyptian documents of the museums, relating perhaps, at least, to similar subjects, and with which our jury of savants compare and contrast the facsimilies given out by Joseph Smith: I am of opinion that the Book of Abraham itself gives a key which may lead to a solution of the matter. In that record we are informed that the first Pharaoh, son of Egyptus, the daughter of Ham, was a righteous man, but being of the race, that was denied the right to the priesthood, which had obtained among the ancient patriarchs, he nevertheless established his kingdom and judged his people wisely and justly all his days, seeking earnestly to imitate that order (i. e. of the priesthood) established by the fathers in the first generations, in the days of the first patriarchal reign, "even in the reign of Adam, and also of Noah." Allowing this in the account, and it may not be denied its place, then we of the "Mormon" side of the controversy have the right to say: "Differences in these leaves form the Book of Abraham and the leaves from the Book of the Dead in your museums, and in the hands of your saants? Yes, certainly; for our facsimilies were written by one holding the true and ligitimate order of the priesthood, and capable of representing in pictographs and hieroglyphics of his times its true signs and insignia, and history; what you find in the tombs of Egyptians kings and priests, and upon the walls of Egyptian temples, is but an imitation of that ancient order of things of which book our documents speak, but yours, doubtless, inaccurately from the first, being but an imitation, and that imitation (again doubtlessly) varied from, in the course of years while our record has remained uncorrupted. Hence the differences.



Plate I.—As to the whole plate:

"The well known scene of Anubis preparing the body of a dead man."—Petrie.

"Apparently the plate represents an embalmer [name evidently unknown—just a common undertaker, perhaps R.] preparing a body for burial."—Peters.

"Parts of the well known Book of the Dead."—Meyer.

"This figure represents Osiris raising from the dead." (!)—Breasted.

Judging from the plate itself, if I were on the jury, I should vote with Breasted, for surely the whole scene is too animated for the embalming of the dead. The main figure on the bedsteadlike altar, with both hands raised in protest, and one foot up, is evidently not ready for the supposed embalming process that Petrie and Peters think is under way. It should be observed, too, that the figure to be "embalmed" is clothed, and presumably in his right mind judging from the expression of the open and rather intelligent expression of the eye. It is more like a book of the living than of the "dead;" more like resistance to an assassin, as Joseph Smith depicts it, an attempt to offer the patriarch Abraham as a sacrifice to false gods—than either an embalming scene or a resurrection.

As to the separate figures on plat I: Figure 1—The hawk-like bird.

"The hawk of Horus."—Petrie.

"A bird in which form Isis is represented"—Breasted ("The hawk of Horus" and this alleged representation of Isis cannot be regarded as identical or as having anything in common, since Isis was the sister and wife of Osiris, and the mother of Horus; and Horus a solar deity, the avenger of his father—see Rawlinson and others. R.)

"The soul (Kos) is flying away in the form of a bird"—Peters.

"The soul in the shape of a bird is flying above it" (i. e. the body)—Meyer.

"The soul is leaving the body in the moment when the priest (3) is opening the body with a knife for mummifaction"—Bissing.



To these diverse interpretations of this figure 1, I add that of M. Deveria: "The soul of Osiris, under the form of a hawk." He also adds, in parenthesis, that the hawk "should have a human head." Yes, or the head of an ass, then it could be made to mean something else than what these other learned men describe it as meaning. Deveria also says that "figure 3"—which Breasted calls an "officiating priest;" Meyer "a priest approaching it" (i. e. the "bier"); and Peters, an "embalmer"—Deveria, I say, calls "figure 3" "The God of Anubis." With this Petrie, of Bishop Spalding's jury, agrees; except that Deveria says he is "effecting the resurrection of Osiris," and Petrie that "he is the conductor of the souls of the dead." Petrie makes no complaint against the form of "figure 3," but Deveria insists that he "should have a jackal's-head." Yes, or some other change might be suggested, and by such process some other meaning may be read into the plate and make it different from the translation of Joseph Smith.

Let us all stand together here a moment—this jury of savants, and M. Deveria, and also you and I, bishop, let us for a moment join the group, though we be no savants we need not be much abashed for the moment; and let the "mad Hamlet" instruct us:

Polonius, the tiresome old courtier, has been sent to bring Prince Hamlet to the presence of his mother, then—

"Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost the shape of a camel?"

"Polonius: By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed."

"Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel."

"Polonius: It is backed like a weasel."

"Hamlet: Or like a whale?"

"Polonius: Very like a whale."

"Hamlet: Then I will come to my mother by and by."

All right, bishop, for one, I will change my belief in Joseph Smith's translation of these Egyptian plates, "by and by," perhaps, but it will not be until there is more harmony among your Egyptologists. After this digression let us proceed, for there is more to follow. I continue with plate No. 1, Figure 2:

"The dead person"—PETRIE.

"The body of the dead lying aba' (bier)"—MEYER.

"The dead man is lying abier"—BISSING.

"The reclining figure lifts one foot and both arms. This figure represents Osiris rising from the dead!"—BREASTED.

"Osiris coming to life on his funeral couch!"—DEVERIA.

Again, were I on the jury, I should in this case vote with Breasted and Deveria, for the figure discussed represents a very life-like attitude for a corpse. If Mark Twain was commenting on the alleged "dead man" he would doubtless say that the report of his being dead was "very much exaggerated."

