Fac­sim­i­le 3 is described by Joseph Smith as

Abra­ham sit­ting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the polite­ness of the king, with a crown upon his head, rep­re­sent­ing the Priest­hood, as emblem­at­i­cal of the grand Pres­i­den­cy in Heav­en; with the scepter of jus­tice and judg­ment in his hand.”


Once again, this is not about Abra­ham at all, but is about Hor. And we don’t need the orig­i­nal to show this, since Joseph Smith includ­ed the hiero­glyph­ics right in the Fac­sim­i­le this time.

And that’s not all, there are plen­ty of oth­er hiero­glyph­ics in this one. What’s more is that Joseph spec­i­fies what the hiero­glyph­ics mean. This is a rare occur­rence that Joseph Smith pub­lished some­thing where he pro­vid­ed both the source and the trans­la­tion.

Below I have cir­cled the sec­tions that Joseph Smith attempt­ed to trans­late, with the trans­lat­ed parts col­or-coör­di­nat­ed in the “Expla­na­tion” sec­tion (which is includ­ed in the Book of Abra­ham). Make sure and match the col­ored words below with the cir­cle of the same col­or in Fac­sim­i­le 3:

Joseph’s Expla­na­tion (from the PoGP):

  1. Abra­ham sit­ting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the polite­ness of the king, with a crown upon his head, rep­re­sent­ing the Priest­hood, as emblem­at­i­cal of the grand Pres­i­den­cy in Heav­en; with the scepter of jus­tice and judg­ment in his hand.
  2. King Pharaoh, whose name is giv­en in the char­ac­ters above his head. [look in the red cir­cle above]
  3. Sig­ni­fies Abra­ham in Egypt as giv­en also in Fig­ure 10 of Fac­sim­i­le No. 1.
  4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as writ­ten above the hand. [look in the green cir­cle above]
  5. Shulem, one of the king’s prin­ci­pal wait­ers, as rep­re­sent­ed by the char­ac­ters above his hand. [look in the blue cir­cle above]
  6. Olim­lah, a slave belong­ing to the prince.

Let’s look at what Egyp­tol­o­gists all con­firm as the trans­la­tion com­pared to Joseph Smith’s trans­la­tions and inter­pre­ta­tions:

Joseph Smith’s Expla­na­tion in the Pearl of Great Price Expla­na­tion by Egyp­tol­o­gists (quotes are from Robert K. Rit­ner)
Gen­er­al Com­ment Abra­ham is rea­son­ing upon the prin­ci­ples of Astron­o­my, in the king’s court. “Invo­ca­tion (text at bot­tom line below the illus­tra­tion): O gods of the necrop­o­lis, gods of the cav­erns, gods of the south, north, west, and east grant sal­va­tion to the Osiris Hor, the jus­ti­fied, born by Taikhib­it.”
Fig. 1 Abra­ham sit­ting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the polite­ness of the king, with a crown upon his head, rep­re­sent­ing the Priest­hood, as emblem­at­i­cal of the grand Pres­i­den­cy in Heav­en; with the scepter of jus­tice and judg­ment in his hand. “Label for Osiris (text to the right of fig­ure 1 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Recita­tion by Osiris, Fore­most of the West­ern­ers, Lord of Aby­dos(?), the great god for­ev­er and ever(?).”
Fig. 2 King Pharaoh, whose name is giv­en in the char­ac­ters above his head. “Label for Isis (text to the right of fig­ure 2 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Isis the great, the god’s moth­er.”
Fig. 3 Sig­ni­fies Abra­ham in Egypt as giv­en also in Fig­ure 10 of Fac­sim­i­le No. 1. “Altar, with the offer­ing of the deceased, sur­round­ed with lotus flow­ers, sig­ni­fy­ing the offer­ing of the defunct.” –Theo­d­ule Dev­e­ria
Fig. 4 Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as writ­ten above the hand. “Label for Maat (text to the left of fig­ure 4 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Maat, mis­tress of the gods.”
Fig. 5 Shulem, one of the king’s prin­ci­pal wait­ers, as rep­re­sent­ed by the char­ac­ters above his hand. “Label for Hor the deceased (text in front of fig­ure 5 of fac­sim­i­le 3): The Osiris Hor, jus­ti­fied for­ev­er.”
Fig. 6 Olim­lah, a slave belong­ing to the prince. “Label for Anu­bis (text in front of fig­ure 6 of fac­sim­i­le 3): Recita­tion by Anu­bis, who makes pro­tec­tion(?), fore­most of the embalm­ing booth,…”

