Book Of Abraham

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Book Of Abraham

By Elder Geo. Reynolds

Chapter IX.


IN the year 1855, Messrs. Remy and Brenchly, two French travelers, visited Utah. On their return to Paris they carried with them a copy of the Book of Abraham, which they placed in the hands of "a young savant of the Museum of the Louvre, M. Theodule Deveria," with the request that he would translate it. This he attempted to do. Messrs. Remy and Brenchly afterwards published an account of their travels, and embodied therein M. Deveria's soi-disant translation. They pretend to consider that the disclosures made by the scientific translation should place the Book of Abraham in the catalogue of the pious frauds that have so often disgraced the history of religion. We come to an entirely opposite conclusion, and claim that so far as M. Deveria's translation is concerned, if it does anything, it substantiates the statements of the Prophet Joseph with regard to the true meaning of the papyri. Two things, however, have to be remembered--the first, that the Egyptian hieroglyphics had at least two (but more probably three) meanings, the one understood by the masses--the other comprehended only by the initiated, the priesthood and others; which latter conveyed the true though hidden intent of the writer. The second consideration is that when M, Deveria made his translation, Egyptiology, as a science, was in its babyhood. Since then highly important discoveries have been made in this branch of literature, which have greatly changed the con. elusions of earlier students. But even to-day the science is so inexact that but a few weeks ago the Deseret News published an anecdote of two eminent Egyptiologists, who unitedly came to the conclusion that the hieroglyphics on the wrappings of a mummy they were examining proved the deceased to have been a great warrior or king among the ancient Egyptians. On removing the inner bandages, the body proved to be that of a woman. If the scientists of today make such egregious blunders, what may we expect from Messrs. Remy and Brenchly's young savant of twenty years ago, before Osborn, Smyth, and others, had made the important discoveries that are almost revolutionizing the ideas of the learned on ancient Egypt and its literature.

We will now draw attention to a few of the differences between the two translations.

The Prophet Joseph Smith states that Plate I represents an idolatrous priest attempting to offer up Abraham as a sacrifice to his gods. M. D. affirms that it represents the resurrection of Osiris. We ask, if it is a representation of a resurrection, what is the priest doing with a knife in his hand? Osiris was not resurrected with a knife, but Abraham would have been slain with one if God had not delivered him. And it is a somewhat remarkable fact that the original Egyptian hieroglyphic for the verb Nohem, to rescue, to deliver, was a bedstead-shaped altar with a bird flying above it, just as represented in Plate I, of the angel of the Lord rescuing Abraham. Is it not probable that the hieroglyphic had its origin in this very circumstance?

Joseph the Prophet says Fig. 1 represents "the angel of the Lord." M. D. states that it is "the soul of Osiris under the form of a hawk (which should have a human head)." Fig. 3, the Prophet states, is "the idolatrous priest of Elkenah." M. D. says it is "the god Anubis (who should have a jackal's head)," and in other places he makes substantially the same statement, that a certain figure represents somebody or something, or would do so if it were different. This puts us in mind of a little story. A certain clergyman was visiting the home of one of his parishoners, when he noticed a little son of his host very busily engaged, first intently eyeing him and then working away at a slate he held in his hand. Suspecting what he was doing, the clergyman asked the boy if he was not drawing his portrait, and finding his suspicions were correct, he asked to see it. With some reluctance the boy consented. After looking at it a moment, the clergyman exclaimed: "Why, this is not like me!" and received in reply the very consoling answer, "Well, I guess it's not; suppose I put a tail on it and call it a dog." So M. Deveria wants to put a head or a tail on some of these characters and then call them Osiris, Anubis, or some other God! Anything to beat revelation.