If our good bishop was in any way responsible for all this confusion of interpretation of the plates, I should laugh outright, for he is no more of an Egyptologist than I am; but as it is a learned jury of savants that have each other by the ears, it will be becoming in me to place my hand over my mouth and stand demure, as I do now.

Explanations of plates 2 and 3 are not as extended as in the case of this plate No. 1, for which reason, I take it, there is less conflict and more general agreement among members of the jury than in the explanations of plate No. 1. But we have the dictum, on the high authority of Dr. Sayce of Oxford, that the hieroglyphics of plate No. 3 "have been transformed into unintelligible lines;" "that hardly one of them is copied correctly," and how what it stands for, under such circumstances, is to be made out is difficult for the lay mind to comprehend. It should also be remembered that these savants in their interpretation of the facsimiles are pointing out what they conceive to be the meaning of some few of the principal figures but give us no translation of what might be thought, by the layman, to be the "script" of the text, namely, the small characters around the border of the circular disc, as also around and within the main part of the other facsimiles. If, as one of the jury declares (Mace), "Egyptian characters can now be read almost as easily as Greek," one wonders how it is that one or other of the plates was not completely translated, and its story exhaustively told. Can it be that Egyptologists are not as sure of their knowledge of ancient Egyptian script as the above remark of Dr. Mace would lead us to think they are? Is not our knowledge of the Egyptian records still in its swaddling band of infancy? What is said of plate No. 2, however, is more important for another reason than for disagreements among our jury of savants, and which I now proceed to point out.



"No. 2 is one of the usual discs with magic inscriptions placed beneath the head of the dead."—PETRIE.

"Cut No. 2 is a copy of one of the magical discs which in the late Egyptian period were placed under the head of the mummies."—MACE.

"Facsimile No. 2 * * * is commonly called among Egyptologists a hypocephalus. It was placed under the head of the mummy, and the various representations upon it were of a magical power designed to assist the deceased in various ways, especially to prevent the loss of his head."—BREASTED.

It is proper to say that our "jury-man" adds: "These did not come into use until the late centuries, just before the Christian era." (For an explanation of which see the paragraph quoted from Reynolds later.)

Figure 1. in the Book of Abraham fac-simile plate no. 2, is interpreted by Deveria to be:

"The spirit of the four elements, or rather of the four winds, or the four cardinal points; the soul of the terrestial world."

Figure 2, same plate; "Amon Ra with two human heads, meant probably to represent both the invisible or mysterous principle of Ammon, and the visible or luminous principle of Ra, the sun; or else the double and simulatneous principle of father and son.

Figure 3: "The God Ra, the sun, with a hawk's head seated in his boat. In the field the two symbollcal figures according to M. de Rouge, the fixed points of an astronomical period."

Figure 5; "The mystic cow, the great cow, symbolizing the inferior hemisphere of the heavens."

Joseph Smith's explanation of this No. 2 circular disc is that it deals with the science of astronomy, and with sacred mysteries. For the former see his explanations of figures 1, 2, 4, 5, 6; circular disc and for the latter, the sacred mysteries—see his explanation of figure 8—"contains writing that cannot be revealed unto the world but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God." "Figure 9 ought not to be revealed at the present time; figure 10 also. Figure 11 also; if the world can find out these numbers, so let it be. Amen." "Figures 12-20 will be given in the own due time of the Lord." "Figure 3," the prophet says, "is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority, with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand key words of the holy priesthood as revealed to Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Seth, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all to whom the priesthood was revealed."

"Figure 7," the Prophet also declares, "represents God sitting upon his throne revealing through the heavens the grand key words of the priesthood; as, also, the sign of the Holy Ghost unto Abraham, in the form of a dove."

To the idea of this plate being "sacred" or possessed of "magical" power "designed to assist the deceased in various ways, especially to prevent the loss of his head," and parts of it not to be revealed unto the world, and some of it only in holy places—to all this, several of our jury of savants give contributing evidence. But how came Joseph Smith by this knowledge, that this plate treated of these two things, Astronomy and sacred mysteries if not by "inspiration," for confessedly he did not obtain it by Egyptian scholarship? Neither could he by searching find it out, as no means of interpreting the Egyptian hieroglyphics was at hand until the publication of Champollion's Elementary Egyptian Grammar was issued, which did not come from the press until 1841; and the Book of Abraham and these fac-similes were published in March, 1842. It is safe to say that Joseph Smith never saw Champollion's grammar, previous to the publication of the Book of Abraham if at all.

On this whole matter of fac-simile No. 2, the late George Reynolds has an enlightening passage:

"It has been urged as an argument against the veracity of the translation by the Prophet Joseph Smith, of the circular cut or disc, but why, we cannot comprehend, that numerous copies of it exist, scattered among museums of Europe. These copies have been found buried with numerous mummies in the same way as the one that fell into the Prophet's hands. Instead of being an argument against the truthfulness of the translation given by Joseph Smith, we consider it a very strong one in its favor. For this reason, Egyptologists acknowledge that some peculiar potency was ascribed to it by the ancient Egyptians, but their ideas are very vague as to in what that power consisted.