I can under­stand hav­ing names dif­fer, but the trans­la­tions are not remote­ly sim­i­lar in con­tent or mean­ing. He thought Isis (a woman) was King Pharoah, Maat (anoth­er woman) was the Prince of Pharaoh, and Anu­bis was a slave (being black).

Let’s focus on Anu­bis, since it was pre­vi­ous­ly estab­lished that he should have a jack­al head. Keep in mind that we def­i­nite­ly know that this should be Anu­bis since it says it right above his head “Label for Anu­bis”. Why it doesn’t exact­ly look like Anu­bis we can only spec­u­late since we don’t have the orig­i­nal.

In Joseph Smith’s day, as you know, they didn’t have copy­ing machines. What we have for Fac­sim­i­le 3 is a trace of what the actu­al papyrus had. Judg­ing the prob­lems with sec­tions being miss­ing or hard to read for Fac­sim­i­le 1 and 2, we can spec­u­late that the source for Fac­sim­i­le 3 was sim­i­lar­ly dif­fi­cult to make out. Besides the fact that they are both black, the most inter­est­ing clue we can draw from this poor rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Anu­bis is the spike on the his head in Joseph Smith’s attempt to draw him. This is most like­ly a rem­nant of Anu­bis’ pointy ears.

Like I point­ed out in the first two fac­sim­i­les, the first is a com­mon embalm­ing scene depict­ing Anu­bis, and the sec­ond is a hypocephalus. What about this one? It is sim­ply a depic­tion of the judg­ment hall scene in the Egypt­ian after­life doc­trine. Here is just one exam­ple from the book of the dead of Hune­fer, 19th dynasty:

Let’s com­pare those left two fig­ures with the ones in Fac­sim­i­le 3:

A match! And who are they? Just as the hiero­glyph­ics indi­cate just above them in both depic­tions: these are Isis and Osiris, not King Pharaoh and Abra­ham.

Ques­tions:

  1. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why wasn’t he able to accu­rate­ly trans­late the hiero­glyph­ics?
  2. Even if he couldn’t read the hiero­glyph­ics, why didn’t the Spir­it tell him who the char­ac­ters in this scene were?
  3. If he was being inspired to fill in the miss­ing sec­tions, why didn’t he accu­rate­ly por­tray Anu­bis?

The actual text of the Book of Abraham

Since Joseph’s inter­pre­ta­tions of the fac­sim­i­les are demon­stra­bly incor­rect, it would make sense that the actu­al text in the Book of Abra­ham would be made up as well. I would like to demon­strate that in this sec­tion.

As Joseph was “trans­lat­ing” the papyri, he doc­u­ment­ed the trans­la­tion as a glos­sary in what is now known as the Kirt­land Egypt­ian Papers as I men­tioned ear­li­er (which I will call “KEP” from now on). If there’s any ques­tion if it was Joseph who was in charge of these papers (even if he wasn’t the scribe), he even kept track in his own jour­nal that he was mak­ing this glos­sary:

The remain­der of this month, I was con­tin­u­al­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing an alpha­bet to the Book of Abra­ham, and arrang­ing a gram­mar of the Egypt­ian lan­guage as prac­ticed by the ancients.” (His­to­ry of the Church 2:238)

The KEP are owned by the LDS Church and kept secret­ly in their vault, but a micro­film copy of them was leaked to the Tan­ner Light­house Min­istries. You will soon see why the Church did not want any­one to see these papers.

