This video discusses many items that are in the Book of Abraham that Joseph Smith could not have known when he published the record.
On this Evidences video I want to talk about the Book of Abraham. I did another video talking about how critics attack the Book of Abraham. I also want to address there’s some fascinating evidences that we have, also, of the Book of Abraham. I love this quote from Elder Maxwell in his book, Plain and Precious Things. He says, “It’s the author’s opinion that all the scriptures, including the Book of Mormon, will remain in the realm of faith. Science will not be able to prove or disprove holy writ. However, enough plausible evidence will come forth to prevent scoffers from having a field day, but not enough to remove the requirement of faith. Believers must be patient during such unfolding.”
These videos are cliff notes version. I’m going to give you a sampling of a lot of great stuff that’s out there, and I’ll put lots of links in the show notes that you can see as much as you’d like to explore on this. First of all, this is on the Church website, the Gospel Topics Essay on the Book of Abraham. Egyptians at the time of Abraham actually were thought of, until just in the last few decades, as a very peaceful people, were not involved in human sacrifice. It’s interesting, here it says, “The Book of Abraham speaks disapprovingly of human sacrifice offered on an altar in Chaldea. Some victims were placed on the altar as sacrifices because they rejected the idols worshiped by the leaders. Recent scholarship has found instances of such punishment dating to Abraham’s time. People who challenged the standing religious order, either in Egypt or in the regions over which it had influence, such as Canaan, could and did suffer execution for their offenses. The conflict over the religion of Pharaoh as described in Abraham 1:11 and 12 is an example of punishment now known to have been meted out during the Abrahamic era.”
This is just in the last few decades, I have to say. This one is stunning. If you look closely at this picture, the Facsimile 1, which Joseph interpreted as Abraham on a lion couch, critics say this was Osiris on a lion couch, nothing to do with Abraham. It’s very fascinating to find that this was discovered in 1975, and it’s from the same time and place that the papyri were found in Thebes, Egypt, that same general timeframe as well. So, “In 1975 Janet Johnson translated and published a newly discovered Greco-Egyptian vignette depicting an individual on a lion couch identified in the text to be Abraham.” You can see right on the picture there where it identifies the the man on the lion couch as Abraham. Stunning that “The papyrus known as Leiden 1 384 was produced just two centuries after the Book of Breathings and in the same part of Egypt–Thebes”, where the scrolls were found. Fascinating.
Ancient texts verify an attempt to kill Abraham for not worshiping idols. This was translated in 1892 from Aramaic to English. The Targum Jonathan, which was dated to the 2nd century AD, here’s a quote. “It came to pass when Nimrod cast Abram into the furnace of fire because he would not worship his idol, the fire had no power to burn him.” Fascinating 1892 translation. The next one here, Abraham ended human sacrifices, claimed in the Book of Abraham. “Something fundamentally changed in relation to man’s attitude toward human sacrifice. Together with the elaboration of the notion that it could be replaced by animal sacrifice, just when and why this change took place cannot be answered satisfactory in Egypt or elsewhere. Our strongest textual evidence that something had indeed changed in Egypt, dates to the Middle Kingdom beginning around 2055 B.C.”, which is about the time of Abraham.
Another one here. The Book of Abraham “Speaks of the Plain of Olishem, Abraham 1:10. It’s a name not mentioned in the Bible. An ancient inscription was found recently dated to 2250 B.C. It was discovered in the 20th century. It mentioned a town called Ulisum.” Sounds very close to Olishem, thought phonographically in the language it’s almost exact, and it’s located in northern Syria, which is where most scholars today believe that Abraham’s Ur was most likely located. That’s on that Gospel Topics Essay there for the Church.
Now, many scholars thought Abraham was illiterate, and now we see a number of books that have been attributed to Abraham. So, “Many books written by or about Abraham have been discovered. The Book of Abraham claims Abraham wrote books, even though this detail is not found in the Bible, or anything Joseph Smith had access to. Archaeologists once thought Abraham was not literate, but now archaeologists have found many books that claim to have been written by Abraham: Apocalypse of Abraham, Testament of Abraham, Book of Jasher, Jubilees, 10 Books of Abraham, Book of Abraham, mentioned by Firmicus Maternus, and Abraham’s Treaty on Astronomy.
On the Church website, Gospel Topics Essay on the Book of Abraham, in the Facsimile 1 you can see here 117 mentions the idolatrous god Elkanah. This deity is not mentioned in the Bible yet modern scholars have identified it as being among the gods worship by ancient Mesopotamians. Let me take a minute on this picture here, too. These were considered funerary texts that were a part of the Book of Breathings that would be deposited with these, and this is not a typical funerary text at all. Normally there’d be an embalming scene and they would either be naked or fully wrapped up, mummified if you will. You can see here that neither of that applies. Some have said this is Osiris being resurrected, but if you look close it’s actually, if you look at the legs there’s a struggle going on here. Actually, look at the hands. This is also a form, if you were to tilt at 90 degrees it would be the exact replication of how they would’ve drawn prayer or supplication to deity there. So very fascinating with how we understand this from Joseph Smith’s interpretation of all of that in Abraham 1.