"It was customary with the ancient inhabitants of Egypt to enshroud their dead in hieroglyphic wrappings, on which various facts relating to the life of the deceased were narrated. This writing was addressed to Osiris, the chief lord of Amenti, the land of the departed, and amongst other things it stated that the acts of the Osir, the deceased, had been scrutinized by the seven inquisitors appointed to investigate the lives of men, and that he was found worthy to pass by those who guarded the gates of the eternal worlds, and partake of the blessings of the saved.

"Accompanying the mummy is also often found this sacred disc, or hypocephalus, as the learned term it, which, if we mistake not, was usually placed under or near the head of the mummy. The translations given by the professedly learned convey no idea why this was so placed, but the revelations through our martyred prophet, that it contains the key words of the holy priesthood, at once makes the reason plain. The Egyptians buried this disc containing these sacred words with their dead, for very much the same reason that the Saints bury their dead in the robes of the holy priesthood.

"No doubt the true meaning of these 'key words' was soon lost among the Egyptians, but they knew enough to understand something of their value, and as ages rolled on, their apostate priesthood doubtlessly invented some myth to take their place."—The Book or Abraham. Its Authenticity established as a Divine and Ancient Record, 1870, George Reynolds, pp. 21, 22.

In passing I would call attention to the fact that this book by Mr. Reynolds has been very much neglected by the Latter-day Saints. Bishop Spalding seems not to be aware of its existence, else I feel sure he would not have remarked that the "Mormons" had paid little attention to the claims of M. Deveria, referred to in M. Remey's books. And if Bishop Spalding's brochure shall result in attracting any general attention to this very able work of the late George Reynolds, the "Mormons" may forgive the bishop for the slight shock he may momentarily have given them by hurling at their heads the opinions of his jury of savants on the translations of their Prophet. I commend the book of Mr. Reynolds to all interested in the subject, especially for its careful and scholarly treatment of the internal evidences of this fragment of the "Mormon" Prophet's work. But to return now to our argument.

Of the value of this incidental confirmation of the Prophet Joseph's declaration concerning the general character of circular disc No. 2, especially in the significant passage of Dr. Breasted, we at least may say that we are more than compensated for what else of damage it may be thought has been inflicted upon the standing of Joseph Smith as a translator of ancient records by the testimony of this group of Egyptologists.



I have a mild, but at the same time, I trust, only a respectful curiosity, to know what interest Bishop Spalding can have in the question of Joseph Smith's accuracy as a translator, or the historicity of the Book of Mormon, or of the Book of Abraham. As I understand his position, he follows those who go to the farthest frontiers of research in modern, or higher, criticism of the ancient Hebrew and Christian scriptures; and fearlessly accepts the results of that school of thought, up to the point of believing with many of its leaders that religion may be founded and become a reality in the world, notwithstanding defective historical origins.

If I am right in this opinion of his mental attitude in respect to this subject, and I should be sorry to mistake his position, then I might ask of what importance to him is the objective existence of the plates of which the Book of Mormon is said to be a translation; or the genuineness of the Egyptian rolls of papyrus, from which it is alleged Joseph Smith translated the Book of Abraham, or what matters it if Joseph Smith was or was not an accurate translator of ancient records, Egyptian or otherwise? If the recent deductions of higher criticism be accepted, and I understand the bishop to accept them, then these questions that concern themselves with objective existences, historicity, and even accuracy of translations, or any translation at all, are merely matters of minor importance, the mere scaffolding of realities and not the realities themselves, and really not vital. Allow me to explain: One of the most emphatic utterances of higher criticism says:

"The time has come when it seems necessary deliberately to raise the question whether the story which we have in the four gospels of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of their central figure, was designed by their authors to be taken as literal history. The higher criticism, indeed, is forcing this question to the front, and the time does not seem far distnnt when all sections of the church will have to face it."

The result of the higher criticism on the New Testament he describes as follows:

"But the result has been to show in almost if not every part of scripture that what we have is not history proper; that the author's purpose was not to write history, but to edify, to teach some religious truth which he regarded as all-important. . . . . As a result of the work of the higher criticism, the four gospels are a complete wreck as historical records. * * * * As authorities for the life of Jesus they are hopelessly shattered by the assaults of the higher criticism. How little they tell us of an historic Jesus! * * * There is only one way in which Christianity can survive, and that is by the surrender of its claim of being a historical religion, and the placing of it on a purely spiritual foundation." *

Our author argues as follows for this position:

"Why not listen to the mystic who tells us that it is nothing less than idolatry to fix our thought and worship on a historical Jesus, who is supposed to have lived in Palestine two thousand years ago, that a flesh-and-blood Jesus is a contradiction in terms, and that what the gospel writers intended to give the world was not history or biography, but spiritual allegory or drama." (!) (Rev. K. C. Anderson, D D., Hibbert Journal, January, 1911.)

Now, if I am right as to the bishop's attitude on the matter of higher criticism, why does he not treat Mormonism as such criticism treats Judaism and Christianity; not on the ground of its historicity, or the accuracy of its translated documents, but from the conception that Joseph Smith's purpose, as higher critics say the purpose of the New Testament writers was, "not to write history, but to edify," to teach some religious truth "which they regarded as all important;" not to give out correct translations of ancient documents, but to give the world some "spiritual allegory, or drama."