In a great many instances, though the wording in the inspired translation varies greatly from the scientific attempt, yet the idea is almost identical. Placed together, they substantiate the statement of an eminent modern writer on Egyptian literature, who declares that at first sight the religious branch of this literature "seems to proclaim the Egyptians the most polytheistic of men, but a more careful examination leads to the supposition that the various gods were only intended to bring out in symbol and in allegory the various qualities and manifestations of one great God, incarnate, eternal and omnipotent." Joseph's translation conveying the higher though hidden meaning, and M. D. the presumedly literal intent of the hieroglyphics. For instance, Pig. 9, Plate I, is stated by the prophet to represent "the idolatrous god of Pharaoh;" M. D. calls it "the sacred crocodile, symbolic of the god Sebat." Sebat was certainly a god to Pharaoh, so wherein lies the difference? Again, Fig. 3, Plate II, "is made to represent God sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority, with a crown of eternal light upon his head." The scientist says it is "the god Ra, the sun, with a hawk's head, seated in his boat." What great difference is there in the idea? and how did Joseph Smith know that it represented God (call him by what typical name you like) if not by revelation ? What is there in the figure of a cow (Fig. 6) to convey the idea to an unlearned man that it had reference to the hosts of heaven? yet both translations distinctly convey that idea. Figs. 12 to 20 (Plate II), Joseph says will be given in the own due time of the Lord. M, D. does not attempt to translate them, he says they are "illegibly copied," "cannot be deciphered," "illegible in the copy," etc., and so gets out of the difficulty, but not without insinuating that the MSS. have been "intentionally altered." But what earthly reason there could be for the "Mormons" attempting to alter them, is beyond our comprehension. At any rate he does not translate them. . As a sample of how M. D. twists definitions on purpose to give a different translation from that of the prophet, we have an instance in Plate I, in the figures representing the gods of Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmackrah and Korash, which our French savant states represent the Canopian vessels or jars. And what are the Canopian jars? Certain jars first found at Canopus, a city at the mouth of the Nile, and because the learned did not, nor do not now know, with certainty, their intent,[1] they called them after the place where they were found. But because they were found at Canopus is it any reason that they should net be the gods Joseph Smith represents them to be ? The learned believe them to be gods, but their researches result in no definite conclusions. The Prophet Joseph associates them with the god of the ruler of Egypt, which statement placed along side of the fact that they were found in Egypt, gives strength and consistency to his translation. M. D.'s translation is simply begging the question so far as attempting to prove the inaccuracy of Joseph's translation is concerned.

Exceptions are taken by M. Deveria to some of the proper names that appear in the Book of Abraham, and which our martyred prophet informs us were Egyptian. Messrs. Remy and Brenchly apply the word "gibberish" to certain portions of the book, which we suppose must relate to such words, as the English portion is plain enough and gibberish means senseless or unmeaning talk or gabble. To enter into a detailed account of the root of each Egyptian or Chaldean word given in the book would be very tedious to the most of our readers; we shall therefore simply summarize by saying, that so far as we have been able to trace through the authorities at our disposal, which are very meagre, three things are evident:

1st. That the words given by Joseph have true roots.

2d. That these roots are from the languages of the countries known to Abraham.

3d. That the meanings of these roots are consistent with the meanings of the words as translated by Joseph Smith.

All of which proves that they are not gibberish.

As an instance of how far M. D. goes out of his way to attack these words, he remarks on the statement of Abraham that this earth was by the Egyptians called Jah-oh-eh; that "the word Jah-oh-eh has nothing Egyptian in it, it resembles the Hebrew word Jehovah badly translated.'' If it has nothing Egyptian in it how does it happen that the word Jehovah itself has been claimed by many to be an Egyptian and not a Hebrew word? With regard to which see Dr. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible. It is also positive that this sacred word was known to other nations as well as the covenant people of God, as it is to be found, in its exact form, and applied to the God of the Hebrews, on line eighteen of the Moabite stone, lately translated by Sir Henry Rawlinson.

