Insights: An Ancient Window
The Newsletter of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies
September 1991

References to Abraham Found in Two Egyptian Texts

After years of going unnoticed, significant references to Abraham have recently surfaced in two Egyptian texts. They provide important links between father Abraham and Facsimiles 1 and 2 in the Pearl of Great Price. The two references are found in papyri catalogued as Leiden I 383 and I 384. Both texts come from Thebes and date to about the same time as the Joseph Smith papyri.

This illustration of a lion couch scene with Anubis standing over a person comes from Leiden I 384. The next to the last column of this papyrus contains a text in Demotic and Greek entitled "The sacrifice (or burning) of so-and-so," in which the person cries out, "Quickly, quickly, I adjure you, gods of the dead, against the dead, the god Balsamos, the jackal-headed god and the gods who are with him." Immediately below the scene are written the Greek words, "Let Abraham who . . . upon . . . wonder marvelously (orichthambito abraam ho epi . . .)" The text is broken at that point, and many endings are possible (for example, "who lies upon the altar" or "who calls upon God" are both possibilities). Much of this compares closely with Joseph Smith’s indication that Facsimile 1 from the Book of Abraham is an illustration of "Abraham fastened upon an altar" to be sacrificed by idolatrous priests.

The similarity between Leiden papyrus I 384 and Facsimile 1 was first noticed a few years ago by David Cameron, a theology student at the University of Toronto, but assuming that this was common knowledge he did nothing at first with the find. During the summer of 1990 while visiting at Brigham Young University, he communicated his discovery to several of the scholars and students there.

Further investigations into this papyrus reveal that it has been around a long time without being given much notice. In 1828, the Rijksmuseum acquired 132 papyri from Signor d’Anastasi (who had Egyptian antiquities dealings with Antonio Lebolo—the man through whom the Joseph Smith papyri came). One of these was Papyrus Leiden I 384, a large papyrus (13 columns) with a variety of texts (animal fables in Demotic on the front and a heterogeneous collection of so-called magical texts in Greek and Demotic on the back). C. J. C. Reuvens published the first notice of this document and Leiden I 383 in 1830 in his Lettres á M. Letronne without mentioning the Abraham connection. It has been published many times since, beginning in 1839.

In 1928, Karl Preisendanz published the Greek texts and the vignettes with German translations in his Papyri Graecae Magicae. Relying on that translation of the Greek, Janet Johnson published the Demotic texts in OMRO in 1975. In 1983, Hans Dieter Betz and a team of scholars again published the Greek text in The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, where David Cameron discovered it. The papyrus has not been translated anew since Preisendanz’s German translation.

From the same collection and in the same handwriting comes this material from the famous Demotic Magic Papyrus, half of which also ended up in the British Museum. This has also been published several times. The most recent critical publication is by Francis Llewelyn Griffith and Herbert Thompson in 1904.

The eighth column of this text mentions "Abraham, the pupil (and iris) of the wedjat-eye." This is an astounding reference, for the phrase "the pupil of the wedjat-eye" is an epithet for a "hypocephalus." Round documents like Facsimile 2 Egyptologists call "hypocephali," but one of the Egyptian names for them is "the pupil of the wedjat-eye" (see Book of the Dead 162-63).

This is especially interesting since Abraham is called this in the midst of a section on how to obtain revelation. Joseph Smith’s explanation of the hypocephalus in the Book of Abraham also deals with obtaining revelation about the heavens and the cosmos.

Full publication concerning these materials will have to come later, but these discoveries give students of the Book of Abraham new evidence to evaluate.

For many years, people have wondered if Facsimiles 1 and 2 in the Book of Abraham could in fact be tied historically to Abraham. As recently as 1990, James Harris concluded (1) that we should abandon "the hope of acquiring an Egyptian text" related to Abraham because any "additional fragments of papyrus from the Theban tombs . . . would most likely be more of the Egyptian type of funerary documents that are consistently found in burials" (The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, A Study of the Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri, Payson, Utah, 1990, p. 88), and (2) that Facsimile 2 "was adopted as an illustration for, or an illumination of, the text of the Book of Abraham only in this dispensation" (ibid., p. 83). Now we can see that such conclusions were premature, for these two Egyptian papyri expressly mention Abraham and also connect him with representations similar to Facsimiles 1 and 2 of the Book of Abraham.