The above is written, not to seek to shift the basis of the argument, because I would escape the difficulties involved in the "Mormon" side of the controversy, but just to point out the fact to the respected bishop, that however much others may call in question the historical facts in which "Mormonism" had its origin; the objective existence of the plates, from which it is alleged the Book of Mormon was translated; or the accuracy of the Prophet Joseph as a translator of either the Book of Abraham or the Book of Mormon, it is not necessary to his school of thought to take us to task on these questions, since he must regard them as not at all vital to the maintenance of the real truth of "Mormonism." Hence for him, upon reflection, his performance in the adroitly prepared argument against Joseph Smith as a translator, must ever be apropos to nothing.



I trust that without laying myself open to the charge of egotism, I may claim that the modest task proposed at the outset of this writing has been achieved, namely, that a successful plea has been made in bar of final conclusions upon the questions involved in Bishop Spalding's criticism of Joseph Smith as a translator; that the case against the "Mormon" Prophet is not quite so formidable as it at first appeared to be; and that my readers will find sufficient reasons herein set forth to cause them to suspend judgment until some more worthy consideration may be given to the bishop's brochure—until those more competent, both in scholarship, and in analytical power, and skill in such learned controversy, may find opportunity to give the subject the attention it deserves.

Meantime, I would suggest to my own people that they should remember that there is a wide difference between the thing that one may not be able to explain and the thing which overthrows his theory altogether. One may not always account fully for his truth, nor beat down successfully all objections that may be urged against it; but it remains truth, just the same. And so in this case.

I believe that in the translations Joseph Smith has given to the world—confessedly not by scholarship but by inspiration, by his own spirit being quickened by contact with God's spirit—that in those translations are truths that are parts of a mighty system of truth, the like of which is not found elsewhere among men. And that system of truth, now being worked out in the experiences of both individual men and nations of men, will receive, ere the end, a splendid vindication both as a system and in all its parts.

And here I might paraphrase a passage from George Rawlinson employed in his "Historical Evidences of the Truth of the Scripture Records: If any new form of evidence shall hereafter be needed to meet new forms of attack, and authenticate afresh the word of truth, they will be found deposited somewhere, waiting for the fulness of time; and God will bring them forth in their season, from the dark hieroglyphics, or the desert sands, or the dusty manuscripts, to confound the adversaries of his word, and to magnify his name.

Secure in such a conviction, here let us stay ourselves, nothing daunted; and let the world's investigation of our truth be welcomed, confident, with the apostle of the Gentiles, that nothing can be done against the truth, but for the truth.


The Book of Abraham.



[On December 17, the following article appeared as an editorial in the Deseret News. The ERA has permission from the author, Elder J. M. Sjodahl, to reproduce it in this series.—THE EDITORS.]

We are indebted to the Right Rev. Bishop F. S. Spalding for a copy of his pamphlet on "Joseph Smith, Jr., as a Translator."

In this pamphlet the author quotes eminent scholars in proof of the assertion that the Prophet's translation of certain Egyptian documents accompanying the "Book of Abraham" is wrong. And he argues that if the Prophet failed in one instance, he failed in another, and his translation of the Book of Mormon must also be rejected.

The scholars quoted are: Dr. A. H. Sayce, Oxford, England; Dr. W. H. Flinders Petrie, London University; Dr. James H. Breasted, Haskell Oriental Museum, Chicago; Dr. Arthur C. Mace, assistant Curator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Dr. John Peters, University of Pennsylvania; Prof. C. A. B. Mercer, Western Theological Seminary; Dr. Edward Meyer, University of Berlin, and Dr. Friedrich Freiherr von Bissing, University of Munich.

This is, of course, a formidable array of scholarship, but not half as formidable as that which could be quoted against the genuineness and authenticity of the Pentatuech, for instnace. Bishop Spalding is well aware of the truth of this proposition. In fact, the Rev. gentleman is, we believe, somewhat infatuated with the scholarship which has produced a criticism known, since the days of Eichhorn, as "higher," though "negative" would describe its character more accurately. If he would state, freely and frankly, his views on certain portions of the Bible, they would be found not to differ essentially from those expressed on the correctness of the translation of the Book of Abraham. His effort to break down faith in the Book of Mormon by directing against it the heavy batteries of Egyptian scholarship, is, therefore, not surprising. But it will prove in vain.



Before taking up the "scholarship" argument, we may state that the reasoning of the Bishop concerning the translation of the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham is hardly fair. The Book of Mormon was translated by inspiration, by means of Urim and Thummim, the same instrument which enabled ancient men of God to render an infallible judgment and give to the people the mind and will of God. The Prophet Joseph, at the time he was called to render those ancient records into English, was an unlearned youth and the book itself was written in a language beyond the reach of the scholarship of our day. Its contents had to be revealed by the operation of the Holy Spirit upon the mind of the Prophet, or remain unknown. It was different with the Book of Abraham. That record came into his hands by purchase, as any other ancient document might have been procured. When it first attracted his attention he knew very little about its importance, but with the aid of W. W. Phelps and Olivery Cowdery he began to decipher some of the hieroglyphics, and as this work proceeded, he found to his joy that he had before him a literary production traceable to Abraham. Then he took up the study of the letters and the grammar of the Egyptian language. In this research he found himself, virtually, on pioneer ground, but, like Champollion, he had an almost intuitive linguistic sense. The work, however, proceeded slowly. It was begun in 1835. Not till seven years later, in 1842, could he begin the publication. (See "History of the Church" by Brigham H. Roberts, page 519, Vol. 4.) And it was never completed.

