Does The Book Of Abraham Papyrus Date To The 1st Century A.D.?

“Despite Joseph’s claim that this record was written by Abraham ‘by his own hand, upon papyrus,’ scholars have found the original papyrus Joseph translated and have dated it in 1st century CE, nearly 2,000 years after Abraham could have written it.”

The idiom by his own hand means “as a result of one’s own actions.” Abraham wrote this book himself. We know there were multiple copies of this book made because variations of its stories and theology have been found all over the ancient world. This is the writing of Abraham, written by his own hand, but it is not the same pieces of paper he wrote it on. It was copyied by someone much later.

When we read Giddianhi say in the Book of Mormon, “Therefore I have written this epistle, sealing it with mine own hand,” do we assume Giddianhi chiseled his epistle into the gold plates? No, obviously Mormon copied it down.

Does any publisher today specify in the copyright page of an autobiography that “this is just a copy of the original transcript we received from the author?” Of course not! They say, “this was written by the actual person and not a ghostwriter,” because obviously the author did not sit down and type out every single copy of the book on a typewriter. Joseph Smith never claimed that the mummy that they found the scroll with was the body of Abraham: “Who these ancient inhabitants of Egypt are, we do not pretend to say.” So obviously he didn’t think that Abraham produced that specific copy of the book that was buried with the mummy.

The introduction to the Book of Abraham never claimed that the “ancient records” that they acquired were the specific scroll that Abraham first penned his story on. Why would you assume this if the mummy it was with was not Abraham, but an Egyptian? Instead, the introduction reads, “Translation of some ancient records” from Egypt; then, “the writings of Abraham… written by his own hand.” That’s it.

Source For Book Of Abraham Was DestroyedCES Letter incorrectly assumes that the few recovered fragments from Joseph Smith’s papyrus, which date to the first century AD, are the basis for the Book of Abraham. There were at least four scrolls, and witness descriptions of the Abraham scroll match with the so-called Amenhotep Scroll, which has not been recovered. Descriptions of ink color, scroll size, writing style, and state of preservation disqualify the other scrolls as matches.

The Amenhotep Scroll perished in the Chicago Fire along with most of the Egyptian collection, so we don’t know anything about it. Maybe it actually was the original copy of the Abraham book and it ended up with this Egyptian mummy, for some reason, and maybe it did actually date to Abraham’s time? We just don’t know.

Scripture Was Renewed By Copying – The ancient Hebrew custom of copying important religious books was considered a “renewal” rather than just creating a copy. Each time a priest preached from the Torah, it was done in a “covenant renewal ceremony.” But the act of actually reproducing the Torah, called sefer Torah, was likewise done in a sacred ceremony and considered “a personal renewal” that kept the book alive. Handwritten texts are considered the most sacred.

It was therefore important and fitting for Joseph Smith to specify that this book was written by the prophet Abraham, and it was his book.

Dr. Hugh Nibley explained:

“…when a holy book (usually a leather roll) grew old and worn out from handling, it was not destroyed but renewed. Important writings were immortal—for the Egyptians they were ‘the divine words,’ for the Jews the very letters were holy and indestructible, being the word of God. The wearing out of a particular copy of scripture therefore in no way brought the life of the book to a close—it could not perish. In Egypt it was simply renewed (ma.w, sma.w) “fairer than before,” and so continued its life to the next renewal. Thus we are told at the beginning of what some have claimed to be the oldest writing in the world [the Shabako Stone], ‘His Majesty wrote this book down anew. . . . His Majesty discovered it as a work of the Ancestors, but eaten by worms. . . . So His Majesty wrote it down from the beginning, so that it is more beautiful than it was before.’ It is not a case of the old book’s being replaced by a new one, but of the original book itself continuing its existence in a rejuvenated state. No people were more hypnotized by the idea of a renewal of lives than the Egyptians—not a succession of lives or a line of descent, but the actual revival and rejuvenation of a single life.