Based on research by John Gee

Mormon Studies Center Created in Great Britain

Nottingham University has established a Centre for Mormon Studies, which is a good sign of the Church’s increased visibility—and to some extent acceptability—in Great Britain. The Church Educational System has provided them a basic library of Church-related materials, with the logistical support of the local CES coordinator, Brother David Cook.

Elder Jeffrey Holland, however, has indicated to us that Nottingham University would be pleased to receive more materials. We invite you to make donations to make it possible to send further scholarly books and papers to Nottingham. (A space for this purpose is provided on the order form for your convenience.)

The generosity of F.A.R.M.S. supporters has in the past made it possible to send F.A.R.M.S. materials to the Graduate Theological Union Library in Berkeley, California, to East Germany (five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall), and elsewhere. Sending such materials to the new Centre for Mormon Studies at Nottingham University provides a good opportunity to foster understanding of sound scholarship on the Book of Mormon and related subjects in Great Britain.

The Gospel as Taught by Nephite Prophets

The Book of Mormon uses the terms gospel and doctrine to refer to the way by which individuals come to Christ. Three Book of Mormon passages in particular (2 Nephi 31:2-32:6; 3 Nephi 11:23-39; 3 Nephi 27:13-21) define the gospel of Jesus Christ, each in a six-point formula. This formula states that if people will (1) believe in Christ, (2) repent of their sins, and (3) submit to baptism in water as a witness of their willingness to take his name upon themselves and keep his commandments, he will (4) pour out his Spirit upon them and cleanse them of their sins. All who receive this baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost and (5) endure to the end in faith, hope, and charity will (6) be found guiltless at the last day and enter God’s kingdom.

Numerous additional passages operate with this same definition in mind, indicating that it was both normative and paradigmatic for Book of Mormon writers. This gospel formula, taught by the Book of Mormon, provides a standard language for teaching the message of salvation and the means by which people can come to Christ.

The first comprehensive Book of Mormon statement about the gospel occurs in 2 Nephi 31:2-32:6, and appears to be an amplification of the vision first reported in 1 Nephi 10:4-6 and 11:27-33, in which Lehi and Nephi saw Christ’s baptism and heard his voice saying, "Follow thou me" and "do the things which ye have seen me do" (2 Nephi 31:10, 12): "Wherefore . . . I must speak concerning the doctrine of Christ. . . . I know that if ye shall follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take upon you the name of Christ by baptism . . . then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. . . . And I heard a voice from the Father saying: . . . He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved" (2 Nephi 31:2-16).

In the report of Christ’s visit to the Nephites there are also multiple repetitions of the six points of doctrine (see 3 Nephi 9; 11:23-39; 12:1-15:9; 19:7-28). This is the most authoritative definition, as Christ himself delivers it publicly.

During a subsequent visit to his disciples a few days later, Christ gave a third defining presentation of the gospel, in which the six basic elements are again elaborated (3 Nephi 27:13-21). The Savior indicates that, just as individuals are to take upon themselves Christ’s name, the church will be his if it is called in his name and "if it so be that they are built upon my gospel" (3 Nephi 27:5-13). The one significant difference in this presentation is that it begins by invoking the larger context of the plan of salvation (3 Nephi 27:14-16).

These three passages provide the basic definition of the "doctrine" or "gospel" of Jesus Christ as the Nephites understood it. However, they represent only a small portion of the total Book of Mormon statements of the gospel. The same pattern of points of doctrine appears throughout the entire Book of Mormon, informing major sermons and providing implicit interpretive framework for reports of historical events and discussions of ordinances (e.g., 2 Nephi 9; Mosiah 27; Moroni 3, 7, 8). Many of the gospel statements are elliptical, taking the form of merismus*, a classical rhetorical device in which an entire topic or statement is represented by some of its parts (see H. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. "meris," Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1968; A. M. Honeyman, "Merismus in Biblical Hebrew," Journal of Biblical Hebrew 71 (1952):15). The gospel formula composed of ordered elements lends itself well to this rhetorical device. A typical Book of Mormon merism, mentioning only two of the parts, states that believing in Jesus and enduring to the end is life eternal (2 Nephi 33:4).