Here, then, is a difference between the two translations. The meaning of the characters on the Book of Mormon plates was given to him miraculously, by the direct operation of the Spirit of God upon his mind made receptive through prayer, visions, and meditation. The correct understanding of the Book of Abraham was given, also by the power of the Spirit of God but through the usual channels of research and as a reward for faithful investigation and labor. That the Prophet prayed earnestly for light and knowledge during the time he was occupied upon the translation, we need not say; for, like all the mighty men of God, he was a man of prayer and supplication; that the Lord answered his prayer, there can be no doubt. Both translations are, therefore, given by inspiration, but they came through different channels. That is the reason why the Bishop's argument is not fair. If a mistake should be proved in the translation of the Egyptian documents, that would not in any way affect the translation of the Book of Mormon. For such a mistake might be due to the channel through which the inspiration flowed, without lessening the value of the Book itself. There can be no such mistake in the Book of Mormon which came without the aid of scientific channels.



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. 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? Mathematics is an exact science, and its propositions may be demonstrated, but not so archeology.



Need we illustrate the fact that scholars sometimes are wrong?

It is still within the memory of man that Heinrich Schliemann was branded, by some pretty good scholars, as a dreamer, if not an impostor, when he first announced his startling discoveries. And yet, today, it is generally acknowledged that, as a result of his archeological researches, new light has been thrown on the ancient Greek civilization.

August le Plongeon, who devoted years to researches in Yucatan, was in his day regarded as little better than a charlatan, and some of his labors were necessarily expended on a defense of his claim to a hearing in the scientific world. Either he was wrong, or his critics were wrong. In either case the fact remains that scholars sometimes are wrong.

But hear Dr. M. G. Kyle, an eminent Egyptologist:

"In 1904 one of the foremost archeologists of Europe said to me: 'I do not believe there ever were such people as the Hittites and I do not believe 'Kheta' in the Egyptian inscriptions was meant for the name 'Hittites.' We will allow that archeologist to be nameless now, but the ruins of Troy vindicated the right of her people to a place in real history and the ruins of Boghatz-koi bid fair to afford a more striking vindication of the Bible representation of the Hittites."

We appreciate the courtesy of Dr. Kyle in not mentioning the name of the prominent European archeologist who manifested his ignorance by his skepticism. For ought we know, it might have been one of the European scientists quoted by Bishop Spalding. But whoever he was, he was as mistaken as he was positive. For, through the researches of Winckler, and others, an entire Hittite empire has been recovered from the debris of the past. It was an empire in Asia Minor, extending in every direction, and it was important enough to enter into treaties with Babylonia on one side and Egypt on the other.

The Hittites occupy a prominent part in the Bible. In Joshua the country between Lebanon and the Euphrates is called the Land of the Hittites. Solomon imported horses from the king of the Hittites, and the Syrians, when making war upon Israel on one occasion, feared that they would have to fight the Hittites, too. And yet an eminent scholar, a very few years ago denied that they ever existed. Bible students were necessarily forced to take issue with such scholars on this question, without having the proofs at their command, until further light came. It has now been proved that Thotmes III., of Egypt, marched to the banks of the Euphrates and received tribute from the "greater Hittites" to the amount of 3,200 pounds of silver. It is known also that Rameses the Great was unsuccessful in his attempt to capture the Hittite stronghold Kadesh, and that he came near perishing. Four years later a Hittite princess became the wife of Rameses. Scholarship had a great deal to learn on the Hittites, and who shall say that it has nothing to learn on the subject treated on in the Book of Abraham?

Another illustration: Until this time scholarship has confidently maintained that the religion of Palestine came from Babylonia. Another view has recently been announced by Albert T. Clay, an authority on cuneiform inscriptions. He says "that the Semitic-Babylonian religion is an importation from Syria and Palestine (Amurru), that the creation, deluge, ante-diluvian patriarchs, etc., of Babylonia, came from Amurru, instead of the Hebraic stories having come from Babylonia, as held by nearly all Semitic scholars." Here is a possible change announced in the conceptions of scholarship, which promises a complete scientific revolution.

There is no infallibility in scholarship. To assume that the Prophet was wrong simply because scholars say so is to beg the question.



We have no prejudice against scholarship. Scholars are witnesses, and their testimony on any question is of as much value as "expert" testimony always is, provided it is unprejudiced and based on facts. But as to that the jury, in this case the public, must be the judge. Scholarship certainly has a right to a respectful hearing but it happens that the authorities quoted by Bishop Spalding disagree on some essential points, in their translations. In fact, they contradict each other, and their testimony is, consequently, of less value than it would have been otherwise.

Dr. Sayce maintains that the hieroglyphs are so ignorantly copied that hardly one of them is correct, but in the pictographs in the third illustration he recognizes a representation of the Goddess Maat leading "the pharaoh" before Osiris, behind whom stands the Goddess Isis.