…An Egyptian document, J. Spiegel observes, is like the print of an etching, which is not only a work of art in its own right but “can lay claim equally well to being the original . . . regardless of whether the individual copies turn out well or ill.” Because he thinks in terms of types, according to Spiegel, for the Egyptian “there is no essential difference between an original and a copy. For as they understand it, all pictures are but reproductions of an ideal original.” . . . This concept was equally at home in Israel. An interesting passage from the Book of Jubilees [a text unknown before 1850] recounts that Joseph while living in Egypt “remembered the Lord and the words which Jacob, his father, used to read from amongst the words of Abraham.” Here is a clear statement that “the words of Abraham” were handed down in written form from generation to generation, and were the subject of serious study in the family circle. The same source informs us that when Israel died and was buried in Canaan, “he gave all his books and the books of his fathers to Levi his son that he might preserve them and renew them for his children until this day.” Here “the books of the fathers” including “the words of Abraham” have been preserved for later generations by a process of renewal.

…The noble who has writing or carving done is always given full credit for its actual execution; such claims of zealous craftsmanship “have loftily ignored the artist,” writes Wilson. “It was the noble who ‘made’ or ‘decorated’ his tomb,” though one noble of the Old Kingdom breaks down enough to show us how these claims were understood: “I made this for my old father. . . . I had the sculptor Itju make (it).” Dr. Wilson cites a number of cases in which men claim to have “made” their father’s tombs, one of them specifically stating that he did so “while his arm was still strong”—with his own hand!

Credit for actually writing the inscription of the famous Metternich Stele is claimed by “the prophetess of Nebwen, Nest-Amun, daughter of the Prophet of Nebwen and Scribe of the Inundation, ‘Ankh-Psametik,'” who states that she “renewed (sma.w) this book [there it is again!] after she had found it removed from the house of Osiris-Mnevis, so that her name might be preserved.” The inscription then shifts to the masculine gender as if the scribe were really a man, leading to considerable dispute among the experts as to just who gets the credit. Certain it is that the Lady boasts of having given an ancient book a new lease on life, even though her hand may never have touched a pen.

…Nest-Amun hoped to preserve her name by attaching it to a book, and in a very recent study M. A. Korostovstev notes that “for an Egyptian to attach his name to a written work was an infallible means of passing it down through the centuries.” That may be one reason why Abraham chose the peculiar Egyptian medium he did for the transmission of his record—or at least why it has reached us only in this form. Indeed Theodor Böhl observed recently that the one chance the original Patriarchal literature would ever have of surviving would be to have it written down on Egyptian papyrus.” (Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 4–7 via FairMormon)

What About The Facsimile In Recovered Papyri? – This is the part of the discussion where a skeptic points out that Facsimile 1 appears in the recovered papyrus, so that must be the source. Well, there are several reasons why this couldn’t be the case.

  • Facsimiles 2 is a Hypocephalus and that would never be in a Book of Breathings scroll, which is where Facsimile 1 can be found. So either each facsimile was also on the lost Amenhotep Scroll, or Joseph took the facsimiles from different scrolls.
  • The Hypocephalus in Facsimile 2 mentions a guy named Sheshonq, and none of the four mummies had this name. This strengthens the conclusion that Joseph took the facsimiles from different sources.
  • Fragments from all four rolls were placed under glass in the same collection as the Abraham sheets. Apparently they were important too, as they contained facsimiles that Joseph could use to explain derivative diagrams relating to Abraham.
  • Test is much easier to reproduce than illustrations. If this scroll was passed down over many generations from the days of Abraham, it is likely that they gave up copying the facsimiles along the way, and this is why Joseph used images in the other scrolls to derive Abrahamic concepts, as these Egyptian images were based on Abrahamic diagrams.
  • Only one facsimile was referenced in the Abraham text, yet Joseph produced three facsimiles. This strengthens the disassociation of the facsimiles with the Abraham text.”
  • Text from the facsimiles received lengthy consideration in the Grammar and Alphabet booklet, yet no hieroglyphs in any of the scrolls’ text are to be found.
  • The Abraham text describes the facsimile differently than the papyrus fragment shows it. Abraham describes the bedstead as standing “before” the idol gods. The facsimile shows the bed over the idols, but we don’t get a point of perspective whether they are in front of behind them. The priest’s foot is in front of the jars, so it looks to me like the jars are under the bed. Abraham’s text reads: “I have given you the fashion of them in the figures at the beginning, which manner of figures is… hieroglyphics.” There are no hieroglyphics in this Facsimile, and there is nothing to explain anything about this idols.

