This is Fac­sim­i­le 1, locat­ed at the front of the Book of Abra­ham in the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph Smith described this scene as “The idol­a­trous priest of Elke­nah attempt­ing to offer up Abra­ham as a sac­ri­fice,” mean­ing, the man with the knife is a priest of Elke­nah and the man on the altar is Abraham.

But is that real­ly what’s going on here?

Let’s look at the orig­i­nal. Here is a photograph:

There are a cou­ple things a casu­al observ­er would prob­a­bly notice. First, there are some sec­tions miss­ing (which I will dis­cuss lat­er). Sec­ond, there are hiero­glyph­ics on the papyrus that weren’t includ­ed in Joseph Smith’s publication.

Let’s take a look at what the hiero­glyph­ics say.

The fol­low­ing trans­la­tion is based on Dr. Robert K. Rit­ner’s (Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go) trans­la­tion pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Near East Stud­ies, Sep­tem­ber 2003, pp. 161–180. Miss­ing sec­tions are indi­cat­ed with [brack­ets].

(I/1) [“Osiris, the god’s father], prophet of Amon-Re, King of the Gods, prophet of Min who slaugh­ters his ene­mies, prophet of Khon­su, the [one who exer­cis­es] author­i­ty in Thebes, (I/2) […] … Hor, the jus­ti­fied, son of the sim­i­lar­ly titled over­seer of secrets and puri­fi­er of the god, Osor­w­er, the jus­ti­fied, born by the [house­wife and sistrum-play­er of ] (I/3) [Amon]-Re, Taikhib­it, the jus­ti­fied! May your ba-spir­it live among them, and may you be buried on the west [of Thebes].” (I/4) [“O Anubis(?),51 …] jus­ti­fi­ca­tion(?). (I/5) [May you give to him] a good and splen­did bur­ial on the west of Thebes as on the moun­tains of Ma[nu](?).” (Empha­sis added.)

As I high­light­ed above, there’s a very impor­tant piece of infor­ma­tion described in the Egypt­ian writing.

This isn’t the attempt­ed sac­ri­fice of Abra­ham, but rather the embalm­ing of a man named Hor. Fac­sim­i­le 1 has absolute­ly noth­ing to do with Abra­ham. One might ask, if this is mere­ly an embalm­ing of an already dead man, why is the priest hold­ing a knife?

I now would like to dis­cuss a point I addressed ear­li­er: the miss­ing sections.

Before the miss­ing papyri were found, Egyp­tol­o­gists were always very con­fused about cer­tain aspects of Fac­sim­i­le 1.

  1. Prob­lem 1: Human sac­ri­fice was nev­er prac­ticed in Ancient Egypt, so it seemed very odd that an Egypt­ian vignette would fea­ture such a dis­play. The knife seemed com­plete­ly out of place.
  2. Prob­lem 2: The man with the man’s head (the “priest”) should almost cer­tain­ly have a jack­al head, since it was always Anu­bis, the Egypt­ian God of the Dead, who did the embalming.
  3. Prob­lem 3: The bird up and to the right was almost cer­tain­ly the soul of Osiris, which is the God of the After­life to Egyp­tians. He always has a human head and not a bird head.

Here are some exam­ples of Egypt­ian art that show the scene the prop­er way:

Here are a cou­ple more that show the soul of Osiris (the bird with the human head) as well:

This last one is par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ing. Look at the stripe on Anu­bis, and Joseph Smith’s “priest”:

Also notice that Anu­bis always has a black body. So does Joseph Smith’s priest all the way down to his feet except his head. The priest’s head looks very sim­i­lar to the head of the man on the altar (which wasn’t miss­ing on the orig­i­nal papyrus):

The left are the areas that Egyp­tol­o­gists ques­tioned before the papyri were dis­cov­ered; the right is the papyrus as it was found with the miss­ing areas cir­cled. It all makes sense now:

Of course some­one who knows noth­ing about Egypt­ian his­to­ry would assume that a man’s body should have a man’s head and a bird body should have a bird’s head. That only makes sense, which is why Joseph Smith filled them in that way. But it’s sim­ply com­plete­ly wrong.


  1. If Joseph Smith could read hiero­glyph­ics, why would he avoid read­ing the hiero­glyph­ics that were clear­ly to the left and right of what he includ­ed as Fac­sim­i­le 1? He would have quick­ly learned that this was scene depict­ing the embalm­ing of Hor, not the sac­ri­fice of Abraham.
  2. If Joseph Smith was a prophet (and just did­n’t notice the hiero­glyph­ics, let’s say), why did­n’t God tell him that this was an embalm­ing cer­e­mo­ny, and that the man should have a jack­al head, and should­n’t hold a knife, and the bird should have a human head?
Series Nav­i­ga­tion: My Search for Truth — Wes Trexler« Book of Abra­hamBook of Abra­ham: Fac­sim­i­le 2 »
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