There are other words that are objected to as not being Egyptian. In reply we ask, How can M. Deveria or any one else, at the present stage of Egyptiology, tell whether a word was Egyptian or not? Joseph has undoubtedly written the word in the English characters that best represented the actual sound of the word in ancient Egyptian. Scientists know nothing positive of those sounds; they knew that certain hieroglyphics form certain words with certain supposed meaning, but for the sounds they have to rely on the language of the modern Copts, basing their theory on the slender foundation that the sounds of words in Egypt are the same to-day as they were 4000 years ago. We well know that customs, habits, etc., change but little in the stagnant lives of the inhabitants of Egypt, Canaan, and kindred nations, but it is almost too great a stretch on our credulity to ask us to accept as definite the assumed sound of a word in Abraham's day, because it is pronounced in that way now. For instance, who can, with certainty, assert how the ancient Egyptians pronounced the name of their own country? Was it Kham-to, or Gyp-to, or Egyptos, or indeed Ghubsi?

There are certainly some words in the record that are evidently Egyptian. Such as Kli-flos-is-es, the name of one of the stars. All Egyptiologists admit that Isis relates to the moon. But it may be urged that Joseph Smith obtained these words from some Egyptian work. Not so; for the first grammar and dictionary of ancient Egyptian published in modern times (between 1836 and 1844)--those of M. Champollion-- were not published until after the translation of the papyrus by the Prophet Joseph. So that objection falls to the ground.

In the word Kolob we have another instance of a word whose roots are to be frequently found in the languages of Phoenicia and the neighboring nations, and the word[2] itself appears in the languages of some of the descendants of Abraham (certain tribes of the American Indians) at the present time. But probably this is enough on the subject of language.

There are two other points to which we win allude, that are strong internal evidence of the genuineness of the Book of Abraham. One is, that in its historical portion no reference, however slight, is made to events that occurred after its assumed date of composition. Had Joseph Smith been its author, the probabilities are strongly in favor of circumstances being mentioned therein that did not take place until after the time that the book claims to have been written. Had Joseph been a man well versed in the history of the world in Abraham's day, the probabilities would not have been so great; but ignorant as he was, so far as book learning is concerned, of ancient history, this simple circumstance alone is strong evidence in favor of its authenticity.

The other point to which we wish to draw attention is the lack of chronological sequence in the historical portions of the book, a trait manifested in the writings of many of the patriarch's descendants, and which we believe to have been general with the writers living in the early age of the world. Chronologic accuracy, in the writers of personal or historical narratives, appears to have been the outgrowth of a later age.

The concluding portions of the Book of Abraham are mainly historical, and relate to circumstances that occurred in the heavens in man's pre-existent state, and at the creation of the world. These subjects have been so ably handled by others that we shall not attempt to treat upon them here. Besides, they are somewhat foreign to our subject, and directly have no bearing on the truth of the Abrahamic record, having been made plain in other revelations of God's word. We shall therefore, with this chapter, conclude our review of the Book of Abraham, but before doing so must acknowledge the aid we have received from many wise suggestions and valuable information afforded us by President John Taylor, Elders Franklin D. Richards, Joseph L. Barfoot, John R. Howard, David McKenzie and others.

In conclusion we would say, that we believe that those who have carefully followed us through this inquiry must be satisfied that the Abrahamic record is genuine. We have appealed to ancient historians and modern scientists, and they have not failed us; we have called to our aid the monuments of ancient Egypt, and they have borne unequivocal testimony; we have examined the glorious system of astronomy advanced in its pages, and find it is being substantiated by modern research; internally we have found its unities well preserved, nor have we discovered a contradiction within its pages. As with the Book of Mormon, so with the Book of Abraham, we feel fully assured, that every day as it passes, every new discovery that has a bearing on its statements, will increasingly vindicate its truthfulness, and bear united testimony that Joseph Smith Was indeed and of a truth a Prophet, Seer and Revelator, inspired by the Spirit of Jehovah, the mighty god of Jacob.

[1] See article "Canopus," in American Cyclopaedia.

[2] Kolob signifies in their language the eye (or light) of the world



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