    If the author of the Abraham text had had this same facsimile in front of them, they would have described it to match how it actually showed. This indicates Joseph Smith did not write it and the facsimiles we have today are not what Abraham originally wrote in his book.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

Argument From Ignorance There is no way to know if the document that Joseph Smith used for the Book of Abraham text is the recovered fragment that dates to the 1st century AD. The document that perished in a Chicago fire is a much more likely candidate, according to witness descriptions.
Strawman Fallacy CES Letter takes an idiom, “by his own hand,” literally and ignores all historical context. He didn’t mean that this was the specific piece of paper that Abraham wrote on, otherwise he would have said “the papyrus of Abraham” rather than “the writing of Abraham.” There is a comma between “written by his own hand” and “upon papyrus.” This is writing from Abraham and it appears on a papyrus.
Guilt By Association Even if Joseph Smith did incorrectly think this was the piece of paper that Abraham wrote on himself, this introduction is not actually part of the translation. It is just some explanation added by Joseph Smith, so that would mean he simply made a false assumption. He wasn’t perfect. he wasn’t a wizard. The translation itself is still correct.
Repetition CES Letter repeats this argument four more times in their pdf (p. 24#2, 29#5, 29#6, 44).
Big Lie Tactic – Most anti-Mormons agree that the Book of Abraham is the “smoking gun” that disproves Mormonism. But that is just because they assume that the recovered papyri fragments are the source for the Book of Abraham. It is a lie that compounds with further investigation of the Book of Abraham and leads to other lies.

This lie is easier for the CES Letter reader to believe after all those earlier arguments that attached the same narrative about the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith used the same “peep stone” that he used to look for buried treasure to translate the Book of Mormon, doesn’t that make it easier to believe Joseph used a “common funerary document,” as anti-Mormons incorrectly call the fragment, to create the Book of Mormon? CES Letter says in both cases science disproves the claim of prophesy:

“This is a testable claim. Joseph failed the test with the Book of Abraham. He failed the test with the Kinderhook Plates. With this modus operandi and track record, I’m now supposed to believe that Joseph has the credibility of translating the keystone Book of Mormon? With a rock in a hat?”

Creating SuperstitionCES Letter reinforces their narrative that Mormons need science to validate every single detail of their faith. They frame the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham as a “model” that has no evidence for it–an easy trick for them to play when it comes to ancient history as they discount every piece of evidence as coincidence, forged, or unfounded.

This kind of narrative led the crusaders to seek out physical objects from the holy land to validate the bible, pieces of the cross or the cup of Jesus Christ. It always leads to superstition, because no amount of science can prove without reasonable doubt that a historical object is what it purports to be. The Shroud of Turin? I mean, there is a mountain of evidence that correlates the Book of Abraham. Since the day of Joseph Smith, ancient book after ancient book has been discovered and translated into English that says the same thing as the Book of Abraham. No amount of scientific testing would convince the anti-Mormons. Even if the legitimacy of the claim were proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, they would pass it off as coincidence.

After all, that’s what they do with the copy of the Facsimile 1 diagram which was discovered by archaeologists with the name “Abraham” under it. Anti-Mormons reply, “well that doesn’t really say ‘Abraham.’ Just a name very similar to Abraham.” Yeah, uh huh.

Actually, I think it would be detrimental to Mormonism if undeniable evidence were found, because it would shift our narrative away from matters of faith toward unspiritual confirmation of a historical event from physical evidence. And that’s what CES Letter is trying to do. The shift away from faith serves Satan’s intentions because a person who relies on superstition is not practicing personal agency, but being total reliant on others for his beliefs and actions.