Dr. Petrie almost agrees with Dr. Sayce. He also regards the third illustration as a representation of a judgment scene. Figure 1, he says, is Osiris in the usual form; figure 2 is Isis behind him; figure 3 is the stand of offerings with lotus flowers; figure 4 is the Goddess Nebhat, or Maat; he is not sure which; figure 5 is the dead person, and figure 6 is the God Anubis, the conductor of the souls of the dead. Where Dr. Sayce sees the Goddess Maat (Ma't?) Dr. Petrie is not certain of the name, because of the bad drawing, and where Dr. Sayce recognizes the spirit of "the pharaoh," Dr. Petrie sees only a dead person—any dead person. Attention is called to this by the very wording of Dr. Sayce's translation, for he employs the definite article, indicating that a well known pharaoh—"the pharaoh"—is here portrayed. But which of them?

Dr. Breasted agrees with Dr. Sayce and Dr. Petrie that the figure on the throne represents Osiris. But who is the figure behind him? Probably Isis, he says. He is not as positive as the two other authorities. Figure 5, he says, is "a man" (not the pharaoh) being led before Osiris. The figure which Dr. Sayce calls Maat, and Dr. Petrie either Nebhat or Maat, Dr. Breasted calls the Goddess Truth, (Ma't), but the figure which Dr. Petrie is sure is Anubis, Dr. Breasted leaves without a name. It is but fair to state that the diccrepancies in the explanations of this illustration are not material.

On the first illustration, however, the divergence is serious. Dr. Sayce wisely ignores this illustration entirely, but Dr. Petrie offers the following explanations: Figure 1 is the hawk of Horus; figure 2 is a dead person; figure 3 is Anubis; figure 4 is the usual funeral couch; figures 5, 6, 7, and 8 are the regular jars for embalming parts of the body; figure 10 are the funeral offerings. His view is that the picture represents an embalming scene, but he ignores figures 9, 11, and 12, entirely. Do they not fit into the embalming theory?

Dr. Breasted differs with Dr. Petrie. He considers that the reclining figure represents Osiris rising from the dead, although there is no resemblance between the Osiris of this illustration and that of the third. The figure which Dr. Petrie tells us represents the hawk of Horus, Dr. Breasted says is the Goddess Isis—quite a different Isis from that in the third illustration. And the figure which Dr. Petrie feels sure is Anubis, Dr. Breasted says is an officiating priest. Both these interpretations cannot be correct. Either Dr. Petrie or Dr. Breasted, is wrong.

Dr. John Peters also offers a suggestion, or two, on the proper interpretation of the first illustration. He regards the figure which Dr. Petrie says is the hawk of Horus, and Dr. Breasted calls Isis, as the soul of the departed Egyptian (Kos). Three different theories on one figure! In figure 9, which Dr. Breasted ignores, he sees a crocodile ready to devour the dead if he is not properly embalmed, which naturally suggests the question whether the Egyptians believed that crocodiles fed on the souls of the dead.

We cannot within the necessarily restricted limits of this article pay attention to every detail of the learned testimony submitted, but it would not be proper to slight the opinion of Dr. Frederick Freiherr von Bissing, that the figure which Dr. Petrie calls Anubis is merely the "shadow" of the dead man. Will not Dr. Friedrich Freiherr von Bissing kindly explain how the shadow comes to wear a white apron?

On the second illustration there is practical unanimity. All the scholars quoted say it is a disc with magic inscriptions intended as a protection for the dead on the other side. But none of them offers an interpretation of the inscription. This is all the more remarkable because they all agree that the object is very familiar to Egyptian scholars.



Dr. Sayce ventures the assertion that the word "kolob," used by the Prophet Joseph, is not Egyptian. How does he know? Does he know every word in the entire Egyptian literature? It is certainly a Semitic word. By referring to an Arabic dictionary we find that it is still used in the Arabian language. As a verb it means "to turn," and a derivative might very properly be used as a noun to denote the center around which something turns, as it is used in the illustration in the Book of Abraham. The Arabian verb "qalaba" has many derivatives. We find it in the term "inqilab ashshams" which means "solstice," and in "qalb ulaqrab," which is the name for the star Alpha in the constellation Scorpio. This is proof enough that the word is used in the Semitic group of languages as an astronomical term, whether it is Egyptian or not, and it is not improbable that Abraham, a Semite, should so use it.

Dr. Mercer remarks that the prophet's transliteration of the Hebrew word for "expanse" is "far from correct," but as he neglects to give us the transliteration which he considers correct, we cannot judge of the excellency of his spelling. We note, however, that the art of writing Hebrew words in English has not yet received fixed rules. It is like phonetic spelling. Each writer has his own conception of it. A common transliteration of the word referred to is "rawkee'ah," but whether that is so much better than "raukeeang" we leave to any Hebrew scholar to say.

In this connection it may be of interest to Dr. Mercer to have his attention called to the fact that most of the names we have from the Hebrew are very imperfect representations of the Hebrew letters. In the Hebrew there are no such names as "Moses," "Eve," "Solomon," "Samson," Jephthah," "Saul," etc. The corresponding Hebrew names are, "Mosheh," "Chavah," "Shelomeh," "Shimeshon," "Iepathach," and "Shaaul," as near as we can write these names in English. There are innumerable illustrations of this discrepancy between the Hebrew and the accepted names. We have them from the Greek, mostly, and they have suffered in the double transliteration.

