The recent Church statement on the “Translation and Historicity of the Book of Abraham” has garnered some media attention.
Unremarkably, the media can’t seem to understand the issues (or perhaps chooses to ignore some of them).
Here are some important things to bear in mind.
1- Everyone–LDS and non-LDS agree that the extant fragments of the JS papyri do not contain the Book of Abraham.
2- The position of most LDS scholars is either: A- the BOA once existed on the lost portions of the JS papyri, or B- the JS papyri served as a catalyst for the revelation of the BOA.
These ideas have been proposed and discussed for nearly half a century. There is nothing new about these issues in the Church statement. It contains a summary of research that has been undertaken by many scholars for decades. What is new is that the Church seems to be making an official statement on this topic, summarizing the general LDS scholarly consensus of the past few decades. (Much of this research has been sponsored by FARMS. The “new direction” of the Maxwell Institute notably seems unwilling to continue to sponsor FARMS-style Abrahamic studies.)Some Media claims have either been misinformed, or misunderstand the following issues. The Church statement, and the recognition of the possibility that the BOA might be a translation of a lost document, in no way implies any of the following: 1- That Abraham didn’t exist. 2- That the LDS BOA is ahistorical. 3- That the BOA is modern fiction/pseudepigrapha. As far as I can tell, the statement affirms the historicity of both Abraham and the events described in the Book of Abraham. Any claims to the contrary seriously misrepresent the issues at hand, and the significance of the Church statement.