CES Letter can get away with this Big Lie claim because it is the consensus among so many people that Abraham did not write this book, and because it takes so long to explain the evidence. It is like claiming that the Library of Alexandria never really existed because we have no physical evidence today, apart from some alleged ancient tales. An archaeologist can give plenty of convincing evidence, but it would take hours.

By providing zero evidence to support their own claim, CES Letter makes the initial Big Lie appear self-evident, like the Book of Abraham must be false because it takes so long to explain it.

Joseph Smith explained:

“Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft.

…Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.”

Contradiction Strategy – In the previous arguments, CES Letter cherry-picked evidence to contradict the Book of Mormon. It is funny that in this argument CES Letter cherry-picks an idiom and takes it literally to try to point out a contradiction. This is like a little kid screaming, “You said it would take just a second!” This shows just how flimsy the anti-Mormon narrative is. This is their evidence for the Big Lie which snowballs into all the other arguments against the Book of Abraham.

This is how CES Letter works. They give a few bits of incorrect leading evidence; the reader connects to dots in their mind; and CES Letter pushes it to a sweeping generalization. If there were any evidence for the Book of Abraham, why is this Egyptian papyrus talking about Egyptian stuff instead of Abraham? Um, maybe because it’s Egyptian?! People are much more likely to believe CES Letter‘s incredibly insensible string of logic because hey connected the dots out on their own, subconsciously. They are also more likely to believe the evidences for that deduction, which in this case are falsehoods.

Notice that instead of “1st century AD,” CES Letter says “1st century CE.” CE stands for “common area,” and was created by atheist scientists because they didn’t want to date things according to the death of Jesus Christ–they wanted to distance science from Christianity. So this is a subtle circular fallacy by CES Letter, as it implies the ‘scientific way’ of dating events is superior to the Christian way… even though CE is exactly the same thing as AD.

CES Letter uses fake science–or in this case a ridiculous assumption–to point out an inconsistency regarding LDS belief, and then presents science as the superior alternative source for truth. CES Letter uses the Marxist contradiction strategy by narrowing a physical issue down to a binary context: either this recovered papyri fragment talks about Abraham or the Book of Abraham was made up. No other choices. They then appeal to “science” and deconstruct the outdated Mormon belief.

Anti-Mormons typically present evidence for their binary context as self-evident and irrefutable, with no need for further explanation, and then they rapidly move on to other attacks that bolster the constrained definition. The purpose is not really to discuss Book of Abraham evidences, which would actually be an interesting discussion, but to shift the narrative from faith to binary science, and quickly move on to more effective attacks to strengthen this narrative.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with exploring and critically investigating physical evidence, such as the recovered papyri from Joseph Smith’s Egyptian collection that have survived. It is an exciting opportunity. The danger is when minds use faulty logic and leap to wild, simplistic conclusions.There is a smart and vibrant group of LDS scholars investigating the evidence and making great discoveries, which will increase what we learn from the Book of Abraham. They are careful not to become superstitious and search for holy grails to confirm their faith. They do not replace faith with a dependence on only what we can see.

CES Letter‘s attack on the Book of Abraham invalidates all ancient writing, which is quite convenient for Satan’s followers. Archaeology and historical science is only as useful as it can invalidate faith for them and momentarily be twisted to support Marxist ideas, such as the idea that mankind evolved from monkeys without a spark of divinity in them. They hold religions to the highest standards of skepticism, yet place blind faith in Marxism.

The Satanic substitute for religious scripture is the national-standard science textbook that jumps to wild politically correct conclusions and requires revising every year. It is the Bill Nye Science show that one day teaches kids that chromosomes determine your sex identity, rather than eternal spirit nature, and then the next day erases that segment from Netflix and teaches kids that sex identity is totally fluid. For followers of Satan, truth is only the narrative, and the narrative changes however it needs to in order to support the ideology in new circumstances.