Dr. Mercer also suggests that "Jahoh-eh" is a faulty transliteration of the Hebrew "Jehovah." Here again we must confess disappointment at the neglect of the learned doctor to tell the world how that Hebrew word ought to be transliterated in order to give the correct pronunciation. If he knows, he knows more than any other living scholar, Jew or Gentile, "Mormon" or non-"Mormon," and he should not keep the secret to himself. And since he questions the statement that the word is Egyptian, he should enlighten the world on the origin and meaning of it.

But some scholars are of the opinion that the word is akin to the Egyptian "A-Au," which they translate, "meam." Willis Brewer, in "Egypt and Israel," takes this view and writes it "Jehoah," a form not essentially different from that of the Prophet. (Compare "Jeh-o-ah," and Jah-oh-eh.")

Modern scholarship generally, as Dr. Mercer. of course, knows, does not however, write the word "Jehovah," but "Yahweh," and, in view of all the facts, it seems to us that the criticism of the leaned doctor is both small-souled and careless.



When scholars tell us that the illustrations under consideration are scenes from the Book of the Dead, representing a judgment scene before the throne of Osiris, or that they contain instructions to the dead relative to another life, they believe that they have completely proved that the Prophet's explanations are false. But that does not follow.

There is practical unanimity that the third illustration represents a judgment scene before Osiris, although the testimony, as we have seen, differs in some details. But this does not contradict the explanation offered by the Prophet Joseph. The Egyptians had many festivals and their religion was rich in mythology. It was customary to give dramatic representations of their legends, in which the priests played the part of the gods. With this fact in mind we can easily understand that a judgment scene may here be represented with Abraham, Pharaoh, and the prince as the main actors, and two servants taking inferior parts. In such a representation Abraham would naturally take occasion to tell the audience something about the structure of the universe. The Prophet, in fact, intimates that this is a judgment scene, for he says that figure 1 is Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh's throne, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood as emblematical of the presidency in heaven; with the sceptre of justice and judgment in his hand. He could state no more clearly that the illustration is a judgment scene before the divine throne. That Pharaoh stands behind the throne may be explained on the very ground the Prophet gives—"courtesy"—for Pharaoh, being himself a priest as well as king, in this way may have recognized the higher priesthood held by Abraham. His part in the tableau was that of an attendant on the divine throne. The entire cast, as explained by the Prophet, is natural. There is the prince representing the exalted personage who leads the man to the throne; a servant representing the man to be judged, and a black slave representing the dark god of the underworld, Anubis. It is strange that the scholars who examined this illustration did not discover how closely they follow, in their interpretation, the explanation offered by the Prophet Joseph.

On the second illustration there is also practical unanimity in regard to its character. It is explained to be a magical disc, a kind of talisman, designed to protect the dead on the other side. But the doctors do not give any interpretation of it. The Prophet explains a small part of it, as representing the structure of the universe, and containing certain "key-words" of the holy Priesthood. The rest he leaves unexplained. Is it wholly improbable that writings intended for the instruction of those who have passed over to the other side should contain representations of the universe over which He reigns before whom they were to appear, or that it should have on it symbolic representations of principles pertaining to the holy Priesthood? On the contrary, that is just what we would expect such a document to contain. Here again scholarship has, though blindfolded and fumbling, added confirmation to the work of the Prophet Joseph.

On the first illustration the scholars, as we have seen, disagree. Some consider it an embalming scene. Others tell us that it is a resurrection scene. We need not waste time over the different explanations, but leave the argument to the scholars themselves. But this is a fact, that of the explanations given, that of the Prophet Joseph is the one which best agrees with the figures themselves. The figure on the altar cannot represent a corpse, for his attitude is that of a living being. He cannot represent the God Osiris, for there are none of the usual marks by which this divinity is recognized in the Egyptian pictures. The picture can represent an attempt to sacrifice Abraham in the land of Ur, and the appearance of the angel of the Lord, in answer to prayer, to prevent the inhuman rite. The scholars have failed to offer any better explanation.


But can Abraham have had anything to do with Egyptian documents found in a tomb? The scholars tell us that the illustrations are part of the Book of the Dead, and that, they seem to think, excludes Abraham from further consideration.

What is then the Book of the Dead? It is a collection of manusscripts found with mumies. Some of them are very ancient. They are thought to contain writings of a magical character, though hymns are also found in the text. A collection of 165 sections, or chapters, were made at one time. All the manuscripts discovered are said to be very corrupt, and most of them can only be translated by tracing them further back. In this respect the manuscripts that fell into the hands of the Prophet are not different from others. According to this Book the dead are taken before the judgment seat of Osiris and 42 judges. Their hearts are weighed by Anubis and Thout, and according to this test their fate is decided.

Very little is known about this Book of the Dead, and nothing whatever of its origin. It was the literary growth of centuries, like our Bible, and undoubtedly many authors contributed to it. It may have begun in oral tradition. Choice sentences were at first written down on temple walls, and other suitable places. Later they were copied on papyrus and other material. There is, therefore, nothing unreasonable in the supposition that Abraham may have contributed to it, and that some part of his literary composition should finally find its way to this country, and to Nauvoo. This, we say, is not unreasonable, and it cannot be successfully denied.