Next here, if you look on the Gospel Topics Essay, as well, they talked about this. On Facsimile 2, if you look closely at the bottom left you’ll see four hanging pieces there. It’s labeled as figure 6, and these represent the earth in its four quarters, as Joseph wrote. A similar interpretation has been argued by scholars who study identical figures in other ancient Egyptian texts. Next, Joseph’s Smith’s interpretation of pharaohs, that symbol correct here, this crocodile. This is again in Facsimile 1 at the bottom, which is not typically drawn on these scenes like this, but is referred to as a crocodile god. “King Unas would be referred to as the crocodile god in Egyptian text.”
Joseph Smith, likewise, interpreted the crocodile god in Facsimile 1 as god of Pharaoh. Utterance 317 says, “Unas has come today from the overflowing flood. Unas is Sobk, crocodile god, clean, green-plumed, wakeful, alert … Unas has come to his streams.” If you look closely at that picture, too, those lines, the way that they’re drawn there is they kind of zigzag, represented reference waters of the sky in ancient Egyptian literature, which the ancient Egyptians can see the sky as the heavenly ocean. Joseph Smith interpreted the symbol very correctly. There’s no way he could have known about that symbolism at that time. Also he talked about the pillars of heaven right underneath that number 11 there, which was also a correct interpretation.
Also discovered after the death of Joseph Smith, a key part of this, and Bruce Porter brought this up in his book The Threshing Floor of Faith, too. “Two texts are found in volume one of the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, one being the Testament of Abraham, considered an Egyptian text in origin, and the other being the Apocalypse of Abraham. Each of these texts, unavailable to Joseph Smith, have many of the same concepts: the creation, Abraham seeking further light and knowledge from God, the blessings of the Fathers, angels taking him away as depicted in the Facsimile 1 explanation, discussions of spirits before the world was created, some spirits were more prepared to become the leaders on earth after the creation of the earth.” Fascinating.
Gospel Topics Essay also mentions two things here. “The Book of Abraham is consistent with various details found in non-biblical stories about Abraham that circulated in the ancient world around the time that the papyri was likely created. In the Book of Abraham, God teaches Abraham about the sun, the moon, and the stars. ‘I show these things to thee before you go into Egypt,’ the Lord says, ‘that you may declare all these words.’ Ancient texts repeatedly refer to Abraham instructing the Egyptians in the knowledge of the heavens. For example, Eupolemus, who lived under Egyptian rule in the 2nd century BC, wrote that ‘Abraham taught astronomy and other sciences to the Egyptian priests.'” In the second paragraph here, “Other details in the Book of Abraham are found in ancient traditions located across the Near East. These include Terah, Abraham’s father, being an idolater, a famine striking Abraham’s homeland, Abraham’s familiarity with Egyptian idols, and Abraham’s being younger than 75 years old when he left Haran, as the biblical account states.”
“Some of these extra-biblical elements were available in apocryphal books or biblical commentaries in Joseph Smith’s lifetime, but others were confined to non-biblical traditions, inaccessible or unknown to 19th century Americans.” The Book of Abraham reports … Now, this was Daniel Peterson in the Deseret News, a piece, He said in 2012, Defending the Faith: How could Joseph know all this? He said “The Book of Abraham records that as Abraham was about to enter Egypt, the Lord advised him to claim Sarai was his sister, not his wife. The Bible mentions the same tactic, but omits the divine counsel that authorized it. However, the Genesis Apocryphon, found just seven decades ago among the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, also testifies that the patriarch’s behavior was divinely ordained and with good reason. The Pyramids Texts’ tyrannical crocodile god/king liked to steal wives from their husbands, exactly what Abraham feared Pharaoh would do to Sarai.”
Daniel Peterson went on to say, “Abraham’s account describes creation as the organization of preexisting materials, which contradicts traditional doctrines that God made the universe from nothing.” Ex nihilo. “… But creation from nothing doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ancient Jewish writings teach that God created the universe by forming preexisting matter. Christian thinkers, influenced by Greek philosophy, began to teach creation from nothing only in the second century.” Then, “Abraham 4 and 5 records the patriarch’s vision of creation, unknown in the Bible. Though the Bible says nothing of a heavenly counsel that planned the creation of man, several ancient documents first published in the 20th century, describe it.” I would just refer you also to the preexistence video that I did an entire video on that. This is where we get the strongest development of that doctrine of the preexistence in Abraham 3 there.
Last, the very last thing here, and I’m not going to read this. It’s somewhat lengthy, but I will read just the caption at the top and then if you want to freeze the screen to see that there’s about 15 things here. Jeff Lindsay put this together on his website and I’ll link it in the show notes, but he says “The Book of Abraham is remarkably consistent with numerous ancient traditions about Abraham, as one might expect if, in fact, it derived from the ancient writings of Abraham. One of many interesting examples is the ancient Jewish text Jubilees, first published in Latin in 1861 but dating to the second century B.C. or earlier, and used by some the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In Jubilees, here are some relationship to the Book of Abraham.”
I hope you enjoyed this Evidences video. I think it’s exciting to see a lot of the things, like we’ve talked about Elder Maxwell said at the beginning, enough to thwart away any scoffers of the Book of Abraham. I think it’s fascinating to see all of these types of little evidences that are out there, as well. Watch the other Book of Abraham video where I address a lot of the critics’ issues of it and together I think it’s a magnificent view of everything. Thank you.
Daniel Peterson article in Deseret News: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/7…
Ensign Article: https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/1994…
Another Ensign Article:https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/1997…
Bruce Porter on the Book of Abraham: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F19d5…
Fairmormon produced video on the Book of Abraham (‘A Most Remarkable Book – Evidence for the Book of Abraham’): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jGad…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.