The other LDS scriptures contain similar statements of the gospel of Jesus Christ, many of which also include merisms (see D&C 10:63-70; 11:9-24; 19:29-32; 20:37; 33:10-13; 39:6; 68:25; Moses 5:14-15, 58; 6:50-53). Drawing on this perspective, Latter-day Saints can see the same definition behind more succinct New Testament passages (Matt. 3:11; 24:13-14; Acts 2:38; 19:4-6; Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:8).

*I am indebted to Paul Y. Hoskisson for calling my attention to this phenomenon and its possible significance for this study.

Based on research by Noel B. Reynolds

New Nibley Book Focuses on Anti-Mormon Writings

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1). Since then, the terms "tinkling cymbals" and "sounding brass" have often been used to signify words of emptiness and confusion, an apt description of most writings critical of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. In Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, volume 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Brother Nibley brings his formidable training in classical rhetoric and history to bear in his study of anti-Mormon writing.

This large volume contains "No, Ma’am, That’s Not History," Nibley’s well-known 1946 response to Fawn Brodie’s widely touted biography of Joseph Smith; "Censoring the Joseph Smith Story," in which in 1961 he took on such anti-Mormon writers as Henry Caswall, John C. Bennett, and J. B. Turner; The Myth Makers (1961), in which Nibley presents "the case for the World versus Joseph Smith," with a host of anti-Mormon witnesses whose testimonies become a hopeless mass of contradictions and absurdities; and Sounding Brass (1963), which focuses on the story and anti-Mormon writings of Ann Eliza Webb Dee Young Denning, divorced wife of Brigham Young.

Brother Nibley’s skills in exposing tendentious and faulty reasoning and in dissecting and satirizing flawed arguments is never more clearly displayed than in this book, available on the order form in this newsletter (delivery date September 15).

F.A.R.M.S. Announces New Journal

In October 1992, F.A.R.M.S. will publish the first volume of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. This journal will be devoted to essays dealing with language, law, history, archaeology, and other disciplines that enhance our understanding of the Book of Mormon.

It will be published once a year—in the fall—and will serve as a companion to the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon published annually in the spring. Anyone who wishes to submit articles or essays to be considered for inclusion is invited to do so. Including a self-addressed, stamped envelope will be very much appreciated.

Also, we strongly encourage you not to send unsolicited manuscripts to Hugh Nibley. While he enjoys hearing from many admirers, he cannot interrupt his research to review manuscripts. He will turn such manuscripts over to F.A.R.M.S. for review and comment. We will be pleased to receive any papers on which you would like comment.

Enrich Your Christmas Card Sending This Year

F.A.R.M.S. would be pleased to send Christmas greetings to the people on your Christmas card list. We will send them a Christmas mailing in your name, plus materials introducing them to F.A.R.M.S., including our most recent Newsletter and catalog.

Address lists on paper or on computer disk are both welcome.

Send a Christmas message that will introduce your friends and loved ones to the most up-to-date insights into the purest Testament of Jesus Christ—the Book of Mormon.

Projects for Annual Giving

A number of potential donors have asked what projects they might support. The list on the order form may help you as you make year-end plans for charitable giving. Some of these projects are already partially funded yet still need support.

The dollar amounts listed represent the estimated amounts required to complete the projects or, in some cases, the amounts needed to support the project annually. You may use the space provided to indicate the amounts you wish to donate. All donations, whether small or large, are greatly appreciated.


Research Support

Banquet Reminder

Don’t miss the annual F.A.R.M.S. banquet September 27 at 7:30 p.m. in room 375 of the Wilkinson Center at BYU. Elder Neal A. Maxwell will speak, and F.A.R.M.S. board members will report on the projects of the last year and plans for the coming year.

Please make your reservations by September 20. You may check the box on the order form or call or write the F.A.R.M.S. office. The cost of the dinner is $25 per person.

Double Your Giving with Matching Gifts

Most major corporations have some form of matching program for their employees who give to tax-exempt organizations like F.A.R.M.S. To participate:

1. Ask your personnel officer if your company has a program for matching gifts to higher education or nonprofit organizations.

2. Fill out a matching gift form from your personnel office and send it to F.A.R.M.S. with your donation.

Some companies will match gifts only if they are given to a university. In that case, make your contribution payable to BYU and send it to our office. We will se that your gift and match are appropriately directed to Book of Mormon research.