The Osiris legend may be briefly told here. According to the Egyptians, Osiris was the son of the Earth and the Sky, and married to his sister Isis. He came to Egypt, where he found an uncivilized people whom he raised from barbarism to a state of civilization, by teaching them to till the ground and to worship God. He traveled far and wide. Finally he was slain by treachery. His body was thrown into the river Nile and carried out to sea. Isis, after a long search found it and would have it interred. But while she was visiting her son Horus, the wicked Set, who had caused the murder, tore it to pieces and scattered it all over the Earth. Isis now went in search of the scattered pieces and wherever she found a fragment she buried it, and the spot became sacred ground. Osiris lived in the world beyond, and became the ruler of the dead. The Osiris legend became the basis of the Egyptian doctrine of immortality.

Le Plongeon sees in this myth an Egyptian version of the Bible story of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. If there is any truth in this conjecture, it would not be a far-fetched conclusion that the Egyptians, probably had heard the story from Abraham himself.

But we would not be surprised to learn some day, on indisputable scientific evidence, that the historical basis of the legend is the narrow escape of Abraham from the idolatrous priests in Ur, and his appearance in Egypt as a standard bearer of civilization and religion. Abraham, like Osiris, came from a far-off land, beyond the point where the Earth and Sky meet, and he, too, was married to his sister (half sister). If it should be to Jacob and to one branch of the decendants of Abraham, is identical with "Osiris," the close connection of Abraham with the Osiris myth and the Egyptian doctrine of immortality would be established. On this point we quote from "Egypt and Israel," by Mr. Willis Brewer:

"But this view might suggest that I-Sera-E1 was Asare-E1 or 'Osiris' himself; and the statement that the bones of Joseph were brought out of Egypt by Bene Ishera-E1 [the sons of Israel] and buried at Shechem tends to support the Osiris opinion, for Joseph is made son of I-Sera-E1. ... Besides, Sar means 'prince' both in Egyptian and Hebrew, and Osiris had the name Sar, while the God Raa declares himself Sar-son-of-a-Sar. And the tablets found lately at Tel Amarneh, between Memphis and Thebes, prove that the Egyptians were in possession of Palestine at the time, or shortly after, the Bene I-Sera-E1 are supposed to have gone there from Mi-Zera-im (Egypt), and of course diffused both their language and religion."

The author quoted has some rather fantastic notions and theories, but on etaymoligy he seems to be perfectly sound, and the opinion he advances on the identity of the names Israel and Osiris deserves attention.



The Book of Abraham must not be judged, however, from the illustrations under consideration alone, but from its marvelous contents. Dr. John A. Widtsoe, in his excellent little book, "Joseph Smith as Scientist," points cut that the Prophet clearly understood that the stars form groups, or clusters, which revolve round some one point or powerful star, and that in this he anticipated the scientific world many years. He found this great truth in the Book of Abraham. Can a book which reveals such a truth in advance of science be a fraud?

Another point. In the Book of Abraham the relations between Chaldea and Egypt are so intimate that Dr. John Peters says the interpretation of the plates "displays an amusing ignorance. Chaldeans and Egyptians are hopelessly mixed together, although as dissimilar and remote in language, religion and locality as are today the American and Chinese."

Before the discovery of the Tel el-Amarna tablets this remark might have been excusable, but now it is astounding. At Tel-el-Amarna a number of letters were found, many of them dating back 1300 years before our era. And this correspondence was carried on, not in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, but in the Babylonian cuneiform letters. It would be interesting to have the learned doctor's opinion as to whether the Chinese had learned American, or the American Chinese.

At all events, some of these letters passed between the courts of Egypt and Babylonia. They show that the Egyptian king, Aken-Aten, had married a sister of the Babylonian king, and that his mother and grandmother were of the Babylonian royal house. They also show that a daughter of the Egyptian king had been sent to Babylonia to become the wife of the king there. They show that the Egyptian king asked for a daughter of the Babylonian monarch, for wife, in addition to the sister, and that his Babylonian majesty diplomatically refused on the ground that he did not know how his sister liked Egypt, or what treatment she had received, whereupon the Egyptian king asked him to send a trusted representative to investigate and report. All this looks like a "hopeless mixture" between Babylonia and Egypt, but it is historical.

The fact is that even scientists did hardly realize the close relations between the great empires of the ancient world, until these old documents were recovered. But the Book of Abraham indicates these relations. But that is, we are told, "amusing." The Tel el-Amarna letters are still more "amusing," but we cannot reject them on that account.

Bishop Spalding's effort is not new to Latter-day Saints who have followed the history of the Church. His argument is one that has been heard before, without disturbing in the least the faith that rests on solid foundations. It has been fairly and squarely met in the past, and will be answered again, whenever occasion requires, with increasing clearness as the researches continue to reveal further data.

The Latter-day Saints court inquiry, such as this. They want to know the truth, and only the truth. There is no important issue they are not glad to face, whether presented by friend or foe. Their religion has stood every test to which it has been submitted, and it will remain unshaken for ever, because it is founded upon the Rock, and its origin is the Source of all Truth.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 13:18  

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