“Fantasy and Reality in the Translation of the Book of Abraham”

“Fantasy and Reality in the Translation of the Book of Abraham” January 29, 2021


A view of Syene or Aswan
Few places are more “Egyptian” to me than Aswan, in Upper Egypt.  Please join John Gee and me there in November of this year.
(Wikimedia Commons public domain photo)


I’m pleased to announce that yet another new article — this one by John Gee — has appeared in Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship:


“Fantasy and Reality in the Translation of the Book of Abraham”

Abstract: The volume editors of The Joseph Smith Papers Revelations and Translations: Volume 4 propose a theory of translation of the Book of Abraham that is at odds with the documents they publish and with other documents and editorial comments published in the other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Two key elements of their proposal are the idea of simultaneous dictation of Book of Abraham Manuscripts in the handwritings of Frederick G. Williams and Warren Parrish, and Joseph Smith’s use of the so-called Alphabet and Grammar. An examination of these theories in the light of the documents published in the Joseph Smith Papers shows that neither of these theories is historically tenable. The chronology the volume editors propose for the translation of the Book of Abraham creates more problems than it solves. A different chronology is proposed. Unfortunately, the analysis shows that the theory of translation of the Book of Abraham adopted by the Joseph Smith Papers volume editors is highly flawed.




And here are two new items from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©:


“How the Church Is Helping Vulnerable Women and Children in Utah: Latter-day Saint Charities donates to the Children’s Justice Center and the Young Women’s Christian Association”


“‘English Connect’ Course Unites Family on their Path to Self-Reliance”




You might enjoy this item, which was brought to my notice by the estimable Irish Latter-day Saint Robert Boylan:


“Jeffrey R. Holland on the Importance of the Book of Mormon in an Interview with Andrew Teal”


He also called my attention to this short passage:


“Joseph F. Merrill (1868-1952) on the Definition of “Faith””


Since Elder Merrill (a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1931 until his death in 1952) compares faith in religious matters to faith in scientific matters, I think that it might be worthy of note that he held a doctorate in physics from Johns Hopkins University.  In other words, he seems to have had some actual acquaintance with science.




I found this essay by Interpreter’s own Jeff Lindsay quite touching:


“The Fox at My Door”




I would like to share with you, in its entirety, an important anonymous essay that I received this morning:


you’re  a twisted lyin cultist propaganda pimp who dont give a whit bout truth….liar legacy of a vxx weak minded coward.  people like you otta get the boot ya bloated parasite.


It’s possible, even likely, that I’ve missed one or more of the vitally significant contributions made by the modestly self-concealed gentleman and scholar who sent it to me.  But this is the 639th such composition that I have on file, dating back to 4 August 2012.  Taken together they provide a remarkable glimpse into the mind of one of the great moral leaders and one of the deepest thinkers of our time.  Their themes have been extremely consistent over the past roughly eight and a half years; their length and their verbal expression have varied remarkably little.  They’re all quite plainly the products of the same incisive brain, unmistakably written by someone who is associated with the predominantly atheistic ex-Latter-day Saint message board established some years ago by one Dr. Shades.  (He must be very proud.)  That is where my Malevolent Stalker holds court, although this person himself — while driven by the same unmistakable charity and love — seems too different in rhetorical style to actually be my Malevolent Stalker.




Once again, I share links to some past articles from an early volume of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship.  I hope that you’ll enjoy them, or that you’ll enjoy them again:


Terryl L. Givens, “Letter to a Doubter”


William J. Hamblin, “The Sôd of YHWH and the Endowment”

Abstract: In the Hebrew Bible, the Sôd of God was a council of celestial beings who consulted with God, learned His sôd/secret plan, and then fulfilled that plan. This paper argues that the LDS endowment is, in part, a ritual reenactment of the sôd, where the participants observe the sôd/council of God, learn the sôd/secret plan of God, and covenant to fulfill that plan.

Abstract: This study considers the Book of Mormon personal names Josh, Nahom, and Alma as test cases for the Book of Mormon as an historically authentic ancient document.


Benjamin L. McGuire, “Josiah’s Reform: An Introduction”


William J. Hamblin, “Vindicating Josiah”

For an introduction, see Benjamin L. McGuire, “Josiah’s Reform: An Introduction.”
For a counterpoint, see Kevin Christensen, “Prophets and Kings in Lehi’s Jerusalem and Margaret Barker’s Temple Theology”

Abstract: Margaret Barker has written a number of fascinating books on ancient Israelite and Christian temple theology. One of her main arguments is that the temple reforms of Josiah corrupted the pristine original Israelite temple theology. Josiah’s reforms were therefore, in some sense, an apostasy. According to Barker, early Christianity is based on the pristine, original pre-Josiah form of temple theology. This paper argues that Josiah’s reforms were a necessary correction to contemporary corruption of the Israelite temple rituals and theologies, and that the type of temple apostasy Barker describes is more likely associated with the Hasmoneans.


Kevin Christensen, “Prophets and Kings in Lehi’s Jerusalem and Margaret Barker’s Temple Theology”

For an introduction, see Benjamin L. McGuire, “Josiah’s Reform: An Introduction.”
For a counterpoint, see William J. Hamblin, “Vindicating Josiah.”

Abstract: King Josiah’s reign has come under increasing focus for its importance to the formation of the Hebrew Bible, and for its proximity to the ministry of important prophets such as Jeremiah and Lehi. Whereas the canonical accounts and conventional scholarship have seen Josiah portrayed as the ideal king, Margaret Barker argues Josiah’s reform was hostile to the temple. This essay offers a counterpoint to Professor Hamblin’s “Vindicating Josiah” essay, offering arguments that the Book of Mormon and Barker’s views and sources support one another.




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