November Tour: Last Call

We hope you can join the F.A.R.M.S. tours to southern Mexico and Guatemala, identified by many as the heartland of the Book of Mormon. October 1 is the deadline to sign up for the tour leaving on November 5, which will be led by John W. Welch. Noel B. Reynolds will lead a second tour to the same areas that departs on February 4, 1992.

These promise to be exciting and educational tours that will add to your understanding of the Book of Mormon. You will also enjoy traveling with and getting to know other friends of the Foundation.

If you wish to join one of these tours, we need to receive your deposit soon ($200 per person—see the order form on page 4). For more information, see the previous issue of Insights or call or write the F.A.R.M.S. office.

Seminars Present Current Research

The first session of the Book of Mormon brown bag seminar in 1991 was in two parts. Jack Welch, Gary Gillum, and Don Parry reported on the progress of the F.A.R.M.S. Book of Mormon Bibliography project that will add entries and annotate all entries. The second part of the session consisted of a presentation by Jack Welch on how the varying perspectives and personal experiences of Book of Mormon prophets influenced how they expressed their testimonies of Christ.

In the next session Royal Skousen brought us up to date on his Book of Mormon critical text project. He also discussed the recent acquisition of some manuscripts, including internal reasons for rejecting the authenticity of a manuscript of Alma 3-5 purportedly in the hand of Oliver Cowdery.

The next two sessions were given by Jack Welch and Stephen Ricks on King Benjamin’s speech. Ricks focused on the ritual complexity of the speech, including aspects of Near Eastern year-rite festivals (especially the festival of tabernacles) that appear to be included in the account of the speech. He also reflected on aspects of the treaty-covenant pattern in the speech and its setting that resemble the pattern in Deuteronomy. Welch considered the formative status of the speech, comparing it in its reflecting of and influence on its society to Pericles’ oration or the Declaration of Independence.

Ralph McAffee took another look at weights and measures in the Book of Mormon, noting that the very efficient monetary system based on units of 1, 2, 4, and 7 is very similar to a system now used by people in Mesoamerica and which the natives believe originated before Columbus.

William Eggington considered Nephite society as an oral culture, arguing that it shows many similarities to other oral cultures he has studied in Australia. Of particular interest was his discussion of many examples of the ways in which discourse in the book seems to be structured to make it easy to recall.

In the next session Arthur Henry King looked at language themes in Jacob 5, arguing that many of the rhetorical aspects of this and other parts of the scriptures are intended more to help us experience the scriptures than to help us understand them—that experiencing is more basic than understanding, and more accessible to the majority of people as well.

David Seely next discussed imagery of the hand of God in the Book of Mormon, showing how its similarity to imagery in the Old Testament supports the Book of Mormon’s claim to be an ancient record. The hand of God imagery in both books of scripture helps us understand the Lord’s power and willingness to touch us and save us.

In the most recent seminar, John Hilton reported on his research on the hydrology of the Grijalva River and the criteria he derives from the Book of Mormon that it (or any other river) would have to meet in order to be considered as a candidate for the River Sidon.

New Aston Papers

Revised and updated versions of two papers by Warren P. and Michaela J. Aston are now available. Both papers report several on-site visits and fieldwork by the authors in the Sultanate of Oman and the Republic of Yemen during the period 1984 to 1990.

In "The Place Which Was Called Nahom," the Astons consider the evidence for the site Nehhm/Nehem in the Republic of Yemen, twenty-five miles northeast of the capital, Sanaªa, as the Book of Mormon site Nahom, where Ishmael was buried. They review the indications of antiquity for this site, including occurrences of names like Nahom in southern Arabia in the ancient, medieval, and modern periods; examine burial grounds at Nehem; and consider the evidence of the ruins as well as agricultural and climatic factors in the Jauf. The Astons conclude, "When considered together, all the evidence to date indicates that Lehi’s turn ‘nearly eastward’ occurred in or very near the Wadi Jauf adjacent to Nehhm."

In "And We Called the Place Bountiful," the Astons thoroughly examine each of six potential candidates for the site of Bountiful, mentioned in 1 Nephi 17-18. They conclude that the modern Wadi Sayq in the Sultanate of Oman best fits the description in 1 Nephi.

Both of these reports represent the cutting edge of research on Lehi’s Arabian journey and help us better understand this fascinating section of the Book of Mormon.