Here, for exam­ple, is page 3 from the KEP:

If you look close­ly, you’ll see that in the mar­gin on the left are Egypt­ian char­ac­ters and to the right are their trans­la­tions accord­ing to Joseph (which are also found in the Book of Abra­ham). When we look at these char­ac­ters in the mar­gins on this page and sub­se­quent pages, we can eas­i­ly find them in the orig­i­nal papyrus found in 1966:

Here is page 3 from the KEP, along with the cor­re­spond­ing char­ac­ters in the papyrus:

You’ll notice that he is look­ing at the papyrus and tak­ing the char­ac­ters from the top left of the char­ac­ters just to the left of what we now know as Fac­sim­i­le 1, copy­ing them into the KEP, and indi­cat­ing his pro­posed trans­la­tion. The words in his trans­la­tion on this page, for exam­ple, match up with Abra­ham 1:11–19.

You’ll also notice that his trans­la­tions are whole para­graphs for sin­gle char­ac­ters. This was a com­mon assump­tion of Joseph’s day that each hiero­glyph­ic stood for many words in Eng­lish. The Roset­ta Stone wasn’t trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish until 1858. Now we know that each hiero­glyph­ic usu­al­ly stands for just a sin­gle word in Eng­lish.

Joseph’s trans­la­tions are wrong. Here is an exam­ple below of his faulty trans­la­tions from the page above:

Sym­bol Num­ber From Papyrus From KEP Actu­al Trans­la­tion Joseph’s Attempt­ed Trans­la­tion in the KEP / Book of Abra­ham
1 * * “pool” “man­ner of the Egyp­tians. And it came to pass that the priests laid vio­lence upon me, that they might slay me also, as they did those vir­gins upon this altar; and that you may have a knowl­edge of this altar, I will refer you to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the com­mence­ment of this record.” (KEP page 3, para­graph 1 / Abra­ham 1:11–12)
2 * * “water” “It was made after the form of a bed­stead, such as was had among the Chaldeans, and it stood before the gods of Elke­nah, Lib­nah, Mah­mack­rah, Korash, and also a god like unto that of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. That you may have an under­stand­ing of these gods, I have giv­en you the fash­ion of them in the fig­ures at the begin­ning, which man­ner of the fig­ures is called by the Chaldeans Rahleenos, which sig­ni­fies hiero­glyph­ics.” (KEP page 3, para­graph 2 / Abra­ham 1:13–14)
3 * * “great” “And as they lift­ed up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life, behold, I lift­ed up my voice unto my God, and the Lord hear­kened and heard, and he filled me with the vision of the Almighty, and the angel of his pres­ence stood by me, and imme­di­ate­ly unloosed my bands;” (KEP page 3, para­graph 3 / Abra­ham 1:15)
4 * * “Khon­su” (Egypt­ian moon god) “And his voice was unto me: Abra­ham, Abra­ham behold, my name is Jeho­vah, and I have heard thee, and have come down to deliv­er thee, and to take thee away from thy father’s house, and from all the kins­folk, into a strange land which thou know­est not of; And this because they have turned their hearts away from me, to wor­ship the god of Elke­nah, and the god of Lib­nah, and the god of Mah­mack­rah, and the god of Korash, and the god of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; there­fore I have come down to destroy him who hath lift­ed up his hand against thee, Abra­ham, my son, to take away thy life. Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name, even the Priest­hood of thy father, and my pow­er shall be over thee. And it was with Noah so shall it be with thee; but through thy min­istry my name shall be known in the earth for­ev­er, for I am thy God.” (KEP page 3, para­graph 4 / Abra­ham 1:16–19)

Final thoughts

There are a lot more details involved here that I didn’t touch on sim­ply to avoid mak­ing this essay any longer than it needs to be.

Fac­sim­i­les sim­i­lar to 1, 2, and 3 are stan­dard bur­ial doc­u­ments, not about Abra­ham. The text of the papyrus is not about Abra­ham either. The papers and fac­sim­i­les have been trans­lat­ed by egyp­tol­o­gists, and we know they are not what Joseph claimed. I believe this calls into ques­tion his abil­i­ty to trans­late any­thing cor­rect­ly, such as the Book of Mor­mon.

Series Nav­i­ga­tion: My Search for Truth — Wes Trexler« Book of Abra­ham: Fac­sim­i­le 2Oth­er trans­la­tions by Joseph Smith, Jr »

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