September 2014

During August, the noted Egyptologist, Robert Ritner, responded to the July 2014 Mormon article on the Book of Abraham which the Church posted on their web site under Gospel Topics. (Link to LDS essay on ‘Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham’).

Ritner concludes “It must be stressed again that the real translation of the Egyptian signs discussed above is acknowledged in editions of the papyri not only by Egyptologists but by Mormon authors as well (Nibley, Rhodes and Gee). To be clear, since the Book of Abraham is now proved to be based on the surviving Hôr papyrus, LDS church-sponsored editions of that text effectively disprove the validity of the Book of Abraham. Here then is final evidence that Joseph Smith created the Book of Abraham by guesswork translation —in the usual sense— from the signs on the Egyptian papyri that he owned. The specific source of the Book of Abraham is the “Breathing Permit of Hôr,” misunderstood and mistranslated by Joseph Smith. The only truly ancient sources in the Book of Abraham are the many reworked Hebrew passages from Genesis, as outlined explicitly by H. Michael Marquardt.

With the Book of Abraham now confirmed as a perhaps well-meaning, but erroneous invention by Joseph Smith, the LDS church may well devote some reflection to the status of the text. The former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, since 2001 renamed the Community of Christ, avoids this issue by treating the Book of Abraham as speculative writing by Smith, not as a document of historical truth. In this decision they are clearly correct.” Ritner’s full text is available from Signature Books here.

Text also available from MormonThink here.